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Uxorious.

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CHAPTER ONE.
WE'RE STAYING.

Jim wandered out onto the terrace, avoiding the coloured paper lanterns which hung suspended on streamers. Esther had put them there as part of her 'Anniversary Celebration' party.

"Okay, so I'll get on to the airport, see about flights back yeah?"

Sue did not turn, but continued applying her Flamazine cream as delicately as she could.

"Yeah, okay. You do that."

"Unless......"

Sue swung around hastily.

"Go on....."

Jim hesitated.

"Or, we could stay.....there are still eleven days left....."

His wife scoffed slightly.

"What are you and I going to do here for eleven whole days?"

From somewhere inside the villa came the insistent and annoying tune of a mobile phone.
They both turned as one.
"Maybe you should.......?" She gestured towards the doorway.

"No! Just leave it." Jim listened as the irritating noise continued to trill until the voicemail kicked in.
He shifted himself uncomfortably.

"Sorry.....what were you saying?" Sue gazed out across the valley.
"I was.....well, it's a lovely day......a lovely day.......maybe we should stay on, talk about things."

Twenty years they had been married and he felt almost as if he'd met her just this minute, for the first time. Gauche, uncomfortable, tongue tied.

"We could have a barbecue, swim, have fun......"
"You could teach me how to dive......." She gave a little smile.
"I could teach you how to dive......" He agreed.

She continued to apply her cream, turning her back slightly and reaching over her own shoulder.

"Can I help you with that?"

The offer was tentative, because the last time he'd offered she verbally pushed him away. Shut him out, and he felt more inadequate than she could ever possibly imagine.

"That would be lovely, thank you."
He took the pot from her hand, as she turned to present her burnt back to him.

"I haven't completely cocked things up have I?" His voice was so quiet, gruff with emotion.

"No, no, Jim why, have I?"

"No no, don't be daft!"

His fingers began to carefully smooth the ointment across her reddened shoulder blade.

The tiny kiss he placed there made her suck in a breath.

"Uxorious!"

"What's that?"

"Never mind. Doesn't matter." The touch of his hand was almost reverential.

oOo

The afternoon turned hot.
Sue settled herself on a sun bed, under a large umbrella.

Her sketch pad and art materials were beside her, but she couldn't interest herself in anything. Instead she sat gazing across the pool to the dry dusty valley, her mind far away. The heat of the sun making a shimmering liquid haze before her eyes.
She watched a lone bird of prey circling menacingly, before wheeling away and disappearing from view.

Presently Jim came out of the villa with a tray of tea things. He set them down beside her, and sat himself awkwardly on the adjacent lounger.

She noticed his feet were devoid of his special socks, and he was sporting Velcro fastening sandals.

"I made tea." He indicated the tray.

"So I see." She replied.

"Look, Sue......if we're going to stay........"

"Jim, don't! Don't start right now. I'm enjoying the peace and tranquility now pixie face and her Latino are gone, okay?"

Her husband shut his trap immediately.
Gave a sigh, and shuffled back indoors, reemerging moments later with a book.

"The Rise of the Nazi's".

Sue frowned, but made no comment, as he settled himself on the sun bed beside her and began to read with the greatest concentration, in silence.
After several seconds of watching him out of the corner of her eye, she noticed him glancing furtively her way.......before slowly turning the book the right way up.

oOo

Two hours later Sue woke from a doze to find her husband standing over her.

"If we're staying......." he paused, "we need to drive into the village, to fetch supplies."

"If? I thought it was decided?" She didn't look up from her sketch, which lay abandoned on her lap.

"You coming? Or not?" Jim turned and walked back towards the house.

"No. You go. I'll stay here." The reply was clipped. Just as it was at home when he suggested they do something together.

With another sigh, he stopped short, retraced his steps and came back to wait beside her.

"Sue! I'm really trying here, okay? But it's not going to work unless you are prepared to try too.
Please! I'm asking you. Come into town with me, and we'll buy some groceries."

"FINE!" She huffed and threw her pencil to one side, swinging her legs round and rising from the sun lounger.

"Well, come on then!" She shot, "Let's go!"

oOo

Gazing out at the lovely landscape as the car wound its way towards the nearest small town, where there was a market and some shops, Sue fell to musing aloud.
"Best if I do the asking.....when we buy things. We don't want you doing your 'foreign voice' again."
She remarked idly.

"I apples buy from you!" She continued with mockery in her voice.

"Sue. When I wanted to buy the special socks.....why did you send me off with Esther? When you speak perfectly adequate Spanish.....better than she did anyway? Why did you do that to me? You know I'd have preferred to go with you!"

"Really? Would you? I don't know. I wanted to see how you'd react I suppose. Young nubile female, hanging on your every word!" She turned to look at him, and his face was pained, brow wrinkled.

"I suppose her silly little pixie face and her 'peace, love and harmony' instantly got up my nose and her reaction to you too. She pissed me off."

"Her reaction to me?" Jim laughed out loud. "She thought I was the most boring idiot she'd ever seen. Just as you do apparently. So you thought you'd somehow punish me, is that it? And her too! For being young and attractive! A nice little outing with the MDF King! She was patronising in the extreme. More's the pity I didn't see through it more quickly."

"I suppose the reason she pissed me off, was because compared to her I'm a raddled old bag! I could see the way you looked at her, and it made me see myself, as I was years ago. When you looked at me like that!"

Jim pulled the car into the market square and they made their way to the little supermarket.

"Sue.....you are not a raddled old bag. That's not what I see when I look at you."

"No? What do you see exactly then Jim? Eh? Do you even actually look at me? Ever? I don't think you do!"

The conversation continued as she trawled the aisles, stuffing random items into a basket, without paying them much attention, Jim trailing along in her wake like a scolded dog.

"Of course I look at you! You're my wife. For your information I see the same person I married, twenty years ago. You haven't changed much at all. You're fine looking, you always were. I think you're sadder, but for that I mainly blame those bloody pills."

She rounded on him then, as they reached the check out, ignoring the stares of other shoppers around them.

"You know why I take them! I take them because I need them. My children have left home and I have a husband who barely speaks to me or notices my existence!"

Together they left the shop and burst forth onto the street.

"Oh, that's it!" He spat. "Of course! It's MY bloody fault! Along with everything else. Well, I'll tell you something Sue......shall I? Since we seem incapable of conversing without having a row.....even if it's in the middle of the bloody town......"

"Oh please do Jim.....it's all coming out now......!" She quickened her pace.

Throwing the groceries into the back of the car, they both climbed in and he slammed into reverse.

"I'll tell you why I don't talk to you! Because I've bloody given up.....that's why......!"

He roared off up the narrow road, heading back towards the villa, a cloud of dust billowing behind him.

"......I bloody well gave up ages ago......and do you want to know why? DO YOU?" His voice raised an octave as he glared at her angrily.

"Go on then! Spit it out, for God's sake......" Her eyes blazed with fury.

"Because you shut me out! Every damn time. I try to talk to you, to pay you a compliment or ask how you are and all I get is sarcasm and ridicule and mockery! That's it! Every bloody time.
SLAM!"
He smacked his hand against the steering wheel and made her jump.
"Right between the eyes.....everything I say, or try to say. So in the end I just stop saying anything. That way I avoid a row! Because I'm too bloody tired Sue, when I get home from work. I'm knackered. I just want to come home and relax. And I find that you've been sitting in a darkened room all day, feeling sorry for yourself, doped up on bloody pills. I see that, and it breaks my heart. Because it's MY BLOODY FAULT!"

They'd reached home, Jim pulled up, shut off the engine, and stormed off towards the house without another word.

Sue remained where she was, in the passenger seat, as she watched him disappear. His shoulders bent under the weight of his misery.

Her head in her hands she wept.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWO.
COUNTRY WALK, AND TALK.

