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Looking through your eyes

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The day hadn’t been extraordinary in any way. The sun hadn’t even made an appearance through the thick grey clouds for a second that whole day. They had just gone about their day in the most mundane way – nothing exciting had presented itself, not even that morning. Anne hadn’t tried to touch or handle Ann much at all – feeling slightly annoyed with the blonde at present, she had been so poorly for almost a fortnight and her nerves was eventually getting on Anne’s. But dutifully and loyally Anne had walked to Cliff hill at four to meet Ann up and walk her home. She thought she might snap if she needed to hear another word about her aching spine – Anne had her own problems presently not helped by her nervous wife’s complaints. So, as they walked down Lightcliffe road it was with some surprise the sky opened and rain and thunder came over them. Anne growled – just their bloody luck. Nevertheless, she seized Ann’s arm and tried to get them cover somewhere. They ran under a large oak and despite Anne’s fervent prayers she heard lightning strike the tree and looking up, neither she nor Ann had time to react before a large branch crashed over them.

Anne regained consciousness and felt a headache come on where she had been hit by the branch. She felt around her skull but couldn’t feel a wetness, and so concluded there was no gash to her head. Her spine did ache terribly though – she must’ve pulled something because nothing had fallen on her it, but it did feel as though someone was stabbing the small of her back making pain shoot up her spine.
‘Ann.’
Anne’s pulse quickened, and she forced her eyes to open, and the sight almost made her faint – which wasn’t something Anne Lister did… ever.
“Oh Lord. Oh Fuck!”
The sound familiar to her ears but it shouldn’t have escaped her mouth. Anne stared at her own body next to her, her hat lay a few feet away from it,
‘Am I dead?” Anne thought to herself, glancing down at the petite body she inhabited, but no she could feel pain – the pain in her back most acute but she refused to believe that this could’ve happened. How did something like this happen? Was she going mad? An involuntary shudder went through her at the thought of ending up at an asylum like poor Eliza had.
“Focus…” Anne told herself sternly and was again freaked out by her voice, first things first – she needed to check on Ann or ‘herself’ or whatever that lump of flesh and blood was – resembling herself. Anne heaved herself up, winching only slightly as her spine protested her movement – she must’ve fallen on it somehow – this wasn’t normal! With trepidation Anne kneeled next to her body, reaching her hand out to touch it. It was a rather queer experience.
“Ann?”
Anne shook her gently, glancing nervously at the chest – maybe she was dead. But no, the chest heaved up and down and there was a face pulled as she came back to consciousness.
“Pony…”
Ann stopped, forehead wrinkling – a hand raising to press against it to lessen the headache,
“Why…” Ann tried again but her sentence was left hanging as she opened her eyes to glance up at her own face staring back at her and quite understandably, she gave a stunned cry at the sight.
“You’re not dead! Well, at least I don’t think we’re. But hey-ho – what do I know?” Anne spoke sounding slightly annoyed – and she was – how on earth did they sort this business out? – They couldn’t well tell anyone – they would send them off to bedlam without hesitation, damn it. What had happened to them anyway? Anne hated being in the unknown. And there weren’t any books covering this type of happening. 
“Why… Why do I sound and look like you?” Ann wondered flabbergasted, staring at the body and then back at her own, well, ‘Anne’s’ face.
“I know, what a tragedy for you.” Anne replied tartly. 
“What? – Anne, you know I think you’re beautiful and handsome.” Ann argued and Anne rolled her eyes, waving a dismissive hand,
“Mm, So. Anyway, I have no idea how this happened – and no idea how to turn us back but needless to say, we can’t tell anyone.”
“No, I’d rather not be sent off to a madhouse.” Ann agreed and Anne hummed in thought rubbing her chin,
“Are you unhurt by the way?”
“Mm, slight pain to the head but otherwise fine.”
“No pain to your back?” Anne found herself asking, because hers was giving her hell at the moment but Ann shook her head,
“None at all.”
“Lucky you – I must’ve fallen on mine.”
“Mm, no, my back does ache – you know that, during my… and close to my ‘cousin’.”  Ann told her, crossing her arms, eying her closely but Anne didn’t affirm it with more than a ‘mm’ because she didn’t really think Ann could suffer this much regularly. She had hit her back and she would be fine in a few hours or in the morning.
“What are we to do then, dearest?” Ann spoke quietly and Anne was almost taken aback – her voice that way – so fragile and quiet was novel. But somewhere deep within her, she suspected Ann might be aware of her irritation and thus hesitant about saying the wrong thing.  
Anne didn’t know, but she wanted to know the time and so searched her midriff for her watch – absentmindedly, it was more of a tic really than actual want of knowledge, but her face turned to confusion for a mild second when she couldn’t find it on her person but then Ann dangled it in-front of her eyes. Anne was suddenly brought back to the fact that they had switched bodies and half-smiled at her wife, accepting the silver watch tentatively. Maybe weeks of pent-up frustration had made her distance herself from her wife because she felt almost shy or rather hesitant about it all. She had buried herself under work and obligations whilst Ann had struggled with her own mind and spine which Anne, of course – ignored. Well, procrastinated in some way as she felt too annoyed and had too much to do to be bothered by it at present and it filled her with some slight guilt to realise her blunder. No matter how much of the pain was merely in Ann’s head. She was her wife, and she should’ve been there for her – not pushing her away from her. But she didn’t have time to consider that at present. They had a bigger problem to solve - how to change back to themselves.
“What’s the plan then? As we obviously can’t tell people.” Ann asked startling Anne out of her thoughts,
“Um, I guess the only thing we can do right now is pretend to be the other until we’ve figured out how to switch back.” 
Ann smiled at her genuinely, a small chuckle escaping her,
“Hm, good, excellent!”
“I don’t sound like that!” Anne protested and Ann raised her eyebrows amused,
“Mm, on the contrary, I think you’ll find that this is exactly how you sound, dearest.”
“Right, um, and I will try and do you. Um. Oh, the names!”
Anne held a finger up to the heavens; they would need to be careful and really think before they spoke lest someone suspect anything.
“I think you’ll find, Anne – that we have the same bloody name.”  Ann told her with a smirk and Anne rolled her eyes and sighed,
“I know! I meant our pet names. Obviously.” 
“Good thinking, Adney. Not just a pretty face!” Ann replied her to that, and Anne huffed,
“I don’t sound that patronising – ever!”
“I wasn’t being patronising.” Ann teased, and Anne shook her head at her before scrambling up from the ground despite her body protesting her hurried movements and it took Ann some self-control not to laugh at her wife – not wanting to put her in a fouler mood than she already was. Ann rose quickly, relishing in the way her body just followed her orders without giving her any pain. Maybe, just maybe it was a good thing to be in the other shoes, so to speak, for a little while, Ann thought.
“We need to act perfectly natural.” Anne told Ann whilst she brushed the dirt off of the black hat putting it over her hair.
“Mm... No, I’m going to give Marian a hug and tell her that she’s the best sister in the whole world after I’ve told her she’s been right all these years.”
“It’s not funny!” Anne protested and Ann glanced back at her, twinkle in her eye and Anne huffed – oh.
“Anne – you know I love you just the way you are but if you’re going to pass as me, you’ll need to walk more feminine.” Ann told her watching her attempt at large strides and Anne slowed down looking annoyed.
“Could you slow down a bit then?”
Ann’s eyes darted back to her,
“I could, but I’m supposed to be passing as you. And isn’t this the way you’ve walked with me the past couple of weeks? – Ahead of me at all times.”
The guilt welled up in Anne’s chest again, she had treated Ann rather abominably this past fortnight.
“Yes. But we need to talk and get into the act.”
Ann slowed down and fell into step with Anne brushing her hand against hers discreetly, 
"Sway your hips, dearest - don't look so awkward." 
"I bloody will not!" Anne huffed, and Ann raised an eyebrow,
"Well you'll just have to, or I will, and I think it'll just ruin your reputation among the people in Halifax." 
Anne looked glum, throwing her wife an angry look, refusing to change her walk until Ann began moving her body in a feminine walk, 
"Stop that - what if someone sees!" Anne cried, pulling her wife by the arm to halt her, and Ann smirked,
"I'll stop if you start - I don't want people wondering what's happened to the perfectly accomplished lady that I am." 
"Fine. But I don't see how I am supposed to move gracefully in this!" Anne gestured to the frivolous dress, that looked beautiful on her wife who knew how to move in it but just felt uncomfortable and ridiculous when she was the one in it.
"You'll get the gist of it. Hopefully this isn't for long." Ann told her, as they moved along the road - rather slowly, talking in hushed voices, trying to come up with an explanation for what had happened to them until they saw Mr Haworth approach them. Ann greeted him with a nod,
“Afternoon, Haworth.”
“A-afternoon, ma’am?”
The man seemed confused but continued down the road and Anne halted Ann,
“You don’t greet them randomly on the road! Especially not him – he is useless!”
“You don’t greet your… why?!”
“Because it isn’t how I do things.”
“Oh! You big snob!” 
Ann gave Anne a harsh nudge in the back and Anne winched – her back so sore.
“Anne – what are you doing!?”
Both women turned their head forwards and saw Marian approach them and they shared a look trying to channel their inner actresses.
“Marian, why are you bellowing like a cow!” Ann told her sounding well annoyed and Anne glanced at her almost smiling at the comment but then remembering herself and instead scowled at her,
“Anne! You don’t liken your sister to a cow, that’s ill-mannered!” 
Ann gave her a look that said ‘I don’t sound like that’ but Anne neverminded that.
“Where you caught out in the terrible weather that came over us?! Did my sister have you leave your aunt despite it looking like thunder?” Marian asked when she reached them and Ann huffed,
“None of your business, Marian – what are you doing out anyway? Looking for another rugmaker?
Marian merely rolled her eyes at her, turning to Anne instead,
“Oh but you’re soaked! Anne, why would you keep her out…”
“Yes, yes, thank you, Marian. We don’t need you to lecture us – we were just heading home.”
Again, Marian did her best to ignore her sister,
“Are you alright, Ann?” 
“I’m fine, thank you, Marian. We took cover under a tree – because of the thunder, that’s why we’re just getting home.” 
“You’d think that someone who looks at their thermometer more than five times a day would know to expect the weather – right Ann?” Marian looked to the blonde for agreement, and it took every ounce of Anne’s self-control not to snap at her sister.
“Well, you know how Anne is – here, there and everywhere. It probably escaped her notice and I think even Anne Lister can’t stop the weather from surprising her every now and again. She’s not almighty... though she might like to think she is sometimes – the way she acts. Isn’t that right, pony?”
Ann merely hummed, walking in large strides slightly in-front of them. Though Ann was obviously amused by the whole act – she couldn’t break her character.
“Mm, is Aunt alright? The thunder didn’t frighten her?”
“She’s as bright as a button. You forget Anne, that you’re the only one terrified of it.”
“It is perfectly natural to be scared of something like thunder. I mean…” Anne trailed off when Marian gave her a surprised look – realising she was coming across as… well, quite cross and it wasn’t like Ann who Marian thought Anne were.
“Not… It’s not. Anne you’re a… a… wimp.”   
“Do you… are you sure you’re alright, Ann?” Marian eyed her concerned, “How’s your spine? Better or worse since morning?”
Anne almost rolled her eyes – her bloody spine. Though of course it did give her pain from hell at present but that’s merely because she fell on her back. However, Anne must remain within the boundaries of Ann’s normal behaviour.
“It’s… I fell on it when the branch came over us, so it’s eh, um, a little achy.”
“A branch fell over you?” Marian’s whole face scrunched up and both Anne and Ann realised they hadn’t told her, not that they had initially planned to.
“Mm, yes – quite a small branch. I will ask Pickels to fell the tree. I do not want any more accidents on my land. I’ll send him a note when we get inside – first thing.”
“Dinner is ready.” Marian huffed as the three of them approached the door and Ann pulled it open, glancing over her shoulder,
“Mm, excellent. And I assume it will still be there once I’ve written my note.”
“Isn’t she a handful?” Marian turned to Anne who fought every instinct to keep up her façade – smiling mirthfully,
“That she is, Marian, that she is.”
Ann hurried upstairs, dragging mud across the carpets and Anne wanted to run after her – make sure the note was well-written, but she couldn’t – Ann would never be uncivil, she would never rush from the set table – she was always on best behaviour, at least in-front of the rest of the family.
“Oh, do you think ‘Caligula’ will appreciate you taking her seat?” Marian joked when Anne seated herself at the table – realising her mistake,
“I guess you’re right – and we have had enough of her foolery for one day, haven't we?.”
Marian laughed merrily with her, though Anne’s laughter was hardly sincere – she switched seat and gripped her knife and fork tightly in her hands, annoyed to lengths with Marian, her aching back and this ill-timed switch. How on earth was this supposed to clear up?
 
Anne almost knocked the jug down for a fourth time, earning worried looks from both Marian and her aunt meanwhile she herself glared at the damned sleeves on her damned dress – who was the idiot that invented this type of fashion? Anne would find him, and she would kill him – strangle him with one of the sleeve poufs. Also, where was Ann? – How long could it possibly take her to scribble down a quick note?!  - 16 minutes apparently, Anne thought irritably when her wife did appear in the doorway.
“I’m sorry I’m late. How are you, aunt?” Ann bent down and kissed the elderly woman on the cheek, and she let go of her fork to touch her arm affectionately,
“Well, thank you dear but sit down - have some dinner!”
Ann sank down in her seat reaching for the boiled potatoes, noticing Anne who was staring at her,
“Is something the matter, Adney?”
“Did you send that note?” 
“Mm, I did, well, Joseph promised to take it out as soon as he finished whatever meal he was having in the kitchen.” Ann told her with half-a-look and Anne sighed, her knife tightly clutched in her hand and that annoyed frown making appearance, 
“Well, what did you tell him!?”
“Just that, that I wanted the tree to be felled.” Ann replied, and Anne’s hand fell to the table, startling the others,
“It took you sixteen minutes – you must’ve written something else! Or do you just write a word every two minutes?!”
“We’ll talk about this later. We do not need to discuss business at the table. How was your day, Marian? What did you do?”
Ann turned her face to Marian who seemed baffled at being considered, and Ann tapped her fingers against the table nervously, glancing at Anne – realising her blunder. But Marian, as well as Aunt Anne recovered, and Marian told her of her day. Which needless to say managed to wind Anne up.
“Mr. Washington was here, and he told us about the plans for a new pit. You’d think two be enough – but no!” Marian complained and Anne tried to keep her forehead perfectly straight, but she must’ve managed poorly because Aunt Anne glared at Marian, mistaking Anne’s irate frown for distress, stopping her from further discussion of the subject,
“Well, if our Anne wants to sink a new pit with Ann – I don’t think there’s any reason to complain. It doesn’t affect you negatively in anyway, dear.”
“Oh, I didn’t mean it like that, Ann.” Marian hurriedly said, not wanting to upset the blonde in any way though she wouldn’t mind getting her message across to her uncommonly silent sister – but Anne waved her hand though it shook a little from all the pent-up anger – why must Marian always contradict her business plans.
“No worries. Anne, is… I’m sure we can agree that she’s a little enthusiastic sometimes – I understand your standpoint.”
“The pits already run at a profit, and this one would too. It’s also to be sunk on Ann’s land so it really isn’t any of your business and it shan’t affect you in any way whatsoever.” Ann butted into the conversation, thinking she must unless they thought her ill.
“Mm.” Marian glanced suspiciously at her but said naught about it.
“Have there been any letters for me today?” Anne wondered then, almost raising her hand to rest on her back to still the pain but resisted – not wanting to admit the severeness of her pain to Ann.
“Were there any letters for Miss Walker today?” Marian looked to their aunt – The Captain was useless; he was dozing in his chair. Aunt Anne shook her head slowly,
“I don’t think so.”
“Ah.” Anne put her glass to her lips – once more remembering that she wasn’t herself, reminded that they needed to find a solution to this peculiar problem. Anxiety washed over her, and she wondered whether it was because of their situation or if it was because she inhabited Ann’s body.
“Is something wrong, Ann? Were you expecting a letter from your sister?” Marian wondered, studying her face – noticing the worry and anxiety. Anne sat her glass down nervously, looking at a spot slightly behind Marian,
“Uh, yes. Oh, I’m just… um, eh the fire is a bit warm – I might get some fresh air.”
“In this weather? Are you certain that’s a good idea? – I’m almost of a mind to call Doctor Kenny or Day – you both are acting rather weird, and you said that a branch fell on you...” Marian didn’t seem convinced, but Anne had already stood up, making for the door,
“Oh absolutely, besides what doctor in his right mind would advise against fresh air – I’m just overheated though – there’s no need for a doctor.”
“I’ll come with you; you shouldn’t go out alone.” Ann stood up quickly, bumping into the table slightly, hurrying after the blonde.
“Did Miss Walker just quote my sister?”
Marian turned to Aunt Anne who nodded, 
“I think so, yes. And they were acting awfully like one another at times. Anne asking you (!) about your day et cetera.”
“Yes... I guess they do rub off on one another.” Marian rolled her eyes and Captain Lister chuckled to himself – surprising both women,
“I don’t doubt they do. I don’t doubt they do.”
“Jeremy!”
Aunt Anne whacked the old soldier over the head, but Marian was none the wiser as to why and neither were Anne and Ann concerning their own problem.

Chapter Text

They came in a while later, after having a chat about how to act more like one another – and they may or may not have had a slight skirmish about the note Ann had sent – which was in all composed perfectly well but Anne obviously had opinions on her choice of words and tone. And Ann was annoyed with Anne persisting she recite the note in its wholeness to her as accurately as possible, though of course the note had already left the building, whilst Anne also criticised Ann for not writing a copy of the note for her to look at.

“Did the fresh air do you any good, Miss Walker?” Marian inquired, offering a soft smile over her coffee cup and Aunt Anne seemed to peek up at the question turning her attention to the blonde. Anne was however engrossed by her own thoughts and musings – annoyed with the whole ordeal as well as her aching back. When she hadn’t given Marian a reply within a minute, Ann scowled at her, pinching her arm discreetly making Anne startle and glare at her in return.
“What?”
Ann’s stare remained hard, Anne was making her appear uncivil in-front of the family,
“Are you unwell, Adney? Marian asked you a question.”
The tone was short and irked, but could well pass for one of Anne’s moods, and Anne frowned before turning to her sister, straightening in the chair, trying to force a smile to appear on her face,
“I’m so sorry, I uh, my thoughts must’ve um run away with me.”
“No worries, I’m sure you’ve had an eventful day and have lots to occupy your mind. I just asked if the fresh air did you good?”
Marian was annoyingly pleasant about that, Anne thought – if it had been a question directed to herself normally and she had failed to answer immediately – hell would’ve ensued.
“Oh, it did, thank you – it was just the thing I needed to set me right.” Anne replied, and she could see that Ann was satisfied with her acting – it was good enough anyway to not raise too much suspicion. Marian was however testing Anne’s limits ruthlessly, when she suddenly decided that coffee time was as good a time as any to raise the query that spilled out of her mouth,
“I wanted to ask Mr. Whitley here to tea.”
Anne got her coffee stuck in her throat and began coughing violently earning her troubled looks and Ann helped her by patting her back gently for her until her airways were clear again. Marian did look perplexed at Anne – who she obviously thought was Ann – why did she react thus to that query?
“Is something the matter, Ann?” Marian wondered uncertain, seemingly thinking through every possibly scenario as to why she was thus affected by it. Anne gave Ann a pointed look – a look that very much told her that she should interfere on her behalf, stop this nonsense before her sister brought shame onto the whole family. Ann rolled her eyes at her wife, thinking her arrogant – and heaven knows she was sometimes – but Ann refused to say anything despite that Anne characteristically would’ve.
“I was just surprised – I thought Mr. Whitley, the bookkeeper, was married.” Anne replied Marian, trying to keep her tone light and casual whilst giving her wife the sternest of glances, and Ann sighed at her ridiculousness and sat her cup down with some force – to add to the dramatic effect, causing all of the heads to turn thither.
“A bookkeeper Marian!? First a rugmaker – and then a bookkeeper, have you no mercy on this family’s reputation! You’ll just happily bring dishonour on us all, even poor Argus.” Ann spewed displeased and Anne huffed, glaring at her – ‘No need to overdo it!’
“Um, it’s not that Mr. Whitley, he’s married for heaven’s sake – it’s his brother.” Marian explained to her sister, fiddling with her skirt – looking rather upset with her.
“Oh really? Oh good. Because a younger brother to a bookkeeper is better. Seriously Marian, I’m only doing my duty as your older sister when I implore you to not patronise such a man with your hand in marriage – you could do better! You should do better.”  Ann growled, and Anne was a little stunned at how well her wife impersonated her, she couldn’t have said it better herself, she was content with that answer. But Ann felt horrible for saying all those things to Marian, knowing she would be hurt by it – knowing she did, despite all, look for advice and approval from her older sister. Anne realised the time had come for her to say something, something that Ann would’ve said, but it went against her being and so she kept her mouth shut, staring into her lap, playing with her fingers as though she was too shy to speak up. Ann wasn’t best pleased with that. But Marian spoke before she had time to convey any message to Anne via stares and nudges.
“You don’t even know him. And father says I can invite people over if I like.”
“Then why do you need my…” Anne bit down on her tongue and Ann’s mouth opened as her eyes widened with fury – Anne did not just lash out at Marian when she thought Anne was her. Aunt Anne’s cup stopped mid-air as she just stared at the blonde, completely baffled by her tone.
“I-I’m sorry?” Marian looked genuinely hurt, no matter that the sentence was left hanging, anyone could figure out what would come at the end of it. Ann took a deep breath, before raising her eyes to meet Marian’s that were brimming with tears, but Anne got there first, trying to smooth over her mistake,
“No, I… I wasn’t cross with you – I… uh, um, Anne was giving me glances and I snapped because she was bothering me.”
“Oh.” Marian looked relieved, and Aunt Anne seemed to breathe a sigh before sipping her coffee quietly.
“I… um, I…” Anne took a deep breath, closing her eyes to brace herself, “I look forward to meeting your friend, Marian.”
Marian’s face brightened as she smiled wide at her,
“Thank you – I look forward to introducing him to all of you too. He’s been excited to meet you all!”
“He should.” Anne muttered under her breath, but Ann heard her and shot up from her seat, inevitably turning all the attention to herself where she stood. Anne quirked her eyebrow and Ann swayed on her feet for a second,
“I’m going to retire for the night – it’s been a long day and I have few things to sort out upstairs.”
Her eyes bore into Anne – confusing her as to why, before realising that they had things they needed to sort out as Ann turned on her heel and left the drawing room without another word.
“Oh, I, um...” Anne faked a yawn, covering her mouth with her hand, “I think I might retire too.”
“Oh, good night!” Marian told her sincerely, smiling up at her as she stood – and Anne smiled awkwardly back at her sister,
“Good night.” Aunt Anne told her friendly and Anne’s smile became softer,
“And to you.”
As Anne left them for the upstairs, they turned to one another on the sofa,
“Do you suspect they sleep in the same bed?” Marian asked her aunt curiously, and Aunt Anne pondered how she might answer that,
“Well, it wouldn’t be the first time two ladies shared a bed. It’s warmer and might feel safer.”
“Do you think it’s because Anne still has nightmares? Because I do hear her gasp a lot at night.” Marian mused with her hand tapping her arm,
“Mm… I’m off to bed.” Aunt Anne announced then, to put an end to a conversation that were too close for comfort for her liking.  

The door slammed shut behind Anne as she entered their bedroom, Ann was sat waiting for her in the chair by the vanity table.
“I cannot believe, Marian!” Anne began, and Ann’s eyes fluttered upwards, her wife was way too snobbish and dramatic for her own good sometimes.
“Yes, I’m sure that’s hard for you and all but we do have a greater problem to solve. Besides, if she loves him – then what about it? – People don’t think two women should love each other, that it's wrong. But here we are.”
“It’s not the same!” Anne barked, and Ann frowned, laying her hand down over the table, glancing into the mirror – shrugging back at her reflection for a second,
“Well, I think the principle is the same – anyway, do try to act a little more like me in the future – Marian was hurt!”
“Marian is just overly-sensitive.” Anne argued to which Ann managed to look even more infuriated – and it was hard to argue when your own face was glaring back at you,
“Don’t say that! And we don’t need to have a skirmish about it – but just think of others whilst you inhabit my body, if you please.” 
“Fine. Let’s get dressed for bed then, shall we?” Anne steered the conversation away from her sister, her head and back giving her, some pain and she’d rather not fight anymore with her wife than need be. Ann allowed for the argument to be over, and stood up,
“Yes. I’ll help you, and you’ll help me – so we needn’t call anyone else up.”
“Mm.” Anne agreed turning her back to Ann who began undressing her, and it was weird seeing one’s own back like that. The rustling of fabric was all that filled the room, as they both of them were too tired to say much – or maybe it was confusing them how nice it felt being near, especially bearing in mind that they weren’t themselves.
Ann’s cheeks became a little red when the last garment was discarded in favour for the night gown and Anne couldn’t help the smirk that crept onto her face,
“Stop blushing! It’s not becoming my face! And anyway – it’s your body!”
“I know, it just looks weird from this angle. I’ve never seen it like this.” Ann mumbled embarrassed, hoovering the opening of the nightgown over her head and Anne raised her arms above her as Ann slid it on. It was quite nice, despite the bizarreness of it all until Ann happened to run her hand over the lower part of her spine and Anne winched,
“Ouch.”
“Oh, you poor thing – does it hurt a lot?” Ann worried and Anne tried to look unbothered by the pain with little success.
“No.”
“Anne – you do not have to pretend it doesn’t hurt, just because you thought I was imagining it.”
“I’m not. It doesn’t hurt – only sore from the fall.” Anne persisted and Ann sighed, running her hand over her shoulder,
“Are you certain you wouldn’t like me to rub it with some of the spirits? – It does help soothe the pain a little bit.”
“I don’t need it – that stuff doesn’t do much anyway.”
Ann could tell Anne was in pain, but she knew her stubborn wife wouldn’t admit defeat and thus just let her be annoyed and in pain in peace.
“Good. Then help me undress, will you?”
“Certainly.” Anne was happy for the distraction, anything to keep her mind of the acute pain in her spine and the guilt that dwelled within her thinking of how she had treated her wife these past weeks.

