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"We go to the pub tomorrow." - This is my take on what happened when they did.
Charity saunters out into the bar. She'd changed her outfit after she finished her shift, but didn't want to look like she was overdoing it, so she went casual, with a pair of form-fitting jeans and a top with a neckline that dips well below the two beauty marks on her chest Vanessa seems to enjoy so much. She smiles at Chas as she takes a seat at the bar. Chas comes over to stand across from her, eyebrows raised in question.
"I can barely get you to spend time in here when you're working," she says, watching as Charity takes out a mirror and checks her lipstick. "And here you are with a night off and you're propping up the bar?"
"I've got a...thing," Charity says, wiping a tiny smudge of mascara from under her eye. "Like a...date thing. Well, not a date exac-"
"Oh, Charity!" The disappointment in Chas' voice is enough to make Charity actually pay attention to her, frowning at the reaction. "I thought you were past all this?"
"Past all what? I'm not that old, cheeky mare," she grumbles, confused by this reaction. "I can still go on dates!"
"No, I mean, you can't still be trying to make Vanessa jealous. Not after spending last night with her and being all...nice to Tracy today," Chas leans in close. "That girl is going to get fed up of your antics, lady, so you better think on before you do something you can't come back from. And sitting here parading some daft bloke you don't care about in front of her is just-"
"What's this about a daft bloke?"
Charity turns to find Vanessa approaching, a curious smile in place as she leans on the bar, her arm pressed tight up against Charity's. Chas looks between them for a moment, clearly still confused. Charity lifts her eyebrows, waiting for the penny to drop. It takes a few seconds, but understanding finally dawns and Chas breaks out in a bright smile. She turns to Vanessa.
"No daft blokes, my mistake. I'll go and get you both a drink on me."
She waltzes off to the wine cooler and Charity shakes her head, turning back to Vanessa with a smile. "Hiya."
"Hi yourself." Vanessa leans in and presses a quick kiss to her lips. Her cheeks flood with warmth at the gesture, which feels both new and familiar somehow. If Vanessa notices her ridiculous blush, she opts not to comment. She shrugs out of her jacket, revealing that blue and white striped top that Charity is really quite partial to.
"Had a good day?" Usually Charity abhors smalltalk, which isn't ideal in her current line of work. But, in some weird twist, she's found that she's actually interested in hearing what Vanessa has to say most of the time.
"Apart from my sister's drunken antics, d'you mean?" Vanessa says, smiling at Chas as she drops off a bottle of white and two glasses. "Yeah, it's been not too bad." She bumps Charity's shoulder with her own. "And I didn't say this earlier, but thanks for calling me."
Charity narrows her eyes at Chas, who's clearly listening in. "Don't mention it."
"No, it...it means a lot." Her eyes are wide and earnest and so blue it almost hurts to look at them. "It's pretty much in your business interests to let people drink until they make a fool of themselves, yeah?" She smiles. "So, you know, thank you for not letting her."
She could explain it away like she did with Chas; like it was meaningless. But with the way Vanessa's looking at her, she finds herself wanting to be that person Chas was talking about earlier; that caring, nice person. The kind of person that someone like Vanessa Woodfield thinks is worthy of her time. She shrugs, dipping her head to hide the stupid smile that she's sure has crept across her lips.
"Yeah, well, don't s'pose you'd have been very happy if I'd let her carry on the way she was going," Charity mumbles, risking a look up at Vanessa. "And I didn't much like the way that Hotten Handsy bloke was looking at her."
"Hotten Handy," Vanessa says, smiling.
"Not from where I was standing," Charity tells her. It's true. She's seen enough predatory men to learn to trust her gut reaction. He'd been looking at Tracy like she was meat, and Charity hadn't liked it one bit. "Anyway, shall we move to a table." Nodding her head in Chas' direction. "Away from big ears over there?"
"Yeah," Vanessa grabs the bottle, heading to a free table in the corner. "You bring the glasses."
Charity turns to do as she's told and catches sight of Chas with her hand over her heart, mouthing 'awwww'. Charity glares at her as best she can, but it has no effect whatsoever and she turns with a huff to follow Vanessa. They get settled at the table, choosing chairs next to each other rather than opposite. Vanessa opens the bottle of wine and fills the first glass before moving to the second. The movement causes the light to catch her arm, and Charity frowns when she notices scratches, fiery and new, covering Vanessa's hand and wrist. She reaches out and takes hold of it, careful not to squeeze.