When Sue opened her eyes onto the new morning she found herself alone. She could hear vague sounds of movement from around the villa.

Throwing on her dressing gown she rose and padded out to the kitchen, to find her husband, already dressed, packing up a tote bag.

"What on earth are you doing?"

He turned on hearing her enter, and gave a slight smile.

"I'm making a picnic. It's a nice day, I thought we could walk into the hills, where it's cooler, it's not far, enjoy the scenery, have a picnic......" His voice tailed off as he saw her face change.

".....you don't want to." He continued, dejected.

Sue Dawson was about to confess he was quite right, but something about his mien changed her mind.

"No, no. It's a good idea. Okay. I'll go get dressed." She turned away without further words.

oOo

It was still fairly early, and the heat of the day had not yet reached its peak. The sun warm but not broiling.
They wandered through the scrub, heading vaguely in the direction of the wooded hills, which were a mile or so from the villa.

Small birds twittered and flitted around them. A green lizard darted out from behind a rock.
The air was fresh and clean and pine scented.

Sue wore her wide brimmed hat low, with her sunglasses. Her shoulders covered for fear of further sunburn. Jim in his regulation uniform of khaki shorts, check shirt and sandals, but also sporting a peaked cap, which he hoped looked jaunty, but actually made him look more like Charlie Brown.

The silence between them was deafening, and they walked separated from each other by several paces.

"I'm sorry Sue." He said, suddenly.

"Why?" She replied, taking a sip from a water canister.

"For what I said yesterday. I'm sorry for everything, okay? I know it's all my fault, I accept it, I'll try harder. Really........I will. I said hurtful things. I know it's been difficult for you, the kids leaving, me working all the time, everything. But I AM sorry. I was just biting back at you that's all."

"Jim! Stop a minute.....okay!" She caught his arm and tugged him to a halt.
"Listen, I'm sorry too. This isn't all your fault, and you mustn't keep saying that. It isn't. And, Christ! I said a lot of horrible things too....and you hadn't said a word back.....not until yesterday. And you have as much right to say stuff as me. Except you don't usually, you just take all the flak and keep schtum. So I'M sorry.......truly. Let's start again....eh?"

Shuffling his feet in the dust, head down, he nodded agreement, and they continued as far as a shady ridge. Here they halted and he pulled a blanket from inside the tote bag, spreading it on the ground, gesturing to her to sit.

Beneath the shade of the cork trees and pines, they rested. The scent from the fir trees was fresh and pleasant. The air here cooler, with a light breeze.
Jim produced bread and cheese, fruit and a bottle of chilled rosé wine.

Sue sat, gazing back across the valley the way they'd come, and sighed.

"This is rather pleasant!" She admitted.

As if to shatter the mood, at that moment the bag began to tinkle with the insistent ringing of Jim's mobile.

"Ye Gods!" Sue gave an eye roll. "I can't believe that bloody thing still works."

Jim answered but to her surprise he was brusque.

"Keith! I told you not to keep ringing me. I'm trying to have a couple of weeks holiday. No I can't talk now! No I don't want to talk later! I don't want to talk at all. Whatever happens between now and the end of next week you can handle. Now don't ring me again or I'll sack you and bring in someone who can cope alone for a fortnight. Goodbye Keith!"

He rang off with a flourish and replaced the phone in the bag.

"I read somewhere if you dry them out in a bowl of rice, it works....apparently it does." He said, sheepishly.
"He won't ring again. I've told him."

"Good! That bloody firm treats you like dirt, and you own it!"

"That 'bloody firm' pays for our lives. I can't just abandon it completely! But I'm doing my best."

A chill seemed to settle over them again. Jim reached for the bottle and a cork screw.

"Let's have some of this, it's nicely chilled." He opened it and they drank from the bottle.

Sue lay back on the blanket and he propped himself on one elbow next to her.

"She fancied you, that little pixie face." Sue remarked after a few moments.

Her husband frowned.

"No she didn't. She was using me to try to make Felipe jealous, and it didn't work. If it hadn't been me it would have been some other poor sap."

"You fancied her too! Like crazy! I heard you.......tell her you had a little crush."

Jim rolled onto his back and lay on the blanket staring up at the sky.

"Where is this going Sue? What do you want me to say? Yes I fancied her, yes she was far too young for me. No, I wouldn't have done anything, I'm married to you!"

"You haven't looked at me the way you looked at her for years!"

Jim sat up with a jolt, suddenly angry.

"Oh, here we go again! I look at you plenty. You're lovely to look at, you have a lovely figure, and you've looked after it. Christ! I fell in love with you when I was seventeen years old! And I've never been with anyone else. But you don't stop noticing. What about you and Felipe?"

"He didn't fancy me! He treated me like I was his mother! I didn't see Esther treating you like you were her dad!"

"She was a little tease......and I was drunk.......and flattered.......and I'm not very proud of myself. Why did you have to start bringing all that up again? It's like you can't resist it. Were you jealous? Because there was nothing to be jealous about, nothing happened whatever!"

"You were jealous of Felipe!" She took another hefty swig of wine.

"Damn right! Stupid Latino prick! I wanted to punch his lights out, but he would probably have floored me. Just as you said you wanted to smash that guitar into Esther's face!"

"Do you regret marrying me, James? I mean, we were young, I was up the duff....we were kinda shoe horned into it."

"No! I don't regret it. I told you. I love you. I always have. It's just that you don't feel the same about me any more. And I don't know what the hell I can do about it. Because the mere thought of being without you makes me feel sick and you're so cold and hard sometimes that I'm terrified of going near you."

Jim struggled to his feet and began to walk rapidly away. This time Sue ran after him.

"Jim! Stop. Please. Come back."

He turned to face her, and his expression was one of pain and anguish.

"You see, you didn't marry the MDF King did you Sue? You married a young idealist, who wanted to travel, go to college, had opportunities. Then the kids came and I had to work.....work and work....to build something......to take care of my family......."
His finger jabbed at her chest.
"........and you......you.....were smart and funny and everyone liked you, loved you. Far, far more than me. Because what am I ? I'm boring Jim who reads shitty history books.....because he finds them interesting.....who deals in a timber substitute! Who wears special socks and who never gets laid because his wife pushes him away every time he goes anywhere near her, and yet says she might have dozed off during sex once or twice.......yes Esther did tell me!"

Sue's eyes widened, and her mouth hung open, Jim, undaunted, continued his rant.

"......And YES.....oh yes.....I opened up to her! Why the bloody hell not! Cos I can't damn well talk to you about it can I? Because every time I do you either shout at me, tell me it's all my fault or start crying. So yes, I was bloody attracted to her.....because she took notice of me.....even though she was just playing stupid mind games.....and I talked to her......because she was there, and there's no one else to talk to......is there?"

His anger abated as suddenly as it began. He seemed to diminish, shrink and fold in on himself.

"There. So are you happy now? Have you heard what you wanted to hear? I wanted to try and introduce a bit of romance.....really try.......really try.......but no! You just have to poison it. So fine,
I'm going back, and I'm going to wallow in my own self pity, about what a boring, lonely, miserable sod I am, and get completely and totally shit faced. I'll see you later."

He didn't notice as she gathered up the blanket and the bag and trotted meekly after him.
One more evening spent in painful silence, ignoring one another.
The usual night sleeping on each edge of the bed with their backs to each other.

Sue sniffled noisily. Jim pointedly pretended he didn't hear.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER THREE.
THE BARBECUE.

At dawn Sue was up and discovered Jim was missing. For one horrible and fearful moment, she actually thought he'd gone.
Really. Gone.

But there was a note in the kitchen, and the car wasn't on the drive.

"Gone into town. Back later. Jim. xx"

It was mid morning before her husband returned, with several bags and bottles.