When they were both dressed and ready for bed, they had slipped under the thick and heavy quilt that rested on top their bed. Anne blew out the last lit candle that stood on her nightstand after writing a few scribbles in her journal. And they turned to face one another – unsure of how to proceed: they always slept close, cuddled together but it did feel a bit uncanny at this time. That and the goodnight kisses.
“Is it weird if we kiss?” Anne wondered when they had stared into the other’s eyes for a few minutes in complete silence, and a nervous chuckle escaped Ann,
“No? – or it might feel a bit odd, but it’s not wrong… or?”
Anne shuffled closer to her on the bed, leaning forwards to press her lips against hers – and yes it did feel a tiny bit queer. Their eyes opened and they laughed before kissing again,
“As long as I close my eyes – it doesn’t feel that odd.” Anne acknowledged and Ann smiled,
“Ditto.”
“Goodnight, Adney.” Anne whispered, and Ann could feel her breath on her face,
“Goodnight, dearest.” Ann replied, pecking her lips before settling back against the pillows, almost surprised when Anne sneaked closer, wrapping her arms around her, hiding her face into her side. Normally it was the other way around, but Ann granted – a lot was reversed at present. Ann scratched Anne’s scalp soothingly, watching her fall asleep – though it was so incredibly odd to see oneself. A soft sigh escaped Anne as she slept, and Ann smiled down at her in the dark but then she heard a terribly loud and offending sound – and it came from her own mouth – the one that wasn’t hers at the moment.
“Oh Lord.” Ann mumbled, thinking that it might just have been a one-off but alas no! Much to her own chagrin – and irritation, it didn’t cease,
“She wasn’t joking!” Ann tried to shut the sounds out, shutting her eyes tightly but unable to fall asleep because of the loud snores. She tried to yank one of her pillows from behind her to put over her face, but Anne had her in a tight grip – surprisingly tight for a sleeping woman.
“Oh Lord – how has she not murdered me yet?!” Ann cried exasperated, twisting but not getting loose – and she didn’t want to wake Anne up, the last thing she wanted right now was to confess to her that she couldn’t sleep because of her own snores.
“She must really love me. There is no other explanation for her putting up with this every night…” Ann grumbled to herself, pressing her fingers between her eyes – this was beyond frustrating; unable to escape the snores she dreaded the night – and the lack of sleep it would bring her.

Chapter Text

The small rays of sunlight that escaped through the curtains woke Anne up the following morning. Thinking for a moment that she might just have imagined it – that yesterday hadn’t really taken place, but then she moved ever so slightly, and pain shot up her spine making her moan quietly into Ann’s side. Ann stirred next to her, groaning at the offending light that showered her face – she had not slept well.
“Good morning.” Anne mumbled, arm draped over her closed eyes, thinking she might cope better with the throbbing in her back that way – remaining perfectly still. Ann blew air out of her nose,
“Hardly. I haven’t slept much.”
“Mm, funny that, because I don’t think I’ve had such a good night in ages.”  Anne replied her, and Ann turned on her side to gaze at her – and was for a second confused by the sight that greeted her before she remembered the whole of yesterday.
“Really?” Ann raised her eyebrows – though she wasn’t surprised – considering what sounds she had heard throughout the night, she now wondered why Anne bothered sleeping with her at all. But she wasn’t about to give that away in a heartbeat – she had claimed for months that she didn’t snore, and she wouldn’t give Anne the satisfaction of being right straight away.
“Well, I suppose not needing to stand victim to your snoring did the trick.” Anne glanced at her from under her arm, and Ann pushed at her gently to wipe that smug grin off her face, about to protest when Anne hissed in pain and her annoyance switched to concern.
“How’s your back?”
“There’s nothing wrong with it!” Anne claimed obstinately, and Ann sighed in response, running a hand over her arm,
“If I admit to not being able to sleep because of my own body’s loud snoring – will you please just confess that you’re in pain and let me rub your back for you, dearest!?” 
Anne considered this proposal and seemed intent on not giving in and admitting to the pain, which also meant admitting that her wife wasn’t feigning her complaints of her spine and that she’d been wrong all along but then a sharp stinging in her back forced her to beckon,
“Fine! I- it hurts– how do you live like this?!”
“It’s not quite so bad at all times but the spirits do help even if they smell awful.” Ann smiled softly, refraining from teasing her wife about being wrong – after all she knew exactly what agony Anne was feeling at the moment.
“Will you, do it?” Anne huffed slightly irritable – be it from the pain or the fact that her pride was a little wounded when proven wrong. Ann smiled, feigning ignorance, and whereas it normally would’ve come across as a little enticing it was merely infuriating when it was her own face taunting her.
“Will I do what, pony?” 
Anne stared up into the ceiling of the bed, huffing and puffing for a bit before turning to Ann who lay waiting patiently, supported on her elbow and Anne thought she could detect an impish smirk on her face.
“Will you rub my back with the spirits?” Anne eventually grumbled – sounding as though asking that was the most difficult thing she had ever needed to do in her life. Ann laughed at her, kissing her forehead though still feeling a bit weird about kissing her own face – was this the height of narcissism or the greatest lesson in learning to love oneself? 
“Of course, I will. Roll onto your stomach, dearest.” Ann instructed her, whilst getting out of bed to fetch the container that stood on the vanity table. As she did, she threw a look out the window – noticing the blue skies and sunlight stretching over the landscape – at least it was a fine day though she suspected the day when begun properly would hardly be easy.
Ann climbed into bed again, situating herself over Anne, knees on either side of her, dipping her fingers into the container, rubbing the spirits between her fingers before placing her hands on Anne’s, well her, back rubbing the spirits into her skin with firm strokes. Anne moaned into her pillow at the relief she experienced when Ann’s hands moved over her sore back.
“Does that feel better?” Ann wondered; the tiniest bit amused at the sounds escaping her wife – though it would’ve been nicer to hear her actual voice make them. Anne gave a nod, face down into her pillow still.
“Yes. So good!”
It really was, and Anne made a mental note to make sure she always knew how Ann was doing with her back – and to always help her to some relief no matter her own moods or busyness.

After half an hour of heavenly massage Anne and Ann got dressed for the day, whilst going through the day that lay before them.
“You’ll have to help with Sunday school today – I promised.” Ann informed Anne who gave her a look of clear exasperation,
“I have to look after a horde of children?!”
“Yes, but look at it from the bright side, dearest – you’ll get to teach them about scripture and may right all the wrongs Mr. Fenton has made regarding it.” Ann smirked, teasing her wife a little for her never-ending complaints of the parish reverends who never seemed to do right by her – earning them lectures, and the insult of a sleeping Miss Lister in the pew, time and time again. Anne however gave a serious nod, 
“I suppose that’s true. Ah, but I just don’t know how to handle children – they’re so peculiar and touchy.”
Ann fought back laughter at her wife’s frown, pushing a strand of dark hair from her face,
“Just ask yourself what I would’ve done, and you’ll be fine.”
“Mm… I should say the same for you when you meet Mr. Washington and Mr. Parker today.” Anne told her austerely,
“I will. But why you insist on having a meeting on a Sunday I cannot for the world understand.”
“Because they are already moving forwards slow as it is. We have no time to lose.” Anne explained to her but couldn’t say any more as Eugénie entered the room to do Ann’s hair for her. Eugénie might not be bright nor understand much English, but Anne would rather not risk her running her tongue downstairs in the kitchen. She only knew too well now, since the ordeal with the baby – that her servants would in fact keep things from her, and might they not then also gossip? Best not risk it. 

Once they had got ready, they breakfasted with the rest of the family, after which Anne had tried to instruct Ann to prepare her for her meeting that afternoon. And when the time neared one, they had set off on their walk to the rectory, where Sunday school was to be held today. Ann tried to tell Anne how to behave around and talk to the children. But Anne thought she was overdoing it slightly with all the rules she must follow – she might not know how to act around them but how hard could it be to teach children from the catechesis? She would definitely do a better job than Mr. Fenton normally did from the pulpit, in any case. A man who had such dirty fingernails couldn’t care too much about other things, she thought. 

“And remember, Anne – they’re only little – they cannot be expected to know it all yet.” Ann told her seriously, when they arrived at the door of Lidgate rectory. Anne’s eyes fluttered upwards,
“I know! – Lord, if not even the reverend knows it well – why should the children in such an idiot’s congregation know it?”
“Anne – you behave and do not be rude to Mrs. Fenton nor Mr. Fenton if he should happen to pass through. You’re me, remember?” Ann scolded her, nervous about leaving her alone with the children – thinking of all the harm she could possibly do.
“Yes, I’ll just let him walk all over me.” Anne muttered and Ann’s mouth turned down, as she pressed her fingers against her temple to still the on-coming headache.
“Oh, thank you! - For your very high opinion of me.”
“Ann – you know that’s not what…” Anne’s apology died as the door opened, forcing a smile onto her face as she greeted Mrs. Fenton.
“Are you joining us today, Miss Lister?” Mrs. Fenton inquired, her face revealing all the astonishment she felt at that, but Ann merely smiled politely,
“I’m afraid I need to attend another meeting. But good luck with the children!”
Anne offered a goodbye smile before she was startled by a child running up to her tugging at her skirt,
“Miss Walker – look what I’ve found!”
Anne’s forehead wrinkled as she bent down to have a look at whatever the child, she vaguely remembered as Miss Jones, wanted to show her. It was a small common frog that lay clasped in her hands.
“Oh!”
Anne didn’t know what else to say, there was nothing interesting about it at all.
“He’s my friend, Mr Froggy, I’m going to keep him for always – he’s napping right now.” Miss Jones spouted happily, and Anne raised one eyebrow, staring down at the limp frog,
“Unfortunately that frog is… dead.”
Anne stared at the child and was baffled when tears welled up in her eyes, and the child began bawling but why that was, was a mystery to Anne – it was the circle of life was it not? – She had no idea how to comfort a child – adults she could do, or at least Ann but this was unknown territory for her, and she looked for help but couldn’t see Mrs. Fenton at present. 
“Oh, um, eh… there-there – we might bury him afterwards.” Anne tried and the girl looked at her wide-eyed,
“Can we bury him in the cemetery?”
“Oh… I think he might enjoy lying in that glen over there by the pond more than rotting away in the cemetery.” Anne replied her that, and the child looked horrified again,
“Rotting?!”
“Eh, well, it’s rather good for the maggots that the carcass will… His soul is… I’m sure with God.” Anne attempted, realising she needed to come across as Ann, trying to embody her kindness, not give the child a lecture of the decomposing process. That seemed to have done the trick, at least Miss Jones stopped crying – and thankfully Mrs. Fenton came over offering to console the child if Anne started the bible studies with the children inside.

“Good afternoon…” Anne paused for a second, disconcerted by all the eyes that turned towards her. Sneaking a look at the passage she was supposed to lecture them from; Luke 15:4-7, readying herself to face the children, who managed to unnerve her a little because she could not understand them.
“We’re going to study Luke 15:4-7 today. Now listen up – do not… put that down!” Anne cried sternly, staring at a boy who had just picked up a porcelain vase. The boy looked doe-eyed at her, petrified by the window.
“Sit down!” Anne barked, and all the children quieted down and eyed her apprehensively – Miss Walker didn’t usually lash out at them, which Anne herself realised – trying to reel herself in, ‘they’re just children’ she repeated in her mind.
“First I’d like to see if you remember the ten commandments. If you know the first one – raise your hand – and do not speak until I give you permission.” Anne ended her sentence, giving a a pointed look to Miss Worsley whose mouth had opened to answer her query. She shut her mouth stumped before raising her hand slowly,
“Yes, Miss Worsley?”
“The first commandment is to not have any other Gods but God, Miss Walker.” The girl replied stout and Anne gave a nod, resisting an urge to correct her – to repeat the exact verse but Ann wouldn’t, would she? – She would encourage them and praise them for remembering the fundamentals.
“Good – that’s right. Can anyone of you tell me the second commandment?” …

About an hour and a half into Sunday school, Anne thought she had really got the gist of the teaching – though the children were dull and quite dumb. Mrs. Fenton was worse though – she was the reverend’s wife but had nothing to recommend herself but good temper.
“What you have to understand when it comes to the pericope in Luke is that it’s linked with Luther’s doctrine of predestination – it tells us of how important each and every single one of us are in the creation – and how Christ would die for every single one of you to grant you salvation.” Anne told them passionately, the bible in her left hand as she gestured widely. Mrs. Fenton seemed confused at Miss Walker’s sudden passion and difficult theological terminology and the children just stared a bit wary of Miss Walker – wondering what on earth ‘predestination’ was.
“W-What’s predestination, miss?” Mr. Willoughby wondered aloud, and Anne froze about to delve into another interpretation,
“You don’t know what predestination is?!” Anne asked baffled, her tone sharp – scaring the children, who slowly lowered their hands and Anne realised she was making it too difficult for them – she was preaching over their heads, giving them nothing – the very thing she hated. What would Ann do? – Anne thought desperately, made nervous by the teary and confused looks – she clearly didn’t give Ann enough credit for teaching the children – it was bloody hard work as it turned out, and maybe it wasn’t strange that Ann was exhausted afterwards, and often fell asleep on the sofa.

Ann was harbouring much the same thoughts at the meeting she was currently attending – she didn’t know how Anne sat through them, because she didn’t understand much of the calculations that they presented her with, at all.
“You see, Miss Lister, if we go about it, this way, and get a steam engine to work the waters – we might work that part of the bed as well, which would give you an annual profit of 10% from those acres alone.” Mr Washington pointed to the carefully made plans, knowing that Miss Lister always wanted each step done with precision and thought. Ann was sweating however, pulling anxiously at the much too tight green cravat that sat over her throat. She was by no means an idiot, but mathematics wasn’t her strength and so the equations and calculations just looked like odd numbers to her – it might as well have been Greek though Ann might’ve understood that better to be fair.
“Mm.” Ann rubbed her chin, trying to buy herself more time and Mr. Parker sat up straight in his chair, thinking that they might be there awhile and fancying a drink something himself asked;
“Would you like a glass of brandy, Miss Lister?”
Ann was taken aback with the question at first but agreed, thinking it might look odd if she didn’t – or rather thinking Anne might have her head if she made her look a fool in-front of the men that worked for her. Mr. Parker poured a glass for her as well as himself and Mr Washington before they returned to the papers.
“It was also suggested to me by the coal merchant in town that it might be profitable to transport the coal by the railway from Manchester – it would reach its export recipients faster which inevitably would lead to faster profits, and if delivered fast enough – you might even sell at a higher price – the public is positively screaming for coal.”  
Ann hummed in thought, taking a slow sip from her glass and began coughing and spluttering on her drink. It was stronger than she’d expected. Anne usually mixed brandy for her with warm water. The two men eyed her apprehensively as she tried to get the drink out of her airways, they didn’t dare say anything until she had composed herself,
“Are you alright, ma’am?”
“Perfectly fine.” Ann said sternly, trying to own all the usual confidence her wife had despite her embarrassing interlude.
“So, what do you think, Miss Lister?”
They decided to not comment any further on the choking on her drink, Ann thought they probably didn’t dare to – they did look a bit cautious of her, as if they were waiting for her to become cross with them.
“Well, it deserves some consideration and I think we might very well do it. But have we considered the possible losses if we’re suddenly forced to cut our shifts to ten hours instead of twelve?” Ann said, hoping she gave off the impression of knowing what she was talking of. Mr. Parker huffed from behind his desk,
“I don’t see any reason why that should be a worry when considering a possible investment in a steam engine. You could afford it even if it didn’t run at a profit within the first three months.”
Ann’s forehead creased, she didn’t like his dismissive tone, or at least she suspected Anne wouldn’t have liked being talked to that way.
“Mm, but if I have in my employ 14 men and women then that would result in a loss of…” Ann trailed off, biting her inner cheek as she thought hard, math really wasn’t her forte.
“28 workhours a day – which would mean that in a week we’ve lost 168 hours. And how many bushels of coal is that? – If we extract up to 40 corves of coal a week?”
The looks on their faces as they processed what she said made her self-conscious – what if she had used all the wrong terms or calculated something terribly offhand and thus embarrassed Anne greatly. But she tried her best to remember all of what Anne had told her this past year of the pits and everything surrounding it – her love of listening to her wife’s passionate rambles might actually have paid off. Ann’s mind drifted off to Anne – thinking of how beautiful she was when she did that and was only startled back to the present when Mr. Washington spoke again:
“Whereas that’s certainly true, Miss Lister – I don’t see why we would lose 2 hours a day per worker – we pay them well and there’ve been no complaints or uprisings among your workers.”
“I bring the possibility up, because of the suggestion of a ten-hour workday.” Ann defended herself, to which Mr. Parker had the guts to roll his eyes, and Ann felt surprisingly annoyed at that.
“They will never get them to pass that. It’s preposterous.”
“Considering, Mr. Parker that the workers managed to get the reform bill passed in 1832 I would say it’s best not to dismiss such threats from the calculations. The workers weren’t best pleased with the poor law that the parliament passed last year – you may have noticed the uprisings even here in Halifax, and so I just want a decline in working hours to be reflected on when evaluating my choices. My goal is to have the pits run at a profit for more than a few years.” Ann told him, managing to imitate that low, calm tone of voice Anne often used, that commanded respect, though she had rather escape the meeting as it was quite nerve wrecking. She was entirely happy to let Anne handle their business – she didn’t like the environment at all surrounding it, it was terrible business - coal.
“Oh, the reform bill! – It’s caused more problems than it solved. Those id… ten-pound householders know not how to vote!” Mr Parker exclaimed looking upset, and Ann didn’t know quite what to say to that because Anne’s own thoughts on it were complicated.
“What’s next? – Women’s suffrage?! England would fall apart with all the emotive ladies trying to vote.” Mr Parker huffed in a fit of emotions before he could stop himself and Ann was deeply offended by that outcry – making sure to penetrate Mr. Parker with a cold, hard stare,
“In all fairness, Mr. Parker – if England has been close to falling apart at any time in history – it was because of men’s irrational decisions to make war or alike, not women’s. The issue with the vote is when it lies in the uneducated hands – whether that be a man or a woman.”
Mr Parker as well as Mr Washington looked stunned, and the former also stung, by her words and Ann was surprised herself that she had managed to speak up without stuttering. Trying to act and think like Anne, did give her the confidence she often lacked on her own. 

Chapter Text

Having just but survived that meeting without mortifying Anne beyond reason, Ann was more than happy to take her leave of the gentlemen to begin her walk to fetch Anne from Sunday school. The sun was still shining when she got out onto the streets of Halifax, and though it was a Sunday there was some people out and about. Ann went down the road, passing the inn where a few men stood about, drinking beer – Ann’s nose scrunched a little as she observed them – it looked rather unrefined to stand drunk around the inn – on the Lord’s Day no less!
“Oi!” One of the men called out to her, whilst his fellows stood around him laughing between each other. Ann turned her head away, ignoring their vulgar cries, until one of them commented on her masculine appearance – Ann halted. This seemed to appease the men who immediately began mocking her with more crudity.
“Does your cock stand?!” One of the fellows bellowed at her, clutching his… Ann looked away appalled, fortifying herself before continuing to walk down the street – she had made a huge mistake in allowing them to see her affected by the comments and knew Anne wouldn’t be pleased with her – how she rose above it every day, comments like that, Ann couldn’t for the world understand because she hated it – she wanted to tell them how small-minded and disgusting they were but couldn’t for fear of people beginning to ask themselves more questions about the, to them, odd pair. 
 
In all it took Ann roughly half an hour to walk back to Lidgate, thankfully Sunday school only finished as she came up the lane or Anne would’ve complained about her walking too slowly.
Patience wasn’t her wife’s best virtue, and Ann supposed they were good for each other that way – they balanced one another, most of the time anyway. Mrs. Fenton ushered the children out the door – instructing them to walk over to the church to attend the afternoon service, Ann did think she looked a little pale and glossy eyed, wondering what on earth her wife had done to poor Mrs. Fenton. Anne came out behind her, and when she saw Ann waiting for her, she seemed to breathe a sigh of relief and beamed widely at her,
“Ad… Ann!”
Ann smirked at the almost slip, and met her half-way,
“Did you have fun?”
“Mm… I’ve had better.” Anne whispered, standing close to make sure Mrs. Fenton, who helped the last children, didn’t overhear their conversation.
“But did you behave?” Ann raised her eyebrow, her eyes glimmering slightly, and Anne cleared her throat, turning her head to regard the children making Ann groan, still quite humorously,
“What have you done, Anne?! Mrs. Fenton looked positively traumatised.”
“It’s not my fault they’re all thicker than wood.” Anne muttered, cheeks only slightly tinted because she had, perhaps, made a fool out of her wife – or at least behaved out of character for her.
“Anne!” Ann tutted, but she was smiling, and Anne felt a little relieved at that, her shoulders relaxing which lessened the pain in her back. That is to say until Ann spotted a child that seemed terrified of Anne – turning on her heel and running away as fast as she could from her.
“Why are the children terrified of me?” Ann hissed, her smile gone with the wind, and Anne twisted a little – she hated to admit her shortcomings to her wife and to have disappointed her.
There were few people that could make her feel this way – so guilty. Because she wanted her to have the highest regard and affection for her.
“I tried my best. But I may have come across as rather stern – though I didn’t think I was – I thought I was correct and may have used terms slightly above their understanding. But to my defence – I did get better when I thought of you and your kindness. That child was only scared because I told her that her frog was dead and would rot.” Anne hurriedly told her before she was made really angry with her. She’d rather Ann not get into one of her queer moods. Ann’s expression softened, which calmed Anne. She reached out to touch her arm,
“I’m sorry, this is a rather difficult position to be in and I shouldn’t hold you accountable for things going slightly wrong. I’m sure your best was good enough.”
Anne was just about to ask her of how the meeting went, when Mrs. Fenton interrupted them as the last child ran off to church.
“Miss Lister, how was your meeting?”
“It was fine, thank you, Mrs. Fenton. I trust Sunday school went well as always?” Ann replied her courtly and Mrs. Fenton glanced at Anne, but then composed herself,
“Yes, Miss Walker is very kind to assist us with her… erm knowledge. I’m sure the children as well as I learned a few new words today.”
Ann resisted a chuckle; she could imagine Anne trying to delve into deep theological subjects with the poor children – getting carried away with her own passion for it. Anne was really rather sweet Ann thought, and thus couldn’t remain annoyed with her less than characteristic behaviour at Sunday school.
“Mm, I’m happy to hear it. Well, we should really be getting on our way – are you ready to leave Anne?”
Ann turned her head to her, and Anne nodded,
“Yes. Um, thank you for today, Mrs. Fenton.”
“Oh? – Are you not coming with to church?” Mrs. Fenton seemed surprised, and Anne glanced at Ann who gave her a serious look, and so she turned back to Mrs. Fenton, smiling apologetic,
“I’m afraid, we’ve promised elderly Miss Lister to read the prayers with her today.”
“In that case, I hope you have a lovely evening. Goodbye.” Mrs. Fenton took their leave and wandered on quick feet over to the church as the bells had begun chiming.
As she disappeared, Anne turned to Ann – worried and curious how she had got on during the afternoons meeting.
“Well! How was it?”
Ann’s forehead wrinkled slightly, as she eyed her in her periphery leading them down the lane, thinking it might be best if they weren’t within anyone else’s earshot.
“I…” Ann trailed off, grimacing, she didn’t really want to relay to Anne what she had done, and Anne became more troubled when she saw her reluctance.
“Just tell me!” Anne urged impatiently, and Ann exhaled, trying to bring herself to do it,
“I might’ve choked on my brandy.”
“You did what?” Anne froze,
“I didn’t expect it to be so strong, and I was nervous – but I played it down.”
“Did you really?” Anne wondered seriously, looking rather cross, “Or did you play it down like Aunt Anne does when she slips up.”
“Anne – you’re really not being fair!” Ann protested, looking at her beseechingly but as Anne was just met with her own face making those expressions – she became more annoyed.
“I have a reputation that I’ve built on for the past twenty years!”
“I’m sorry! But really, it wasn’t that big of a deal. They didn’t respect you less. And I choked – the least you could do is show some compassion.” Ann gave her a pointed look, and it filled her with bad conscience, realising she was being unjust.
“Eh… argh, you’re right. I’m sorry, I wasn’t being fair – no. How did it… what did you conclude?”
“Nothing. Well, we talked about investing in a steam engine for the pits. But I said we needed to evaluate and consider our options before we settled anything – that all risks must be considered.” Ann conveyed to her, and Anne listened intently – impressed with how well she had handled that part, when she could’ve panicked and agreed to whatever it was, they were suggesting.
“Good. Anything else?”
“Uh… um, well they were being a bit… Mr. Parker was being sexist, so I might’ve told him off for it.”
“What on earth did he say?” Anne seemed baffled; he wasn’t the most liberal fellow, but he had never said anything of the kind to herself. Ann braced herself for the possibly outburst as she told her about it,
“Well, I said we shouldn’t exclude the risk of a ten-hour workday in the calculations – considering the political climate right now and with the workers getting the reform bill passed and all that. And he said it has done more harm than good and what’s next – Women’s suffrage? Saying something about women being too ‘emotive’ to be allowed the vote.”
“And?” Anne remained composed and Ann eyed her, admitting slowly the last of what she’d said, 
“So., I told him that it’s the uneducated vote that’s harmful and if England has ever been close to falling apart it has been because of men’s irrational decisions and not women’s.”
The laughter that followed her confession took her by surprise, and Anne took her hand, kissing it – then making a face as she realised how weird that was since it was her own hand but nevertheless, she looked set right again,
“I wish I could’ve seen their faces when you said that!”  
“Really? You’re not just saying that to make me feel better about it?” Ann wondered shyly and Anne shook her head, her bad mood completely gone,
“No, I’m proud of you – and for someone who constantly thinks she’s not clever enough – I think you’re pretty damn bright.”
Ann flushed slightly to which Anne nudged her playfully,
“I’ve told you to stop that when you’re in my body!”
“Sorry, but I do… eh, I have to say I have a whole new appreciation for you managing the estate affairs – it was stressful.” Ann told her as they trailed down the last lane to Shibden – and Anne smiled,
“Mm… thank you. But it’s nothing against teaching those unruly dim children – I don’t know how you do it.”
Ann bit her lip, trying to not flush at that compliment but she couldn’t help it – and Anne teased her about it all the way to the gate when they both of them had to gather themselves and enter their roles once more. Ann became sombre and rolled her shoulders back to hold a proud posture and Anne glanced at her,
“I don’t look that austere.”
“Of course, you do! You’re always preparing for Marian’s daily sermon – which she always gives the second you come through that door.” Ann threw her a look over her shoulder, and Anne sighed and rolled her eyes at her humorously, following her up to the front door.

