Paint Over it all - A McAndrews fanfiction

Disclaimer: I don't own Bomb Girls or any of the characters therein.

Author's Note: I have never written fan fiction before, let alone femslash. Unbetad, because I have to use my BA for something. Edited for paragraphs because those huge chunks of text looked daunting. Reviews welcomed. Plans to continue are already underway. Also, H.G. Wells and John Buchan? Geniuses. The title comes from Ani diFranco's song 'Both Hands'.

This starts after Season 2, episode 4. Further chapters will explore actual episodes.

Chapter 1: And I am getting nowhere with you

You haven't really spoken to Kate in weeks. Nothing other than unavoidable chichat in the halls of the boarding house, or on the bomb assembly lines. You notice that she doesn't change next to you anymore.

Gladys does, and she doesn't seem to give a damn. Gladys, who knows what you are and doesn't give a damn. Gladys with her perfect hair and perfect fiancé and perfect life, still wants to be friends with you. You've seen Gladys and Kate talking though, and you're pleased. Kate needs someone to keep her grounded. You haven't come across her sleeping on the couch again and her skin has stopped smelling like stale beer when she brushes close enough for you to take in her scent. She smells like cordite and soap, the way you do, the way everyone but Gladys does.

But you've run out of ways to say that everything will be fine. You don't know it will be and you don't want to promise her a lie.

She asked why you wanted her ruining your life and you wanted to tell her that your life was better with her in it, even if she never feels anything for you. Even if she'd forgotten what happened the night of Pearl Harbour. You almost hope she has. Forgotten, that is.

Whenever you think of it you don't remember the sweet smile on her face just before you leaned in, you don't remember the feel of her so-soft hand on your so-sore shoulder and you especially don't remember the feel of her palm against your lips. You can only remember the look of disgust on her face as she sprang away from you, and sometimes you think you can still see that look on her face. She used to look at you like you'd saved her, and you hadn't; not yet at least, and when you did you lost her. Now she doesn't look at you at all.

You know she left with her father because of what you did, and you don't know what happened to her in the months between but you never knew her soul could be so bitter. When she first came to VicMu, scars still fresh, even under all the fear, she had the brightest laugh and the lightest soul. Now it weighs heavy, and you know it's your fault. You pushed her away from her life just as much as she pushed you away from her mouth, just as much as her father pushed you away from his daughter, all the way across the hall.

Just as much as she pushed him away from you, off a flight of stairs.

Seems as the scars fade on her back, the scars on her soul just keep getting deeper.

So much of what Kate's been doing since she came back doesn't make sense to you. You understood the way she drank after the alleyway, hell, you'd been knocking down whiskey yourself. You understood that she felt safe at the boardinghouse and you also understood why she felt she had to leave. You didn't understand the catch in her voice when she not-quite-asked if Ivan appreciated your new skin regime. You didn't understand the vitriol in her voice when she comments on the way you spoke of Ivan after you broke it off. You didn't understand the way she invited Gene over and tried to keep his attention in a room full of women.

You were glad Gladys was perched on the arm of your chair, radiating her own confusion, along with welcome warmth and a measure of sympathy that made you leap at the chance to leave the room, Kate sprawled across Gene's lap as tawdry as you've ever seen her. She never wanted you. This is what she wants. And she's safe here, and that's all you should care about.

That night, in the cellar with the Nazi, wasn't the worst you had ever passed. Neither was the night in the car with Ivan. The worst night you passed was the night Kate left, and so everything that happened you compared to that and somehow, just knowing that Kate was safe, would remain safe, made it easy enough to just detach and just pretend that whatever was happening wasn't real because the only thing that was real was the soft green eyes that you saw when you closed yours.

Gladys doesn't bother to knock today. Just waltzes straight in with a bundle of books instead of the booze she used to bring. It is Sunday, and you do like to read now and then, but you miss the booze. Gladys spends more time at the boarding house now that James has put her up in a hotel and left to fight in the war. Sometimes she falls asleep mid-sentence in your bed, and you're careful not to disturb her when you finally decide to climb in next to her. It's your damn bed and you'll be damned if you'll let some princess that doesn't even pay rent steal your damn bed. You're not surprised when she steals your half of the blanket, or when you wake up with her sprawled across you, taking up more room than a woman that tiny has any right to.

Kate knocks more than Gladys does, and that's because she walked straight in on that one morning. But the bathtub at Gladys' hotel more than makes up for any inconvenience she puts you to in the boardinghouse. A bath, water as hot as you can get it, and no stream of girls making their way through the washroom. Bliss.

Today she's excited about the social commentary in a book called Phoenix or something, but she's bought a few books for you, Rockbound and The Thirty-Nine Steps among them. You open the first book, wondering if Kate will join you both tonight after returning from wherever she's been disappearing to for weeks. You read until you're sick of all the conflicts and turn to the John Buchan book instead. You're so deeply involved in the story of espionage that you hardly notice when Kate comes in and curls up on the bed with Gladys. You look up to see her watching you read, so you smile and hand her the other book. But Kate and Gladys in the same room means there's talk of James and Gene and society that turns its back on Gladys now. Their delighted laughter and soft conversation sets a nice backdrop for your book and you feel, for the first time in a while, that you are home.