He was morose and quiet. Giving only cursory answers to her questions, as he pottered about the kitchen, pointless questions which she was only asking in order to force him to speak to her.

She wasn't sure she'd ever seen him more upset, and it was down to her.

She knew it.

His phone rang again, and she was about to curse him and bloody Keith under her breath when she realised he was talking to their daughter.
Only his side of the conversation could be heard.

"Hello love!
Yes it's lovely, thanks, such a good present.
Oh, you know, just lazing about. Enjoying the sun.
How's Stuart? Oh, no of course, I forgot you won't have seen him, being at uni and all. But you still text your brother right? Surely?
Oh. Right, well, I'm sure you are, very busy.....with essays and stuff.
Yes, she's here, do you want to talk to her?
Yep, okay, I'll hand you over, hold on, yes she's right here."

He held out the phone and pointed into it theatrically.

"Helen!" He mouthed.

His wife took the mobile and walked away, speaking into it. Jim couldn't hear what she was saying and he guessed that was the idea. Mother and daughter stuff. Not for his ears.

After hanging up, Sue returned to see what he was up to, she leaned against the door frame, watching him intently.

"Can I help? What exactly are you doing?"

"I can manage." His response was terse, his back to her.

She moved closer, and turned him to face her, her hands resting on his forearms.

He looked down at them as if they were foreign objects, and almost shied away from the touch, but stopped himself with some effort.

"Jim.....I know I've hurt you. But you said to me the other day, that when someone says they're sorry, you're supposed to accept it and move on......well, can you accept and move on? Can we? All we seem to be doing is bickering, every time we try to talk. I know you're trying hard......I'm going to try too...."

His blue eyes scanned hers for a moment and he pulled away.

"Alright." He replied shortly.

"So, what are we doing?" She turned her gaze to the work surface in front of him.

"Salad. I have steaks, for the barbie......and red wine. And some potatoes, to prick with a fork and wrap in foil. But I'll do them in the oven. I'll wheel it round and put the coals on, light it up, while you do the lettuce......if that's okay?"

"Sure." She smiled at him and applied herself to the task.

The sun began to sink as they sat down at the table to eat. Sue had to grin to herself, as she watched him take the pieces of sweetcorn from the coals, and drop one onto the ground.

She turned away, pretended she hadn't noticed, as he blew on it quickly and balanced it on the plate with the others.

"Well! Jim.....I'm impressed......the steak is actually very good!" She smiled.

"You sound surprised! Is it because it isn't something in a bap.......?" He retorted.

"........Only I could reply with a riposte about popping the film on a microwaveable meal......."

"Okay, okay! I surrender. Let's just eat......" She held up her hands in submission as Jim picked up his glass and held it towards her.

"Sue......a toast. Please. To us."

"I'll drink to that!" They clinked glasses and sipped.

"Um! Good.........!" She said.

".........What shall we do tomorrow? Maybe you could give me that diving lesson!"

"That sounds like a plan, in that case, we'll drink to that too.......what did Helen have to say?"

"Oh, nothing much really, just telling me about her uni stuff, and her new boyfriend......"

"New boyfriend? What new boyfriend?" Jim swallowed heavily.

"His name is Wes.......he's American. Very sweet apparently."

"Oh god! She's my baby daughter, our little girl.....and she going to be having sex, and then swanning off to The States I'll bet! She's only eighteen!"

"May I remind you that I was expecting Stuart when I was eighteen......she's a young woman James, and she's bright and articulate and she can do what she likes! She's far more sensible than we ever were. Not stupid enough to let herself fall pregnant and ruin her life."

"So your life was ruined then? Not one single good thing happened, after you married me.....from Baker Street onwards."

Her husband sighed.

"That's not what I meant. Jim. It isn't. I didn't mean you were what ruined my life......I meant, that she has plans.....hopes, dreams......and she's not foolish.....and we were weren't we? Both of us. We didn't think.....we were just blindly in love. Nothing else mattered!"

"Yeah, I suppose you're right. Makes me feel very old though."

"Me too. Well, sometimes I feel positively ancient, where did the years go? How did we get to this, eh, Jim?"

"Sue.....please can I ask you something.......?" Jim leaned forwards in his chair.

"Fire away Dear! What could possibly go wrong?" She replied with a wave of her hand.

"What do you actually think about me? I mean, do you really hate me? Or are you just angry with me? Is it mendable Sue? I need to know?"

"Jim, I don't hate you!"

"But all those things you said. They keep battering around in my brain. You still hate me for bloody Baker Street?......I mean, that's our whole married life........"

"Jim......I.......I was just lashing out, I didn't mean........"

"And all the other stuff?" He interrupted. "I just seem to constantly irritate and annoy you, with everything I do or say.........is there any love left? Any at all?"

"Of course there is! I don't hate you, you're my husband! Certain things annoy me about you.....but there must be things about me that bug you too? That's human. I just don't think you're the same man I fell in love with twenty years ago, and I'm not the same woman either......we've both changed......how do we find a way back.......where's the magic?"

"We should be going forwards.....not back." He said, quietly and thoughtfully.

She began to sniffle and he was up and with an arm around her shoulder in an instant.
It was duly noted that she didn't shrug him off as she always seemed to latterly.
They sat thus, together, as the evening waned and the stars came out.

"Let's go to bed Jim, I'm tired."

It was with great reluctance that he removed his hand from where it rested comfortably on her shoulder. Many many months had passed since he could remember even the slightest touch like this between them, and his emotions, coupled with the wine, were raw indeed.

"Please tell me we can salvage this?" He whispered, as she led him indoors.

"I want to Jim, dear......I do. I know I said about wanting a divorce. But I don't. Please believe me. I don't. I got out of hand, and I blew my top and all this stuff came out, and most of it was just....I don't know......me looking for a way to wound you......trying to provoke some reaction, some emotion, because you never seem to show any, and I ended up being cruel. I think I wanted to hurt you, because I felt so angry.....it was all inside........we can do this.....you and I......we've come through so much.....but somewhere along the way we got lost, and we've got to find ourselves again. We will. I know we will."

She put her arms around his neck and hugged him for a few moments.

His head came down against her shoulder. There was a tremble in his hands as they rested there on her back.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER FOUR.
DIVING IN.

"Jim, I'm popping into town for an hour. You want to come?"

An odd look flitted across his face, a mixture of surprise and confusion. He hesitated for a second.

"No, I'm good. I'll read my book, you go ahead."

"Maybe when I get back, we'll have a swim.....and that diving lesson you've been threatening me with?"

"Sounds like a plan!"

He watched her drive away. Then went indoors to find his mobile phone.

True to her word she was back by eleven. Toting several carrier bags.

"Alright?" He asked, as she crossed the patio to where he sat reading on the terrace.

"Yep.....and I have something for you.......here!" She tossed him a bag which he fumbled to catch.

"What's this?"

"Look inside and find out......"

Jim peered inside the plastic carrier and drew out a rather nice pair of swimming shorts.
Elasticated at the waist, with a drawstring inside the waistband, a little pocket for 'stuff' at the back. Lined inside, a dark navy blue.

A wry smile played across his lips.

"I'm sorry Jim but lovely though it is, I couldn't see your little arse in those bloody speedos, ever again. They were thin enough to see your 'equipment' through.....no wonder Esther was so mesmerised! You bought those on our honeymoon....and they didn't leave much to the imagination even then!"

"I'll go and try them." He disappeared into the villa, only reappear moments later.......resplendent!

The price tags were still attached however. He tugged at them awkwardly, his hand twisted behind him.

"A, A!" She batted his hand away. "Hold on! I'll cut them, don't pull them, you'll rip the material."

