Written for Sylvia in the GGE, because she's an incredibly attractive warthog. She's my dearest wifey and she has fabulous ideas and is just all around generally awesome.
For the February Hufflepuff House Challenge, which inspired me with the fabulous line, "I loved you the same way that I learned how to ride a bike: Scared… but reckless." ― Rudy Francisco
Also — because how could it not be? — for Sam and her Clara, from Harry and I.
Many thanks to Paula for beta-ing and informing me that cheerleaders do not, in fact, exist in the UK. This I did not know. You're wonderful, dearest.
Her footsteps across the floor of the club are slow, her hips swaying, purposely sensual. Though she tries, Clara cannot remove her eyes from the figure moving toward her in the low lighting. She isn't tall, but she isn't short, either – a good five inches taller than Clara herself.
As she moves closer, Clara catches sight of an averagely pretty face framed by blonde waves that end at her cheekbones in a gentle curl. Four streaks of bright scarlet are shot through the waves. A small smirk plays at the corners of her bright red lips.
It should put Clara on edge, that smirk. It's mischievous, impish. That, combined with the evident cords of muscle under her curvy figure, tells Clara that this is the kind of woman that she usually tries to stay very, very far away from.
Clara defines herself as a good girl, most of the time. She keeps herself in check and believes in respecting people. And she dates good girls, always. Clara doesn't do dangerous, and she always dates good girls because they're safe. This woman isn't safe. She's a tough woman, cool and confident. A risk.
But there is something that Clara finds intoxicating in that subtle curve of lipsticked smirk.
"Evening," she says easily, and her voice is lower than Clara expects, but not quite yet reaching low. It's rough, too, like her vocal cords have been tortured before but are currently on the mend.
"Good evening," Clara replies, and she is all-too-aware that her voice is childishly high, all-too-aware of her diminutive frame, of her long dark hair and unremarkable features. She feels, for the first time in a long time, entirely drab. She didn't feel that way when she left the house, but standing next to this woman, Clara cannot help but feel that she pales a bit in comparison.
But the woman seems to disagree, as she smiles slightly. Her eyes skim Clara from head to toe, and Clara gets the impression that she likes what she sees. Clara's face, of course, flushes bright red under the scrutiny.
"I'm Harry," the woman says.
Harry tilts her head. "That's a beautiful name." Clara's sure her crimson cheeks grow darker. "Can I buy you a drink?"
Clara scans her blue eyes, finding only honest intentions – and a whole host of buried sadness and regret, but that's a story for another night, she supposes. She nods. "You may," she says softly, and Harry smiles.
Clara is on her fourth drink (or maybe her fifth?) – she isn't sure what it is, and she doesn't much care. Harry ordered, and it tastes fantastic.
It's more than she'd normally drink, but she feels very… free, with Harry. She also feels a bit like she's monopolizing the conversation, babbling as she is, but Harry is listening with a bemused smirk, and she really doesn't seem to mind. Every once in a while she'll pick up her glass and swirl it around before taking a sip. She's on her fourth as well, but she seems entirely in control of her mental facilities, which Clara doesn't think is quite fair.
"–an' I was all friendly and stuff, y'know? So I just couln'n't believe that they'd do that, y'know?"
"I understand," Harry says, her voice barely audible above the music, a stark contrast to Clara's own.
"People are shit," Clara says flatly, and Harry laughs.
Clara grins at her. "Always am."
And those red-red lips quirk up into another smirk. "You're completely plastered, aren't you?"
"That's what plastered people say."
" 'salso what not-ples… Plasti… Not-drunk people say!" Harry just sits there, smirking. "I kinda ruined my own point, din'n't I?"
A calm inclination of the head.
Clara sighs. "I should… home."
Harry tips her head, considering. "I'll call you a taxi, at least. Not sure you could manage it." She's smirking still. Clara thinks she manages a scowl in return. She hops off the stool, trying to manage dignified and utterly failing when she flails and practically lands on Harry's lap. Blushing, she apologizes, but Harry waves it off, helping her up.
"Definitely time for you to go home, I think."
"Mmmm," Clara hums in agreement, leaning heavily on Harry as they make their way out of the club.
Beyond that, things get a bit fuzzy. She remembers tripping into a taxi and mumbling out her address, and then she thinks she falls asleep on Harry's shoulder. It doesn't even register in her alcohol-hazed brain that Harry shouldn't have been in the taxi.
She actually has a vague impression of being carried up the steps to her flat, but that could be a dream.
She doesn't wake up during the night, but she dreams of being held by strong arms against soft curves and in her sleep, she smiles.