Ann was right about Marian being all but ready to give her sister a shout about her dragging in mud through the house – only Ann hadn’t actually any mud to drag in and instead of the usual short and irked tone that Anne spoke to her sister in, she greeted her warmly – throwing Marian, as well as Anne off guard.
“Marian – how are you?” Ann tilted her head, and Anne all but gasped in horror behind her at the same time as Marian’s mouth fell through the floor, and she stuttered, not knowing what to say.
“Uh, eh, oh, um, It’s… I’m fine?”
“Good. Excellent. Have you taken care of the minor issue with Cordingley?” Ann continued, taking her gloves and hat off whilst Anne’s eyes burned holes into her neck. Marian’s brows furrowed as if she couldn’t believe her sister’s soft and warm tone.
“Uh? Yes… I did. I, um, talked about what we expect from them in the future.”
“Marvellous – you’re always great at things like that. Thank you!” Ann smiled, and Marian did look as though she was on the cusp of fainting – who was this? And what had they done with her sister? Anne cleared her throat loudly behind Ann, tapping her foot against the floor irritated and Ann had to do her utmost not to laugh at her when she turned around.
“Oh, dinner is ready in a minute!” Marian told them, and Ann half-turned for a second,
“Thank you, Marian.”
When she left the room, Anne leaned forwards, her breath against Ann’s face,
“What on earth are you doing?!”
“What? – I’m being civil to your sister.”
“You’re doing it to annoy me!  Anne huffed and Ann caressed her face lightly with her fingers, grinning at her,
“Even if I did – what will you do to stop me?”
“Ann…” Anne whined, and Ann gave her a last pat on the cheek before all but skipping into the dining room to Anne’s groans. The rest of the family was surprised at Ann’s happy smiles, and Ann greeted Aunt Anne properly before sitting down at the table. Anne sat down, still staring at Ann – warning her to do anything else out of character but Ann met her gaze with a defiant and teasing one.
“Are those turnips?”
“Eh, yes.” Marian replied her confused by her good mood and Ann’s smile widened,
“You know those are some of my absolute favourites – you’ve really outdone yourself, Marian with planning the meals with Cordingley.”
Marian actually blushed and Aunt Anne looked as though she had seen a ghost – it was really most peculiar. Anne however was not amused and tapped Ann’s shoulder,
“Didn’t you have a note you needed to send off first thing, Anne.”
“Well, yes – but it would be rude of me to leave the table.” Ann replied her and Marian choked on her wine – when had her sister ever cared about what was rude or not when at home?
“What’s with you today, Anne?” Aunt Anne wondered blunt, and Ann smiled softly at her aunt,
“I don’t know, I just feel lucky to have you all.”
“Well, I’m not complaining – it’s good to see you this way – new and improved.” Aunt Anne chuckled cheerfully but Anne had never heard the audacity – ‘new and improved?’ She huffed quietly under her breath – this was just insulting. That Ann was by far a more good-natured person, whose kindness affected those around her more – was given and Anne loved her for it but still - it stung. Which meant that for the rest of the evening downstairs, Anne was in a terrible mood – grumpy as no other which wasn’t really becoming Ann but then again, the other’s, except for Ann just thought she was feeling low because of her mind and aching back. Anne even retired earlier than Ann who sat reading to Aunt Anne by the fire.

“Are you going to sulk all night?” Ann wondered as she closed the door behind her, turning to Anne who lay on bed writing in her journal – still looking grouchy, not even bestowing a look on her. Ann sighed loudly before climbing into bed to look over Anne’s shoulder at what she was writing but Anne shrugged her off without a word.
“Anne… I honestly didn’t think you’d be that cross by it – I was just trying to find some amusement whilst we figure this thing out.” 
“Oh, it’s amusing to paint me as a villain, is it?” Anne snapped, still not raising her eyes from the paper and Ann frowned, tucking her feet under her,
“What? – I was just being nice and in a good mood. If anything, I displayed all of your good qualities.”
“Mm, ‘New and improved’.” Anne spat annoyed, throwing her journal to the side, looking rather upset and even though it was her own face – it tugged at Ann’s heart hearing how much it hurt her, which really wasn’t her intention at all.
“Anne.” Ann draped her arm over her shoulder, and Anne tried to push her away, but Ann wouldn’t let her,
“Are you upset with what Aunt Anne said?”
Silence filled the room, and Ann almost thought Anne wouldn’t answer her and her heart became heavy, and shame washed over her – she hadn’t meant for this to happen.
“She’s the only one… well, except for you who has always accepted me for who I am – and now she likes you as me better.” Anne yielded, and Ann wrapped her arms tighter around her, kissing her neck – though that for a second seemed weird – Ann really couldn’t wait to be back in her own body so she could kiss her wife sore without feeling slightly odd about it.
“She loves you – they all love you for who you are. Well, Marian might like you not dragging in mud, but they do. I know that. And what more – I love you, Anne. There is no one I love quite so much, and I wouldn’t change you for the world.” Ann whispered, trying to comfort her best she could, keeping her head under her chin to make her less embarrassed for the tears that trickled down her cheeks.
“You have such a good heart, Anne! – and I wouldn’t want to live a life without you – you’re perfect just the way you are – with all of your moods. I’m so sorry I hurt you – I didn’t mean to. I was just… I thought I was being funny but obviously I misjudged that.”
Ann held Anne close to her, running her fingers lightly over her back, waiting for her to come back to her.
“You’re too good for me.” Anne mumbled, her voice raspy from crying and Ann shook her head against her,
“No, you deserve everything good in this world and the next.”
“Oh, I don’t know why it affected me this way – It’s… I’m ridiculous.” Anne laughed awkwardly, beginning to feel rather self-conscious and mortified by her vulnerability.
“You’re not.”  Ann persisted, “And in any case – if it makes you feel better – you’re supposed to pass for me, and this is perfectly in line with my character.”
Anne laughed genuinely with her at that, wiping her cheeks off with her hands, sniffing -
“I’m getting you back tomorrow!”
“I look forward to it.” Ann smirked, just happy that Anne had forgiven her, and was feeling better about it and herself again. Anne rested against her shoulder, the silence that filled the room now familiar and peaceful. She was staring at the wall, her thoughts still taking her everywhere, but Ann remained at her side, tracing soft patterns over her shoulders. Anne knew they had settled everything from before, but some part wanted to fully explain to Ann why she reacted the way she did – so maybe she would understand it wasn’t so much about vanity or a want of compliments or something else.
“I know I said I rise above it – what people think of me – and I do.” Anne began, her voice uncommonly quiet – though Ann granted it wasn’t her own voice.
“Mm?”
“But…” Anne sighed, she hated getting too emotional – sometimes she worried that if she opened the door to that place within her again, she might not be able to close it.
“I do care. Not about them, but about you and Aunt Anne – what you think of me. It’s stupid in some sense, but nevertheless your good opinion, and hers, of me matters. Which was why I think I was so upset before. Other people calling me things, imagining me to be one thing or another I can bear – but you… you have me quite, to quote your aunt, under your spell.”  Anne told her, not daring to look her in the eye – even if it wasn’t the usual bright blue eyes that would meet her. Ann kissed her over the hair, tears burning in the corner of her eyes,
“I love you, Anne for better and for worse – and most importantly for who you are. And I honestly cannot understand how people can’t see how wonderful you are. You shouldn’t need to rise above anything. How you do it is beyond me – because it makes me so mad.”
“Mm, you train yourself, until you cannot see it nor hear it. Well, until you imagine you can’t, anyway, I must if I want to live true to myself.” Anne replied, her voice tired and Ann’s heart burned with fervent love for the woman – thinking the world cruel for putting her through all that. Deciding that she wouldn’t tell her of what had transpired earlier in Halifax – Anne really didn’t need to hear nor know that.
“I loathe it when they stare and whisper.” Ann confessed and Anne’s heart sank – so this is what it had come to – not even Ann could bear being seen with her in public, and who could blame her?
“Oh.”
Ann was at first a little stumped at Anne’s short tone but realised what she was thinking and hurriedly tried to set her right,
“No – not like that Anne! I mean I do hate it but not because I’m ashamed of being seen with you, trust me if I could tell them about our marriage, I would. I meant it in a way that if I see or hear another such rude person, I might actually snap and deal with them.” 
To say that Anne was relieved was a vast understatement, it was as if her mind was still so used to misfortunes that it immediately sent her down that trail of thought – throwing her back to when Vere had told her she would marry Donald or to when Mariana had taken Charles.
But Ann wasn’t like them, and she had proved that time and time again. Thinking of it, Anne couldn’t grasp why she had been so annoyed with her this past fortnight or so. Ann had risked everything to be with her – and overcome all of her fears just to marry her and Anne was annoyed with, what? – Her complaints of her aching spine, which Anne now knew to be hurting a fair amount. Maybe being stuck in her wife’s body for a while wasn’t such a terrible thing.

Chapter Text

The following morning was spent in much the same manner as the day before – they got dressed and joined the rest of the family for breakfast – even the outside was looking as bright as the day before, promising a good start to the week. Anne and Ann had gone upstairs after breakfast, looking through the library to see if there were any books that might help them in their quest for an answer to their peculiar problem – there weren’t any, as Anne had suspected there wouldn’t be. Ann had then suggested they might look through the scripture, thinking there might be something similar somewhere in the old testament but alas, nothing. They were in all, just as clueless as they had been previously.

“I mean no offence when I say I’d rather not be trapped in this vessel for life.” Anne told her wife as she slumped down in the chair, feeling humbled after finding absolutely nothing to help them. Ann mimicked her sigh, seemingly as unenthusiastic about living life like this for the rest of it.
“Um, no. I would miss you too much.”
“You would now?” Anne seemed amused and Ann smirked,
“Of course – there’s no one else who carries me to bed.”
Anne shook her head at her, snorting softly, running a hand through her curls letting her eyes wander through the room, hoping something might present itself from nowhere – nothing did, obviously.
“Um, is there anything planned for today?” Ann wondered biting her nails in a nervous tic, earning a scowl from Anne to which she flushed and quickly dropped her hand in her lap – Anne was awfully particular with her nails sometimes – not that Ann complained normally.
“You have to meet with Mr. Dawson in about an hour regarding his tenancy.”
“Urgh.” Ann massaged her temples; she did not look forwards to that – Anne and she had argued over this man and his family countless times because Anne wanted him off land whereas Ann thought her too harsh and unfair in turning the man out.
“Mm. So. You’ll need to tell him I will not renew his lease and that he has to be gone within… say, three months for good measure.” Anne told her firmly and Ann resisted an urge to roll her eyes,
“Have you thought that through? – It seems a little callous to turn a man, his wife and their four children out without just cause.”
“I have a just cause, Ann. I’ve told you – a million times – he doesn’t work his land to even a third of its potential and lives off the other farmers hard-work – he doesn’t respect me, and he hasn’t showed up for any of his meetings these past four years and he has failed time and time again to pay his rent in full – I’ve given him every chance to retaliate and change but he hasn’t.” Anne looked furious, but Ann couldn’t help but think she looked rather comical when it was her own face trying to stare her down – no wonder, Ann thought she had a hard time to command respect – she didn’t look fearsome at all. But Ann suppressed a smile, thinking Anne might actually have her for it if she did and remained solemn,
“He is crippled though – with his foot slowing him down. His sons are getting bigger too – they might work the land for him in a couple of years.”
“He is a sluggish bugger – he wasn’t crippled when he took the lease four-five years ago – this has nothing to do with his foot and everything to do with bad work ethics. I gave him a warning last year, and the year before – I’m done. I cannot let him renew it – it would look poor.” Anne wasn’t going to negotiate it any further, she had made up her mind and Ann knew there was nothing she could say nor do to change it – unless she actually took to blackmailing and that was beneath her, so she swallowed her protests and nodded,
“Fine. I will but I won’t like it.”
“You will when you meet him.” Anne said tart and Ann, instead of baiting on that let it be, turning their conversation in another direction, which was what Anne would have to do that day,
“Oh, yes - you’ll have to pop over to Cliff Hill today to visit my Aunt or she will wonder where I’ve gone off to, and in worse cases that means she’ll get the whole tribe to make an investigation and they will all become massive busybodies, and I don’t want Eliza Priestley snooping around Shibden to see if we’re still playing with fire.” 
“Urgh, do I really have to?” Anne looked miserable, she didn’t mind Ann’s aunt awfully much, though she was a bit vulgar sometimes and rather dull. She would probably need to perish through boring conversation – which would mostly consist of gossip. In other words, it was not far from what Anne would consider a social nightmare.
“I have to turn a man and his family off-land, you only have to sit and drink tea with my Aunt – stop whining, Pony!” Ann nudged her with her foot and Anne tried to keep pouting but with Ann throwing her funny looks, it wasn’t seconds before her pout turned into smiles and laughter,
“Fine! Yours is worse, I guess. But honestly once you’ve met him in that kind of environment – you will want him off land.”
“We’ll just have to wait and see. Where am I meeting him? Here?”
Anne gave a nod and hummed in reply,
“Yes, downstairs – do it quickly, there’s really no need to beat around the bush – nothing will change my mind on the matter. He has cost me money already with him not working the land to its full potential – and to think that thickhead gets to vote because of me.” 
“Your word is my law.” Ann replied impish, leaning down to peck her lips and Anne groaned as her eyes opened again,
“Lord – please just change us back!”
Ann burst into a fit of giggles, leaning against the armrests of Anne’s chair, hanging her head down,
“Oh yes – amen to that.”
“Seriously – I don’t want to live in celibacy for the rest of my life.” Anne laughed and Ann shook her head, kissing her forehead quickly,
“Me neither. Now, come on – let’s get down to business.”
“Oh? – You’re telling me to hurry up now, are you? – Being me has made you value time-efficiency, I see.”
“Or – I’m just longing for the day to be over as quick as possible. And you know it might be you that’s slowed down.” Ann teased and Anne gasped, standing up from the chair swiftly,
“I have not!”
“M-hm.” Ann threw her a coy look over her shoulder, which really didn’t look right on Anne’s face hence why she snorted mock-upset, hurrying behind her as she led the way downstairs once more.

Ann sat waiting for Mr. Dawson to show up to the hall, though she worried he might not show at all – he wasn’t as far as Anne had told her, good with that. Though he was always fairly civil when Ann and Marian had happened upon him out in the walk between Shibden and Halifax.
        She played with Anne’s penknife in her hands, trying to settle her fears and anxiety that dwelled within her at the thought of what she must do. She wasn’t cut out for this type of interaction - she had never turned anyone off-land. And to think that she might well be sending them off to the workhouse! – Ann shuddered, she had seen one once and the people who lived in it– they looked like mere shells of humans. She tried to rid herself of those images, she wasn’t sending them off to the workhouse, considering all the circumstances, they should have enough to find work and lodging elsewhere – and as Anne had pointed out – he’s had two years to better himself and done nothing to improve – rather the opposite Ann supposed as she eyed the notes her wife had made under his name in her books. 
When she heard footsteps out in the hall, her pulse quickened and the room seemed to spin ever so slightly but she composed herself just as Joseph came inside,
“Mr. Dawson, ma’am.”
“Thank you, Joseph.” Ann stood from her chair before pointing at another for the dishevelled man to sit down in and he limped to his seat, making sure to limp worse than Ann had seen him do ever before sitting down.
“Afternoon, Mr. Dawson.” Ann greeted trying to keep her voice stern and serious – hoping he wouldn’t notice any of her nerves.
“Miss Lister.” Mr. Dawson tilted his head slightly, but hardly making an effort - crossing his arms, Ann raised an eyebrow at that, if he knew how displeased Anne was with him, why not try and make a good impression? –  Hoping she might spare him.
“I… asked you to come here for us to have a little talk about your tenancy.”  Ann began and he huffed rudely, and Ann almost pulled a face at that – why was he acting in a way that was unbeneficial for him?
“What about it? – Rent day isn’t for another four months, ma’am.”  Mr. Dawson seemed to mock her, probably thinking he would squirm his way out of this meeting too. Ann’s forehead crinkled as she eyed the papers and then him, taking a short breath before she got ready to deliver his verdict.
“Well, you failed to pay your rent in full last time, Mr. Dawson and…”
Ann was interrupted rudely by Mr. Dawson who grumbled infuriated,
“It was one time, and it wasn’t my fault! I don’t control the weather, Miss Lister – I can’t be responsible for a bad harvest. If anything, it’s a wicked landlord that lets her farmers starve!”
Ann’s eyes widened, how dare that man accuse her wife of being a poor landlord!? – And from a completely fabricated lie! 
“It’s interesting, Mr. Dawson that none of the other tenants experienced bad harvest then. Does your farm have local weather? - And if you thought the harvest might be bad – why not farm all of your land?  You didn’t do more than a third.” Ann told him sharply, getting slightly annoyed with his aloofness - he had done wrong and so should own it – not blame her wife. If Ann had thought her callous for turning them out, she was now beginning to see that it might be completely justified.
“I have my foot and my lads are all under five but one.” Mr. Dawson complained, pointing to his right foot, and Ann made subtle grimace at the look of the dirty bandages.
“The point is, Mr. Dawson, you haven’t paid the rent in full for three years and so owe me quite a lot of money, when I’ve asked you to come pay me back you haven’t made an appearance. You’ve never farmed your land to full potential and that as well is costing me rather a lot of money – I think I am a just landlord – I do not ask for much...”
“I know what they say about you!” Mr Dawson muttered darkly, his pose suddenly threatening though Ann suspected he couldn’t do her much harm, but she was surprised at his words. He was really not doing anything to try and save himself.
“Oh? Mm, excellent – unfortunately that is neither here nor there. We aren’t here to talk about whatever gossip you’ve picked up in the pub, Mr. Dawson – we’re here because I am not renewing your lease.” Ann told him crossly, keeping herself in check though, staring him down from behind her desk, it didn’t do much to calm him down though – if anything he got angrier once the words had been spoken.
“You will regret it!”
“Oh? Will I? – Well then, let’s see, I’ll make sure to send you a letter, Mr. Dawson to your new address if that’s the case – which I doubt it will be.” Ann told him dryly, though her confidence was completely faux, she wished he would leave – she didn’t like him getting closer, her heart was hammering hard in her chest and her mind travelled back to those horrid memories of when Mr. Ainsworth had inflicted himself on her.
“Does Miss Walker know what people say about you? – Does she know what you are!?” Mr. Dawson clearly didn’t understand when all was done, and he stood panting over her, leaning against her desk – meanwhile Ann tried to resist leaning back in submission because of his bad breath.
“I’m sure Miss Walker know me by heart, but I warn you, Sir – say another word about her and I want you out in two months instead of three.” Ann told him – she didn’t want him to start saying crude things about either of them that might upset her and make her anxious again.
“They say you’re a man, Miss Lister…” Mr. Dawson continued, and Ann rolled her eyes, sighing,
“Really? – That’s a novelty. Now, if I were you, Mr. Dawson, I would get home and start packing. If you haven’t moved out in two months, there will be repercussions and I will involve the magistrate. See yourself out.” 
Ann stood from the desk and walked past him, ringing the bell, giving him a last look before she disappeared off into the house – needing a breather to calm down, after which she was supposed to make her way over to Cliff Hill to join Anne and fetch her home.

Chapter Text

“And then, Ann, can you fathom it? – Elderly Mrs. Rawson saw Miss Elizabeth walking in Halifax with a strange man and she wasn’t wearing any gloves!” Aunt Ann revealed, her tea almost cold from all the gossip she had told Anne who tried her best to look unaffected and as though she found it fairly intriguing. How Ann always let her aunt go on about this or that, Anne couldn’t understand – it was vulgar and tedious, at least her aunt endeavoured to make better conversation when Anne went with her.
“Elderly Mrs. Rawson? I haven’t seen her out for years.” Anne questioned, mainly to have something to reply, and Aunt Ann took a sip of her cold tea,
“She might’ve heard it from, oh I forget her name… Jeremiah’s wife.”
“Oh…”
For once Anne was more than content with her wife’s quiet and demure disposition towards her aunt – because she needn’t say an awful lot to the gossip she repeated. There was a short silence, during which Anne drank her tea, glancing at the clock in the corner and her stomach sank when she saw it had only been thirty-two minutes, she would have to stay, well, until Ann came to take her home – let that be sooner rather than later Anne thought, boredom settling in her shoulders.
“How’s Miss Lister?” Aunt Ann asked her briskly, and Anne startled from her thoughts, setting down her teacup slowly,
“Um, she’s…” Anne searched for something to say, “fine, she’s been busy with the estate.”
“Mm, Mrs. Priestley saw you in town a sennight ago and thought Miss Lister looked quite… what’s the word… dreary and annoyed.”
Anne raised her eyebrow slightly, she didn’t remember seeing Mrs. Priestley this last week at all, but then again – she did avoid them like the plague if she could.
“Oh? Well, um… Anne’s just had a lot on her mind – Mrs. Priestley can only have seen her for a second and from a distance.” Anne said, trying her best to keep a soft smile plastered on her face, thinking of her wife – her kindness, generous heart, and her other good ‘qualities’.
“I’ve heard Miss Lister can be quite fearsome when contradicted – but you’re alright, Ann?” Aunt Ann continued and Anne’s brows furrowed as she regarded the woman, did she just bluntly imply that she would do Ann harm? – The insult seared through her.
“I’m sorry? – I’m perfectly alright.”
“Are you? – Mrs Priestley seemed to think you looked a little pale and well… the things you hear people say about your companion – they are hard to see past.” Aunt Ann told her with a tilt of the head and a concerned look, which to Anne just seemed mocking and rude but she kept her temper cool.
“What things? – Miss Lister looks after me – she cares for me and I for her.”
“The family was worried you might feel trapped because of a bad decision.” Aunt Ann began and Anne’s jaw almost dropped – was this the way they normally talked to Ann as soon as she left the room?
“A bad decision? – I’m afraid I don’t follow, aunt.” Anne said trying to not let her anger slip through, and Aunt Ann made a gesture with her hand,
“Oh, you know the Priestley’s do worry about you a lot. The whole family does. You - living there… people talk. And, then Miss Lister taking you abroad without a concern for your fragile health.”
Anne did her best to keep calm with that statement, though she let a little of her annoyance slip through – after all Ann would’ve… at least Anne thought she would. This ‘Priestley-ism’, was so tiresome – when would they stop try to influence Ann with their cruel comments and passive-insulting ways? – Why couldn’t anyone in her family just accept her decision?  - That is to say except for Catherine and Aunt Ann (on days Eliza Priestley hadn’t just visited).
“Well, there’s no need for concern. I don’t care what those people say – they don’t know her and it’s discourteous. And I loved going abroad! – It made me feel alive, it did good for my health – the perfect tonic. Miss Lister was very attentive to my needs, and Dr Belcombe was very pleased with me when I returned.” Anne replied her showing the tiniest hint of displeasure, she didn’t bother trying to tell Aunt Ann, that she wasn’t fragile, chances were that would just open the door to another infuriating conversation.
“Your brother died in Naples.” Aunt Ann reminded her sternly, and Anne’s eyes widened a little – it was so malicious to use Ann’s fears and trauma against her – to try and chain her to them. This wasn’t the first time it had come up in a conversation to stop Ann from going with her and live life to its fullest.
“I know, and it was unfortunate. But it doesn’t mean the same thing will happen to me. And Miss Lister would never expose me to any kind of danger.”
Anne was thankful for the teacup in her hands, so she could mask her fury with a sip – Ann’s relatives underestimated her something terrible and Anne loathed it – she wasn’t delicate or in need of advice on every subject covering life – she was courageous and brilliant when given the chance to breathe from their suffocating ways.
“We care about you, Ann – we just want what’s best for you. It’s our duty, as Mrs. Priestley pointed out to me – especially since your own mother is dead and buried.” Aunt Ann pressed and Anne wanted to groan – how many dead relatives could you mention in the same conversation to try and prey on someone’s fears to make them do your will?
“I know that, but I am a grown woman, and I can make my own decisions.” Anne asserted, wanting the conversation to switch directions to something that wasn’t quite so infuriating.
“Yes, but you’ve also been an invalid for most of that time. Mrs. Prie… I… we just want to make sure you know it’s alright if you want to move back home. We would help you fend off Miss Lister. You could get married – your time for that hasn’t passed yet.”
Aunt Ann eyed her sympathetically, leaning forwards a little on the sofa but Anne was furious and couldn’t stop the scowl that replaced the false smile she had worn, and all she wanted was to shout that she was married – she was settled but obviously, she couldn’t… unless she wanted to spend the rest of her days in an asylum.   
“You can tell, Mrs. Priestley and the rest of the tribe, that I am perfectly satisfied with the way my life is and I wouldn’t leave Miss Lister for anyone nor anything. She’s my… particular friend, and I wish that all of you would just be delighted for me, Aunt.” 
“I am delighted for you, Ann but…” Aunt Ann’s words died as she observed the footman that had just entered the room,
“Miss Lister, ma’am.”
Anne was more than happy to see Ann appear behind the footman – her presence meant that conversation was at an end, but she made a mental note of asking Ann about it later – was this the way they always talked when Anne wasn’t there?
“Miss Lister.” Aunt Ann greeted her, and Ann went over to her, taking her hand in hers,
“Miss Walker, how are you?” 
“I’m perfectly fine, thank you – and you?” Aunt Ann glanced up at her, and Ann fiddled with the black hat in her hands, smiling,
“Excellent – I’m good, thank you.”
“Would you like me to ask William to get you a teacup, Miss Lister?”  Aunt Ann inquired and Ann shook her head,
“Oh, no – thank you. I just came for Miss Walker; it looks like rain so. We’d best be on our way lest we get caught in it, again.”
Aunt Ann gave Anne a meaningful look at that though Anne pretended she didn’t notice, standing up from the sofa to ready for the walk back.
“Why you insist on walking I cannot understand – not when it might rain.” Aunt Ann commented and Ann turned to observe her,
“Well, it’s not that far, and fresh air only does you good.”
“My niece isn’t quite as stout as you, Miss Lister – she might catch her death.” Aunt Ann protested and Ann raised her brow, noticing Anne’s exasperated look, wondering what on earth had been discussed before she came, and to add to that she also felt a bit insulted by her aunt’s words.
“I’m sure Miss Walker is wholly capable of walking in the rain without catching pneumonia, Miss Walker.”
“Very well, wrap up then and be on your way before the heaven’s open and it rains.” Aunt Ann dismissed them, sounding a little stumped but Ann neverminded her aunt and took Anne with her out into the hall where she was given her pelisse, gloves and bonnet. They got dressed in almost silence – thinking that Aunt Ann might be old, but she wasn’t deaf, so they waited until they came outside to say anything of worth.