She was very close behind him, her hand folding down the waistband as he stood waiting patiently.
How had she forgotten what nice skin he had?
Pale, he'd always been pale, but it wasn't pasty.......no......not in her eyes, it was delicate, almost transparent, soft.
She felt him give a little flinch as she snipped the plastic which held the tag in place, and folded the elastic back, her fingers brushing against his hip.

He turned to face her, and his expression was coy, painfully self conscious, he was furiously sucking in his abs.

"What do you think then? What's the verdict?" He held his arms away from his sides and did a little twirl.

"A vast improvement on those bloody budgie smugglers!" She laughed.

"Good fit too. Good guess on the sizing!" He looked down at himself critically.

"Jim, I don't have to guess, I know what size you are!"

"Shall we swim then?" He said quickly, heading towards the door.

"Alright, I'll go change and bring some towels."

oOo

Side by side by the edge of the deep end they stood.
His long toes gripping the poolside, as he postured. Arms up, arms down, knees flexed, knees straight.
When he waggled his bottom in preparation she couldn't contain the mirth a moment longer, a fit of giggles hit her.

"Jim, can I tell you something really important....."

"What?" He snapped crossly.

"You can't actually dive! What you do is a belly flop, and it must be really painful."

He gave a huff of irritation.

"Your arms and head have to hit the water first, not your chest and tummy. You need to bend at the waist."

"So you're an expert suddenly?"

"Not at all! Jim, darling, don't be angry. I'm not trying to wind you up, I'm just going by what I saw Esther and Felipe doing, and it isn't what you do.....I know that much."

"I watched what they were doing too, and there wasn't a great deal of diving involved!" Her husband scoffed.

"No, you're right there. No Diving, No Bombing and No Heavy Petting!" Sue's tinkle of merriment hit him suddenly.

When was the last time he'd heard her laugh.....for the sake of laughing? Not counting sarcastic or exasperated laughter, which was AT him, rather than WITH him. The sound almost stopped him in his tracks.

"What's the matter?" She asked him, and he realised he must have been staring at her.

He rallied quickly.

"Nothing. Nothing at all...........come on then, let's give it a go!"

The tidal wave that hit the poolside was of tsunami proportions. Sue disguised her chuckles as best she could.
As he sploshed to the edge and hauled himself out, in a most undignified way, flopping onto the flag stones like a porpoise, his chest and stomach area were flushed red.

He tried again.

"Arms up, bend at the waist, bend your knees slightly and just fall forwards."

"I know....I know.......like an arrow?"

"Yes, like an arrow! Head down......you bring your head up right at the last moment!"

"You do it then.....clever clogs!"

Sue bounced on the balls of her feet a few times in readiness.

My, but she had a nice figure. He'd always admired it, right from the start.
Shapely. Nicely proportioned. Lovely breasts. Kept herself in shape too.

She rose up and seemed to curve over, entering the water smoothly and with barely a ripple.

Surfacing she pushed the hair back out of her face.

"Bloody show off!" He scoffed. "That was beginners luck!"

"Now you do it!" She cried, beckoning to him.

He did.

It was infinitely better than previous attempts.

"Yay!" She crowed. "You did it! Greg Louganis....here we come!"

"Isn't he the dude who smashed his head open?" Jim puffed, as he broke the surface in a flurry.

"Yes....but that was one time out of hundreds of times when it went perfectly!! Well done you!"

oOo

Jim sat down beside her at the pool's edge, their legs dangling into the water.

"Watch your shoulders, you should have a towel or a blouse to cover them."

She turned and looked at him curiously for a moment.

"Shall I fetch you something?" He continued.

"Please, that would be great."

He squelched off in the direction of the sun loungers, where her hat, glasses and clothes were.
Sorting her blouse from the rest, he put the hat on his own head, and returned.

"Doesn't suit you." She smiled up at him, he placed it onto her head and pushed his damp hair back from his forehead, before helping her into the sleeves of the blouse.

"Did we marry by mistake Jim?" She said suddenly.

His eyes widened.

"It was something Felipe was saying, about how he was talking to Esther and she started talking about tying knots, and he didn't understand, so he agreed, they should tie some knots.....and before he knew it, they were engaged. He was engaged by mistake."

"Do you think it was a mistake?" He countered.

"We were so young! What did you think when I told you I was pregnant? Honestly?" She asked, turning to him earnestly.

"Honestly? Panic.........I guess."

Jim furled and unfurled his toes in the water and gave every bit of his attention to them.

"Did we do the right thing do you think?" She probed.

"What are you driving at.....? I think so......yes! I loved you right from the first day I saw you, in Mrs Kingston's class. You were fifteen. Took me bloody ages to pluck up courage to ask you out! Way out of my league.....that's what my mates said!"

"We were really in love......weren't we!" She smiled wistfully.

"Well I certainly was!" He retorted.

"You were very dashing you know......quite dangerous, a little bit off the wall back then, all the girls liked you."

"Well none of them ever bloody told me!"

"Oh they did! They thought you were a stud. They'd have formed an orderly queue!"

"Ha! Rubbish! You were my first time......God, and what a palaver I made of it! Stupid arse!"

"I couldn't wait to do it! I thought it was so grown up, I just wanted it.....kept thinking about what it would be like....then once I'd done it I thought it was all a bit overrated!"

"Thanks very bloody much!" Jim frowned crossly.

"I mean sex generally, not sex with you necessarily! It was all a bit sordid somehow.....back of a car, my parents sofa when they were out, down by the canal......it wasn't exactly romance like in the movies was it!"

"I spose not!"

"I was in love with you though, Jim......I really was.......still am. Couldn't imagine myself with anyone else. Just wouldn't seem right. Never been with anyone else......only you......it always felt right, I guess. Even if you do blow your nose on the bloody flannel!"

With a shriek she landed in the water, blouse, hat and all, as he pushed her in.

She surfaced, grabbed both his sturdy legs and pulled him in alongside her, holding one hand on top of his head to keep him under and the other on his arm.

Pushing her off easily, he took a breath as he came up.......

"Bent my bloody wrist back now!" He moaned.

"Oh, stop being such a baby! You're alright! Come on, let's get dry and get some dinner on, I'm starving!"

"Good idea......and it's definitely beer o clock.......!"

He followed her inside, and his heart felt strangely lighter.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER FIVE
EVENING.

"What are we eating tonight? This is one of the pitfalls of self catering." Sue was sitting beside the pool again, sketching the view across the valley rather pleasingly.

A grunt and a stifled snore answered her, as her husband snapped back to wakefulness.

"What time is it?" He murmured.

"Five!"

"Humph! Time to get ready then......." He sat up and rubbed his eyes, his book had fallen shut where it had been across his lap, unread.

"Get ready for what?" She turned to look at him questioningly.

"Going out! For dinner. Cab's booked for half six." He smirked with satisfaction.

"What? We're going out.......for dinner.......?"

"Yes.....I'm taking my beautiful wife out on a date.......cab's booked, restaurant's booked....."

"I'm shocked Jim! Pleased.......and shocked!"

"I wanted to surprise you."

"I'd better hurry up then.....natural beauty takes a lot more working on these days!" She added as she levered herself up from the sun bed.

"No it doesn't! You're just as attractive as you always were......and always will be......to me anyway."

She stopped dead in astonishment.

"Gosh. Jim. Do you really mean that, or are you just being nice.......?"

"Sue.......I mean it......of course I do.......I just haven't said it often enough, and I'm sorry."

"But how did you?.......when did you..........?"

"Yesterday, after you'd gone into town, I rung and booked it......"

She crossed the patio and placed a kiss against his cheek.

"Well, it's lovely!" She smiled, and went off to the bedroom to change.
Leaving him sitting there, the back of his hand against his face, where her lips had brushed.

oOo

 

The restaurant was a small, family run affair. It was a good sign that locals were eating there, and not just tourists.

