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Katie only waits patiently, because she isn't sure what else she can do in a bleak yellow room like this with the staff member eyeing her up and down as though she isn't sure what Katie is doing here. It's fucking obvious isn't it?  Katie wants to yell. I'm collecting my felon friend. You must have seen that before, considering that this is where relatives pick up their loved ones. Or where people who you'd bashed on the head with a rock years ago wait for you to leave prison because there's no-one else to care. Emily doesn't want to see Effy right now, which Katie sort of understands. Because Effy's mother is on a holiday in Spain that not so coincidentally coincides with Effy's early release, and all of Effy's fancy friends from the City had packed up bags and vanished at the scent of trouble.

So it's just Katie, waiting and waiting for the locked door to swing open, and she doesn't know what she expects. Effy in arrows, making a statement, Effy with two extra stone on her meagre frame because prison food is where carbs go to die, or maybe somebody who doesn't even look like Effy at all. She's shaken out of her increasingly morbid thoughts by the slam of the door, and there's Effy in front of her, flanked by a guard who guides her to the desk to fill out the final forms. Effy hasn't looked at her yet, but Katie can't stop staring. Jesus, Effy looks the same. Still razor sharp and thin, dressed in her own clothes, her hair cut exactly the same as always, and Katie wonders if anything has changed at all. Then Effy looks up and Katie has to look away because Effy's eyes and she stops wondering if prison had even impinged on the self-sufficient bubble that Effy has always been enclosed in.

She follows the protocols though, identifies Effy as being the person she's here to pick up, leads the way out to her car, Effy trailing along behind her, not yet having said a word. Katie realises far too late that she's uselessly chatting away, silly things about the weather, about how she needs to buy more hummus, how the man in the flat across the road is a total pig who looks through her bedroom window when he can, but Effy says, drily - the first thing she's said so far - "buy some blinds," and Katie's too relieved that Effy can still speak, to bother being snide back.

They get through the evening somehow and Katie doesn't know why she's signed herself up for this, why she'd ever thought this was a good idea. She knows fuck all about prison unless that Bad Girls repeat she'd caught the other night like she was doing some sort of research, was accurate and she's about 90% sure it wasn't. Did Effy want to talk? (That was a laugh, Effy never talked unless she had to.) Did she just want to be silent? Did she want some food or a drink, or the standby fail-safe, a nice cup of tea? 

Turns out that what Effy wants is a bath, a hot one, and Katie dumps in three different bath bombs, leaves the smellies that her mother had sent her for her birthday on the side, hangs her dressing gown inside the door and then waits outside, quietly panicking in case Effy did something stupid with Katie's pink lady bic, only to scuttle away when she heard the door being unlocked, wary of being caught lurking. Effy looks more like herself in a dressing gown and a towel turban, even without her signature raccoon eye makeup, and Katie hands her a mug of tea and points the way to the sofa (which okay, is about three steps, her flat isn't big). When she shuffles through the DVDs on the bookshelf though, they all seem to be about prisons all of a sudden. There's The Shawshank Redemption, American History X, even the stupid Jim Carrey one I Love You, Philip Morris, which she doesn't remember buying, renting or borrowing, and just no. She abandons the idea of a film and sits down beside Effy, curls her legs up under her and tries to think of something to say that isn't so how was prison?

Effy solves that for her, shuffles across a bit more and answers the question Katie doesn't want to ask. "I know what you're thinking and it sucked all right? It was shitty, depressing and above all else it was boring, and they tried to sign me up for art therapy. Now can we have some wine or am I going to have to go down on you for it?"

Katie feels like a fish as her mouth actually opens and shuts without words, because oh gosh Effy had been in prison and if there was one thing all those films had in common... "Katie, I'm joking," Effy says, hand under her jaw and closing her mouth for her. "A joke okay. The going down bit not the wine," and Katie stalks off pissed, into the kitchen and fumbles with the bottle opener, wrenching out the cork angrily and pouring two glasses worth with a satisfying splash.

"Not funny," she says when they both have a glass, and Effy grins.

"A little bit funny?" and Katie has to turn her head away so her own smile can't be seen because that's the Effy she remembers, so fucking sharp, all the corners jagged and tough. "Besides," Effy says and her voice is carefully neutral, "I would do you for free," and Katie can't even tell if she's joking anymore. Except then Effy is on her and it can't be the wine because they've only had a sip or two. Effy still tastes tanniny on her tongue, the living embodiment of Tesco's Two for Ten deal, and Katie's hasn't been kissed in ages what with the job and the problem she still tries not to think about too much outside of the occasional visit to the doctor, and the lubricant she keeps in her bedroom for the rare times she masturbates.