They walked in silence down the path from the house, the gravel sounding under their feet and a slight drizzle came over them.
“Why haven’t you told me that’s how they act?!” Anne asked bluntly as soon as they were definitely without earshot from Cliff Hill. Ann glanced at her, frowning – not quite sure what her wife was talking of, nor why she looked so cross.
“Why haven’t I told you, what?”
“You know what I’m talking about!” Anne growled and Ann eyed her seriously, resisting an eye-roll, her wife was so ridiculous sometimes with how she always seemed to think Ann could read her mind, and then getting cross when she didn’t follow.
“I obviously don’t – so you don’t have to shout at me!”
“Urgh! That they are constantly at your throat about you living with me.” Anne hissed, “Trying to influence you to leave me.”
“Oh…” Ann began, but was interrupted by a growl,
“What do you mean ‘oh’ – they could’ve turned you against me and I wouldn’t know!”
Ann tried to speak but Anne was clearly too upset, to slow down, and so Ann grabbed her arm and turned her to her – forcing her to meet her eyes,
“I didn’t tell you because I knew you’d be cross.”
“Am I?!”  Anne snarled and Ann closed her eyes for a second trying to reel her own emotions in – it wouldn’t end well if the both of them started shouting.
“Anne, please just listen to me! – I didn’t tell you because I knew you’d be upset – and nothing they say can ever make me leave you – I swore oaths on the bible with you, I’m wearing your rings and I love you – I might’ve been easily persuaded in the past but…” Ann trailed off, hoping Anne believed her, because she didn’t want to have another spat with her over something that wasn’t even an issue – Ann hadn’t hidden the fact from Anne for any other reason but to spare her the annoyance and worry. Sure, Ann thought it bothersome but typically it was just kind of entertaining watching her relatives bend over their backs with trying to persuade her to leave Miss Lister for home and marriage, not knowing she was already married to her in the eyes of God. 
“I just think it’s cowardly of them to prey on you like that. It upsets me that they show so little regard for your own feelings and decisions – for your ability to think on your own without their constant interference.” Anne mumbled, her fury slipping away from her and Ann smiled hesitantly, caressing her arm gently,
“I don’t like it either but the only thing their comments achieves is me getting vexed with them – I’m not so gullible and naïve as I used to be… well, as I let myself be in the past.”
“Mm.”
Anne’s cheeks were a little warm but she blamed Ann’s body for that – though she did feel a little ashamed for immediately thinking the worst of her wife. It wasn’t fair and had more to do with her own fears of losing her than anything else. Even a year into their marriage Anne still feared that Ann would tire of her and pack up and leave – and so Anne was sometimes wary of being too vulnerable with her in case she did – she was still guarding her poor heart in some sense – frightened of how much it beat for the woman in-front of her.
“You don’t need to be frightened. I’m not going anywhere.” Ann whispered calmly, stroking away a lone tear from her cheek with light fingers, as if she could read her mind and Anne glanced up at her, a soft apologetic smile appearing on her face,
“I shouldn’t have shouted, I’m sorry.” 
“No.” Ann shook her head, “But I understand why you reacted thus – I used you ill – when I constantly changed my mind with the ‘yes’ and ‘no’s’. And then when Mrs. Priestley told Harriet what she did, and everything fell apart…So. I see why hearing my aunt say all that might cause you to feel anxious and I’m sorry that I hurt you.”
Anne exhaled slowly, annoyed with her own temper for taking charge of her before she had even given Ann a chance to explain,
“Don’t. Don’t apologise again – you weren’t well. And it wasn’t your fault. But, promise me, that you’ll tell me if you feel that coming on again, so I can help you in time.” Anne murmured, playing with Ann’s… her own fingers, but her eyes rested on the scar that was still rather prominent on her wife’s wrist, a reminder of how close she had been to losing her in the past.
“I will. I promise.” Ann reassured her, and then as if nothing had transpired, they continued their walk back home. Quietness engulfed them for a little while, both of them wrapped up in their own thoughts – until Anne realised that she had, in the heat of the moment, forgot to ask Ann how the meeting had gone.
“Did you meet with Mr. Dawson?” Anne wondered, making sure to keep her voice light, and Ann sighed irate,
“I did.”
For a second Anne worried Ann might be angry with her for some reason but then Ann continued,
“Urgh, you were right! He was so incessantly rude – despite him knowing he was in a precarious situation with his tenancy.”
“Mm, I told you so.” Anne teased and Ann gasped, nudging her side,
“Oh shut it! I’ve suffered enough – he was vulgar and… creepy. And his breath stunk.”
Anne tried to keep her laughter in but couldn’t and Ann growled at her, exasperated,
“It’s really not funny!”
“Sorry…but it’s a little bit though.” Anne smirked,
“No! Anne – it wasn’t!” Ann said seriously, “I got this feeling, the kind of… urgh. That if I hadn’t been you, and been alone with him, he might’ve…”
Anne’s laughter died instantly, and her teasing look switched to that of deep concern,
“Did he try anything!?”
“No! - His mannerisms just reminded me of… you know who.” Ann relented, and Anne nodded, a deep line wearing into her forehead,
“I’m sorry, I put you through that. I didn’t think how you might feel being alone with such a man – even if you inhabited my body.”
“You can’t protect me from everything, Anne. I just… it reminded me, and I… um, but it’s fine. I’m fine – I threw him off land.” Ann dismissed Anne’s worry – because she didn’t want to bother her – not when she was obviously over-reacting and reading into something too much. But Anne didn’t seem convinced, she was observing her closely,
“Are you sure you’re alright?”
“I…”
“Ann, honestly – are you alright? – Never mind what actually happened, how are you feeling?” Anne was eying her with the same amount of concern that she had done that day when Ann had admitted to her what Mr. Ainsworth had done to her. Ann exhaled slowly,
“I just… haven’t thought of it in a long time and it just brought back unpleasant memories. But I’m over-reacting...”
“No. You’re not, Ann – what that devil put your through is inexcusable, and you are not to blame. And I don’t want you to feel as though you’re over-reacting or exaggerating if those memories reappear – do you hear me?!” Anne was eying her with a penetrating stare and Ann, staring into her own blue eyes, could feel tears burn and her heart clench in her chest. Something about hearing herself, though it was Anne obviously, speak those words; Anne was saying all of those things she wished she could say and think herself, it resonated within her and stilled her anxious thoughts. Ann was so thankful of her wife and wondered briefly at what would’ve become of her if she hadn’t had Anne. Dim and dark images of her past re-appeared, lonely long days with no hope or will to live anything resembling a life. No, Ann was immensely grateful of the woman she could call her wife. She had brought her back to life.
“Ann?” Anne called out to her, willing her back to the present, and to the walk where they stood, rain falling down over them – but neither of them minded that much. Soft fingers grazed her chin, turning her head towards her,
“Adney…?”
“I don’t deserve you.” Ann mumbled, as a single tear trickled down her cheek, and Anne frowned as she observed her, shaking her head slowly, standing closer,
“Of course you do! Come here.”
Anne embraced her – throwing caution to the wind that they were out in the open – to hell with them if anyone saw them and caused trouble. For some reason the nearness made Ann feel somewhat worse – she was so close to her wife, yet a million miles away – it was as though she could hear her but not touch her and she longed for God or whoever – to switch them back so they could be near again.
“You are alright, Ann. I’m here, and I love you. And you deserve all the good the world has to offer!” Anne caressed her cheek before following with her lips, resting for a little while longer in each other’s embrace before they parted. Ann dried her tears properly with her hands, cheeks warm and pink from her episode, eying Anne with some apprehension but she only smiled softly,
“Don’t even dare to think it, Adney – I am not annoyed with you.” 
Ann couldn’t help the croaky laughter that escaped her, sometimes she knew her and her overthinking brain too well.
“Shall we hurry home before we’re absolutely soaked?” Ann wondered with a wide smile, her doubts gone for now, and Anne chuckled, nodding,
“Yes, please! I do not want to find out how heavy these things can get! 
Ann laughed as her wife pointed at the poufs, and they set off on the walk again – practically running down it, just in time for the rain began pouring down heavily – drenching them both thoroughly to the bone.

Chapter Text

After a quick change of clothing, no need to worry about any interludes in dressing since their body switch, they had sat down to some tea with Aunt Anne and Captain Lister in the sitting room for a little while – talking of nothing in particular, when Captain Lister had asked his daughter how the progress was going with the parkland, reminding Anne that they must head down to keep an eye on the men working – see how it was coming along. Which was why she forced Ann with her upstairs to ready them for the outside again as soon as they had finished their tea.

“Here, you’ll need these.” Anne dug her gloves out of their drawer and Ann sighed loudly,
“Do I have to? – I really don’t know anything about planting trees or bushes – shouldn’t we leave that to them?”
“No. They are useless – always trying to get out of work. You’ll need to go down there and make sure they are pulling their weight and doing it properly – I won’t have the place looking like… like an old farm. It’s a…”
“Yes, yes – I know! It’s ancient and important. Just a slight problem… as I mentioned before – I don’t know how to plant trees!” Ann scowled at her, because though it wasn’t raining anymore, it was still grey and dull outside, and Ann had rather not head out again – she was emotionally and physically exhausted from the last days. But Anne refused to beckon to her protests and complaints, standing up from the floor after closing the drawer,
“I’ll come with you and make sure you do it well.”
“Under what pretence?” Ann inquired dryly, crossing her arms and glaring at the stupid gloves resting on the side-table, but Anne neverminded her bad mood, and merely smiled, pointing to Ann’s sketchbook,
“I’ll bring that with me.”
“Urgh, alright then. But you owe me, pony!” Ann muttered, snatching the gloves from the table, and practically stomping downstairs with Anne in a tow – who tried desperately not to laugh at her moodiness.  Marian popped out of the sitting room, hands on hips looking irritated,
“Do you have to make such noise coming down the stairs?”
Anne wasn’t sure Ann was acting when she glowered back at her sister,
“I don’t know, Marian, do you have to give a commentary on everything I do?!”
Marian seemed affronted, and turned her eyes from Ann, whom she thought was her sister, to Anne, raising her brows,
“Are you sure you want to keep that one company outside this afternoon?”
“If only to stop her from giving the workers a dressing-down.” Anne told her sister, offering her a smirk – this was actually somewhat amusing.
“Anne!” Ann barked, waiting for her by the door and Anne bit her lip giving Marian a wink, scurrying after her wife outside – hoping she might soon feel brighter.

“Afternoon.” Ann greeted the working men, and they turned their heads to her, some of them responded in kind and some only raised their hats to her. Anne sat down a few feet away, watching them intently, whilst Ann glanced uncertainly at her – not sure what to do or say next, she was rather uncomfortable being in charge like this.
‘Progress’ Anne tried to mouth discreetly, and Ann gave a small nod in her direction, turning her attention back to the men,
“How have you all got on since last time?”
“Why, it’s been alright, I suppose – little ones been sick but…”
“Not in your life, Jones – with the landscaping.” Ann interjected, and Mr. Jones flushed, turning away for a second whereas John Booth chuckled quietly at him.
“We’ve finished the work down there.” Booth pointed, and Ann followed his hand and hummed satisfied – it did look great, at least from the little bit of distance.
“Excellent – and so far, they’ve all… survived?” Ann tried to sound as though she had an inkling of what she was talking of, but she really didn’t know any terminology for landscaping. Flowers she could do but anything beyond that was a mystery.
“Yes, ma’am. All of them, except for the one – you know the one that arrived dead?” 
Ann did know – Anne had been incredibly vexed by it, and written a firm, well-worded letter to the proprietor who had sent such varied qualities of trees when she had asked for the best he had to offer. Poor fellow really, whoever it was – Anne was hard to please sometimes and when someone didn’t meet her standards – she went in for a kill.
“Of course, I remember.” Ann replied harshly, before softening, changing the subject slightly, “Good. Right, let’s try and move along then with this row!”
Knowing Miss Lister’s work ethics and temper as they did, the men set off and immediately began working again. Ann however strode over to Anne quickly, who pretended to be immersed with her sketching.
“What do I do now?” Ann wondered, gesturing to the trees, and Anne raised her pen, pointing to her paper, pretending that she was showing Ann something she had sketched,
“You could either grab one of the trees and begin planting them where they’ve dug out the old ones, or you help them dig out the last of them.” 
“I’ll fetch and plant a new one then – it seems simpler.”
“You’re right.” Anne paused in thought, “So, obviously you’ll have to dig up an old one.”
“What? Why!?” Ann whined quietly, cautious not to be overheard, and Anne gave her a stern look,
“Because I am their employer, and it’ll look poor if I did the easy work, besides they would think I was weak, which I am not!”
“Oh, alright then – but if I ruin your back then that’s on you!” Ann huffed at her, stalking back to give them a hand. Whereas she, under normal circumstances, liked sitting outside watching the improvements to the parkland happen – to be fair she mostly enjoyed watching her wife work up a sweat – doing them herself, when hardly knowing how, was just plain frustrating and tiresome. Thankfully, the men didn’t seem to notice her slight clumsiness, or inexperience – they kept well out of her way, letting Booth work closest to her, knowing she did in fact like him best, and was less prone to lashing out on him, than the others.

The sun poked through the clouds about forty minutes into it, and Ann was boiling up – it was very warm and hard work. Anne called her over innocently and Ann trotted over to her obligingly, wondering what she had done wrong, expecting a whole sermon from her.
“Don’t tell me I did it wrong – because I will cry.” Ann warned her and Anne shook her head laughing,
“No, it’s fine - come here.”    
Ann came closer, and Anne glanced over Ann’s shoulder, but the men were all busy, and so she helped Ann unbutton the waistcoat, rolling her sleeves up for her, and loosening the cravat around her neck,
“Better?”
“I’m an idiot.” Ann closed her eyes, chuckling, close to tears and Anne smiled, handing her a bottle of beer,
“Here, have a sip and get back to work with you.”
“How’s the drawing coming along?” Ann teased, wiping beer off her chin, peeking down on the paper that Anne had been busy with,
“Oh, nice stick figures – and lovely equations, dearest.”
“Don’t mock my artistry!” Anne chided her with a grin, to which Ann just shook her head and took another mouthful of beer before handing the bottle back to her,
“How much longer?”
“Until you’ve completed the row.” Anne replied her, to which Ann sighed, stretching her back before looking at her pocket-watch,
“I’ll endeavour to complete it, but we’ll need to be back for dinner which is in less than an hour.”
“Or what? – We could just eat cold cuts in the kitchen later.”
“I am famished, and I will ruin your reputation entirely if we’re not in by dinner, besides, Marian will no doubt complain otherwise, and I am the one who needs to hear it.” Ann countered, and Anne caved in, knowing Ann wouldn’t and she wanted her to return to the trees,
“I guess that’s fair. Give me my watch and I’ll keep track of the time.”
Ann eyed her suspiciously, dangling the silver pocket-watch, over the palm of her hand,
“You’re not going to pretend to forget about the time, are you?”
“No, I promise.” Anne told her earnestly, and reassured, Ann handed her it, and got back to work, longing for dinner and bed.

Despite her neck and arms being exposed, Ann was drenched in sweat when Anne signalled time was up. Most men had just left, and it was just her and Booth left working. They were almost done, but Ann refused to lift another tree. She pulled the long protective gloves off, and nodded to Booth,
“Good job today. We’ll finish it tomorrow – you might retire for the day.”
“Thank you, Miss Lister. Good evening to you, and to you Miss Walker.”  Booth tipped his hat to Anne as he hurried past her, probably wanting home to his children. Anne’s eyes followed him for a second before turning to Ann.
“Isn’t it refreshing to work your muscles?” 
“Mm, fantastically so. In fact, come here – give me a hug, you’ve earned it.” Ann opened her arms up and Anne backed a step,
“Someone could see us from the windows.” Anne pointed to the house, smirking, “Besides my own sweat doesn’t disgust me.”
“Maybe these will though.” Ann held up her hand, showing off the dirty fingernails and Anne began laughing as well as Ann while they headed back towards the house,
“You should wash your hands before dinner – that does look a bit… repulsive.”
“I think all of me, well, all of you – needs a bath.” Ann grinned, eying the side of Anne’s face trying to see her reaction to that,
“Mm…” Anne pondered it, “I guess – you’ll just have to shut your eyes for the duration of it.”
“What?!” Ann seemed genuinely baffled, “I’ve seen you before – and how on earth do you think I’ve managed these last few days?” 
“You mean you’ve looked!?” Anne gasped, staring at her and Ann made a gesture with her hands,
“You haven’t?!”
“Well, maybe… but I didn’t think – and not in a weird way, just you know… what needed doing.” Anne explained, they hadn’t really discussed this part of the switch at all, though perhaps they should’ve.
“I didn’t look in a weird way either for the record.” Ann added to that, turning her eyes to Anne’s again which was all it took for them to begin laughing at the absurdity of it.
“Good Lord.” Ann mumbled; cheeks slightly pinkish, much to Anne’s vexation – it wasn’t a good look on her! - “This is so strange.”
“I am prepared to agree with that.” Anne told her just as they entered the house and once more put on the façade and act of being one another.

“You’re on time!?” Marian seemed bewildered when she saw them, and Ann frowned,
“I’m always on time.” 
Marian opened her mouth, on the cusp of starting an argument because Anne was quite often late to dinner and at other times – though she had got better with showing up when promised since Ann had moved in roughly a year ago – but then she spotted Anne and her scowl turned into a smile,
“Ann, how did you get on? – Did you find anything pretty to sketch!?”
Anne had almost forgot about the sketchbook in her hands, her brows furrowing, she hadn’t really sketched much and the little she had was hardly any good. But Marian, used to Ann sharing her art with her, snatched the book from her hands, opening it to where Anne had sketched, and her smile disappeared as her face registered what was on it. Ann kept her eyes fixated on the floor lest she slip and laugh, Anne however was hovering over it, trying to get it back.
“It’s unusual?”
It was all Marian could say about it, and Ann covered her snort and chuckles with a cough.
“Oh, yes – um, I, uh, I am practicing simplicity in my sketches to use… uh, as a guide for the Sunday school children. So, they can draw um, the biblical stories.” Anne lied through her teeth, because she didn’t really want Marian to be suspicious of their behaviour, nor for her to ask a million questions. Marian’s eyebrows were almost at her hairline,
“Well, to be fair – they look as though they were sketched by a child, so I guess you’ve accomplished that.”
“Good to know.” Anne replied her, taking the sketchbook back from her sister before she could protest. Marian then turned to her sister, scrunching her nose,
“Are you going to sit down to dinner like that?”
“Mm, I’ll ask the servants to draw me a bath, but it won’t be ready before dinner in any case. But I’ll go upstairs and get the worst off. Do you want me to take your sketchbook with me, Adney?” Ann held her hand out for her book and Anne gave her it, watching her as she left, leaving her alone with Marian for her sole company.
“Has Anne been acting weird these past few days?” Marian asked thoughtfully, shifting her focus from the stairs to the blonde beside her. Anne glanced at her sister – surely Marian of all people wouldn’t figure out something was afoot. Who would even guess it? – Unless they caved and told someone.
“Uh, Not to my knowledge.” Anne shrugged her shoulders, but Marian didn’t seem convinced,
“Are you sure? She seems… I mean – one moment she’s completely normal and the next she just does something strange?”
“Probably menstrual.” Anne dismissed her suspicions and headed into the dining room to sit down to the table, hoping Ann would return shortly and not waste sixteen minutes washing some dirt off her hands.  

Once dinner was over, Ann had gone upstairs into their bedroom where the tub had been placed in-front of the burning fireplace. Anne had insisted she assist her instead of Eugénie who had been dismissed – the situation was weird enough already without involving a third person. Though the one who fretted most was Anne, and Ann did feel a bit for her, knowing she was insecure about her own body when undressed.
         Nevertheless, the bath was well received – Ann’s sore muscles relaxed in the warm water – and she felt instantly better when the dirt and grit washed off her. Anne helped her scrub her body with the soap and lathered her long dark hair with it too– it felt wonderful, and Ann kept her eyes shut, only moaning and humming softly now and again much to Anne’s delight.  She did like her wife to be comfortable – even if they weren’t themselves at the moment.
“Lean your head back.” Anne pulled gently at her hair, and Ann did as she was told, helping Anne rinse by running her hands through the long hair whilst Anne poured the lukewarm water over her.
There was something so lovely with being freshly cleaned and tired – crawling in under crisp and new bedding but in the midst of it, Ann’s heart ached a little – knowing there wouldn’t be any ‘kisses’ waiting for her once she was dressed for bed.
“Ready?” Anne stood on the side, towel in hand and Ann grasped the edges of the tub and stood up and got out of the bath. Anne’s eyes widened as Ann suddenly stood in-front of her,
“Adney! That’s my… you can’t just walk around like that!” Anne chided her, wrapping her in the the towel she had in her hands and Ann laughed at her, taking her face in her hands and kissing her forehead,
“It’s just you and me here, and I only got out of the bath! But if you like I can take a turn downstairs?”
“You’re going to be the death of me!” Anne sighed, shaking her head at her – pecking her lips quickly,
“I want us to change back now!” Ann mumbled, cheeks warm, “So, we could… uh.”   
“Me too.” Anne agreed, then winked at her, “But we’ll make up for lost time when we change back.”
“Good.” Ann smiled wide as Anne began to help her dry – a childish hope dwelling within her that if they went to sleep – they might wake up in the morning changed back, at the same time her pessimistic brain was starting to think they might never be turned back to themselves – that they would be stuck like this for all eternity – never to enjoy anything more than innocent kisses for the rest of their lives.

Chapter Text

It could’ve been a lot worse; she could’ve swapped bodies with Marian or Eliza Priestley, Anne thought, as she lay with her face pressed into the pillow – fingers clutching the sides tightly and her knees almost up by her chest. Ann lay peacefully asleep alongside her, mouth open, one hand under her head and the other stretched out for Anne – it almost annoyed her how comfortable she appeared to be because she was anything but. Rain drummed against the window and Anne reckoned the outside was a good reflection of her own mood at present.
She groaned into her pillow – trying to avoid disturbing Ann’s sleep, the poor thing had really been sleeping awfully since their swap. Anne figured she should rise from bed – and take care of her problem but how on earth was she supposed to do that when her back was aching offensively in combination with the dull sharp pain in her lower abdomen – no, Anne was quite certain she would be sick if she stood up and she didn’t want to be, hence she stayed put. Not one for wallowing in self-pity usually, Anne did feel enormously sorry for herself at present – this couldn’t be normal?! The amount of pain and soreness Ann’s body gave her wasn’t of this world. This was coming on anything but gently – Ann’s ‘cousin’ didn’t knock – it barged through the door and ripped out the furniture without a single care for its mistress. A devil was probably a better word for it, and Anne suddenly regretted the times when she had told Ann she was overdoing it – or thought her silly for having been taken out all day by it. Because Anne wasn’t sure she wasn’t dying at the moment – she reckoned she would’ve rather been beaten up again – less painful, and easier to treat than this womanly ailment.