You yawn, half an hour later, the book falling finished from your fingers to see Gladys and Kate, still curled together, fast asleep. It's so sweet that you smile. But although there is barely room in the bed for three, you've been avoiding touching Kate at all since her return. Other than that moment when she stepped into you and called you family. Or when you let her clean your glass-cut hand, the gentle touch a ghostly mockery of the way you used to be. You suppose you could sleep in Kate's room but if she wakes up in the middle of the night and decides to go to her own room, you don't want her to find you in her bed. You decide on the rotten sofa downstairs. It's only one night, and if the Princess can handle it, so can you.

You wake to find Gladys hovering over you. It's early, early enough that no one else is stumbling around the common room. Her hand is resting on your shoulder and Kate is peeking over hers. You know it's her hand because the way she touches you hasn't changed one damn bit and that's the biggest comfort you have these days. And you still call her Princess, but you're gentle when you say it in a way you never used to be. Something about teaching a grown woman how to wash her own underwear clears up a lot of class issues.

There's no dignity in carrying a torch for a girl who doesn't love you back. Gladys had said that and you thought she'd been talking about Ivan but sometimes you wonder if she doesn't sometimes, just a little bit, resent you mooning over Kate. Or has lost respect for you somehow. You're not obvious, you know, or else someone would have said something, rumors would be making their way back to you, but Gladys knows and you know she's seen the look of hurt flash across your face when Kate avoids you before you can straighten your face.

You pull your soft pack of cigarettes from your pocket, slightly crumpled from the way you've been lying on it the last couple of hours. You fish one out from the pack, fumble in your other pocket for your lighter. You take a couple of deep drags before offering the pack to Gladys, who shakes her head, and Kate, who takes one.

You're careful of the way you hold the pack so her fingers won't touch yours but they do anyway, fleeting flittering contact. You know Gladys is looking at you so you sit up, offer your lighter to Gladys, whose fingers brush yours and don't make you feel joyful and despondent all at once. You stretch your way to your feet and you know your back will be feeling the night on the rotten sofa by the end of your shift and you have to stop yourself from rubbing at your spine. No need to make them feel guilty for taking up your bed. You walk into the kitchenette and start putting together the coffee fixings, slicing a few slices of bread from the loaf. Kate takes them from the counter and puts them in the frying-pan while Gladys boils the kettle. You like this, working together toward a common goal in silence.

Gladys, as usual, is the one to break it.

"We didn't mean to kick you out of your own bed, you know." She whispers as soon as she thinks Kate is far enough away not to catch what she's saying. Kate is barely two feet away and her head jerks up at the sudden noise. She smiles at you.

"You didn't have to take the couch. You could have taken my bed, I was sleeping in yours anyway." You discover eye contact hurts this early in the morning and duck your head. You steal a slice of browned bread with your bare fingers because you feel the need to regain some bravado. You chew slowly on your way to get this morning's milk. Shouts and groans tell you the rest of the house is waking up and when you bring the milk back into the kitchen there are women everywhere and for once you're relieved rather than annoyed.

Gladys has already poured three coffees, Kate has relinquished the frying-pan to Rita, a small stack of toast all on one plate. You pour the milk and the three of you return to your room. You hover in the doorway with your coffee but Kate pats the spot beside her on your bed. You pick up your book from yesterday and place it gently on the side-table Gladys immediately takes the plate of toast from Kate and places it right on top of the book. You roll your eyes and sit next to Kate.

"Did you like that one?" Gladys asks in an undignified spray of toast crumbs. You wrinkle you nose but nod your head anyway.

"Yeah. Didn't understand some of the words though." You admit before sipping your coffee. Damned if you know how, but Gladys always makes the best coffee. The kettle is rubbish, the water tastes rusty but when Gladys makes the coffee it's always strong and rich and hot and perfect. It'd be infuriating if it wasn't so delicious.

"The Scotsman is hard to decipher, I've found." Gladys smiles. "I can't wait to finish mine. He really believes that something good can come from this war." You reach for another slice of toast and something in your back complains. You flinch, and Kate's hand is suddenly on your back so you flinch again.

"Oh Betty! You should have taken my bed. Or kicked me out. You know that couch is no good." Kate's hand is so warm and familiar that it's difficult to remember why you were reaching across her. Toast. That's right. You take a slice and straighten up, not quite shaking her hand off but you breathe easier when it drops from your back on its own.

"Yeah, I know, and that's why I don't let Gladys sleep on it any more. It'll be alright once I stretch it out." You tell her, not quite looking her in the eyes. It's too early, you tell yourself.

"Well, as part culprit I insist that you come to the hotel tonight and take a good long soak." Gladys says and you almost moan out loud at the thought of it. Hot, hot water and privacy.

"Sounds good to me, Princess," you say as you stand, brushing crumbs off your lap and onto the floor, sliding the buttons of your shirt undone as you reach for a fresh one. You pull one of Gladys' weekday dresses off a hanger and throw it at her then re-button and reach for your coffee. Kate is looking steadfastly at the book you had been reading when you turn around, and Gladys is trying to shimmy out of her impossible dress. You tug at a hem and it falls from her and Kate clears her throat. She finishes her coffee and slinks out of the room, shoulders in, the way she used to walk a year ago. Gladys looks at you and shrugs, the easy movement also bringing the clean dress over her head. You told her you wouldn't do her laundry yet somehow it made its way in among your things.

Kate doesn't talk to you on the way to the streetcar. Or on the streetcar. Or at VicMu. She barely even looks at you and ignores all of Gladys' concerned looks. You tell yourself you don't care, that this morning was just a break from your usual lack of interaction but you feel like you've taken a punch to your stomach as well as to your lower back.