"What the hell is this?" she demands, her thumb brushing gently over the criss-crossing wounds.
"What's wh- oh, that," Vanessa puts down the bottle, but Charity doesn't let go. She looks up into Vanessa's eyes and finds her blushing.
"I, uh, had a little incident with a cat at work." It's obvious from how sheepish Vanessa is that this isn't the whole story.
"A 'little incident'?" Charity's eyes widen, gently turning Vanessa's wrist from side to side. "It looks like you went ten rounds with Shere Khan."
"God, not even close," Vanessa says. "Just a little old cat that we see a lot of. She has certain ways she likes to be handled. And I was-" Vanessa flushes an even deeper red. "-a little distracted all day." She leans closer to Charity, their shoulders brushing. "Thinking about, you know, last night."
Without realising it, Charity's hand has moved from Vanessa's wrist to play with her fingers, rubbing her knuckles with her thumb. She leans in further, bumping her forehead against Vanessa's. "It was pretty spectacular, wasn't it?"
"It was." Vanessa nods, a wicked smile appearing on her lips. She dips her head and looks up at Charity through her eyelashes, lowering her voice. "I've actually got some scratches on my back an'all. But they're not from the cat."
A flash of memory hits Charity hard and she presses her lips together to keep from making any embarrassing noises. Everything had just felt so heightened the previous night, everything was deeper, everything was more. She does remember trying to pull Vanessa as close as possible, digging her nails into smooth flesh to keep her there.
"I could say I'm sorry," she begins, her voice still a little shaky from the vivid recollection. "But I was not in full control of my limbs at that point in the proceedings, babe. And that was down to you."
Vanessa gasps. "So my wounds are self-inflicted, is that what you're telling me?"
"Maybe not self-inflicted," Charity relents. "But you were definitely an accomplice."
"Hmmm," Vanessa purses her lips in thought. "Well, instead of an apology, maybe you could kiss them better later?"
Charity can feel her whole body responding to the suggestion. She leans forward in her seat, hips canting of their own accord, straining to be close to Vanessa. She's not going to last a whole evening without pulling Vanessa upstairs or into the loos if she's not careful. Vanessa's eyes move to a point over Charity's shoulder and she lets out a little laugh.
Meeting Charity's eyes, she lowers her voice to a conspiratorial whisper. "Chas keeps looking over at us and grinning like mad."
Charity's head whips around and she catches Chas in the act. Her cousin quickly averts her eyes, grabbing a glass and then looking unsure of what to do with it now she's holding it. Charity shakes her head and turns back to Vanessa. "Yeah, well, she's not got much going on in her life, has she?" She lifts her eyebrows. "She's going out with Paddy. Got to get her kicks somewhere."
"Maybe she's just pleased for you." She winks. "You know, since you've landed yourself such a catch."
"To be fair," Charity begins, hiding a smile. "Anyone that's not a complete psycho or married to someone else is a step-up for me, buttercup."
Vanessa huffs, putting on a show of being offended. It only makes her cuter in Charity's eyes. "Wow, thanks a bunch."
"Oh, don't worry," Charity says with a roll of her eyes. "Everybody thoroughly approves of you." She pauses, picking up a beer mat, twisting it in her hand. "I'm gonna assume it's not the same from your side."
Vanessa shrugs. "Wouldn't bother me either way, but as it happens, nobody's said anything." She tilts her head. "Well, Rhona gave me a bit of a talking to after the thing in the cellar."
"Rhona?" Charity frowns, surprised by the hurt that wells in her chest. It's old and familiar and comes from that place deep inside her that's used to hearing terrible things about herself. It's easy to pretend she doesn't care; far harder to actually not care. "Your Dad I could understand, but what have I ever done to bloody Rhona?"
Vanessa lifts her wine. "Yeah,she told me you were trouble," she says, watching Charity over the top of the glass as she takes a sip. "And I told her that I liked that about you."
There's a shift in Charity's chest when she hears that. She has people after her before who were only after a bit of rough. She didn't think Vanessa would be one of them though.
"Got a bit of a thing for bad girls, have you?"
Shrugging, Vanessa puts her glass down. She taps her forefinger against Charity's, letting her nail scrape gently over the skin. "I never have before." She bites her lip. "Maybe I just like you. Good bits. Bad bits." She shrugs. "All the bits."