The tables were plain but clean and pretty, each one with a red table cloth and a candle in the centre.
Sue helped him decipher the menu and they chose some wine.

Flamenco music played quietly in the background and the atmosphere was pleasant.

"This is lovely, how did you find it?" His wife asked, as she cast her gaze around her.

"I saw it when I came into town with Esther.....we passed it when we were looking for the sock shop. I must have made a mental note."

They ate, sipped their wine and talked. The conversation mainly about rather mundane things.
Forced.
Neither party really knowing what to say to the other, not having had a proper discourse for so long.

"Jim, I want you to tell me all the things about me that irritate you."

Her husband gave an eye roll and huffed audibly.

"Sue, we're having a pleasant evening, we are actually conversing, albeit somewhat stilted, why would you want to spoil it?"

"I don't want to spoil it, but what I do want is honesty. I want us to know where we are, so that we can begin to move passed it. I ranted at you the other day, said a great deal of hate. I want you to do the same......only maybe not rant, maybe just say it......"

"I don't hate anything about you......" He began. "I love you."

"Yes, but how can I know that? Because you never say.....until I shouted at you on Thursday and told you exactly what I thought......Jim, please don't get angry, I'm perfectly calm, and I'll listen, just tell me.....please......."

"I don't know.......I don't know what to say to you......." He looked so stricken that she almost took pity on him, but she knew things needed to be said.

"There is nothing I really hate Sue......hate is a strong word, truly, but there are things that make me sad."

"Then tell me." She reached across the table, and placed her hand over his, her fingers curling into his palm and turning their joined hands over.

"Well, it makes me sad when I see you alone at home all day with nothing to do and no one to talk to, I see you taking those bloody pills, which seem to stop you wanting to take part in living, they just numb you, and that seems to create a vicious circle that you're trapped inside."

Sue's eyes glistened, but she squeezed his hand in encouragement.

"Go on......"

"It makes me sad that we don't seem to do anything together anymore, you have your art class, and I'm glad you do......I like my books, but you're always so patronising about them. I know I'm not an intellectual, I know that! I know you don't like what I read, but it interests me, always has.......I also know it's boring, but you always make a point of telling me that.....and I never say anything about your art. It's your interest and that's fine. Apart from my books, and work.....I don't have anything.
But if I once ask you to do something together, say at weekends, you don't want to."

Suddenly it was as if once started he couldn't stop, he continued quietly and sorrowfully as out it came.

"It makes me sad that you were always so full of life, and now you're just at home, by yourself, and I'm at work.....because I have to be. I wondered if maybe you might like to get a little job, like in a shop or something.....so that you get out and meet new people, instead of being stuck at home with a boring husband who annoys you. But I was too scared to suggest it.
I hate that whenever I go to touch you, you flinch away like I've burnt you.....like you can't stand to be near me.
I hate that so much Sue.....it makes me feel horrible. Really horrible. Because I don't know what to do, or say.......because whatever I do or say it's always wrong, and you jump down my throat with a sarcastic put down, you shut me out, push me away, then say I never touch you.
You said to me, the other day.......that I look at you as if you're a big disappointment.......that's not true.
I'm not disappointed in you.........I'm disappointed in me.
Because I don't make you happy anymore. I just irritate you, and I've made you lose interest in everything. It's my fault. I've become a monster. It pains me more than I can say. Caught up in meaningless little things, like radiators, and shouting at the telly, and all that other stuff.
You put all your heart and soul into looking after the kids, and me, all this time, and now it's like someone's switched you off.
You're not valid anymore. You don't see the point in anything anymore. And that makes me very very sad indeed, and yes.......I hate it. There! I said it. I hate it......I can't bear it. I want my wife back........"

A choke welled up in his throat and he could not continue. His head drooped and a tear ran down his face.

"God! Jim. If you're a monster then what am I?" She quaffed her wine rapidly.

"We've never talked about it have we? We just closed down. Both of us!" She held on to his hand tight.

"I did try to talk at first, but you'd just get upset. And it hurt so much I couldn't bear it. So I'd leave it alone. Pour myself into more hours at work, become so bloody indispensable that Keith just thinks he can bloody ring me day and night......like the whole place would fall down without me. Of course it won't, but it was all I had.....to feel I was needed, and that I valuable in some way. I guess it's exactly the same for you.......isn't it? Except your crutch.....the kids......have been taken away....and so you feel like you have nothing."

oOo

By the time Jim settled the bill and they left the restaurant Sue was decidedly squiffy. He had to help her into the taxi, and she promptly fell asleep on his shoulder.

Hauling her out at the other end was a mission, but he managed. She flopped unceremoniously onto the bed, face down, fully clothed.
For a moment or two he considered undressing her and putting her nightie on, but then thought better of it.
Leaving her where she lay, he covered her over with a blanket tenderly, removed his own trousers and shirt, and sat down on the chair next to the bed, in his boxers.
Watching her sleep.

He felt exhausted. Wrung out.

Yet he didn't feel one bit like sleeping. For an hour he sat, arms folded, listening to her deep breathing. Then he made his way to the kitchen, made himself a cup of tea and went outside into the balmy night air.

Sitting himself on a sun lounger, with a towel over his legs, he lay looking up for a while at the stars, wheeling above him, a thousand tiny points of light, so very far away.

How small he felt. How insignificant. How much he loved her, had always loved her. When did he stop telling her? When did he last really notice she was even there?

His eyes grew heavy, the meal and the wine making him more and more sleepy.

Within ten minutes he was snoring noisily.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER SIX.
SMOKE.

The next day Jim ached all over. Every muscle, every joint. Sleeping the night on a sun lounger was not to be recommended.

The good news was that his foot infection seemed to have miraculously cleared up, so he abandoned the special socks for good. Which was just as well, because he felt, and looked, like an idiot wearing them.

Sue had a terrible hangover.

Disgusted with herself, although Jim was quick to tell her that it didn't matter......she let her hair down......it was all good!
He scurried round and made her breakfast and coffee, as she sat at the table, her head in her hands, groaning every now and then.
Then found some paracetamol for her head, which pounded as if Sheila E was inside it. At least that was how she described it to him.
When he nodded sagely and commiserated with her, she was relieved he actually knew who Sheila E was........Felipe had never heard of her.
Jim listened patiently as she recounted her conversation with him, when she'd likened herself to Prince's drummer in her ra-ra dress on her wedding day.

"Well he wouldn't remember would he......twenty years ago he was three!! Anyway........you looked great on our wedding day. When I saw you walk down the aisle I was so proud I was marrying you. And your bump hardly showed at all!"

"Pah! I told him........I can hardly bear to look at those bloody photos now. It's like looking at different people. You with your suit sleeves rolled up. Those bloody white fingerless gloves....what was I thinking?"

"Always the put down! Always the self depreciation! What you wore was the fashion, and you looked great to me. Sue, don't talk about it anymore.......it'll make you maudlin.....why don't we go for a walk or something? It's not too hot, and it might help my aches and pains!"

"Alright......come on then......how about we wander over to that vineyard we spotted from the road, when we drove in? The sign said it was open to visitors.....we could bring back a bottle or three?"

oOo

There was more breeze today, and the temperature was cooler. Perfect weather for a walk.
On the picnic day, they'd walked several paces apart, never so much as touching, now they wandered side by side.
Sue reached for his hand, caught and held his fingers with her own.

Jim stopped dead and turned to look at her, his eyes scanning her face intently, then glancing down at their joined hands, smiling slightly.

"You okay with this?" Sue said, suddenly looking anxious.

"It's nice." He replied. "Long time since we held hands.....long time."

Their walk continued without further comment. The silence companionable rather than awkward.