She wants to say no, because this is her and being a lesbian? Really not her thing as Effy well knows, but then this is Effy Stonem and everything is different with her. Katie means to push her off, and tell her that it's a stupid idea and Effy should go to sleep and start thinking about her future. The words are cut off though when Effy deepens their kiss, presses into Katie's mouth and Katie reciprocates almost helplessly, hands tightening around Effy's waist, feeling the smooth warmth of her skin against her fingers like a reminder that Effy is alive and out, and if not whole, well at least she's hanging on.

"Let's make this a welcome home, yeah?" Effy says, against her mouth, and Katie knows this is Effy admitting weakness, the fault lines that run through her opening up, and it scares her to death, enough that she has to pull away.

"Effy, you know you don't have to do this? You can fucking share my bed with me if you just want to be close, not turn dyke," because being subtle has never been Katie's thing, and she finds it kind of funny that she's convincing Effy that sex doesn't have to be the answer, when for both of them it's always been a question, a reaching out, a rope thrown into the darkness waiting for someone to tug back. 

The way Effy looks at her is something Katie thinks she'll turn over later, because it's too much to take in now, and then Effy is kissing her again, and perhaps it always came down to this between them, regardless of the Freddies and Cooks and all the rest. Maybe all the shattered pieces of their lives so far come down to the fact that when Effy kisses her, Katie kisses back. "I want this," Effy says with her lips and her body and the way she's set her wine aside so she can get in closer, and she doesn't specify why she wants it because it doesn't really matter. Freedom, liking, catching hold of a rope thrown to her, and Katie doesn't doubt any more because even after everything, Effy Stonem does what she wants and damn the world.

It's not so different, she thinks, the kissing bit at least, she's always been at her best when she can be pushy and demanding, and Effy seems to welcome that, to bite back just as hard, and her hands have fallen naturally to Effy's waist, raked up under her t-shirt Effy had thrown on, and that's the same as well. She doesn't have time to panic about the below the waist bit, because Effy's hands have made it to her breasts and they've always been Katie's biggest weakness.

Effy undoes the buttons on her blouse, and then with ease undoes her bra, and cups her breasts, thumbs across her nipples, and Katie gasps, tries not to wriggle against her, but can't help herself, and just like that she's fumbling at Effy's t-shirt, pulling it up over her head, and when she'd vaguely thought about what lesbian sex would be like, back when she was still struggling to think that sweet little Emily would ever shag anyone, she'd thought it would be all soft kisses and chaste hands, and all that time-consuming bullshit that Katie's never had time for before and still doesn't.

It's the opposite though, Effy's lithe and tougher than she looks and when Katie tries her patent signature move of pushing Effy back on the sofa, getting on top and giving herself time to figure all of this out (which always works on the men she goes out with), Effy doesn't take it, surges upright, and they end up tumbling to the floor, missing the TV by about three inches. Katie thinks wildly that she needs a bigger flat, until Effy distracts her by kissing her again, naked breasts against her own because Effy apparently doesn't believe in bras, and Katie subsides, lets herself be kissed until the 24 hour no smudge promise lipstick she'd invested in has rubbed off on Effy's mouth, which should look ridiculous, but instead is weirdly hot, the smudge of pink on Effy's too pale skin. Without her knowledge, her hands have somehow found their way to Effy's breasts, curious and wandering, and Effy's breath stutters against her mouth, which sometimes is the best reaction you can hope for from her. Katie takes full advantage of it, smooths her fingers around her nipples, then bends her head and drags Effy up a little more, kisses down her sternum, takes one of them in her mouth, just to see if she can drag Effy a little more into the light. She sucks until the nipple is hard and wet and Effy's hips are grinding helplessly against her own, no friction or connection, switches to the other breast and lets her fingers scoot down over Effy's too flat stomach, to the waistband of her knickers.

She pushes her fingers under the waist, just a little, the mystery land and Effy shudders. "Like this," she says, and scoots back a little, pushes Katie's skirt up around her waist, rolls down her tights as far as mid-thigh. Katie can feel her face flush at the knowledge that she's wearing her expensive undies like she'd somehow known this would happen, though she doesn't think Effy knows or cares if they're Primark or La Perla, and she wriggles under Effy's gaze like she wants to cover up and wants to spread out at the same time, two conflicting impulses equally strong. Then Effy's fingers are in her knickers and Katie wants to fucking die with embarrassment because while all this felt really good, getting wet wasn't happening, and of all the times to forget that, she thinks this ranks pretty high. 