Clara awakes to the sound of a loud obscenity. Not exactly her favorite way to start the morning. She wraps a dressing-gown around herself – noting as she does so that her head feels like there's construction going on up there, and that she is definitely not wearing the skirt and top she wore to the club yesterday any longer, but instead a pair of pajamas that she probably left on the bathroom floor yesterday.
She finds Harry in the kitchen, running her finger under the tap and hopping up and down like she's in pain.
"All right there?" Clara manages to mumble through her throbbing headache, sliding the dimmer on the kitchen lights down to almost nothing.
Harry whirls around, looking sheepish.
"Nope. Give me a minute." Clara heads straight for the cupboard above the sink and pulls out a glass, filling it with water. "What'd you do?"
"Bumped the range before it was properly cool. I'm not used to the electric, honestly." She grins somewhat sheepishly.
Clara winces in sympathy, sticking her already empty glass back under the flow of the water.
Harry laughs, but it isn't cruel. "Little more than you're used to?"
Clara groans. "I don't think I've had that much to drink since I was eighteen. What was in that?"
Harry raises her eyebrows elegantly, the expression somehow completely mischievous on her pretty face. "Lots of things."
Laughing, Clara says, "Were you trying to get me drunk?"
"What else do you do when you meet a beautiful woman at a club?" Harry's tone is almost flippant, but Clara blushes under the compliment.
"Get to know them?"
Harry shakes her head. "Not really my style," she says. "Now, eggs or toast? The eggs are scrambled and the toast is however you want it because it just popped up."
Blinking blearily at her, Clara says, "You made breakfast?" Harry nods. "You don't seem like the type to make breakfast." Immediately after the words escape her mouth, Clara claps her hands across it. "Oh my gosh! I'm sorry; that was rude. I'm sorry. If it helps, I'm not sure my brain is in control of my mouth yet."
Harry laughs, shaking her head. "It's all right. It's nothing I haven't heard before."
"Toast. With jam, please and thank you." She sits at the counter with her glass and then, as what Harry said sinks in, she adds, "Do you frequently make breakfast for women you don't really know, then?"
Shrugging, Harry turns around and begins spreading jam on the slice of toast she's just pulled out of the toaster. "Often enough, I suppose."
Clara frowns at this response, and Harry sees it when she turns back around. "Oh, stop that."
"That. You're second guessing me."
"If I've been making breakfast for a lot of near-strangers, all that means is that I've had crap luck with relationships, all right? It doesn't mean I'm just looking for fling or a one-night stand."
"I didn't say that!"
"You didn't have to."
"No, look. I'm used to being judged, and most of the time I deserve it. But this is different, I swear."
"How can you say that? I just met you."
"I just can, Clara. Trust me."
And dammit if that hasn't always been Clara's problem – she trusts too easily. Far too easily. She's gotten hurt for it far too many times already. But she looks at Harry's earnest blue eyes and she nods as Harry slides the plate of toast across the countertop toward her.
But still, between the dreams and the fact that she doesn't remember putting on her pyjamas, she has to ask. "Harry? Don't… Um. Don't take this the wrong way, okay?"
Harry frowns, her eyebrows furrowing, but she nods as she gets her own glass from the cupboard. It amazes Clara how… at ease she seems in Clara's kitchen. It's almost as though she belongs here. It sort of makes Clara desperately want to kiss her, but she still feels the need to ask the question.
"We didn't… I mean… We didn't… Did we?"
Harry laughs, but her eyes cloud over with pain. " 'Course not. I do have some decency." Her voice is cheery, but undercut with a note of something dark.
Clara stares down at her hands. "I'm sorry."
"I am though."
"Don't worry about it." Her voice is too flat, too devoid of emotion – it just sounds wrong.
Clara wants to apologise again, but she has a feeling it wouldn't do anything but serve to frustrate Harry. She needs to stop trying to talk over the jackhammers in her head, because she has little control over what comes out her mouth.
She sighs, and takes a bite of toast.
Clara is at work – her day job at the shop – when the call comes in. Technically, employees aren't exactly supposed to carry mobiles with them when they're in the front of the store, but everyone does and no one ever says anything as long as they're subtle about it. She takes a quick glance at the screen and hurriedly excuses herself to the restroom, wondering (panicking) about why the hospital would be calling. A million worst-case scenarios play out in her mind. Is it her Mum? Her Dad? She can't think who else it would be.
"Hello?" She's proud of how calm her voice manages to sound.
"Speaking," Clara confirms.
"I'm calling about Harriet Watson. She was admitted about an hour ago."