The vineyard owner was a jovial friendly man, he introduced his wife, they met his daughter, they even met the family dog! He gave them several different wines to taste, white, rosé and red. Inside the cellar was deliciously cool. All the wooden barrels lined up on stands, a wonderful smell of old oak, and fermentation. Cobwebs and dust of centuries.
It had been his father's and his father's father's the man told them proudly, back through five generations.
Jim purchased several bottles, the vintner offering them fresh baked bread with cured meats and olives, which they graciously accepted, as the walk had made them ravenously hungry.

Both were pleasantly mellow for the walk home, not drunk, but gently inebriated.

oOo

In the kitchen, Jim hunted for, and found the corkscrew, and took two chilled glasses out to where Sue was resting in her favourite spot beside the pool.
As it progressed, the day warmed up and now it was a delicious balmy early evening.
The walk back had tired them, the place had been a little further than they thought, but after a restorative swim, and some dinner, they were right as rain again.

"I've really enjoyed this afternoon Jim......it was fun wasn't it?"

Her husband smiled and nodded, unable to find adequate words.

Suddenly Sue remembered something, and setting her glass to one side she went into the villa.

"Where are you going?" He asked to her retreating back.

"Back in a mo.....I've just remembered something." She shot back over her shoulder.

She emerged several minutes later with what looked like a home rolled cigarette and a lighter.

"Is that what I think it is?" Jim frowned censoriously.

"Yes. It bloody is. Felipe left it for me, said I might be glad of it. And I'm gonna damn well smoke it.....care to join me?"

"Join you in your crack den?" He scoffed.

"Oh stop it Jim. Don't be such a prude. You've smoked it before, I remember you used to quite like it at one time.....where's the harm? Let it go.....eh?"

She lit the joint and sucked in a puff, blowing the smoke out luxuriously, and leaning back, with her eyes closed.

"Here!" She said, cocking one eye open. "Take it!"

Jim took the spliff between thumb and forefinger and took a long drag.
It took a little while and a few more lugs, but gradually a calm and pleasant tingle seemed to creep over him, from the tips of his toes to the roots of his hair. He felt something else stir too.
Arousal.
It had been in the back of his mind for a couple of days, since she'd kissed his cheek.
Jesus! What he wouldn't give now for a........

The butt was passed back and forth between them until it was gone.

Between the weed and the wine, they were both soon in an extremely relaxed state.

There was no one to see them, and neither cared much now anyway.

"I feel lighter than air.....like I'm floating." She giggled.

"I'm going in......" Without further ado she stripped off her sundress to her swimsuit beneath and waded slowly into the water.

Jim watched for a few moments, then, as if coming to a momentous decision, did the same......shirt over his head, shorts and pants off, swimming trunks on.

"Oooo! Jim! I saw your cute little bottom then!" She called, from the shallow end.

Jim gave her a withering look and plunged in, swimming submerged and surfacing right beside her. Face to face.

Her laughter faded as he looked at her, his intense gaze direct and piercing.

"Kiss me Jim." She whispered, touching his face. " Kiss me like you used to."

His arms came around her neck, without hesitation, his hand on the back of her head. As their lips touched, she sucked in a little excited breath. He was so tentative to begin with, almost as if he were afraid, but he quickly gained confidence and the kiss strengthened. When she reciprocated, they sunk into each other with a mutual sigh.

"No heavy petting!" He murmured as he eventually pulled away, his nose touching the end of hers.

"That was.......!" She was breathless, her mouth still wet from his.
He held her face in his hands gently.

"God! Sue.....I love you so much you know.......I really do."

He renewed his assault a second, then a third time, tugging her close to him, as they stood together chest deep in the pool. His hands on her back now, holding her in place as his mouth worked against hers.
One knee pushed its way between her thighs, moving her legs apart, as his hands wandered, first to her breasts, caressing her through the wet swimsuit, then down to between her legs.

"Christ! Jim.....lets get out of the water......I want you to......to......please......."

He released her from his embrace, offering her his hand to lead her from the water, they made it as far as the nearest sun lounger before she was tugging down the shoulder straps of her costume urgently, and pulling it down around her waist.

"You are bloody gorgeous." He hissed, his face against her chest, kissing, nibbling, touching with his tongue, making her gasp aloud.
His swimming shorts clung to him, and she could see the outline of his manhood, the wet fabric pressed against him provocatively.

"Oh god! Jim......you are so......I want you, please make love to me.....right here......I feel as if I'm going to explode.......I need to feel you, and to know that you still want me......."

"Of course I still want you, I want you desperately......."

Peeling off his damp trunks immediately, he was suddenly naked and resplendent before her, it had been a long time since she'd seen him like that, a long time since she'd even touched him there, stroked his hardness, felt him keening, and known his need for her.

Sitting up she lifted her backside and shimmied her swimsuit down and off. They were finally naked together, under the stars, all inhibitions gone, a flurry of kissing, touching and sweet caressing.
Gasps and moans from both of them as he pushed himself inside her, and began to move slowly, deliberately, saying her name, whispering endearments into her ear, driving her onwards, touching her sweet spot with each long thrust, filling her with an insatiable desire for him, her head thrown back, mouth open, lost in silent pleasure.
She was coming almost before she knew it, building to a rapid crescendo, crying out, as she felt him nearing his peak too.

"Christ Sue....I've missed this."

"I bloody love you Jim! Do it! Do it!" She cried, as he sank into her for the final time. His body pulsing, releasing, then gradually stilling within her.

Falling forwards as his arms gave way, he started to weep with the immensity of it all, not helped by the effects of the booze and the grass.
All emotions crashing through him at once, as he lay in her arms and sobbed until there were no tears left.

And she, uncomplaining, held on to him tight, stroking his hair. Crooning to him gently. Soothing him as best she could.

"My husband. My love. My best friend."

Chapter Text

CHAPTER SEVEN.
BED.

 

James Dawson was dreaming.

In his dream he was snuggled against a beautiful woman, he was warm, comfortable and felt incredibly safe.
As is often the case in dreams, his limbs were leaden, and he was unable to move or speak. Try as he might.
A deep soporific slumber, restful, peaceful and relaxed.
There was sunshine, a bright light which seemed to pierce his closed eyelids. Almost blinding in its intensity.

When he finally woke, he found it was true.

The rays of the morning sun were pouring through the open windows.
His head was against Sue's chest. Their arms and legs entwined around each other.

She was still deeply asleep.

They were both nude.

He didn't remember how he came to be there.

It was hazy.

He closed his eyes again, trying to make sense of it. There was a dim memory of falling asleep on the sun lounger with her beneath him, and love......passionate love. He remembered that alright.

No way he could forget that!

The intensity, the sense of euphoric happiness. Completion.
His wife stirred under him and opened her eyes.

"Morning wife." He whispered.

He felt her lips smile against his skin.

"Morning husband!"

Delicately she placed a little kiss against the pulse point in his neck, making him shiver.
Raising himself, he separated from her and swung his legs out of the bed.

"Where are you going?" She groaned, trying to pull him back.

"Need to pee.....back in a mo!"

She watched him do his funny little tripping waddle as he disappeared into the bathroom. Smiled to herself at the accompanying sounds, then he was back.
Running on tip toes, penis and balls all on view. His tummy sucked in.

He snuck back under the coverlet, and resumed his cuddle.

Sue's arms came around him and she held him against her, close. Her hands splayed across his back, one leg between his. He began to pepper her with tiny kisses, on her neck, her throat, down between her breasts, shifting himself for better access.
A hum of approval and a little giggle came from her as she squirmed slightly under his ministrations.

"Jim!..........Oh sweet lord!"

He'd taken one of her nipples into his mouth, teasing it gently. Turning onto her side she began to stroke his growing erection with the palm of her hand.

A small whimper came from him and he thrust into her willing fingers.

Before he could get into position, she moved him onto his back with her weight.