“Ann.”
Anne pushed her with one hand, face down still – and Ann grunted tiredly, kicking her foot out, but Anne’s legs were up at her chin so there was nothing to hit.
“You need to rise and get dressed – you’re supposed to check the progress of the parkland, and then you have a meeting at eleven.”
Anne said all this without her usual energy, she was neither herself nor Ann’s usual self this morning – she wanted to crawl under the covers and disappear until everything was settled again.
“Mm, not today.” Ann mumbled, fighting off Anne’s limp hand that lay across her chest with slothful movements. Anne turned on her side, whimpering at the pain that shot through her, a wave of nausea coming over her – forcing her to lie completely still for a second lest she be sick.
“Adney, I’m really not in the mood for this. You have to do it, or people will think I’m forsaking my duties.” Anne told her woozily, she was in so much agony she couldn’t think straight – thinking to herself that either her wife was in some kind of pact with the devil enduring this kind of pain whenever her ‘cousin’ came, or she had a freakishly high pain tolerance. Ann sighed loudly, opening her heavy eyelids to glare at her wife – but was surprised when she saw her curled up next to her,
“Is something wrong?”
“Well, medically speaking – no, I’d say I was a healthy young woman. Um, but that’s of no use to me and honestly– I’m in quite a lot of… pain.” Anne spoke slowly, arm draped over her eyes, and Ann frowned, reaching out to gently brush wisps of blonde hair out of her face,
“I’m sorry. Do you need anything? – I could ask them to bring you some tea?”
“Mm, I, urgh – I, I need to… you know – what’s the word? – Oh yes, I need to prepare the napkins, but Lord, does getting out of bed provide a good challenge!”
Ann beamed at her, caressing her cheek and placing a soft kiss against her temple,
“Do you want help with that, or do you think you’ll manage?”
“Unless you feel as though I’m violating your body doing it – I’d prefer to do it myself.”  Anne mumbled, glancing up at her from under her arm, and Ann nodded,
“Of course, I don’t mind. Um, I’ll ask them to bring breakfast up, and I’ll get dressed but then I’ll come right back and sit with you for a little while before all the meetings.”
“Uuh, I love you!” Anne murmured, brushing her hand against hers as she stood up to do all the things, she had said she would,
“I love you too, now rest!”
 
Ann was really relieved when she was dressed and back in their bedroom with Anne – speaking French was nerve-wracking but seeing as Anne most of the time spoke French with Eugénie Ann must too, though she suspected the woman wondered at Miss Lister’s French suddenly being so scarce and wanting. But she was dressed and looking dapper as usual, which was what was important – the other thing would soon be forgotten... hopefully.

Hemingway had been upstairs to leave a tray in the room, and Ann sat down on the side of the bed to eat with Anne.
“I don’t think I could get anything down at present.”
Anne looked a little green as she eyed the bread rolls and Ann seemed concerned for her, frowning,
“Oh Anne! – is it that bad?”
“Mm, I will be better in no time.” Anne replied her, offering a brave smile making Ann chuckle at her,
“You will stay and rest in bed today, Anne – that’s an order – I would’ve and you’re me so…”
“But… it’s boring.” Anne whined; she might be in a lot of pain but the thought of being confined to bed this way didn’t sit well with her – what did one do with all the time? – And how could she waste it on just vegetating in bed? Ann rolled her eyes at her,
“Mm, but you will be miserable if you try to go about as usual. Besides I’ll fetch you your books and your journal – so you could take the day off and improve your mind with some extensive reading.”
“I…” Anne paused, furrowing her brows, eyes turning to Ann, she was about to dispute her but reconsidered when she realised the benefit that came with it,
“Oh. Good thinking. That’s brilliant – Yes! I’ve been wanting to catch up on my reading. I have really ignored my studies for too long.”
“You need to stop acting so surprised whenever I say something vaguely clever – I’m starting to question your opinion of me.” Ann teased, and Anne eyed her sincerely,
“Adney – you know I think you’re more than just a pretty face.”
Ann smiled at her, brushing her fingers against her cheek briefly before standing up,
“I will go fetch the things for you, dearest – then I’ll go out to check on the progress and make sure to register every little detail for you.”
“Thank you.” Anne told her gratefully, her warm hand resting on her stomach trying to still the dull throbbing and the nausea so she might eat a little and read without needing to lie curled up into a ball, rocking back and forth like a mad person.

Ann hurried inside the bedroom with a few of Anne’s books, and her journal – unloading them into a heap on the bed much to Anne’s delight.
“Here – I picked some different subjects for you.”
“You are a saint!”
Anne was despite all the uncomfortableness and pain – looking forward to a day dedicated to educating herself further.
“Now, is there anything in particular I need to know about the meeting I have at eleven?”
“It’s with uh, Pickels about the road coming back from the pits – it needs redoing and I want him to make sure it gets done. I was thinking maybe six or seven men, but I want it done within a month.” Anne explained,
“And how would they be paid?” Ann wondered, and Anne’s forehead scrunched together as she tried her hardest to force a coherent thought through her foggy mind.
“Hm, 5 Shillings a day, six days a week and I expect it to be done within a month – preferably before that – tell him before that – otherwise they’ll just slack off for the money’s worth.”
“I will do my best. Now, take care of yourself – and I’ll check in on you at lunch time.” Ann leant down to peck her lips – wishing it wasn’t her own – what was this insane reality they lived in at present?
“Anne?” Marian’s voice was heard, and Ann turned from the bed, hurrying out into the hallway before Marian could come in and they would need to explain things.
“Yes?” Ann replied snappishly, she was already running late if she was supposed to have time to nip down to see how the trees were coming along.
“There’s a problem with the servants again…” Marian began, and Ann was astonished for she had noticed no disturbances with them as of late – she thought that had all been solved a month or so ago.
“Mm? – I haven’t noticed anything.”
“Well, you are always out and I’m the one who has to deal with them.” Marian replied irked, and Ann sighed, trying her hardest to get into Anne’s character – which was difficult when Marian was her friend under normal circumstances,
“Indoor staff is your responsibility, Marian – honestly, I do not have time for these ridiculous scruffles that exists for absolutely no reason except for you, to have something to complain about.”
“I think we should replace Cordingley.” Marian said blunt and Ann did a double-take,
“You’re not serious? – Absolutely not. And really, Marian – we’ll discuss this at some other time, right now I’m off.”
“You’re always off leaving me to deal with everything!” Marian shouted after her, but Ann was already taking the stairs two at the time, not bothered with answering her – there was little she could do – Anne would have to sort that out once they switched back… if they switched back, anxiety rose in her chest and she put a hand over it to try and rid herself of the pressure. She didn’t even want to contemplate them not changing back at the moment – she shouldn’t because really, she needed to get things done and Anne would have her head if she had a full-blown panic attack with Pickels standing witness to it.
Ann shook her head as if the anxious thoughts would let themselves be rid of that way, and then she hurriedly put on her greater coat – rushing outside before her thoughts and worries could get a real hold of her.

It was sort of comical how the men, when they caught sight of Anne, changed their postures and their tempo working, Ann thought – her wife indisputably commanded respect and truth to be told, Ann did kind of like the feeling, that for once people listened to her and didn’t just brush her off as something fragile and silly. Not that Anne did, nor her wife’s family but other people, such as her own ‘tribe’.
Ann greeted the men when she was close enough, and they all answered her fleetingly whilst continuing to labour – they were almost done with the work they had begun with the previous day.
“Ma’am.”
Booth tipped his cap, and Ann turned her eyes to him, waiting for him to continue and he twisted some,
“Yes?” Ann urged him curtly, she soon needed to turn up to her meeting with Pickels and didn’t have time to waste,
“One of the bushes we planted down that way,” Booth paused to point, and Ann followed his hand, “it has died – it looks brownish and is completely dried out. Saw it on my way here this morning, thought you might want to know.”
Ann resisted a groan; they could easily replace it – they would just need to order another bush, but Anne was going to be greatly annoyed with it and Ann didn’t want to listen to her complain about the proprietor who had given her such weak bushes and the men who had possibly ruined it by the way which they had planted it.
“Oh. Well then, I’ll make sure to get it replaced, thank you Booth.”
Ann rubbed her chin absentmindedly, maybe she could avoid telling Anne and just order it herself – the address to the gardener who had provided it must be in Anne’s study and she could write him a letter and Anne needn’t be disappointed nor annoyed with it – so many things had already gone wrong. Not big things but little things and they all seemed to vex Anne so and Ann didn’t want her to retort back to the mood she’d been in for the past fortnight before their switch. 
“Was there something else, Miss Lister?” Booth asked uncertainly as Ann had yet to leave or say anything else – she was startled out of her thoughts and nodded,
“Will this be done today?”
“Aye, I believe so, ma’am – we’ve only got another two hours I think.” Booth replied her,
“Good. Well then, get back to work with you.” Ann dismissed him, and turned on her heel, steering her direction back to the house where she was expecting Pickels in less than five minutes.

Chapter Text

Ann was pleased to find that Pickels had already arrived when she came inside – it meant that the meeting might be over sooner, and Ann did not enjoy this part of being Anne. She was too nervous about making mistakes, saying or doing the wrong thing. No, she’d much rather Anne, who was so able, take care of their business and everything that came with it. It was a lot easier for her, and calmer on her ‘nerves’ to sit with Anne and discuss beforehand and afterwards than partake in the actual meetings.
“Pickels – it’s good to see you.”
“Miss Lister!” Pickels greeted her properly, and Ann pointed to the chair allowing him to sit down as she herself sat down in her chair, pulling at her tight cravat as she did.
“So. The thing is - the road coming back from the Listerwick pit and the one we’ve sunk on top of that is in terrible condition after all the work that’s been done.” Ann began, and Pickels listened intently, 
“I’ve noticed - the stone is loose, and the rest of the road is covered in pot-holes.”
“Mm. Yes, and it’s a hazard for the carriages passing thru on the road as well as a potential danger for the coal wagons – we’d rather they not strike a pot-hole and lose valuable coal nor have any other kind of accidents happen on my land.” Ann continued, wondering briefly if she was speaking too fast but Pickels seemed to follow in any case and if he thought she did, he didn’t let that show.
“No, that would be unfortunate.” Pickels agreed, and Ann nodded,
“Yes, it would. Thus, to prevent any form of calamities I was thinking of getting the road properly restored and redone to be more resilient, and I wanted to ask you to do it for me.”
“More than happy to, ma’am. Eh, how would you prefer to have it done? – Stone all the way or the same as before?” Pickels wondered, and Ann was momentarily dumbfounded, she had no idea how Anne wanted it done. She pretended to ponder his query for a second before answering him with a question of her own,
“Would it improve the road?”
“Ah, it would be smoother, but um, obviously it would be more expensive and take longer.” Pickels replied her to that, and Ann’s brows furrowed in thought – she needed to decide on something, and whichever way – they could afford it, but it might be an unnecessary cost.
“How long would it take to do all the way down to the crossing?”
“Eh, hard to say, it depends on the weather, but two-three months roughly estimated.” Pickels answered her honestly and Ann hummed quietly trying to think on her ‘feet’ so to speak.
“And just the current road and its pot-holes?”
“A month or if we were pressing it, three weeks?”
Ann fiddled some with her pen, glancing down at the notes she had made, she hated making these kinds of decisions.
“Mm, good. I say we start with merely restoring the existing road and then in a few months when the weather is more reliable, we may consider improving the rest of it with stone.”
“Very well, Miss Lister.” Pickels said and began scratching his chin, and Ann realised she hadn’t brought up payment or anything of the sort,
“I was thinking you might employ six or seven of the tenants to help you – I would pay them 30 shillings each, every week – that’s 5 shillings a day but I want it to be done within three weeks if possible.” Ann said, remembering Anne wanting her to push at three weeks lest they slack off. Pickels seemed more than happy to agree to that.
“That’s perfect, ma’am. I’ll get some of the more reliable men on the project and unless there’s some terrible weather, I am certain we can make three weeks work for you, Miss Lister.”
“Mm, I want you to use the same type of stone we purchased for the road close to the Hall, and for you to send me the bill when you’ve ordered it.”
Ann was making a lucky guess with the stone, recollecting that Anne had been pleased with the outcome using that type of stone last time. Pickels didn’t differ from her opinion but agreed readily,
“Today?”
“If you’ve time. The sooner the better.” Ann replied him, and he stood up from his seat, eager to start working on this project – or maybe keen to leave before Ann had time to find fault with his last project where he had employed no less than three men that Anne absolutely loathed.
“Was there anything else, miss Lister?” Pickels asked courtly and Ann shook her head,
“Mm, no. Thank you, that’s all.”
“Good day to you then, ma’am.” Pickels bowed his white-haired head, taking his leave of her and Ann replied him in kind, feeling more at ease again once the meeting was over and he had left her to her own once more.

Ann decided that she would sneak into Anne’s study to find the address so she could inquire after another bush, thinking Anne might be reassured when she found out about the minor slip-up concerning the progress with creating a parkland for the Hall, if she knew there was already a new one on its way to replace the sad looking thing. However, she had barely managed two lines when Marian entered Anne’s study looking rather serious. Ann worried for a second that something might be wrong with either Aunt Anne or Captain Lister, but Marian soon set her fears to rest,
“Do you have time to listen now?”
Oh – it was still about the servants, Ann thought relieved, returning her attention to the letter in-front of her, after all Anne would’ve.
“Anne – seriously, it’s becoming a problem, she’s sick, all the time, and… are you listening?” The colour rose in her cheeks as she noticed her sister was focusing on the letter rather than her, and she snatched her pen from her angrily,
“Anne! For once could you just listen to me!?”
“Mm.” Ann didn’t know what she should do, because she couldn’t do anything to help Marian, instead she held her gaze, pulling out her drawer to pick up a new pen – dipping it in the ink before continuing to write.
“God, you’re so infuriating!” Marian roared at her, banging her hands into the desk, and the ink spluttered all over the paper much to Ann’s exasperation.
“Thank you, Marian.”
“You’re impossible!” Marian bit, and Ann rolled her eyes at her,
“Quite possibly. Now, could you please leave? – I’m busy.”
“Urgh!” Marian was turning redder by the second, and Ann hated herself for it.
“I might move.” Marian blurted out, and Ann’s eyes widened, that was unexpected,
“What? Why? Where? – What’s this coming from?!”
“Well obviously not now – but soon. I wouldn’t leave father’s nor Aunt Anne’s care in your hands with you always off somewhere. But you could at least show some gratitude.” Marian told her still looking rather upset and Ann thought she was a little unfair, Anne might’ve been gone for long in the past, but she wasn’t anymore, and she did care for Aunt Anne like no one else. Though Marian was right in some sense too, Anne did want off to travel soon again and Marian was the one making that possible as she looked after the old folks.
“Mm, you’re right – thank you, Marian. I do appreciate it.” Ann said, she knew Anne was grateful – though she’d never admit it out loud, sometimes the Lister sisters were too stubborn for their own good.
“What did you say!?” Marian was astonished, she was almost unsure if she had heard, who she thought was her sister, correctly,
“I’m not going to repeat myself.” Ann said, eyes focused on the fresh sheet of paper she had pulled out,
“Thank you.” Marian didn’t know quite what to say, she’d been taken off guard, Ann tore her eyes from the paper for a second to glance at her, a solution presenting itself in her head, one which she though Anne couldn’t mind awfully much.
“Regarding your troubles with Cordingley – might you not send her away for a few weeks? – Let her nurse herself back to health and then we might discuss whether she can stay on or not.”
“I suppose we could do that, yes.” Marian mumbled thoughtfully, “Should I tell her today?”
“Maybe you should find a replacement for her before you send her off for a few weeks.” Ann suggested and Marian nodded,
“Oh, yes – that makes sense.”
“Mm… now could you please leave? I need to send this letter of post-haste.” Ann gave her a pointed look, she needed to keep some of Anne’s attitude towards her but instead of rolling her eyes or sighing Marian merely conceded with her wish, leaving her with half-a-goodbye.

With the letter sent off before lunch – Ann was filled with a feeling of satisfaction, as though she had achieved something that morning and if she was being honest, it made her heart flutter proudly – she had risen above her own doubts and done alright. And as soon as she had fulfilled that last task of the morning, Ann went upstairs to check on how her wife was doing, hopefully better than previously that morning.

“How are you… what are you doing?” Ann’s eyebrows raised as she eyed Anne on the bed. She was resting on her knees, body bent forwards in half, a book positioned on the pillow in-front of her – it did not look particularly comfortable. And there was also a towel over the small of her back.
“I’m reading.” Anne replied her matter-of-factly, to which Ann snorted loudly, looking rather sceptical,
“It doesn’t look very relaxing”
“Mm… this helps against the cramps. And the hot towel helps soothe the back pain.” Anne told her absentmindedly, turning a page in her book. Ann sat down on the side of the bed, running her hand over her back gently,
“Is it better or is it worse than this morning?”
Anne didn’t answer her at first, too engrossed in her book, so Ann touched her cheek to get her attention and was given a brief glance before the page took her notice again.
“Anne – better or worse?”
“Uh… I don’t know. It’s still bloody awful.” Anne told her, shifting on her knees to try and soothe the ache further with little success.
“Have you managed to eat anything?” Ann wondered then, and Anne sighed,
“Eh, I had a slice of bread, but I couldn’t keep it down.” “
“That bad?” Ann stroke her back sympathetically and Anne turned her eyes to her for a moment,
“It is that bad, but I might’ve forced it a bit.”
“What, why?!” Ann asked befuddled, why would anyone force themselves to be sick? Anne smirked,
“Marian was bothering me, and I wanted her gone so I could return to my books and pain in peace. So, I stood up and allowed myself to be sick – which wasn’t hard, standing up was all it took basically - I’ve been so nauseous all morning.”
Ann chortled and shook her head at her,
“You are truly singular, Miss Lister…”
“That’s why you love me.” Anne winked and Ann nodded,
“Of course it is – Now, can I do anything to lessen your discomfort? – Maybe a back rub with the spirits? – That might help soothe some of the pain.”
“Mm, I’d like a back rub but not with that – it smells awful – I think it would make me sick again.”
Ann happily complied, taking off her shoes, and loosening her cravat before trotting over to the door to lock it to make sure no one else joined them unexpectantly. Anne put her book away and changed position, so she was flat on her stomach, resting her head on the pillow as Ann sat herself over her bum on her knees to better reach when she rubbed her back.
“Tell me if you want me to go harder or softer.” Ann instructed her as she kneaded her back gently, and Anne moaned into her pillow,
“Further down.”
Ann moved her fingers to the small of her back and Anne whimpered softly in some kind of semi-pain-relief,
“Softer?”
“No, the pressure is good – so good!” Anne mumbled, eyes closed – her body relaxed, and the pain did lessen somewhat, probably from a combination of the massage and Ann’s warm hands on her. 
“The meeting went well by the way – Pickels is going to employ the men and order the stone and send you the bill – he thought it might be done in three weeks.” Ann informed Anne who merely hummed in response, seemingly positive but too relaxed to be bothered with business at present – she was more or less beginning to doze. Ann bit her lip, smiling down at her, maybe she should offer to do this more often, even when they changed back – Ann certainly wouldn’t mind doing it and her wife was so incredibly sweet when she was like this normally. She bent down and kissed her by the neck, wishing fervently that they’d magically switch back but no, nothing changed – the only thing that seemed out of this world was the sounds that soon escaped her wife as she had fallen asleep to Ann’s soft touches and Ann sighed, glancing upwards, talking to God, feeling desperate and forlorn,
“Why won’t you change us back? What’s the point of this?! I don’t understand! Give us a sign or a clue, will you? Please…?” 
Nothing happened obviously, and Ann removed herself from over Anne – letting her nap,
sitting back in bed deflated. Were they supposed to learn something? Walk a mile in the other’s shoes, or something alike? - But they had settled their differences, hadn’t they? – So why in that case hadn’t they switched back? – Worry was beginning to eat away at her, and she reached out and took Anne’s hand in hers, letting her bring her the little comfort she could own right now with all these questions and uncertainties hanging over her at the moment.

Chapter Text

It was a few days later and nothing had changed – they were none the wiser as to why they remained in each other’s bodies nor were they any closer to finding an answer to that question. Anne was however back on her feet and feeling bright and better than she had since their switch – there was only a slight downside to that, when Marian had asked her to come with her to Halifax, she had no reason to tell her no and Ann had more or less forced her to say yes so after lunch they had walked off to Halifax leaving Ann alone with their father and Aunt Anne. Which was fine, only Dr Kenny was coming around to check on and help Aunt Anne dress her leg ulcers and Ann needed to sit with her – it calmed the woman and Anne usually did, so there was nothing she could do about it. Though Ann had met with several doctors in her lifetime and gone through various procedures – she was uncomfortable with them, the doctors, and bad with blood and anything revolving scabs and alike. Which was why she felt queasy and woozy sitting in the room during the examination and dressing, focusing on not fainting from the sheer wave of sympathy pain that washed through her when she saw how bad Aunt Anne’s leg ulcers were looking. Dr Kenny spoke with Aunt Anne, glancing at Ann every now and again waiting for her usual interference and suggestions of improvement on whatever he did. But Ann didn’t know what to say, she was too inexperienced with medical terms and such things, so she thought it best to keep as silent as possible lest Aunt Anne’s suspect anything.
“Where did Marian and Miss Walker go?” Aunt Anne wondered as Dr Kenny cleaned her wounds, Ann was relieved with the question – something she could answer,
“They were off down to Halifax, Marian needed some thread and fabric I believe – and Ann was going to look for some new watercolours.”
“They do get on well, don’t they?” Aunt Anne said, and Ann almost smiled, thinking, or rather knowing that Anne thought it annoying sometimes how well she and Marian got on with one another,
“Well, there are few people Ann doesn’t get on with.”
“Miss Walker is very kind and good natured.” Dr Kenny agreed, and Ann turned her head to him, looking rather annoyed with his comment, and feeling quite disturbed – she did not like him and his creepy ogling ways. She hadn’t called for him since Anne had helped her realise, she didn’t need to patronise anyone whom she didn’t feel perfectly comfortable with, and she would’ve rather had Dr Day take care of Aunt Anne, but Marian had called for him instead.
“That she is.” Aunt Anne seconded when Ann hadn’t said anything in a little while, and again Dr Kenny seemed surprised at her silence, she didn’t even comment on him doing the wrapping of the one leg before finishing the other.
“Are you alright, Miss Lister?”
“Perfectly fine, thank you. Just a lot on my mind regarding the estate.” Ann replied curtly, hoping he would finish soon and be off, eying him annoyed as he had paused his work to ask her that pointless question – ‘Tick-tock’ Ann thought vexed, thinking if she looked austere enough, he might feel unwanted, hurry up and take his leave of them.

It did work, or at least Ann imagined it did – his forehead looked a bit shiny as he dressed Aunt Anne’s legs under her watchful eye – Anne had told her she had pushed him up a bookshelf once, that day when they had been reunited on the hilltop. Maybe that was what was going through his mind as she gave him hard stares and Ann was pleased when he finally packed up his bag and left. She couldn’t be rid of him soon enough, almost closing the door on him. Aunt Anne took notice,
“You should be easier on him, Anne – he’s just trying to help.”
“Mm, but he’s useless – I don’t know why Marian insists on calling on him instead of Dr Day or Mr. Sunderland.” Ann replied her decisively to that though much of her annoyance slipped away as soon as he left them.
“Not everyone can live up to your expectations, dear.” Aunt Anne chided her softly, reaching out for her hand and Ann took it, and sat back down on the bed where Aunt Anne lay resting.
“Are you feeling alright?” Ann wondered, and Aunt Anne shrugged her shoulder slightly,
“As well as I can with my legs. But I’m happy for your company, if you’ve time to stay for a while?”
“I always have time for you, Aunt, your well-being is what’s most important to me.” Ann told her with a gentle smile to which Aunt Anne waved a dismissive hand, chuckling weakly,
“What would Miss Walker say if she heard you say that?”
“I think she would agree.” Ann squeezed her hand in hers, she had come to like Aunt Anne much, and did think of her as a sort of mother figure – she was kind – too kind most of the time, having the utmost patience for everything Anne did.
“She’s really come out of her shell, Miss Walker – Ann, hasn’t she?” Aunt Anne glanced at her, and Ann beamed,
“I think so.”
“Mm, it’s wonderful to see. I used to feel so sorry for her – so young and alone over there. And now she seems a different woman entirely. I remember you saying she was too frightened to step out of her own front-door.” Aunt Anne patted her hand absentmindedly and Ann’s brow raised slightly, when had Anne said that? – Probably when she wasn’t well, and everything seemed hopeless.
“Well, she’s certainly wandered further off now.” Ann replied, thinking of all the wonderful things she had seen whilst they were abroad – and how far away that life, her old life, seemed now.
“Oh yes – and to think you thought her dull and stupid the first time you met her.” Aunt Anne chuckled but her words went through Ann like a knife. The truth was out – and Ann wasn’t entirely sure she remembered how to breath for a second, trying her hardest to keep her tears at bay. Was everything a lie then? – Was she just ignorant and… stupid believing that Anne Lister really loved her? Maybe it was all a clever and well-thought-out game to come over her fortune and have someone to touch – someone who was easy and… stupid – gullible and naïve. Aunt Anne didn’t take notice of her change in mood at first,
“I do like her better than Mrs Lawton – always have done.”
‘Mrs. Lawton’ why did that ring a bell within Ann – her mind began reeling and several memories of reading and hearing that name over and over again repeated themselves for her inner-eye and she realised, though she had assumed, that she was certainly not Anne’s first love nor her first choice. The recollection of the letters Anne had shown her and that she had read so innocently, suddenly made her feel a bit sick – she was such an idiot.
“Anne, are you feeling alright? – You look a bit peaky.”  Aunt Anne worried and Ann glanced at her, not knowing quite what to say or do – she wanted to flee the room, and the house and world for a moment whilst she drowned in her own mind. But she was trapped in the room, in her mind and in Anne’s body, trying her utmost to keep herself grounded.
“Do I? – Oh, I might… I just remembered that I’ve left her, Mrs Lawton’s letter unanswered. She must think I’m… a, a poor friend.”
“If anyone’s a poor friend it’s her – hasn’t she been on and off these past twenty years at least?” Aunt Anne huffed – she did dislike the woman something terrible for all the pain and grievance she had put her Anne through throughout the years. But Ann was desperate to escape and thus stood up hastily,
“Perhaps but I refuse to be in return – I’ll… I’ll come back.”
Aunt Anne seemed a little perplexed, but Ann paid her no heed, practically running out of the room as quick as she could, closing the door behind her – taking refuge in their bedroom.