Clara feels her eyebrows furrow as she flicks through metal files for a Harriet Watson. It takes her a moment to link Harriet with Harry – it's been nearly two weeks since the amazing first night and awkward first morning, and honestly, Clara hadn't expected anything to come of it. She thought she'd offended Harry badly enough that she wouldn't come back.
"Is she okay?" Clara finally asks, catching up to the conversation. "Why was she admitted?"
Clara wonders if she's even surprised by this – with the way Harry handled her alcohol, she'd obviously been exposed to a bit of it. But… wait...
"Why are you calling me?"
"You are listed as her primary medical contact, Ms. Spencer. Is that not correct?"
Clara's brain freezes over for a moment. She wants to stutter and stammer and say that's not really possible, check again, that can't be right.
But the logical part of her is stronger – if she says no, then she's not going to be allowed to talk to Harry until she's out of the hospital, right? She's not entirely sure how the system works, but she has a feeling it might be something like that.
Besides, Harry must have done it deliberately – that's sort of a difficult thing to do by accident – and therefore must have had a reason, right?
"Oh, yeah, no, of course." She manages an airy laugh before quickly changing the subject. "Is she… Is she up for visitors?"
"Harry, then. Harry is being held for observation until the doctors see fit to release her, but she is accepting visitors, yes."
Clara sighs, wondering if she can get someone to cover the rest of her shift. She asks the nurse for Harry's room number and the visiting hours and then she hangs up the phone, still trying to decide her reaction — furious, pleased, or just plain confused.
Her friend Kaia covers the rest of her shift after Clara tells her a friend is in the hospital. A small twinge of guilt pricks at her conscious — she's not sure Harry counts as a friend, but she isn't sure what other word would be more suitable.
"What the hell, Harry?" Clara starts with, the profanity slipping in without her permission, but she can't regret it. "What in the world were you thinking?"
Harry looks up at her with mournful eyes. "I wasn't, dearest, that's the problem." A bitter smile contorts her lips. "I so rarely do. It's all quite all right, though. My system handles more alcohol than they think."
"Well, that too, but that isn't what I was referring to!"
Harry's eyebrows furrow in confusion. "What, then?"
"Why am I your primary medical contact? I've met you once. People don't just do that, okay?"
"Actually," Harry says flippantly, "you aren't technically my primary medical contact. Secondary. Only they can't exactly get hold of the first." Her tone is a bit sardonic yet almost blasé, but her eyes are pained.
"And the first is…?"
"My brother," she says somewhat softly.
"See, that, Harry. That is exactly what I mean. I didn't even know you had a brother, yet they're calling me to say you're in the hospital!"
Harry's lips purse into a frown. "Are you honestly angry about this?"
"Yes! Yes I am!"
"It's just not on, Harry! I don't even know you!"
"Fine," she says. "Fine, you want to know about me? My name is Harry Watson, I'm twenty-seven years old, and I have a brother. His name is John; we don't get on. He's in the military, army doctor, and I hate it because we may not get on but he's all I've got, and every time, every damn time I clean my act up I just want to talk to someone who knows how hard it was, how impressive that is for me – but the only one who's seen me at my worst to know my best is a world away, getting shot at. My parents are dead, have been for a while and it's not a big deal because they never really approved of my preferences anyway so that's whatever, right? And I do this every time, every damn time – I find something that's good and pure, and I fuck it up because that's what I do. And I thought maybe this time could be different, but of course it can't because it's me." She sucks in a breath. "I'm sorry, Clara. I'm truly sorry for dragging you into my fucked up life. It isn't fair of me."
"Harry, that isn't–"
"Don't. Don't get all… rescue-the-poor-woman on me. I don't want your pity, Clara. You can leave, then. I'll survive, you don't have to worry about that. I've been in worse shape — in both ways."
Clara stays put firmly. She takes a step forward and sits in the chair by the side of the bed.
Harry looks back at her with startled blue eyes. Clara smiles softly. "I don't know what is is about you, Harry. But it isn't pity, and it certainly isn't my rescue-the-baby-bird syndrome, as one girlfriend called it." Harry chuckles at the description, and Clara's faint smile grows at the genuine laugh. "I find you… intoxicating. In a good way." She smiles a lopsided smile. "I can't get you out of my head. And it scares me."
Harry's lips twist. "It's good to not I'm not the only one. I've never been one to run away from things I'm afraid of, though."
Clara looks down. "I am."
Harry reaches up and Clara leans forward just a bit, understanding the motion. Harry rests her hands on Clara's cheek. "It's okay, dearest. We can be afraid together."
Clara smiles faintly. "I'm not sure I'm ready for this."
Harry laughs. "I'm not sure anyone is ever ready for this, Clara."
And maybe that's the point.