Of course she's still Katie fucking Fitch, and Effy Stonem has brained her with a rock, fallen to pieces in front of her like they were alone in a crowd, and well, they've fucked the same bloke. More than once. In the grand scheme of things, she thinks she can weather this one out. "Not happening love," she says, and Effy laughs in her face.

"Don't tell me you don't have lube," she says, raises an eyebrow, covering for her and Katie wants to kiss her, wants to fuck her and wants to wrap her in a blanket, all at the same time.

"In the bedroom, let's go," Katie says, effortless resumption of the status quo - nothing to see here folks, move right along. Effy stands, and while Katie rolls off her tights and shuffles down her skirt, Effy saunters into the bedroom, naked except for her pants, and she's rifling through the drawers when Katie comes in, pulling out the lube and Katie's vibrator and sitting them on the side. It's colder in this room and Effy's heat is even more welcome, as she kisses the crease of Katie's thigh, itchingly close and tantalising and Katie doesn't even know how to deal with that thought, just lets it happen. Effy looks like she belongs between Katie's legs, and Katie tells herself that Emily is never, ever finding out about this.

Then there's Effy's tongue, her too sweet mouth that doesn't belong on her too sharp face, being employed at licking at her, an artificial wetness but not from a bottle, and it feels good, hot and wet and slippery. Feels like Effy cares. Katie can't help jerking upwards, spreading her legs a little more, watches as Effy looks up at her, and then buries her face back down. Effy's gentle, regular, circling over her clit with her tongue, more careful than Katie thought she would be, and right after that Effy slides a wet finger into her, like she knows what Katie likes. She's right, the edge of penetration has always done it for Katie, and she feels properly aroused now, feels like she's sweating even in the coldness of the room. She's not sure but she thinks Effy has one hand between her own legs now, and something in her relaxes, loosens at the thought that yeah, Effy is enjoying this as well.

It takes longer for her to come these days, but Effy is patient and oddly tender, two traits she isn't exactly known for, and she keeps going until Katie comes, seizes up around her fingers, before she then crawls her way on top of Katie again with a really smug expression. Katie isn't going to be outdone in lesbian-ness by Effy though, so she yanks her down and kisses her like that, wipes the smirk off her face and gets her fingers in Effy's pants, amazed at her wetness, even a little jealous, but this bit she can do. Effy apparently likes it rougher than she doles it out, because after a minute or two of Katie giving her the same gentle treatment she snaps; wriggles out of her knickers, throws them to one side and pulls Katie's hand closer, shows her what she likes the best. Like this they can kiss, and Katie keeps getting distracted by that, before she remembers to grind her palm up close, and let Effy ride it a little, that Effy likes a finger inside her but no more than that, doesn't like her clit being touched directly, and these are things that it's surprisingly easy to work with. It feels like they do it for hours, Effy slippery wet under Katie's fingers, a perfect rhythm between them, kisses that melt into one another, long enough that Katie's almost surprised when Effy comes, feels the familiar throb of desire back in her gut, deep twinge of it as though Effy coming, quiet and intense has reignited her own want. 

Katie's a bit of a control freak, she knows that, and everybody she's ever been with has told her to calm it down, so she lies there, curled up into Effy, until Effy licks her neck, wet and pointed, and she's such a fucking weirdo really, and tells her that she can clean up if she wants to, makes it sound like some huge favour with the way she rolls the words out, but Katie will take it. She gets the wipes from her top drawer and hands one to Effy, because fucking is one thing but cleaning someone else is quite another, and then wipes herself down quickly and curls right back up beside Effy, yanks the blanket up from where it’d been kicked onto the floor, and listens to the quietness between them. She kind of wonders if Effy will get up and insist on the sofa, but after a few minutes of no movement thinks she’s safe to slide an arm around her, because sue her, Katie likes cuddling. Effy smells like her, she thinks, bathbombs and the Bodyshop white musk that’s still her favourite scent (like she's fourteen and shoplifting the stuff all over again), like she’s rubbed off on Effy, which is kind of true really and makes a sleepy giggle slip out of her. 

She’s almost on the edge of sleep, tries not to wonder what tomorrow is going to bring, when Effy lifts back a piece of her hair and whispers, “the man across the road probably got an eyeful,” and Katie wants to elbow her but she’s too damned tired.

“Blinds tomorrow,” she says firmly, and Effy laughs a little in the darkness and subsides.