‘You were never good enough for her’
The thought came unbidden as soon as she shut the door behind her. Ann closed her eyes trying to rid herself off it. But the harder she tried to force the thoughts away – the more persistent they became.
‘She probably doesn’t like you that way, of course she doesn’t – Why did you have to be such an ignorant fool?!’
Ann pressed her fingers against her temples as hard as she could, trying to physically push the thoughts away to no avail.
‘She didn’t come back for you… she probably felt obligated to commit to all of this because she pities you – dull and stupid Miss Walker.’

Ann sighed pacing over the floor for another turn about the room, trying to calm her breathing somewhat, maybe she was overreacting – only why would Anne have told her Aunt unless she meant it?
Anne would undoubtedly be happy for an escape - having been stuck with her for the more part of a year, Ann reckoned she had rather got rid of her – she was a nuisance to her. A bothersome creature that she felt forced to stay with because she had opened her eyes to this life – to love.
“Go away.” Ann whimpered loudly, drumming her fingers against her forehead rapidly as if the thoughts would allow themselves to be beaten out of her mind.
“Argh, oh Lord.” Ann sighed into her hands, working herself up into quite a state – her mind always had that power over her, to make little things, or nothings into great anxieties. And no matter what she told herself they wouldn’t pass – no matter how illogical they were – they always won. Not to say she didn’t try to fight them, but they were stronger than her.
Worst of all was the ever-settling fear, the fear of once and for all losing Anne – the horror that one day Anne might get fed up with her and leave her – never to be seen again.
  Tears welled up in her eyes, and she tried to blink them away, tried to occupy her mind with happier thoughts but her anxiety seemed intent on winning this round for it began creeping over her – settling – making it hard to breathe, creating an illusion of a stone nestling on top of her chest. No matter that she was occupying Anne’s body – her anxiety didn’t cave.
‘She doesn’t really love you. She never did.’
The thought went through her mind like a dagger, and she gasped as the anxiety overpowered her and the tears fell from her stinging eyes. Defeated once again by her own crippling thoughts, Ann lay down on bed, hugging her knees to her chin, crying as thoughts swirled through her mind – each new thought more wretched than the last.
She doesn’t love me. How could anyone? – I’m worthless, pathetic and stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid…’

Ann wallowed in her own self-destructive mind, allowing these thoughts to cower her – allowing them to be true. She must’ve made Anne to look a mess, and the image of Anne finding her in this state – making her look a fool - made her, if possible, even more miserable than before, it made the tears rain over her stricken face.
Ann was losing herself in these feelings – they were eating her up – her vision was blurred and the sounds of her own ragged breathing and sobs seemed distant, it was as if she was under water – weighed down, hearing sounds above her and far away. Her breath quickened further, and her chest clenched – she was working herself into a panic – her breath wheezing and quick making her dizzy and every once in a while, she would choke on air, which did not help her state of mind but rather frightening her more.
Ann was certain she was dying, she couldn’t breathe – she couldn’t focus, she couldn’t hear – everything was foggy, and her mind was muddled with these thoughts – that wouldn’t leave her be.

Chapter Text

Anne came downstairs, sometime after Ann, to sit down to breakfast with the rest of the family, and she came face to face with her sister who smiled up at her brightly,
“Ann, how did you sleep?” Marian inquired, and Anne smiled meekly as she sat down to the table next to her wife,
“Perfectly well, thank you. And yourself?”
“Awfully good – I almost felt spoilt. I sometimes hear squeaks and creaks from outside that keep me up, but it’s been tranquil and quiet for some time now.” Marian responded whilst casually buttering a piece of bread, but Anne almost choked on the tea she had just served herself and Ann hid her face behind the newspaper to cover up any blush that might’ve appeared on her cheeks – Anne had an inkling what might be causing those squeaks and creaks – and it weren’t anything outside. There was nothing, however, that could’ve prepared her for the question that came next,
“I need to acquire some thread and fabric for a new pattern, if you would like to come with me into Halifax, Ann?”
Anne’s immediate reaction was ‘absolutely not’, she couldn’t think of a worse way to spend her day than with Marian and her constant natter and complaints, but Ann nudged her under the table, giving her a pointed look and Anne glanced at her beseechingly, but she wouldn’t give in. Anne turned to her sister, plastering on a smile that might’ve looked a little insincere at least it did to Ann, but Marian didn’t seem to take any notice,
“I would love to go into Halifax with you!”
Ann frowned, and when Anne met her eyes, she could tell she thought she overdid her enthusiasm. Marian was none the wiser though, and if she thought anything of it – she was only pleased that ‘Ann’ wanted to spend time with her.
“Great, I was thinking we might head out after lunch, if that’s fine with you?” Marian proposed and Anne nodded, fighting to hold back a groan. This was a nightmare – what on earth where they supposed to talk of? What did even Marian and Ann talk about when she wasn’t present? – It did feel as though there were quite a lot of mistakes that could be made in those few hours away with her sister.

After lunch they had left to get into Halifax, they had taken the carriage mainly because Marian needed to carry home her purchases, but Anne could see how she might benefit from it - the carriage would be quicker, so they needn’t fill so many minutes with difficult conversation.

“Anne’s mood appears to have improved these past few days.” Marian commented as they left Shibden and Anne’s eyes turned from the landscape outside to her sister opposite of her, so they did talk of her when they were alone…
“Um, that it has.” Anne replied her, uncertain of what and how much to say – she didn’t want Marian to think Ann was out of character, because might her sister not slip and say something about that, when meeting one of Ann’s relatives and maybe they in turn would make all the wrong assumptions and re-double their efforts to get her away from her.
“She almost seems a different person entirely.” Marian added, and Anne gave a nod,
“One might think that.”
“Imagine if she was!” Marian laughed and Anne chuckled a bit nervously with her, thinking that Marian had no idea how close she was to the truth.
“Have you decided on a day to invite your… friend over?” Anne brought it up, merely because she needed something to say – something that wasn’t too trivial nor too personal. Marian smirked,
“I don’t know. I mean I do like him – but to be honest, I might’ve brought him up just to vex Anne a little. She always thinks herself so high above everyone else.”
The carriage jolted a little as it struck a small pothole which was good, because it did hide Anne’s shock at that – so Marian had been deliberately trying to infuriate her! Anne had rather give Marian a piece of her mind on that, but resisted the urge, forcing herself to remain calm and collected. She was supposed to be Ann and though Ann would never torment her like that, she was pretty sure Ann wouldn’t berate Marian for it. She was too civil for that.
“So, you’re not in a courtship with Mr. Whitley?” Anne inquired trying to keep her voice neutral though her blood was boiling a bit and Marian shook her head,
“Not really no – but I do enjoy his company and would like to get to know him better. But I don’t know if I could actually go through with it if he asked for my hand.”
Anne wrinkled her forehead, slightly perplexed at her sister’s answer, because she wasn’t getting any younger, and hadn’t she always talked of ‘when she got married’ and ‘when she had her own children’?
“Why ever not?”
Marian sighed, gesturing with her hands,
“Well, you know how Anne is – and I’m not sure I could marry a man she didn’t approve of.”
She paused briefly, trying to compose herself and all the emotions that surfaced, and noticed Anne’s eyebrows furrow in confusion, and smiled sadly,
“Does that shock you? – I suppose it would. We might have our differences I and her but at the end of the day, I’d rather have her still be in my life. She’s the only one I’ve got left. So.”  
Anne was momentarily stunned by what Marian said – she was speechless. She had no idea her gruffness and opinions when it came to Marian’s selection of potential future spouses had any effect on her. Was she the reason Marian was chained to Shibden? – Had she ruined her sister’s future happiness? – Anne grimaced, ‘urgh best not open that door’.
“I’m sorry.” Anne eventually said, and she meant it – she was sorry. Whereas she still thought her sister could both do and deserve better than Mr. Abbott and Mr. Whitley – she now realised she might have been wrong for how she had gone about it.
“For what? My lack of confidence to defy my sister or for having only her left after all our brothers died?” Marian asked, trying to keep a light tone but Anne suspected she might be more troubled than she let on, she knew that look – and tears usually followed and whereas it typically would have annoyed Anne, her heart only ached a little for her younger sister.
“That you have been made to feel that way.” Anne replied to that, inhaling slowly, “I don’t think Anne’s even realised that her words have had that impact – I think if she did, she’d be remorseful. She doesn’t say it a lot, but I know she appreciates you and loves you.”
Marian chuckled desolately, as the carriage came to a halt, and with a look at Anne before the door to the carriage opened, she merely said,
“If she did, she would never admit it.”

Marian’s words had stuck with Anne for the rest of their day out, and she did try to be as pleasant as she could – and it turned out that shopping with Marian wasn’t as terrible as she had made it to be formerly in her mind. Though the weather did not remain as pleasant as it seemed it would as it turned blowy and dark clouds began to heap over them promising nothing but rain and dullness for the remainder of the afternoon.  

“Ann, I think that gentleman over there is admiring you.” Marian whispered to her as they walked down the street, on their way back to their carriage. Anne tensed up and discreetly glanced to where Marian had previously looked and lo and behold, there was a gentleman eying her up and down from across the street – making her severely uncomfortable and a little angry – how dare that man stare at her wife with lust in his eyes!?
“Doesn’t he know that it’s rude to stare.” Anne muttered bothered, and Marian chuckled, eying her amused,
“Let’s thank the Lord, Anne wasn’t with us – she’d give him a telling-off to be sure. She’s very protective of you.”
Anne looked at Marian thinking that for once she wasn’t wrong – she was spot on,
“I almost wish she were.”
Marian noticed as well as Anne that his eyes were travelling to where they shouldn’t, making Anne, if possible, crosser with him but Marian merely switched sides, and stood herself next to Anne so the man couldn’t catch more than a glimpse of her.
“Thank you.”
“Don’t mention it.”
Marian waved her off as they approached their carriage, hurrying inside and out of view. Anne had never experienced that before – and she didn’t like it – it made her feel exposed and uncomfortable, and she thought of how often Ann must’ve felt like that and worse. 

The carriage ride back was only pleasant – she and Marian talked of the things they could, and Anne realised she had forgotten how much she could enjoy being with her sister, even if her sister right now thought she was someone else. Maybe she should endeavour to be better friends with her when she was herself again – and it would have been easy, if Marian stopped bothering her with great nothings all the time – that and her endless sermons on everything she thought Anne did wrong.

“I can’t wait to get inside and begin working on my new pattern.” Marian said excitedly, fiddling with the thread – observing it closely – she had found the perfect colour and texture.
“I might see how Ann’s coming along with Aunt Anne first, before I join you.” Anne told her, she knew Ann and Marian often did sit together in the afternoons when she was out or busy, but she wanted to check in on Ann, she found she missed her terribly for some reason, maybe because it felt as though they were never really with one another when they were like this – it felt so surreal – Anne had sat in-front of the mirror that morning staring at her own reflection, wishing they might soon be themselves again so she might kiss those perfect pink lips - so she could love her fully and completely once more.
          Marian opened the front-door for them as they had got out of the carriage and they parted ways, Marian went into the sitting room and Anne scurried upstairs in search for her wife.

“Ann?”
A voice called from above her, Ann saw her silhouette in the blurriness, but couldn’t focus her eyes on her. Hands touched her arms and lifted her up to let her rest against a plush shoulder – arms wrapped around her,
“Ann, breathe.”
“I… I can’t. I can’t!” Ann panted, tears burning in the corner of her eyes, and soft hands squeezed and weighed down her shoulders, almost as if to physically ground her,
“Ann, look at me! Look at me!”
Ann raised her eyes from the spot in the distance and tried to concentrate on the blue eyes that were eying her with worry, but she couldn’t keep them there – they were too expressive – her mind couldn’t handle it at the moment, and they glided away to rest on a spot on the wall again.
“Ann, stay with me – don’t let it get a hold on you.”
Gentle hands were placed on her cheeks, and they cooled them down,
“You’re alright. I’m here – breathe, Ann.”
“I… I…I…I” Ann began, her breath hitching, and now warm hands, grasped her cold ones,
“Ann, can you feel my hand squeezing yours?”
Ann’s eyes moved to their entwined hands, widening as she realised that, no, no she couldn’t feel the hand holding hers. She shook her head slowly, working herself up into a frenzy again.
“I can’t. I don’t…”
“Hush, hush, hush, hush, you need to calm your breath Adney – that’s all!”
The voice was soothing, calm and tender though still distant as if she was under water. Arms wrapped around her form stilled her trembling, forcing her to remain still against, well, what was normally her own chest.
“Breathe with me.”
Ann could but give one nod, and with her ear pressed to her bosom she could feel her chest rise and fall with deep calm breaths.
“Inhale…” She mumbled delicately in her ear, and Ann though her whole body did protest, inhaled as slow as she was able, her own chest rising with the one she was pressed against,
“Hold…”
Ann held her breath, fighting every instinct she had at the moment,
“And exhale.”
Their whispering sighs as they exhaled was all that filled the room, before they repeated the exercise. They sat like that for a long time – Ann didn’t know how long, but eventually her breathing eased and the room slowly came back into clear vision as well as the sounds. Her tears drying on her cheeks, and on the dress, she had wet whilst being held to her. There was only silence, and a low rustling of fabric as gentle hands ran over her shoulders and neck to soothe her, and it did. More than anything – she felt safe. Anne carefully pulled the cravat from her neck to allow her to breathe easier and Ann stayed in her embrace, didn’t dare to move lest the feelings come back – drained of emotions – exhausted by the panic that had now left her – feeling everything and nothing all at once.

“Do you want to talk about it?”
Ann startled, almost waking up from a trance, and little by little started to feel rather mortified of herself. Shame burning her cheeks as she removed her face from her bosom.
“I…” Ann bit down on her lip, swallowing her words – she didn’t know what she should say.
I should probably apologise for the scene I made’, Ann thought, noticing much to her own chagrin a great grey circle on Anne’s pale blue dress from where her face had been pressed.
“Hm?” Anne eyed her kindly and patiently, running her fingers against her cheek, drying a few of her stray tears off it,
“I-I... I’m sorry I’ve tied you down.”
“What?”
Anne frowned confused, moving closer to Ann on the bed again, reaching out for her but Ann shrugged away, holding her hands up to fend her off,
“That I... Well, I forced you to marry me.”
“What are you talking about, Ann?”
Anne looked at her, and the line running across her forehead wore deeper as she regarded the woman next to her, and Ann sighed,
“That I forced you to commit to me.”
Anne shook her head and opened her mouth to reassure Ann, but she was interrupted before she could speak by Ann who dragged her hands over her face, groaning loudly,
“I made assumptions that I shouldn’t have, that day – preying on you when you’d just got back and were going through all of… and I…– I shouldn’t… I mean, do you even like me?”
A short silence followed that question, but it was long enough for Ann’s heart to stir and ache painfully,
“Do I like you!?” Anne repeated out loud and Ann averted her eyes, staring at her own feet miserably. Anne couldn’t help a laugh, as she eyed her fondly but the laughter surprised Ann who became even more self-conscious and crushed thinking, she had made a fool out of herself once more. Soft lips brushed against her forehead,
“Of course I like you – and besides I asked you to marry me, did I not?”
“Yes, but I thought, perhaps, that you felt compelled to do it. After everything that had passed between us. Because you felt sorry for me, with me being so dull and stupid. ”
Anne snorted on her laughter, fondling Ann’s face between her hands, kissing her quickly,
“You are too dear a creature. I would never take the sacrament with someone whom I didn’t love dearly. I promise you that! And what have I told you about having such a poor opinion of yourself? Hm?”
“Those were your words” Ann retorted, feeling much to her own humiliation how tears began burning behind her eyes again, but Anne just looked genuinely confused and baffled,
“My words? – When have I ever said that?!”
“To Aunt Anne – she told me earlier when I sat with her.” Ann mumbled and Anne opened her mouth in realisation, shame burning her cheeks, and she reached out for her hand, but Ann sat away from her, and it tugged on Anne’s heart to see her this upset – especially since it turned out to be her fault entirely.
“Oh, Adney… I’m so sorry. Those words were never meant for your ears.”
“Uh, that’s worse! – It’s worse if you think it and play me for a fool.” Ann muttered but Anne shook her head, shuffling nearer her on the bed,
“No! No… Ann – you are anything but a fool. I did say those words in reference to when I met you at nineteen – I was a snob, Ann! Besides, I didn’t know you – and you were in mourning. I… there’s no excuse really. But I don’t think you are dull nor stupid – you are hilarious and brilliant, and I am lucky to be your wife – and what’s more – I love you!”
“Do you?” Ann whimpered and Anne smiled, caressing her face letting her fingers run down her neck,
“Need you ask?”
Ann gave her a pleading look, and a hum in response, and Anne leant forwards to capture her lips in a tender kiss,
“I love you, Adney – with all my heart!”
“I love you too.” Ann murmured weakly, and Anne took her in her arms again to comfort her,
“It’s a good thing the weather threatened to turn bad so that we had to come back earlier.”
“I’m sorry.” Ann whispered into her neck and Anne raised her head from there eying her gently,
“Now what for?”
“For making such a scene, for being such a bother – I am thankful that you… helped me despite me only ever making such trouble for you.” Ann explained, fidgeting with the sleeves on Anne’s dress, refusing to look her in the eye. Anne rested her hands over Ann’s, catching her eye, staring into her soul,
“Some people are worth every trouble, and you’d do well to remember that in the future.”
Then before Ann had time to voice any opposition to that or utter any other poor opinion of herself – Anne kissed her affectionately and slowly – both of them wishing they might turn back.

“Did you have fun with Marian?” Ann wondered quietly, trying to make some conversation and Anne grimaced by default, but then she remembered what Marian had told her and she smiled small,
“Mm… it was alright I suppose. There was this fellow though who was ogling you, or me, I guess…”
Ann laughed softly, and Anne smirked at her – happy to hear her laugh once more,
“No man flirts with my wife!”
“Well, I don’t know – there have been quite a few women flirting with my wife…” Ann teased, and Anne raised an eyebrow, eying her humorously,
“What women? Eliza Priestley?”
“Mrs. Lawton.” Ann replied and Anne’s eyes widened in surprise, she hadn’t expected that to come up, least of all today after what had just transpired. Ann was pleased to notice a blush appearing on her wife’s cheeks for once,
“Mrs. Lawton?” Anne wondered, sounding a bit nervous, “What about her?”
“Aunt Anne told me she didn’t like her as well as she did me… thought she was and had been a poor friend to you these past twenty years – always hurting you one way or another.”
“Ah.” Anne sighed, cheeks still pinkish, “Well, that’s… that’s in the past.”
“You didn’t think I actually believed you hadn’t done this before?” Ann asked, and Anne bit her lip, looking a little guilty,
“I don’t know…”
“Anne…” Ann chided her through kind laughter, and Anne eyed her shyly,
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you – I just didn’t think it was necessary because it doesn’t matter. There’s nothing between us now, obviously – I’m married to you – I’m committed to you, and I love you. So…”
“I’m not going to use it against you, dearest – you’ve lived a life before me and that’s completely fine.”  Ann reassured her, after all – her biggest fear and worry had been Anne not really loving her and with that put at rest – the mentioning of Mrs. Lawton did little to alarm her. It calmed her that Anne was honest with her and now the only thing missing to put her fears completely at rest was for them to switch their bodies back.

Chapter Text

Ann was dressed in what could only be described as Anne’s work attire and she was on her way over to inspect one of their pits with Mr. Holt.  He was apparently going to show her how the improvement with the new steam engine might work pragmatically.
 When Anne had told her that morning that she needed to go down a coal pit she had thought she was just messing with her. Whereas Ann didn’t doubt that her wife would go down one – after all she had in the past – she didn’t think she would have to. She wasn’t good with neither darkness nor confined spaces and so wasn’t thrilled about the prospect but go down one she must.

Ann spotted Mr. Holt waiting for her and marched over to him, greeting him briskly, lifting her hat as she did so,
“Morning, Holt.”
“Miss Lister.”
He bowed his head but little, and Ann put her hat under her arm, looking for somewhere to store it whilst going down the pit.
“If you have changed your mind about seeing it for yourself, I’ll be more than happy to show you the plans instead.” Mr Holt offered, and Ann, though she wanted nothing more than to accept his offer and follow him to look at a piece of paper rather than go down into the deep, dark pit, knew she should look offended – Anne would’ve been insulted at such a suggestion, as if she couldn’t handle going down a pit.
“I have not. Shall we?”
Ann gestured to the opening, and Mr Holt sighed quietly, but Ann heard him, turning her head to glower at him,  
“Or would you rather not?”
“No, of course, Miss Lister – this way.”
Mr. Holt led the way to the opening and pointed to the coal carts waiting for them there,
“The ceiling is low in places, if you wouldn’t mind getting in.”
Ann raised her skirt to a little above her ankles and swung her leg into it, sitting down in the cramped cart – and Mr Holt sat down behind her, Ann was given a lantern to hold onto and to light up the dark, damp pit as they went deep under the earth. Ann’s stomach fluttered when she was pushed forwards and her heart ached a little because she felt terrible, for the child that had to push the cart forwards – obviously they were small enough to not graze their heads but still. The track went steep suddenly and the cart caught speed and swiftly went down into pit darkness and Ann couldn’t stop the squeal that escaped her mouth – her stomach lurched, and her heartbeat drummed loudly in her ears. She didn’t enjoy this at all. But eventually the track ended, and the cart stopped. Mr Holt got out first, and Ann stood up readying to get out when he offered his hand – so she handed him the lantern – Anne would have given her the scolding of the century if she allowed him to assist her. Besides she was still embarrassed that she had squealed.
“Did going down not sit well with you, ma’am?” Mr Holt wondered and Ann glared at him,
“How so?”
“Well, I thought I heard you cry out ma’am.” Mr Holt explained and Ann could have punched the satisfied smirk that she detected off his face. But she only huffed, straightening her back,
“You mistake its meaning, I was merely appreciating the speed and swiftness – I do value the small excitements one can find around here – It’s not the Pyrenees but hey-ho.”
As soon as the rambles had left her mouth, Ann regretted them – she overplayed it. But thankfully Mr Holt didn’t seem to notice – too caught up in his own awkwardness of having crossed Miss Lister. Ann turned around in a circle, observing the pit that her wife had worked so hard to get up and running – almost losing it all because of it. It really was terribly hot down there and a little difficult to breathe with all the coal dust swirling about. The workers were hard at work and Ann noticed that most of them were only half-dressed – even the women and she averted her eyes quickly, feeling heat rise to her cheeks.  
“Where would the steam engine go?” Ann inquired, wanting up again – as soon as possible.
“Over here.”
Ann followed Mr Holt through the mud – it was surprisingly wet down here she thought as the ground under her feet sloshed as she walked, grimacing to herself and then for a brief moment she smiled as she thought of what Marian’s reaction might be when she got back.
“So, the water pump would be connected to the pit via there to here.”
Mr Holt pointed and Ann took mental notes, knowing she would be quizzed by Anne when she got back, trying to make sense of it in her own swirling mind.
“Mm, so the engine would go on top of the pit and then be connected to the water pump down here?”
“Precisely so, the water will be pumped out and evaporate through the machine. Which means this will clear and you can dig deeper into the ground and exploit more of your coal – it would increase your gain by quite a lot. You’ve got good quality coal down here, could probably press to sell it at closer to ten pence a corve if sold outside of Halifax.”
“How is that possible?” Ann questioned him, as she knew for a fact that the coal was sold at eight pence a corve down in Halifax – Anne had told her a million times.
“Well, whereas coal is in abundance here – it’s not the case everywhere, and you could easily profit from it – not everyone has coal, but everyone needs it these days.” Mr Holt told her with a light shrug and Ann nodded, her eyes getting used to the dim light and the sound of coal being extracted from around them.
“Excellent – I will look into it. But yes, there is clearly a lot of benefits from investing in such an engine, I just have to weigh out my options – it is quite an expensive undertaking.”
“Aye, it’s expensive but you’ll be laughing when the profits come in and for years to come.” Mr. Holt agreed and Ann took a last look around herself,
“Mm, it’s not impossible, I will have to discuss matters further with my steward.”
“Have you seen what you needed to see down here?” Mr Holt asked her then, as he didn’t have any business trying to sway her one way or the other more than he already had, and Ann felt relief wash over her – and she turned to him energetically, more than ready to be taken back up in a hurry,
“Yes! Thank you.”

The light was offending to her eyes at first when they re-appeared at the opening – but she was immensely comforted being back on solid ground and out in the open with all the fresh air in the world. Though her face was blackened with coal dust, as well as her clothes – and she thought to herself that she might enjoy a bath when she got back – she would enjoy a bath when she got back, or Marian would undoubtedly butcher her for spreading the coal dust all over their dinner. 
“Thank you for your help today, Holt.”
Ann turned to him hastily, and he bowed his head to her,
“Pleasure’s mine, Miss Lister.”
Ann nodded to that, picking up her black top hat before she turned on her heel to rush home, desperate to get the coal dust off her skin and out of her lungs.