And that throws her completely. The bad bits are usually what she has to cover up, to dupe people into believing aren't there, or that she can change; that their love can change her. But here's this little ball of blonde sunshine telling her that she likes those parts of her that she's seen close up, firsthand. She shakes her head, puffing out an amused breath.
"What?" Vanessa asks, twin lines appearing between her eyes. "Is that...too much?"
"No." Charity shakes her head, quick to assure her. "I just-" She smiles and shakes her head again. "I didn't think there was much left in this world that could surprise me, that's all." She tilts her head. "But you? You surprise me at every turn."
Vanessa breaks out into a hopeful smile that makes the whole room lighter. "Good surprises?"
Charity rolls her eyes. "No, I'm sitting here grinning like a ninny because they're terrible surprises." She tuts. "What do you think?"
"I think I want to kiss you," Vanessa murmurs, her eyes straying to Charity's lips before meeting her eyes and holding her gaze steadily. "Right here. Right now."
Charity's breath quickens, her tongue darting out to wet her lips, unconsciously. "Yeah?"
Vanessa nods. "Would that be okay?"
Instead of answering, Charity leans closer, as if drawn by some force. That same force has been dragging her back to Vanessa since that first night in the cellar. Charity knows lust and this isn't just lust. It's a desire simply to be in Vanessa's company, to see her smile, make her laugh, touch her skin. Just being close to her makes Charity feel more like herself; more like the person she's always told herself she doesn't want to be.
Vanessa's lips meet her own and she closes her eyes, enjoying the soft, warm caress. It ends far too soon for her liking, but Vanessa rests their foreheads together. "I'm scared to look over at Chas now," Vanessa murmurs. "I feel like she might have passed out with joy."
Charity barks out a genuine laugh. She bumps Vanessa's nose with her own before sitting back in her chair. "Would serve the nosy cow right if she had."
They spend the next hour or so in easy conversation. Charity yet again finds she's not bored by anecdotes about escaped bunny rabbits, or descriptions of Johnny's latest painting. Vanessa is always so animated and she cares so much about things that Charity can't help but be pulled in by it. And in that close, warm bubble they create, she finds her own tongue loosened and she talks about her work and her family, skirting around some of the finer detail about Joe Tate which are not exactly first date material.
Before she realises it, she's pouring the dregs of the bottle of wine into Vanessa's glass, her own still empty. "I'll go and grab us another, shall I?" She gets up and throws Vanessa a wink. "Also on Chas."
She heads behind the bar and bends to look in the wine cooler, seeking out a decent bottle. She selects one with a cork rather than a screw-top and grabs a corkscrew, setting it on the bar to open it. Chas bumps her hip with her own on the way past, smiling at her when their eyes meet. She shakes her head and hides a smile.
The door flies open and Rhona marches in. She spies Vanessa and makes a beeline for her, throwing herself heavily into the seat Charity had recently vacated.
"Oh, thank God. Wine." She lifts the bottle, sees it's empty and then lifts Vanessa's glass instead, taking a good long drink before putting it back down. "I need wine after the evening I've just had. Leo did not want to go to Paddy and Marlon's for some reason and so we had tears and tantrums."
Charity catches Vanessa's eye, lifting an amused eyebrow. Vanessa's eyes are wide with panic. Chas appears by Charity's side again, fluttering nervously.
"Uh, Rhona," Chas calls. "Can I have a word?"
Rhona looks over her shoulder and smiles. "Two seconds Chas, I'm just getting my breath back," she slumps more in the seat.
Charity grabs the full bottle of wine and heads back out from behind the bar, smirking at Chas. Vanessa's eyes are on her as she approaches.
"Uh, Rhona I'm...this is " Vanessa begins, hesitantly.
Coming to stand behind Rhona, Charity leans down so that her mouth is by her ear. "I think what my cousin and your mate are subtly trying to tell you is that you're in my seat." She enjoys the little frightened jump Rhona does when she starts speaking. "And you're sitting with my date."
All pretence of not calling it a date went out the window in the face of getting to embarrass Rhona.
"Your d-" Rhona begins, turning to face her and reeling back at how close she is. Rhona looks at Vanessa who shrugs and nods. "Oh God, Ness, I'm so sorry. I didn't realise...I-"
"Here, Rhona, I've a wine waiting for you," Chas tells her. "Come and moan to me about the tantrums. I live with a stroppy kid myself."