"Lay back and think of England!" She murmured into his ear, adjusting herself and sitting astride him.
The sight that met his eyes as he looked up at her was mesmerising.

Her eyes were bright with an inner fire, mouth slightly open as she took him inside her, sinking down onto him and then slowly beginning to move up and down.
Riding him, looking down into his face, her head thrown back slightly as the pleasure began to course through her. Breasts bouncing in time with her movement.

"So bloody beautiful!" He hissed as she sat forwards slightly to allow him to thrust upwards.
Their hands joined and clasped, as she reached her climax, causing him to feel every ripple from inside her, bringing him rapidly to his own conclusion, with a gasp of sheer bliss.

oOo

He made tea for them.
Bought it back to bed.

They drank it, dozed off for a while.

She rose, put some bread in the toaster, coffee on a tray, the pair of them sat up, leaning against the headboard side by side, still naked, eating it.

Buttery fingers. Crumbs everywhere.

"I have crumbs where crumbs shouldn't be!" She laughed.

"Let me help you with those."

Taking the tray from her lap and setting it aside, he peeled the sheet from her, and crawled between her legs, easing them apart.....his hands on her knees.

"Jim, what on earth are you doi.........."

".........Oh my good god!" She cried as she felt the first touch of his tongue between her legs.

In moments she was arching her back, begging him not to stop, professing her undying devotion, the cries and moans he was eliciting from her growing in intensity as he bought her closer and closer to the precipice, she came with a wail of ecstasy.
Her body writhing under him.

"Sweet Jesus! Jim!"

"Was that okay?" He enquired shyly, as he resurfaced.

"Good god above!" She panted breathlessly. "Who are you and what have you done with my bloody husband?"

He gave a coy smile, and creeping up the length of her body he kissed her hard on the mouth, letting her taste herself.

"You're such a beautiful woman Sue. I love every inch of your body. Touching you and giving you pleasure, is my pleasure."

oOo

Lunchtime came and went. Someone's stomach growled.

"Was that you or me?" Jim enquired with a raised eyebrow.

They were laying on top of the covers now, as the heat of the day had begun to bite.
Underneath them the sheets a tangled mess.

"I feel sticky, and hungry, but I don't want to move!" Came the muffled reply. Her head tucked under his chin, one arm slung lazily across his stomach.

"Let's shower and eat!" He suggested.

He eased himself reluctantly from her, but to his surprise she followed him into the bathroom.

"Are you getting in first, or am I?" He asked, glancing at his stubbled chin in the mirror.

"Yes." She responded with a grin.

"What? Together? Seriously?" He looked scandalised.

She nodded and stepped under the spray, pulling him in behind her.

They stood very close......they hadn't much choice.

"This is going to turn me on. You....wet......soapy......God! Sue, you've got great tits.....have I ever told you you've got great tits?"

She was giving him a wicked 'come hither' smile, as she lathered her hands and began to soap him all over.
When she reached between his legs to pump him, he yelped with surprise and almost slid over, banging one elbow against the tiled wall.

"Ow! Bugger! Oh god! Sue, yeah......that's really........crikey......mmm, hmm.....that's so good......holy moly........Sue, I'm gonna......if you keep doing that.......I'll......."

As the flowing water washed away the suds she sank down to her knees in front of him, her hands on his hips, he looked down to see her take him into her mouth, looking up at him as she did so, making sure he saw her take his length. She repeated the movement several times, until his legs almost buckled under him, although she held him steady. Gradually leaning himself back against the shower wall for support, she kept going until he was crying out, spilling himself, clutching at her, his knees giving way. Sinking down into her arms as the shower water flowed over them both.

oOo

It was after five when they finally dragged themselves from the bed.

"I can't ever remember a day spent like that......even when we were young......even before Stuart was born, when we first married........a whole day in bed........" Sue was musing as she stood at the stove in the kitchen.

"I can't remember having sex more than twice in one day either!" Jim threaded his arms around her waist, peering over her shoulder into the pan.

"What are you making? It smells really good!" He sniffed appreciatively.

"It's paella." She nuzzled into his embrace.

"From scratch? No packets?" He smiled.

"Ah huh. I used to love cooking......didn't I?" She turned to look at him.

"You did.....you used to make delicious things.....the kids always said your roasts and cakes were the best!"

"I don't know what happened Jim. I just lost the will to do anything. Nothing seemed to be fun anymore." A look of sadness swept over her face.

"Shall I go and set the table outside, it's a lovely evening again.....?"

"Okay, it'll be ready soon. Open some of that white we bought from the vineyard. It'll go with the meal nicely.

oOo

Darkness fell and the cicadas began their soothing song.
The wine bottle empty, Jim stood up suddenly and reached for the iPod, on its little stand next to the dinner table.

"Shall we have some music?" He said, there was a hint of merriment in his voice.

Sue laughed.

"Jim! As long as what you've got on there is better than pixie face and her bloody guitar!"

"Oh, I think you'll like this!" He retorted.

He held out his hand to her.

"Come and dance with me?"

She giggled girlishly.

"Jim, I know you're really trying, but you don't have to do this.....I know you don't really dance!"

"You're wrong......I do dance......I can, and I want to dance with you.......my wonderful wife........"

In the background the song began. It was Marvin Gaye, "You're All I Need to Get By."

Sue's hands went up to her mouth, her face crumpled and she began to sob.

"Oh Jim! Jim! This was what I wanted, on our wedding day! How did you find it?"

She melted into his arms, clinging around his neck as she cried.

He swayed her from side to side along with the song, kissing her hair tenderly, his hands resting just above her backside.

"Please forgive me for bloody Baker Street." He whispered. "I love you Sue, you are my whole bloody life."

"Well, it WAS quite funny when you started playing me like a sax though!" She murmured. "You know what Jim? This is the perfect end to a perfect day. This holiday has really turned around, don't you think?"

"You wanna know what I think?" His lips were close to her ear. "I think I bloody love you Mrs Dawson. I bloody love you to bits!"

"And I bloody love you too! And I really appreciate how much effort you've made. You're a wonderful man, thank you Jim. Thank you so much, you've made me feel really special today, really loved."

He kissed her in the moonlight as the song ended. The next song on the playlist began straight afterwards.......Gerry Rafferty........Baker Street.

Sue Dawson began to laugh.......she laughed even though there were still tears in her eyes, they laughed heartily together, their tummies hurting, chests aching, for the first time in a very long time indeed.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER EIGHT.
TRYING SOMETHING NEW.

It was day eight of their eleven remaining days.
Two more whole days before they returned home.

Time passed so quickly. Sue wished they could have another week, because she suddenly felt more alive than she had for more than a year.

It was a wonderful feeling.

Her relationship with her husband was a partnership again. Many things had come out into the open. Truths told. Problems discussed. He knew how she felt. She had discovered how hard it had been for him too.

They found their common ground. Regained their respect for one another, and with it rekindled the love.
Their bond was strengthened, they had affirmed it with copious amounts of quite athletic sex! Crikey, but her thigh muscles ached!

This particular morning she'd woken to find herself alone in the bed, but she hadn't immediately risen. She lay on her back, thinking about the second night of passion she'd just spent with her husband of twenty years.

The man who, not so many days ago she felt she could barely stand to be with for one more day.
So stifled and repressed had she been. Locked inside herself.

Now she felt free.

To think she'd told the vacuous Esther that she might have dozed off a couple of times during sex with Jim! There was certainly none of that during the previous two nights! He'd been rampant, insatiable, they'd broken a bloody chair for Christ's sake!

For only the second time in their twenty years!

It was as if they were seventeen again, at it like rabbits......and it was bloody marvellous!

Yawning and stretching, she left the comfort of the enormous bed and went to the window.

There he was, in the pool.