When she stumbled inside Shibden, she made a quick detour into the sitting room where Aunt Anne, Marian and Anne sat just to swiftly announce her being there, and maybe give Anne a bit of a heads up that she would take a bath.
“Anne! For God’s sake – did you go down a pit again!?” Marian exclaimed when she saw her and Ann rolled her eyes at her,
“Of course I did, I needed to see for myself how they are planning to execute the whole operation.”
“Did it seem like a good scheme after looking at it from the inside as well?” Anne wondered, and Ann could tell she was doing her utmost not to run away with her passion and ask her a million intrigued questions about the possible steam engine they were going to procure for the Listerwick pit. Ann nodded in her direction, smiling small,
“It did look excellent. There is certainly room for it, and whatever expense the investment would be initially – the profit would surpass that in vast numbers.”  
“You are dripping on the carpet.” Marian mumbled sullen, glaring at her muddy shoes, and Ann neverminded her for a second, her attention still on Anne who wanted to know everything,
“What else was said?” 
“Oh, that we might want to consider increasing our sell to other parties outside of Halifax – because they would be more than willing to pay closer to ten pence a corve.” Ann told her and her heart soared when she watched as Anne lit up at that – her wife was really the sweetest when it came to her passions – and her projects. Aunt Anne side-glanced Anne though, wearing a frown,
“I didn’t know you were so invested in the coal business, Miss Walker?”
“Oh, I, um… I guess Anne has rubbed off on me.” Anne replied her aunt, her cheeks tinted pink when she realised that she might have let her act fall. Ann only smiled at her though,
“I’m going to ask the servants to draw me a bath, but I will come down in time for dinner.” 
Anne raised her eyebrows, looking for a reason to leave the room as well,
“Which reminds me that I should pen a letter to my sister. I have been neglecting her for far too long.”
Ann bit her tongue not to laugh at Anne’s excuse, and left just a little ahead of her to ask for a bath to be drawn in her room.
“Do you think it’s strange that Ann suddenly was in such a hurry after my sister announced she would bathe?” Marian asked Aunt Anne, pausing her needlework as she eyed her and Aunt Anne shrugged her shoulder,
“Why would that be strange?”
“Do you think they… sit with one another when they bathe?” Marian mused, and Aunt Anne’s eyes widened but then she waved a hand,
“Bathe together? – Oh, how your imagination works, Marian – don’t be silly! Of course, they don’t!”
“Oh, did something upset, Miss Walker then? – She was in such a rush… maybe I should go to her and see if she is alright.” Marian put her things down, but Aunt Anne stopped her a bit flustered,
“I do not think that’s necessary – and I would rather you didn’t leave me – I am feeling a little… my stomach hurts.”
“Oh? Should I call for Dr Kenny?”
Marian was immediately alarmed, and Aunt Anne glanced towards the door through which Anne and Ann had left them, her forehead wrinkling as she thought,
“Not yet – And I am sure it is nothing. But I would rather not be alone. Do not leave me, Marian dear – I implore you.”
 
Later that evening they sat down in the drawing room to play a few hits of Backgammon, seeing as they had nothing else to occupy their minds with that evening – being no closer to a solution to their peculiar problem than before. Marian joined them in the drawing room but sat reading in the sofa by a candle instead – adding something to the conversation every now and again. The older folks had gone to bed early, leaving them to entertain themselves.
Anne sat pondering her next move, Ann was ridiculously good at Backgammon – and it was frustrating to Anne sometimes, who despite claiming otherwise, desperately wanted to win. She didn’t understand how she did it – how she saw the opportunities nor how she always managed to roll the dices in her own favour – sometimes Anne suspected that hers were faulty and would force Ann to switch with her mid-game. Ann’s temper was always fairly even when they played – she did so enjoy watching Anne’s frustration build up – she was rather endearing.
Tonight however, it was Ann’s own face that met her, and it certainly wasn’t as attractive nor as endearing watching those expressions on herself appear.

“I don’t get it!” Anne groaned exasperated when Ann once again managed to best her – and not even by little, Ann had completely ‘backgammoned’ her.
“Do you regret doubling the stakes now?” Ann asked her impishly and Anne pouted, crossing her arms but Marian interfered, sounding surprised, as she viewed the board,
“Did you lose again, Ann?”
“Eh, um I did?”
“I do not think I have ever seen you two play where you have lost more than one hit – and tonight you’ve lost all of them.” Marian contemplated and Anne glanced at Ann,
“Well, she gets so hostile when she loses so I thought I would go easy on her tonight.”
Ann tried her best to look insulted at that, though she wanted to laugh but for the sake of making Marian less suspicious of them she played along with that lie,
“I won fair and square! You are just saying that because I have finally figured out how to best you.” 
“I see why you would do it.” Marian told Anne, after Ann’s outburst and Anne laughed with her, whilst Ann thought of serious matters to keep the scowl edged on her face and the smile that threatened to come on, away.
“Thank you, Marian – now, could you please return to your book instead of bothering us with your redundant comments?”
“I am so sorry winning did not improve her mood.”
Marian rolled her eyes but did return to the sofa to continue reading her book instead of continuing to try and rile up her sister – though she kept a close eye and ear on them, there was something uncanny about them lately that she couldn’t quite put her finger on. They had been acting so strange and she just knew something was up – but listening in on their conversation gave her hardly anything to go on and excepting for her sister’s continuous wins, they acted rather like themselves tonight. Marian thought that she might ask Ann about it when they were alone, there was a bigger chance that she would tell her if something strange was going on, in contrast to her sister whose standard answer was always ‘nothing’.

“Do you think Marian suspects anything?” Ann speculated as they readied for bed that night, Anne sighed – tired from all of it,
“I think she is aware that something is up with us, but I hardly think it would ever cross her mind that we have swapped bodies. At most, she might come to the conclusion that we had our brains damaged when we got that branch over us.”
“Mm, maybe we should take extra care around her. And by us, I mean you – no more odd scowling at Marian!” Ann teased to which Anne rolled her eyes,
“I think you being friendly with her is making her more suspicious than anything else.”
“What if she could help us?” Ann mused and Anne snorted, snuggling into her on the bed,
“I think it more likely that Argus would than her.”
“You’re so mean!” Ann laughed, pushing at her, but then she kissed her over the hair fondly, noticing her eyes beginning to droop, letting the subject of Marian be for now.
“Good night, dearest.”
“Night.” Anne mumbled into her side, and Ann blew out the last candle on her nightstand – making a wish – or a prayer to God that they’d wake up in their own bodies when morning came.

Chapter Text

Come morning nothing had changed, obviously, though somewhere Anne had truly hoped it would have. The disappointment that filled her when she woke up in her wife’s body was vast and her heart sank in her chest. What on earth was the reason for this switch? Anne spent a few minutes arguing with God quietly in her mind – condemning him for leaving them like this without anything resembling a clue or a hint as to why. At least the terrible pain in her spine had gone with the departure of her ‘cousin’. Anne turned her head to her wife when she noticed she was waking up – and a smile crept onto her features when she saw Ann squeeze her eyes tightly before slowly opening them – only to then breathe the loudest sigh Anne had ever heard, inevitably making her laugh gaily at her. Ann’s eyes darted to her and at first, she seemed embarrassed, but Anne caressed her face gently, and teased a smile out of her,
“I was disappointed too.”
“Ah, I really thought our prayers might have been answered.” Ann rasped, a yawn immediately followed, and Anne nodded, supressing a yawn, stretching her back, back against the pillows, letting her face bathe in the light that sneaked through the curtains.
“Mm… I just cannot fathom why. And how we are supposed to change back – if there is a reason, if there is something we must do…then what? I find myself for the first time, completely at loss of what to do.”
Ann wasn’t any wiser, and it did disconcert her that Anne hadn’t a clue on how to solve this – if Anne didn’t know, then there seemed to be no hope that anyone else would – no one anywhere close to Halifax in any case. 
“I think we will just have to bide our time, and hopefully, it will solve itself.” Ann replied her, there was nothing else she could say, they could only hope for the best and that a solution would appear before them miraculously.
“I know you are right, but it is so bloody frustrating not knowing. It doesn’t suit me being in the unknown – I hate it!”
“I know you do, but at least we have each other.”
Ann tried to cling to the little bit of positivity she could muster, being pessimistic wouldn’t help them at all. Anne hummed in response, shaking her head as if to rid herself of the negative thoughts,
“Now, what have we got planned for today?”
“I don’t want to say.”
Ann bit her lip, eying her apprehensively, which staggered Anne – what could possibly be that bad?
“Go on tell me, nothing can be worse than what we have already been forced to go through” Anne encouraged her, and Ann grimaced, knowing Anne wouldn’t be thrilled with what she needed to do that morning, in fact, she thought Anne might like it less than her day with Marian,
“Well, you may have to entertain some company today... this morning.”  
Anne’s brows furrowed as she tried to figure out who it might be that had Ann so worried for her sake,
“Oh? Who?”
“Catherine…” Ann began, and Anne observed her puzzled,
“Why would you not want to tell me that? – I am perfectly fond of Catherine; she is the only one in your tribe that doesn’t despise me.” 
“Well, she is coming to tea with Harriett... Parkhill” Ann added, and for a second Anne was confused as she searched her mind for a ‘Harriett Parkhill’ but then she was struck with remembrance and her face fell, ‘oh’.
“I wasn’t aware you were still on speaking terms with her after what happened.” Anne muttered and Ann looked glum, whereas she had forgiven Harriett in some sense as her fault lay mostly in being ignorant and easily influenced, she did dislike the memories that came with her and her blatant disapproval for what she thought was Ann’s companionship with Anne.
“I’m sorry, I should have cancelled but I forgot and… well, she’s been better, I mean I haven’t really seen her, but she has written… once - and it was Catherine that extended the invitation not me – I couldn’t well say no! They would have, all of them, inquired as to why and no doubt blamed you for it and thus have another reason to loathe you.”
Anne blew air out of her nose, but put her annoyance aside, after all it was hardly Ann’s fault that her old friend, and tribe, was such a menace, and Ann shouldn’t have to stand victim for their conduct.
“Around eleven?”
“Yes… I’m sorry.” Ann mumbled but Anne shook her head, taking her hand in hers to comfort her, squeezing it gently,
“No, I’m sorry – you may invite any friends you like, obviously – we just didn’t get along well last time. But I will make every effort to be civil to her, for your sake.”
“Thank you, dearest.”
Ann kissed her cheek before forcing herself out of bed to get ready to face the day and whatever was thrown at them, which considering what had happened recently, could be anything.
“What’s on my schedule then?”
“You should check in with Pickels and see if he managed to order the stone and just make sure everything is running smoothly around here.” Anne replied her as she too got out of bed to prepare to meet the enemy.

Catherine and Harriett arrived to Shibden at eleven o’clock on the dot, and Anne was for once thankful that her sister was with her. When Marian had asked if she could join them for tea Anne had more than happily complied with that request. Anything to not be completely at Miss Parkhill’s mercy, surely, she couldn’t spew over her, who she thought wasn’t there, if her sister was sitting in the same room? – And in any case, Ann had promised to join them if they were still there when she got back home.

“Ann, oh I have not seen you in ages!” Miss Parkhill gushed as she entered the sitting room, and Anne forced a smile, at least she was proving civil to begin with, which made her be pleasant in return that much easier,  
“Harriett, what a delight!”
Anne realised how colossally posh she sounded and did notice both Marian and Catherine wrinkle their foreheads at her outcry, and Anne took it down a notch – she needed to be polite, not regal.
“Sit down!” Anne pointed to the sofa opposite of her and Marian, and they all sat down to have tea together, the feeling in the room touching on awkward. But Marian, bless her, took command as she thought ‘Ann’ was a bit nervous entertaining her friend whom she hadn’t seen in a long time,
“How do you like your tea, Miss Parkhill?”
Miss Parkhill seemed to observe Marian for a second, as though she compared her to Anne in her mind – and as if she was somewhat dubious of her sister, but then she smiled again, apparently deciding that Marian seemed alright,
“Oh, how kind of you, Miss Marian – um I take it with milk and sugar, thank you.”
Marian bobbed her head and prepared and handed her the tea, after which she prepared Catherine’s, who she knew how she took her tea, then ‘Ann’ and lastly her own cup before sitting back. At first conversation seemed slow, Anne had no idea when her wife had last met with Miss Parkhill – so it was difficult to find a topic, excepting the weather, to carry the conversation forwards.
“I have never been here before, at Shibden I mean – It is almost as I imagined it to be though.” Harriett spoke as she regarded the room, and Anne did not know whether that was a compliment or not.
“Oh, we have so enjoyed Ann moving in with us – it has filled the house with life again.” Marian replied her with a wide smile, clearly not interpreting it as an insult. Anne was about to comment on her moving there, but Miss Parkhill got there first,
“One would have thought that Miss Lister filled it with plenty of life already.”
“Well, my sister has not been at home much – she has been travelling a lot, until she settled here with Ann that is to say.” Marian answered her hesitantly as if she too was wondering at what she meant by her statement – her current facial expressions - difficult to read.
“Oh, yes! She has seen so many fantastic places and tells the most exhilarating stories.” Catherine enthused, and Anne smiled genuinely at her, thinking that she too might be slightly nervous with Miss Parkhill being there, silently judging them.
“Mm, I have heard plenty of stories about Miss Lister and what she does to her companions.” Harriett said dryly and Anne all but rolled her eyes at her, it was incredibly rude to imply that Anne did anything untoward – which she didn’t. She had never done anything without consent. But she was stuck in a precarious situation where she couldn’t tell Harriett off for fear of ruining Ann’s relationship entirely with her – and though Anne wouldn’t mind cutting ties with her, it was up to her wife to do as she wished.
“Oh yes! Anne has friends just about everywhere in Europe. Her travel companions and friends are all so fond of her, I am always astounded at how she manages to keep up correspondence with them all. She does go out of her way to help her friends.” Marian prattled, with a concerned glance at Anne but a decisive look at Miss Parkhill, and Anne’s eyebrows raised in surprise, it turned out that Marian was more than willing to defend her sister’s reputation when it came down to it.
“Well, one hears different accounts I suppose.”
Harriett looked sullen and Anne did her best to keep her head cool, but apparently her sister didn’t,
“If you are referring to all that disgusting slander people spread about my sister – then I can tell you it is not true. Anne might be a bit arrogant sometimes, and in all fairness – she has a reason to be, especially with how people have treated her. But she is not immoral and the only people who dislike her are jealous of her. If she was so ‘wicked’ would the Queen of Denmark invite her to her birthday ball?! I think not.”
Anne stared at Marian, her mouth hanging open – she had probably never been more appreciative of her sister, nor more impressed - she was defending her so ‘Ann’ wouldn’t have to find herself in an uncomfortable situation.
“No, I just…” Harriett trailed off, clearly uncomfortable at being called out by Marian and Catherine, who knew ‘Ann’ well, thought she might suffer from the discomfort that had arisen and did her utmost to steer the conversation away from Miss Lister, and to safer ground – that being clothes and fashion, and Anne worried this might be a tedious visit, and wondered briefly if this would present the first opportunity where she used lunch as an excuse to end a social call.
 
Ann had met with Pickels, who told her which men he had hired to do the job, among those Mr. Hardcastle and then he had clarified the bill for the stone – telling her the reasons for the amount and so on. Ann had merely agreed and thanked him, she had no idea how much stone was needed and decided to trust that Pickels was not trying to deceive her, he had been working for Anne long enough for there to be no worries.  After that brief meeting she had walked down to the Bank to pay the bill via them for the stone he had ordered for the road that needed restoring. Thinking she might as well have that out of the way, so they could finish the road as soon as possible. She saw Mr. Rawson at the bank, and as he seemed inclined to have a word with her, so she hurried out once the transaction had been made. Ann had no want to speak to him, and especially not as Anne – if any mistake were to be made, Anne would die of mortification, and she would rather not become a widow this early in life.

On her way through Halifax to get back home she was stopped by a child, she did not recognise, that ran up to her,
“Miss Lister?”
“Yes?”
Ann eyed the child carefully, wondering what he might want from her, keeping a close eye on him, and his friends – if they tried to pick-pocket her.
“I was asked to give you this, ma’am.” The boy answered her and handed her an ill-sealed letter, and Ann raised her eyebrows alarmed, who would send her wife a letter via a boy on the street in Halifax, why hadn’t they sent it to the Hall?
“Thank you.” Ann replied the child polite and handed him a penny for the trouble, though she suspected it might not be a serious letter. Something was not right with it anyway, she thought as she heard laughter spill when the boy re-joined his friends. But in any case, if the boy had gone through such trouble to earn a penny – then he definitely needed it more than her.

Ann waited with reading the letter until she was out of town and well on her way back to Shibden, but she was not prepared for what was in it. This was not a faux letter the boy had put together with his little friends to earn a penny – it was a foul letter meant to harm and frighten its recipient, and there was a good reason it was neither signed nor brought to the Hall directly.
        Her heart began racing in her chest, and her hands trembled as she read on – it was about them and the nature of their relationship and a threat to expose them. The threat was not put in words, but Ann thought it might as well have been, clearly the person knew enough of them to make the assumption that their relationship was more than common friendship. And it contained a spiteful clipping from the Halifax and Huddersfield express announcing that a marriage had taken place between Miss Walker of Lidgate and Captain Tom Lister. The ground momentarily swayed under her, and her stomach jolted as though she was going to be sick – this was anything but good news. Ann took a few deep breaths to calm herself down, there was something else implied in the letter that hurt her on a much more personal level – the fact that the person who had written this unsigned letter adhered to writing similar things at other times. But Anne had never mentioned that any such letters had been given to her, and Ann couldn’t help but feel wounded that she wouldn’t share this worry with her, this was so much more than just crude comments on the street – this was vicious and cowardly. And the realisation that Anne had suffered so much more than she had previously understood, hurt her more than the letter itself. Ann could see why Anne hadn’t wanted to share these letters with her because Anne knew she would be upset and made nervous by them, and she was, but at the same time she was furious with her for not telling her. For constantly shielding her from their burdens, and for still, a year into their marriage, not sharing all of her with her, and with that anger, that in reality was mostly hurt, she marched on towards the house with the letter tightly clutched in her hand, Anne would have to explain herself this time.   

Chapter Text

“They must have had some extravagant dresses in Paris?” Harriett asked Anne, the skirmish seemed forgotten on her part, and she was more than excited to discuss fashion.
“Oh, Ann, you should show her the exquisite spencer you had made in Paris!” Catherine cooed, she too was thrilled with the subject and Anne glanced at Marian for a second, as if she would have any good answers at hand to Miss Parkhill’s question.
“I, they, um… The style varies a great deal in such an animated town, they cherish singularity in some sense.” Anne replied her, she wasn’t entirely without a sense for fashion but had no interest in following the latest trends for the ordinary women – and thus had to keep her answer rather vague. Careful to not make her wife appear ignorant on the subject. She wanted her friends to perceive her the way she always was.
“Really? Well, I can see why your Miss Lister enjoys going there, that and other wo… things.” Harriett retorted and Anne was stunned, she thought Miss Parkhill had left that unfriendliness with the last subject but apparently, this resentment wore deeper than she had thought earlier, and perhaps Mrs Priestley had kindly updated her with fresh gossip.
“I do not know where you have heard such utter nonsense, but I can assure you that it isn’t true!” Anne put her foot down, though not literally, she merely scowled at Miss Parkhill – she had no business coming to tea if her sole reason was to try to poison Ann against her again.
“Well, she is very odd, and I heard it from a reliable source. Apparently, she is not very nice, and she is manipulating you.” Harriett huffed rudely, crossing her arms and Marian’s mouth fell open, she couldn’t quite believe the interaction that was happening, she knew people had opinions and that they weren’t always pleasant when it came to her sister, but to have someone sit and openly share them whilst a guest in her house? – Anne was equally shocked, she had thought she might put up a bit of a challenge, a bit of a mood, but this?
“I want you to leave. Anne is the nicest…”
“Anne!”
Anne startled when she heard her name, her sentence left hanging in the air as they all turned to the doorway where Ann stumbled in, red faced with a letter in a tight grip in her hand.
“What are you doing?!” Marian questioned, this was not the best time for ‘Anne’ to be in one of her moods, not when they were trying to defend her good name to Miss Harriett Parkhill, who no doubt would spread the word to the rest of the tribe and consequently to the rest of West Yorkshire.
“I need to talk to Anne, now!”
Ann’s eyes didn’t leave her wife’s face, she didn’t even acknowledge the other people in the room, and Anne didn’t know what to feel – why was Ann so angry? Or upset with her? What was in the letter? – Had something gone wrong with the business? - Anne couldn’t sense her out and it unnerved her.
“I…” Anne began, glancing at Marian who rolled her eyes at Ann,
“I’ll deal with them.” She mumbled to her, and Anne stood up and with a last quick look thrown at Catherine and Harriett, she followed her wife up to her study to figure out what had gone wrong in the short while they had been apart that morning. Hopefully it was solvable, but Anne’s heart ached with anxiety as she trod after her up the stairs and that old fear of losing her re-surfaced in her mind.  

The door closed behind her, and for a second, she stood facing it, a bit wary to turn around and be confronted with her wife. But she reprimanded herself in her mind, ‘you are not frightened of anything’ – only she was, obviously but she managed to convince herself she wasn’t and turned around, prepared to fight against whatever it was that had made Ann react this way.
“What’s happened?” Anne wondered before Ann could begin any shouting, and she noticed tears brimming in her eyes, again wondering at what could possibly be this bad?
“Here, read this!” Ann pressed the letter into her hands, turning to stare out of the window to recompose herself whilst Anne read the vicious note. The silence that engulfed them was anything but comfortable to either of them – and again, at the same time as Ann’s heart throbbed with hurt because Anne kept these things and herself from her – her heart also ached because she had placed in her hand another one, another hurtful commentary on her oddity and nature – their nature. It wasn’t fair. They were good people; they didn’t hurt anyone else with their love for one another – and yet it was perceived as wicked – queer - repugnant and for a brief moment Ann felt utter hatred for all of them.
“Why did you open it?” Anne murmured when she had read its contents, and Ann turned as she heard her voice, frowning,
“What?”
“It’s got my name on it.” Anne clarified and Ann crossed her arms, triggered by her words – knowing she wouldn’t have shared the letter’s contents with her if she had been given it herself first. 
“Because I got given it in town, and thought it was a joke from this boy who needed… It’s about the both of us, Anne!”
“It wasn’t meant for your eyes.” Anne argued, and Ann shook her head angrily, gesturing widely with her hands,
“What do you mean it wasn’t meant for my eyes?! You can’t keep these things from me! Nor protect me from them. I am your wife! Not your f…ucking child.”
Anne was taken aback by her objection and shut her mouth to reconsider what she’d said.
“I know that! But why should I burden you with these ridiculous notes when it just upsets you, hm!?” Anne reasoned but to no avail, Ann didn’t back down,
“Because I am your wife! You… we are supposed to share a life together, ‘for better or for worse’ – what kind of a marriage will we have, if you never open up to me, Anne?!”
That statement went through Anne like a dagger, and the room started spinning, was this it? Would this one note crumble everything, she had worked so hard for, into pieces? – Was Ann going to leave her to rot away alone because she had tried to protect her and shield her from the callousness of the world.
“Is this it then? You’re leaving me?” Anne asked her, her voice strained with emotion, biting into her lip to contain any embarrassing sobs. Ann eyed her befuddled, wondering why on earth Anne was interpreting her thus, when she had sworn to love and cherish her until death do them part. What she was asking of her wasn’t unreasonable, right? 
“What? Anne, no! Listen to me, I just want you to feel as though you can tell me everything and to know that you will share your burdens with me – I want to be your wife in everything that that means. And right now, I feel as though you are not letting me in.”
“What if you do though?” Anne whispered, a stray tear falling from her eyes, and Ann’s eyebrows furrowed as she observed her – heart aching for the woman in-front of her.  
“I don’t understand, what if I do what?”
“Leave me.” Anne barely managed to press the words out of her thick throat, looking stricken, letting her eyes fall to the floor defeated. Ann moved forwards, her anger gone with the wind, replaced with deep sympathy for her wife. She nestled her hand at the base of her neck, putting the other hand to her cheek, forcing her to meet her eyes,
“I am never leaving you. I love you, Anne, I am in love with you, I always have been. And nothing will ever change the way I feel about you!”
Anne gazed into her own eyes, a feeling of wretchedness came over her as she longed to find the comfort in her wife that had been ripped from them in their switch – and she couldn’t stop the tears that flooded from her eyes, and Ann held her to her softly, kissing her over the hair, trying to provide whatever comfort she could give her currently.