Rhona hurriedly scoots her chair back and gets up and Charity frowns at Chas. "Noah's not stroppy," she protests.
"I'm not talking about Noah," Chas says, giving her a pointed look.
Charity makes a face at her, stepping aside to let Rhona by. "Sorry. Didn't mean to be any trouble," she murmurs as she passes.
"Charity!" Vanessa scolds, reaching for her hand and tugging it until she sits down.
Rhona retreats to a stool by the bar, accepting the drink Chas slides over to her. Charity enjoys the red tinge still evident on her cheeks. Chas leans close and whispers something that makes Rhona laugh. Charity narrows her eyes at both of them, but the hand that's still holding her own squeezes before letting go and she shifts her attention back to Vanessa, who's beaming at her. Charity sighs.
"Is this because I said the word 'date'?" she asks.
Vanessa shrugs. "Might be." Her eyes flick to the bar and her smile fades. "Great. Now they're both gawping." Vanessa says. She nods to the still full bottle of wine. "Do you want to take that over to mine? Get some peace?"
"Paraded me out in public long enough, then?" Charity asks, lifting an eyebrow.
"That's...that's not what this was about," Vanessa says, brow creasing.
"It's a little bit what it was about, isn't it?" Charity pushes, leaning her elbows on the table.
Vanessa sputters for a moment, searching for the lies that don't come easy to her. Finally she rolls her eyes and throws out her hands. "Okay, maybe a tiny bit," she allows. "But can you blame me? When you've spent the last week showing everyone exactly how not together we were?"
"And see how well that worked out!" Charity protests. "Not only did I end up having to chase you down the bloomin' street to get you to talk to me, I'm also sitting here, quite obviously on a date with you!"
Vanessa laughs gently, shaking her head. "Try not to sound too thrilled about it though, eh?"
"Oh, I'm over the moon, babe," Charity says. "I just hide it well."
"Not as well as you think you do," Vanessa says, her eyebrows rise in a challenge as Charity goes to dispute her assertion, but thinks better of it.
"Fine," she allows, losing the fight not to smile in the face of Vanessa's utter lack of willingness to put up with any bullshit from her. "We'll go to yours and you can do all the things you want to me without prying eyes."
Vanessa picks up her jacket and slides into it. "We'll start with a glass of wine on the couch and see where the evening takes us," she says, pulling her hair out where it's caught inside the jacket. "And I believe you've got some kissing better to do."
"Oh yeah, right," Charity nods, a delicious warmth forming low down in her belly. "I'll grab my coat and then we'll head off." Vanessa picks up the bottle as Charity rounds the bar and nips through to the back. She plucks her winter coat from the hook and slips into it, keen to get to Vanessa's and continue their evening. And not just the sex part. She's really enjoying the talking too.
When she gets back out into the bar, Vanessa's stood with Rhona and Chas, huddled close together and talking in low voices. Most likely about her. She clears her throat and they look up, all wearing stupid smiles.
"Ready?" she asks Vanessa, who nods and says her goodnights.
"Don't do anything I wouldn't do!" Chas calls after them as they're heading out of the door.
"I'll pretty much only be doing things you wouldn't do," Charity tells her, cheerfully. She puts a hand on Vanessa's back to usher her out of the door, and both Chas and Rhona put their hands over their hearts. Charity sighs.
Once in the street, Charity bumps her shoulder against Vanessa's while they're walking. "So what were them two saying about us while I was away?"
Vanessa turns to her with a smile. "Nothing much. Just that they were happy you've stopped being an idiot."
Gasping in fake shock, Charity loosely takes Vanessa's hand, linking the tips of their fingers together. "And did you defend me?"
"'Course not," Vanessa says, swinging their joined hands. "I agreed with them."
"A girl could be insulted by that, you know," Charity huffs.
Vanessa stops walking when they reach her gate, turning to face Charity, as she had done the night before. "A girl could also shut up and kiss me, if she wanted."
Charity smiles, charmed once again by Vanessa's way of cutting through everything else and asking for what she wants. She reaches out with her free hand and cups Vanessa's jaw, tilting her face up and leaning in to brush their lips together, barely making contact before pulling away.
"A girl could get used to that," she murmurs, watching Vanessa's lips turn up in a smile. She leans in to kiss it.
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