She had only know the cold fear that rushed over her, gripping at her throat and cause her to freeze three times in her life;
The first was the first time an unmarked, black car had rolled up next to FAB 1 and tried to run her and Parker off the road when she had begun her political career and ruffled one too many feathers.
The second on a skiing holiday when she had watched her mother careen, out of control off of the side of the piste, falling out of sight to, thankfully, only a broken ankle.
And now the third in her own home as she walked through the patio doors out to the pool and caught sight of the mess of golden hair and expanse of pale skin that made up Gordon’s back, floating lifelessly in the water in front of her.
The world seemed to grind to a halt, her heart beating in her ears as she looked on, unable to move, her entire body refusing to answer her brains calls for action as her eyes took in the sight.
A crash resonated as the silver tea tray carrying their drinks fell from her hands onto the concrete slabs below, a horrified scream reaching her ears which only registered as having come from her own mouth as the world spun back into focus.
“Gordon!” she screamed, finding her footing and sprinting towards the pool, her mind registering only the thought of Gordon, there, unmoving and a fleeting thought of the brand new white and grey lace dress she had put on in preparation to relax by the pool and how the chlorine would definitely eat at it.
Had she not been in such a panic, she would have laughed at herself.
It was mid sprint, halfway to the pool, her eyes locked on Gordon’s frame when she saw him shift, his body moving as if sinking deeper into the pool and his head snapped up, his hair flicking backwards, most of it making it as far as his forehead where it fell over his eyes. He turned, looking through the curtain of hair towards Penny who let out a gasp, stopping mid run and almost toppling over, her hands out in front of her to balance as she stopped, panting for breath with adrenaline still running through her system like wildfire.
“Penny, what’s wrong? I heard a noise,” Gordon asked, casually flicking his hair out of his eyes. Penelope took a couple of deep breaths to try and steady herself, her head still spinning from the shock of his seemingly miraculous recovery.
“Gordon… you’re…” she breathed.
Behind her, Parker sprinted onto the patio, having been alerted by the noise of the glasses crashing to the floor.
“M’lady, what’s goin’ hon?” he asked, panting as he leaned against his legs, almost bent double as he tried to catch his breath.
Penny didn’t answer, her entire focus on Gordon as the sharp relief she had felt run over her like a cold tap turned to seething rage. Her fists clenched by her sides as her eyes narrowed at him where he stood, an inquisitive, lopsided grin on his face as he made his way to the side of the pool.
“Gordon Leroy Tracy!” she shrieked, marching towards him.
The grin slipped from his face as he pulled himself from the pool, dripping water all over the concrete from his body and sagging Hawaiian print shorts.
“You are an inconceivable menace!” she cried.
Behind her, Parker winced a little and slipped back into the house, not wanted to get in the way of Penny’s rage; he’d known her since she was a child and knew far better than to try to intervene.
Besides, Gordon likely deserved whatever she was about to give him.
“That tray,” she continued, “is 20th century silver, in my family for generations, now on the floor due to you and your… antics!”
Gordon frowned, crossing his arms as she approached, fists still balled by her sides tightly.“Uh, and how is you dropping your old tray on the floor my fault?” he quizzed, raising one eyebrow. “I’ve been in the pool the whole time.”
“Exactly!” she almost screamed, thinking in the back of her mind how grateful she was not to have neighbours. “You… I…”
The rage that had filled her begun to fade back to relief, her mind filled with a million iterations of ‘what if’ and a sheer grateful feeling that he was here, in front of her, alive and breathing.
She contemplated for a moment, tears welling in her eyes as her hands fell uselessly by her sides, her shoulders slumping as the lump in her throat returned with urgency.
Gordon noticed the change, his own arms dropping to his sides as tears began spilling down Penny’s face, her chest heaving as she wrapped her arms around herself, moving to crouch for a second as the weight of the situation finally hit her full force.
“Penny, hey, it’s okay. What happened?” he asked softly, moving to her, offering a hand which she took gratefully, standing back up to her full height and looking into his hazel eyes which were full of concern for her.
She took a shaky breath, reaching one hand out between them, placing it hesitantly onto Gordon’s bare chest, the skin cold and wet but moving and alive, his heart thundering underneath her touch. Gordon responded by wrapping his arms around her, pulling her into an embrace which she allowed.
“I saw you, face down in the water and… I thought…”
Realisation hit Gordon like a tonne of bricks.
“Shit,” he muttered. “I… I’m sorry Penny. It’s… it helps me relax. I’ve never thought how it looks to anyone else… I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to panic you.”
“It’s alright,” Penny murmured, burying her face into Gordon’s neck, her mind barely registering the wet seeping into her clothes. “I am rather fond of you,” she admitted, pulling back from him just enough to look him in the eyes, a knowing grin spreading across his face.
“Really? I never would have guessed,” he chuckled, earning him a slap on the chest where Penny’s hand had been resting. “Ow!” he cried dramatically, trying not to laugh.
His laughter was cut off as Penny leant forward, one hand trailing behind Gordon’s head, pulling him into a kiss. He let out a soft sigh as their lips met, so warm and inviting and alive. It was only moments before they broke apart but it felt like so much more. Gordon had a goofy smile on his face as he leant his head against Penny’s, his hand slipping to her face, holding her close.
“I promise not to relax in the pool anymore,” he chuckled.
“It’s not that I have an issue with,” she smiled weakly. “Just… try doing it on your front next time, alright?”
“Is that an invitation?” Gordon grinned, waggling his eyebrows suggestively.
Parker couldn’t help but let out a chuckle from his vantage point looking round the patio doors as he heard the slap of skin on skin and Gordon’s shriek of pain a moment later.
“H’ah, to be young h’again,” he murmured, moving back into the house with a contented sigh. Penny would be alright. They both would.