Anne had shielded her heart from her but only because she was so frightened of losing her – she wasn’t that strong. But she realised now that it was wrong and that if theirs should be a healthy stout happy marriage, she needed to put her heart out on the line. After all, the price paid for love was great, but Anne decided, standing in her wife’s warm embrace, that it was worth it. It was worth risking her heart for love as good as hers.
“I’m sorry.” Anne whispered and Ann stood back to gaze at her, her eyes red from crying too,
“No, I shouldn’t pressure you into sharing those parts of you that you aren’t ready to share with me yet.”
“No, you were right, are right Adney – And I shall endeavour to share everything with you. But I might need reminding, I have been fending for myself for so long, always prepared for people to turn against me at the spur of a moment.” Anne told her sincerely, and Ann smiled softly, reaching out to push a few hairs behind her ear, running her fingers from there down her neck,
“Until me.”
“Until you.” Anne agreed, a smile making its way onto her face, spreading from ear to ear, lightening up the whole room again, all ill feelings from before blown away. Ann leaned forwards and kissed her cheekily and Anne responded in kind.
“Seriously though.” Ann began and Anne eyed her apprehensively, wondering what might put an end to their good mood now.
“What are we going to do about the letter? – If someone knows, what might happen?” Ann continued, sounding a bit anxious and Anne shrugged a shoulder, standing near her again,
“Nothing. Well, we will burn the letter, and I will write a formal complaint to the newspaper – ask them to revoke it and then apologise for the announcement. You could help me if you like?”
“Of course. But are you sure there is nothing else we should do? What if they do expose us?” Ann pressed but Anne didn’t seem the least bit worried with that, and eager to put her mind at rest, she shared that the occurrences of such letters had happened in the past,
“They won’t. I have had these letters from time to time, ever since I moved here. But they are just meant to frighten me… us, but they couldn’t do any real harm. The authors behind them are just having a laugh at our expense.”
“Do you know who they are from?” Ann asked, her forehead creased, she had rather give them a word or maybe two for having the audacity to write such vulgarities to her wife time and time again. Anne chuckled at her angry expression,
“I couldn’t be certain, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Christopher Rawson had something to do with them. All the better if it is him – for he could never expose us without repercussions for himself.”
“So, I shouldn’t be worried?” Ann asked for confirmation which Anne happily gave her, shaking her head, resting her forehead against hers,
“No. You are perfectly safe with me, and no one can do us any harm.” 
“Except for whoever managed to swap our bodies with each other.” Ann mumbled making Anne laugh loudly,
“Shush! I was trying to be romantic and forget all of our troubles for a hot minute.”
This made Ann laugh with her, but then when they reassembled themselves, Ann turned sombre,
“On a serious note though, do you think we will ever change back? – I am starting to think not. It feels as though we have accomplished what we should in order to switch back, right? – I mean could there be any other reason for this switch except to understand one another better?”
Anne sighed, she didn’t really want to imagine that they should live life as one another for the rest of it – that she would never again feel her wife’s soft touches or lithe body pressed up against her own. That she should never again feel completely herself except for when they were alone, there were so many things half-lost to them. They couldn’t possibly ever tell anyone else, and her aunt… Anne pushed away the miserable thoughts, trying to see things for what they were in a positive light – at least she had Ann, and she her. They might make some kind of odd life together this way. After all, they were still them though their bodies had changed.
“I don’t know. I can see no other meaning either. And I suppose we should start to prepare ourselves for the possibility that we might never change back.” Anne told her disheartened, praying fervently in her mind that God might intervene and change them back. Ann seemed equally discouraged, 
“I guess...”
As soon as she had said that she seemed to realise they still had one more thing to solve, and sighed,
 “Now, I am not looking forward to it… oh, not being you - going downstairs, but I think we have to make amends with them unless they have already left.”
“We!? – You were the one that came barging in shouting at me.” Anne teased her with an impish smirk and Ann groaned, cheeks coloured red,
“I know – I’m sorry! But it will just be easier if we deal with it now rather than later.”
“I agree… but I just want for it to be clear that this was not my fault… for once.” Anne winked, and Ann rolled her eyes at her, giving her a last peck on the lips before they faced the others and the probable turmoil downstairs again.

Thankfully, when they came downstairs, they were only met with Marian, who did look a tiny bit aggravated but otherwise as her usual self.
“What was that scene about?” Marian berated her sister and Ann exhaled slowly as though she was annoyed with her,
“Nothing.”
“What do you mean nothing? You storm in here, shout at poor Ann, pull her out with you, in-front of her guests?!”
Marian was seriously displeased, and Ann didn’t blame her, she had let her emotions blind and rule her against her better judgement. She did have a mess to clear up now with Harriett – preferably before she had time to mention it to Mrs Priestley, and she in turn, the rest of the tribe on one of her rounds.
“I needed to have a word with her is all.”
“Are you alright?” Marian turned to the blonde as she suspected her sister wouldn’t tell her anything more than she had but Anne merely smiled wide, glancing at her wife with a sparkle in her eyes,
“Yes, perfectly so. I just, do not get along very well with Miss Parkhill anymore and Catherine didn’t know – so I asked Ann to interfere and cut the visit short, but I didn’t expect for her to use such dramatics to accomplish that.”
Marian frowned, and eyed them both suspiciously, shaking her head slowly,
“I just… Argh, never mind, I’ll pretend I believe you for the sake of peace.”
“Good.” Ann smirked, and Marian rolled her eyes at her sister, pointing at her,
“You are too dramatic for your own good.”
Ann was about to object to that when Marian continued,
“Anyway, I’m going upstairs to calm Aunt Anne down – she must wonder what’s been going on down here.” 
They hadn’t a chance to get another word in, as Marian hurried out of the room to seek solace with Aunt Anne for a while as well as to calm her down. Anne turned to Ann when she was gone, grinning,
“That went well.”
“Did it? – Because as far as I’m concerned, we have upset half the household and our guests. We are just lucky that your father’s almost deaf.”
Ann appeared sceptical and Anne gasped mock-offended,
“Excuse me?! You have upset half of the household and our guests.”
“Fair enough. This once it was all my fault.” Ann groaned, smiling at her wife who wiggled her eyebrows at her making her laugh more, and for a short while it did feel as though everything would be alright, despite them possibly being stuck like this for life.
“If it makes you feel any better, they usually forget it within three years.”
“Thanks, that makes me feel a lot better!” Ann replied her sardonically, but Anne’s laughter was too contagious, and she couldn’t keep her ‘brooding’ façade up for long. Thinking to herself that so long as she had Anne with her, in any shape or form – she might take on the world just as well as before their switch. She refused to be cowered by this ‘minor’ happening and would not allow it to ruin the rest of their lives – in the end, somehow love would conquer all.

Chapter Text

The feeling that they would be lost like this forever had settled, and any hope that they would somehow be turned back seemed to abandon them little by little. After the eventful morning they had suffered, they had a rather peaceful afternoon and evening – there was a calmness about them, knowing that they would need to find a way to navigate this new life together as one another. They needed to find some common ground in each other because they couldn’t live a whole life pretending to be someone else. To be fair they had prior to their switch had to compromise with their relationship and act as though they were only close companions but then again – could still be true to themselves to some extent. This was something else entirely – they would have to deceive everyone including the people they loved – for the rest of their lives.  Anne, Ann thought had lost more than herself – and it was painful to watch her gloomy surrender to an eternity stuck like this. Though she had done her best not to let that show, it seeped through her whole being and Ann had spent all day thinking of possible ways for her wife to enjoy more freedom even as her.
Come evening, they had both let their maids attend to them and help them ready for bed – it was unavoidable, they needed to make the transition at some point – they couldn’t well keep servants without a purpose. Anne was comfortable enough with Eugénie and her help but felt rather exposed with Sarah and in a body, she didn’t quite know as well as her own – that is to say, how to move it. 

“Do you think anyone will notice?” Ann pondered out loud, glancing at her bedfellow that lay alongside her, staring into the ceiling of the four-poster bed. Anne slowly moved towards her,
“How do you mean?”
“That we’re gone in some sense. Will they know that we are not ourselves anymore? – That every word of affection or alike won’t be to its intended recipient. That slowly but certainly the relation will fade away because it doesn’t exist anymore.” Ann said quietly and thoughtfully – anxiety and sentimentality weighing her down and her thought brought Anne down too, and she sighed, rolling back to rest propped up against her own arm,
“I think they might understand something’s up – but obviously they will never know and then they might just think something changed… Oh Lord, urgh, my aunt, she won’t know.”
Ann grasped her hand in hers, pressing her lips against the back of it, thinking it might bring her some comfort though there was little she could do to console her partial loss.
“Maybe we could tell her...”
“She would think we were insane.” Anne shook her head, her voice firm but Ann caught sight of a teardrop escaping slowly down her cheek.
“Do you…”
“Could we please talk of something else?” Anne begged, her voice deeply affected by her emotion and Ann shut her mouth and let her words die, trying to find another subject – searching her mind desperately as she didn’t want to sleep just yet – she wanted to be with Anne – hoping that if she held onto her and their conversation until sleep took her with force, she might dream of her – the real her – body and soul.
Anne rolled over on her side, gazing at her wife, gingerly reaching her hand out to caress her face slowly with her fingers, as if she was tracing her own skin and contours to scorch it into her memory, her eyes closed though, and she sighed deeply, her hand falling to the mattress, eyes opening to meet Ann’s gaze again.
“I miss you.”
It was the way she said it, so brittle and tender, that made Ann’s body ache with longing for her wife – she never knew she could feel such desire and yearning for someone and this time there was no solution – no one that could still that want, because they were trapped in the other.
“I miss you too.” Ann replied low, shuffling closer to her on the bed, leaning her head forwards to kiss the hand she had taken in hers and Anne looked so heartbroken – which was how Ann felt and seeing her own face reflect her inner almost overwhelmed her with anxiety.
“Would it…” Anne’s words died before they had formed, her eyes closing as she reconsidered them, and Ann lay waiting patiently for her to speak her mind, hoping she would - that they had made progress that morning with her opening up to her.
“I just thought, that if we are to live like this…”
“Yes? – Go on, dearest, tell me.” Ann urged her, brushing curls out of her face, and Anne hesitated for another second,
“Would it be weird if we… if we slept together?”
The question took Ann by some surprise, though she suspected it shouldn’t have, her wife craved physical touch, as much as she did and a life never being near one another again would be thoroughly mundane and almost insufferable. Anne was made nervous by her lack of reply and grimaced,
“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have asked – did I offend you?”
“No.” Ann mumbled,
“Are you sure?” Anne pressed to which Ann smiled small,
“You didn’t offend me, Anne. And no, I don’t think it’s strange, well it might be at first – but I’d rather have something you than nothing at all. I couldn’t possibly resist you, even if you’re me, for the rest of our lives.”
Anne beamed at her, caressing her cheek tenderly – tracing her cheekbone before she leant forwards to capture her lips in a slow kiss, eyes closed trying to lose herself in the feeling – imagining for her inner-eye that it really was Ann she was kissing and not her own lips. The all too familiar dance of their tongues did almost give them a sense of them being themselves – it was uncanny: as long as their eyes remained shut, they could pretend for just one moment that everything was alright and back to normal.
“Are you sure you want this?” Anne mumbled in-between kisses, and Ann nodded,
“Yes, please!”
Anne responded by raising her hands to weave them into her dark hair to bring her closer, though no matter how close they were, it still seemed too far away – the feelings and passion were there but as soon as their eyes opened their hearts sank, and a feeling of sorrow of some kind tugged at their heartstrings for a second.
“Is it too bizarre?” Anne enquired, forehead resting against Ann’s, hands on either side of her face, Ann touched her face lovingly in return, though her eyes remained shut,
“I don’t know - as long as I close my eyes – it’s fine. But even then, it’s like I can’t feel you, be near you the way I want.”
Anne agreed with her, it was strange and again this fear nestled within her, and perhaps it was a superficial fear, she thought, but nevertheless it dwelled within her and weighed her down with the dread that she might never be near her wife again the way they used to be.
“Then let’s not proceed – I do not want you to feel uncomfortable.” 
“Are you disappointed?” Ann murmured, eyes opening to observe her face, worrying that she might have upset her wife, but Anne merely shook her head, remaining close,
“Not with you, never with you – just this.”
She pointed between them, and Ann chuckled sadly,
“Yes.”
Ann did want to - needed even her wife close to her, but making love to herself, this way, might take some time to get used to – she would have to get used to the thought, unless she wanted to go her whole life without feeling Anne’s touch on her again – and she didn’t want that. She desired her with her whole being.
“We will work it out. In some sense it will be much like when you’ve touched yourself in the past – only you’re not yourself obviously.” Anne told her gently, wanting to reassure her, that somehow, they would work this whole thing out – not just their lovemaking but this whole act. They still had each other.
“I guess you’re right. I just put so much of my hope to the fact that we would change back.” Ann averted her eyes, disappointment filling her chest – and she didn’t want Anne to see the tears that had welled up, she must be exhausted by her constant tears. But Anne didn’t groan nor sigh when she noticed, she wrapped her arms around her as well as she could and let her rest in her embrace for a while.
“We’ll be alright, Adney, however this turns out, we’ll make it fine. I promise you that!”

Neither of them could sleep, though they remained quiet for a long while. Anne thought Ann might have fallen asleep and didn’t dare to check for fear of waking her up. She raised her hand from Ann’s shoulder only barely – observing it closely, eying the rings that she had placed on that finger a year previously. They had really done it – Ann had agreed to be her wife and married her before the eyes of God. Sometimes it was still hard to believe that it had happened, that Ann wouldn’t just get up and leave whenever she was fed up with her. Which was why, Anne mused, she had been so distant at times, like the fortnight before their switch where she had almost avoided her – been annoyed with her. Partly because she hadn’t understood Ann, hadn’t realised the extent of nor the truth of her pain but also because she had been terrified that if she allowed Ann’s feelings to be real and gave them room for contemplation – Ann might have left her.
But Anne thought, that wasn’t fair to Ann, to believe that, because she had proven to have a stronger spine than most, and she was courageous – she defied the lot of them and overcame her own fears for her. No one could do more for her, no one had ever done more for her and the amount of love for the woman in her arms made her chest ache terribly, and her eyes sting with unshed tears. She didn’t deserve her. She had treated her abominably and yet was forgiven at the spur of a moment – Ann was, Anne decided a much better person than she was, and she should endeavour to be more like her in her relation to other people. Well, she would have to be in any case – since there seemed to be no escaping this body, she was trapped in. Anne glanced down at Ann again, straining her neck to be able to view her from the position they lay in only to be met with dark expressive eyes that startled her and made her yelp making Ann giggle at her,
“You scare so easily!”
“You didn’t scare me – I was merrily surprised at finding you awake.” Anne objected pouting and Ann grinned, thinking she looked rather sweet, biting her lip to still her chuckles,
“Oh, so that little cry was one of excitement?”
“Yes.” Anne told her resolutely, giving her a brave look, puffing out her chest where she lay as if challenging the audacity Ann had to assume she was scared of anything. Ann bit her lip down really hard, raising her hand to cover her mouth, all the while Anne stared at her daring her to oppose her – the last little huff from her wife was all it took for her resolve to break, and laughter spilled out of her mouth. Anne rolled her eyes at her, waiting for her to stop but she didn’t. Ann’s stomach cramped with the laughter, and tears tumbled down her cheeks – she didn’t know why she was laughing this much but it felt incredibly freeing though her ribs did ache some after a while. Anne clearly tried to keep a straight face but was failing miserably, a grin snuck unto her face as she watched her wife lose herself to laughter. Eventually Ann stopped, her chest heaving quickly up and down as she tried to gather herself, wiping tears off her cheeks. Anne eyed her amused,
“Are you finished?”
Ann smirked at her, a giggle escaping her, but she nodded, sounding a little out of breath as she panted,
“Yes, I… am.”
“It wasn’t that funny.”
“Clearly it was.”
Anne shook her head at her, leaning down to kiss her hastily, before withdrawing, eyes still on her.
“I miss your real laughter.”
The remark brought Ann back to the fact that they would probably always be like this, and though it did everything to alarm and frighten her, she brushed that feeling away and merely smiled at her wife,
“If you miss it so much, just laugh then!”
Anne didn’t expect her to say that and so did laugh, but then she realised how foolish the whole situation was – and began laughing louder, inevitably setting Ann off again. They should undoubtedly be worried that their laughter leaked through the walls disturbing the rest of the household, but once they had started – it was hard to stop. But it turned out nature would put an end to their laughter as suddenly thunder roared above the house and Anne, for the second time that night, cried out clasping Ann’s hand in hers immediately. Ann knew how scared her wife was of thunder – a childhood fear that never seemed to have left her – and this time she had no anger to distract her from the sounds, like the day they had switched places. Which was why she didn’t laugh at her but squeezed the hand that had grasped hers and shuffled closer to her on the bed again, sneaking her arm under her neck, across her shoulders to hold her close. Pressing a lingering kiss to the side of her face, keeping still and quiet, comforting her only by touches – knowing she would be more embarrassed if she tried talking her through it. It was weird to give one’s own body this kind of comfort though – Ann reckoned she should’ve got used it by now, but it did feel uncanny. She closed her eyes and tried to envisage that it was Anne completely and truly, but Ann knew her curves all too well for it to help much. Ann wondered fleetingly if it were shallow to think that in some sense their bodies were the key to their soul – which was why, even if they did come to terms with it, they might never be the same again – their mind was all that was left and Ann worried she might one day forget the touch of Anne’s hands on her skin, of her lips against hers – they would make do but it wouldn’t be the same. If there was anything positive with this switch, it was the fact that Ann now understood her wife better – and her admiration for her had only grown with it. Anne had suffered so much at the hands of other people, yet she had risen above that – continuously and the amount of time and effort she put into the estate and the people around her was commendable. Yes, Anne was sometimes irate and ill-tempered but– people were constantly questioning her, jeering her and waiting for her to slip up so they might once and for all bring Anne Lister down. Ann had understood it to some extent before but living it had opened her eyes and she now wondered at Anne ever being in a good mood with all the cruelties thrown at her. Her wife was so brave, so good and kind in despite of what other people did and said to her and Ann, though she evidently had rather switched back, only hoped she would make her person justice if they should spend the rest of their lives like this.
                The lightening outside lit up the room despite the curtains being drawn, and Ann turned her eyes to Anne – who was holding her in a tight grip, face hidden into her side, but her breathing had eased, and soft sounds filled the interludes between the lightning and thunder and Ann continued to run her fingers over her back soothingly until she herself was whisked off to the land of the dreams.

There was a sharp source of light begging her to open her eyes though her tired and foggy mind wanted her not to. Ann groaned softly, trying to turn her face into her pillow but found her cheek was pressed up against Anne – they must’ve changed position in their sleep – after all this was their default way of sleeping together.
Ann forced her heavy eyelids to open and the sunlight, streaming in from a crack in the curtains, immediately stung her eyes and she frowned putting her hands in-front of her face to try and shield herself from the upsetting light when she caught herself in the mirror and her heart stopped in her chest. For a moment everything around her froze as she regarded her reflection, carefully, as if she was scared of it leaving her, she raised her hands to feel her own face, completely befuddled. She did not dare to trust her own eyes at what she saw, closing them slowly, taking a calming breath before she opened them again, sneaking a look down at her bedfellow and her heart fluttered wildly in her chest – beside her lay her wife sleeping peacefully – and it really was her! Ann fought an instinct to throw herself at Anne to kiss her face and put her hands all over her just to see if it was truly her.
“Thank you, God.” Ann mumbled, biting her lip but couldn’t contain the grin that formed on her face, if ever she had been happier to wake up – she didn’t know it. Hesitantly she reached her hand out to caress the side of Anne’s face gently, and it sent jolts of joy and love through her body when she touched the warm soft skin of her wife. She was real! This wasn’t a dream – their prayers had been answered. Ann rustled Anne awake, almost pushing her out of bed and Anne grumbled at her, squeezing her eyes tighter together before reluctantly opening them. And her face when she saw Ann was a look of pure astonishment as if she thought she was dreaming for a second. She cracked a smile, but Ann frowned deeply as she observed her,
“Dearest? Why do you look like Marian?!”
Anne’s heartrate went up by a thousand percent, eyes widening, and she fell out of bed ungraciously trying to fight the covers off her to see for herself. But as she tumbled onto the cold hard floor, she caught glimpse of herself in the mirror and turned in haste to glare at her wife who was laughing so hard she was wheezing.
“Adney! Why you!” Anne berated her, standing up from the floor, and Ann’s eyes sparkled with mirth as she admired her handsome wife,
“You should’ve seen the look on your face! I think I could die happy now.”
“It’s a good thing you feel that way…” Anne told her mischievously, preying on her, “Because you will!”  
Anne jumped back into bed to tickle her into admitting she was wrong for tricking her like that. Ann screamed of laughter, trying to catch her breath and wrestle Anne at the same time – God, she had missed her wife.
“Fine, I… I, I’m sorry!” Ann panted, and Anne stopped her fingers, raising them from her sides, setting her hands down on either side of her face, leaning over her as they both tried to catch their breath. Anne slowly captured her lips with her own, tasting their sweetness and sighing pleased – Oh, to kiss one’s wife properly again, Anne was certain she had entered heaven.  They broke apart for a second as Anne straddled Ann, taking her hands in hers, kissing the insides of her wrists, turning them to press her lips against her knuckles as well –whilst Ann watched her with an excited grin which only widened when Anne pushed her hands over her head, keeping them in hers as she trailed hot lingering kisses from her cheek down her neck and Ann moaned softly, eyes fluttering upwards as she lost herself to her wife’s attentions.
Anne ran her teeth from her throat against the soft skin of her shoulder, following with a kiss, freeing one hand to reach down and fondle her left breast, brushing her thumb against her nipple through the fabric of her nightgown.
“Pony.” Ann whined impatiently and Anne grinned up at her roguishly, pressing a kiss where her thumb had been, before sitting back on her heels to catch the ends of her nightgown to pull it off. Ann helped her, and once it had been tossed to the floor, Ann pulled her wife on top her by the shoulders, a hand running up to her neck, to get her close enough to hungrily devour her lips.
“God, I’ve missed you.” Anne sighed against her lips and Ann raised her head to kiss her sweetly, weaving her hands into her dark hair, running her nails against her scalp,
“I love you, Anne.”
“Not as much as I do you.” Anne winked, as she took in the sight under her and Ann chuckled, playfully hitting her, and Anne bit her lip, her eyes gleaming and Ann’s stomach burned with desire for her – it should be illegal, she thought, to look as stunning as her wife did.
“I think we might have…not one” Anne began her voice teasing, pressing a kiss by her ear,
“not two,”
Another kiss to the other side.
“But three excitements this morning.”
Anne held her eyes for a moment before they fell to her lips, and Ann licked them consciously, smirking at her wife, running a hand across her strong shoulder,
“And if you’re really good. We might have a few tonight too.” Anne finished, giving into temptation and kissing the corner of her lips and Ann laughed at her wife’s forecast,
“We might have more if you do not plan them, dearest.”
“Oh? Well, I was planning on doing this,”
Anne’s hand traced the inside of Ann’s leg, running small circles against her inner-thigh making Ann’s chest flush slightly and her body squirm under her but then she stopped,
 “But you might prefer if I did something less thought out than that?”
“Anne!” Ann whimpered, her forehead creasing with the pout that formed, and Anne raised an eyebrow,
“What, Adney? Didn’t you want this?”
Ann glared at her, still pouting,
“You are being cruel.” 
“Tell me what you want then, love.” Anne tilted her head and Ann sighed at her, rolling her eyes briefly,
“I want you to do to me, exactly what you had in mind earlier, Pony.”
Anne’s hand resumed its motions, and her lips crashed onto Ann’s, and their breathing got more laboured as their excitement grew. Ann shuddered, and whispered gasps escaped her as Anne’s digits slowly made their way through her slick folds. Her grip on Anne’s shoulders tightened and she didn’t quite know what to do with her body – so she let nature guide her.
Her lips met Anne’s desperately, and Ann’s hands gripped at her, trying to get her as near as possible – savouring every touch, toes curling as Anne worked her closer to seal her ‘kiss’ by touching and teasing her how she knew her to like it. To think that yesterday all this lay so far away – and now here they were, wrapped up in each other’s arms again – making love. 
“I love you.” Ann murmured, her skin turning clammy and hot – she was so close, and Anne was radiant above her, breath against her mouth as she for a second released her lips to let her moan – and Anne grinned so clearly proud and pleased with herself for making Ann feel this way.
“You are so gorgeous, Adney.” Anne mumbled in her ear, loving the feeling of her wife writhing under her as she gently circled her entrance about to ‘connect’ them with each other – and push her wife properly over the edge,
“Pony – please!” Ann whimpered, her hips bucking against Anne’s hand, and she was going to give in to her pleads when there was a loud banging on the door and Ann pushed her off her, covering herself with the quilt – staring at the door wide-eyed. Anne scowled at the door, cursing whoever stood behind it for ruining a splendid ‘kiss’.
“Anne? Is Ann with you?” Marian shouted through the keyhole and Anne, looking like thunder, muttered a hoarse,
“Yes.”
“Mrs. Priestley is downstairs – she’s asked to see Ann.” Marian replied, sounding a tad vexed with her sister’s rude sounding ‘Yes’. Ann tucked her bottom lip under her teeth, trying not to laugh at Anne’s cross expression, she was so incredibly adorable when like this. 
“Thank you, Marian – we will be down as soon as we have dressed.”
Anne turned to Ann on the bed, gesturing with her hands,
“Is she a seer? – I swear she always knows to call at the absolute worst times.” 
A small chuckle escaped Ann, and she sat up on her knees, caressing Anne’s cheek with her hands, placing a tender kiss onto her lips, tracing her bottom one with her thumb fondly – smiling at her,
“Well, I’m just thrilled that things are back to normal. And if you behave downstairs – we might skip lunch and sneak down to the chaumiére instead.”
“Then what are you doing, Ann – get dressed!”
Anne hurled herself out of bed, grinning as she threw the nightgown back at her wife on the bed and Ann shook her head at her, putting it over her head to be decent for when Sarah would help her dress.
“You know, it wasn’t all bad.”
“What wasn’t?” Anne wondered impatiently, foot tapping against the floor – she couldn’t wait to get the social call with Mrs Priestley over and done with so they could resume what they were doing – hopefully the ‘kisses’ weren’t spoiled by their interlude just now.
“Seeing the world from one another’s perspective for a little while.”
“No, I agree. It did me good – looking through your eyes.” Anne agreed, thanking the Lord in her head for a moment – thinking it had improved their relationship vastly, her wife might never irk her again. But then Ann walked past her, about to go into dressing, when she threw her a quick impish look over her shoulder,
“Tick-tock.”
And all was well and back to normal again though Anne nor Ann would never be quite the same as they were before their switch.

  The end.