Ploughing up and down.

It was only eight o clock in the morning!

Sue smiled to herself, and tripped lightly down the stairs.

She crossed the patio area and stood by the edge of the pool.

He surfaced close to the side, reaching out his hand blindly to grasp it, his head coming up and finding her bare toes at his eye level.

Slowly his gaze travelled upwards; shins, knees, thighs......pubic hair.......Jim's eyes widened, and he spluttered, as he took a mouthful of chlorine water. Stomach, breasts, smiling face, as she looked down on him.

"Christ Sue! You're naked.....put something on!"

"Nah! I'm going to jump in there with you.......skinny dipping. Who's gonna see? There's no one here!"

She dived in over him and swam smoothly to the deeper end.

"Sublime to the bloody ridiculous!" He called. Hauling himself out. Sue just smirked, because she could see he was aroused.
It gave her a great deal of satisfaction to think the sight her naked body could have that effect on him.
God! It made her feel good!

oOo

"Did I mention you have great tits?" Jim enquired as she prepared fresh fruit for breakfast, and scrambled eggs with toast.

"You may just have mentioned it in passing yeah........!"

".............Jim......we've only got tomorrow and the next day left.......I don't want to go home!"

"Nor do I. Feel like we need another week."

"Well couldn't we take another week? Would it be so terrible? Would the MDF world collapse around our ears?" Sue sipped her morning coffee.

"I think the villa is already booked. I seem to remember the guy saying that the new people arrive just after we leave."

"Jim.....can I say something?"

"Of course......we do that now....okay? We say stuff.......we must......it's important......"

"Well, it isn't anything monumental, but.......I'm scared, and I wanted you to know." Her voice wavered.

Jim stood up, rounded the table and put his arms around her neck as she sat there.

"Tell me......"

"I'm scared that when we go back, things will be different. That we'll revert to how things were. Afraid that we won't be able to sustain it. Because we won't be together like we are here. You'll be back at work and I'll be like fucking Rapunzel again."

His eyebrows raised at her choice of words.

"Well, we need to address that. We seriously need to look at things we can change. I've been making a list as it happens!!"

His wife laughed.

"You......have been making a list?"

"Yes.....I've been giving it a great deal of thought......we can't have you in the house all day alone.....not now that both Stuart and Helen are gone. You need to forge a life outside of me and the house.......get out there, meet people.....do stuff."

"What stuff?"

He kissed her neck tenderly.

"I don't know Sue, but the world is your oyster.......a little part time job maybe, join a gym, or take some classes, something fun, something you enjoy......"

"Mmmm, okay! With you so far.....what else?"

"Well.....me! I need to cut back a bit. Work less hours, be a little less available! More time for you and with you......and not on the bloody phone all the time. I've built this business up over the last fifteen years, it'll more or less carry on without me being on call 24/7. Keith is a good bloke, he knows what he's doing and if I train him up a bit more I can leave more of the admin to him, take a back seat more often. I can afford to up his salary.......then I can spend more time with you. We need to do stuff together as a couple.......I don't care what it is......an outing sometimes, a few days away, eating out, a walk, a drink.......anything......but just you and me having some fun........"

"Like we used to....as a family?"

"Yes! Before we turned into sad old gits who see nothing in each other except feeling radiators and popping the film on a microwave meal!"

"Love you too Jim!" She scoffed.

"You know what I mean.......!"

".........Also......there's something else I've been thinking about......."

"I'm intrigued, what is it?" She twisted her face to look at him and saw his eyes were shining, excited, nervous, all at once.

"Well......how about we look for a place out here? Maybe a time-share, or a little place to rent, or even buy? I mean......then we could escape from time to time.....the kids could use it.....Helen could bring her Uni friends for a cheap break........and we could have little sneaky getaways and holidays.......would you like that?"

"Are you serious?"

"Completely! It's a nice area, the flight to Barca is only a couple of hours, there's lots to explore here, the pool is nice, it's quiet if we want to be by ourselves, or there's the little town or the City if we don't. It would be our own little haven......what do you think? Am I mad?"

"No Jim. No, you're not mad......my God! But it's a really really lovely idea. I think I'd love it. Can we afford it?"

"Well, we could go into town, have a deco in the Estate Agent's window, see what's available and what prices are like.....they've gone down lately so there might be some good deals around."

"You said to me.....when Esther made that ghastly bloody bouillabaisse, 'why don't you ever want to try something new?' Well......I do........I really do.......lets bloody do it!"

oOo

Jim duly drove them into town.

They had a coffee in a little street corner café, browsed the shops, and then ventured into the local 'agente inmobiliario'.

Out they came with twenty or more properties, a map with directions and very little clue as to what they might be looking for.

"You did your bloody foreign voice again......'we from you properties buy!'" Sue giggled.

"Shut up you! You could just have easily done the talking.....you speaka de lingo!"

"Don't get angry darling, I'm just teasing you!........oh! Look.......it's just up here on the left."

.........It's a strange and well known fact that when one is looking for something, it is quite often the first thing one sees. Be it a pair of shoes, or a dress........or a house. But BECAUSE it's the first thing you see, you're afraid to just say.....'yep! This is it, don't wrap it I'll wear it!'
What one actually does, is trail round to lots of other shops and try on lots of other shoes, or dresses, then go back to the first shop to buy that first pair! Hoping that someone else hasn't bought them in the meantime.........

Jim and Sue drove up the dusty track to the converted farmhouse. It was not on a complex, as many of the others in their pile were.
It stood alone.
Positioned quite near the vineyard they had walked to previously, but on the other side of the hill from where they were currently staying.

Overlooking the wide valley. Same convenient distance from the little town. Secluded.
Made of stone, with flag floors. An open terrace of arches along the back, with a table and chairs for eating al fresco. There was a large paved area, bordered with succulent shrubs and cacti, and a nice pool.
It was screened from the road by mature trees. Not massively large, but two double bedrooms, both with bathrooms. An open plan seating and eating area, and a gorgeous country style kitchen.

Together they wandered the rooms.

Standing on the terrace, Jim's arm slipped around his wife's waist as they both admired the vista.

He was suddenly aware of a sniffle.

Turning he could see Sue was in tears.

"Hey! Hey! Sweetheart!" He turned to face her, gathering her into an embrace. "Hey! Why are you crying? Daft girl!"

She grizzled unashamedly, her head buried against his chest as he comforted her.

"Sorry! Don't know what's wrong with me......I've gone all silly!"

"It is pretty bloody perfect isn't it? Not just me? Are we even gonna look at any of these others?"

"God Jim, it's like everything's gone all X Files........spooky and weird! I just absolutely love everything about this place, and I can see myself here......with you.......enjoying it all. Is that mental?"

"Nope. It's meant to be! That's what it is. It's in our price range too. Or at least the range I'd kinda decided in my mind! I'm just bloody stunned, that's all.......stunned!"

They wandered the place for half an hour more, before reversing the car round and returning to the town.

oOo

Seated beside their pool, Jim was making some frantic phone calls. Organising potential finance, speaking to his bank, putting wheels into motion.

After he hung up, he went over to where his wife was sitting, biting her nails, listening to his half of each conversation.
Down on his knees in front of her, head resting in her lap, arms encircling her legs.

"This is right, isn't it Sue? Frightened we've rushed in where angels fear to tread! Quite brave, don't you think? Not foolhardy I hope?"

Her hand rested on his head, her fingers stroking through his hair.

"It's a new life Jim. Our old lives are done.......kids grown up, independent......now we have a chance to do some of the things we've never done because we had them, or we were too young, and money was tight. We have a chance now......we are not old......loads of years left......happy years.......we get the opportunity to enjoy each other........which we've never really been able to do. What could possibly go wrong eh?"

"Christ.....I honestly feel like I did back then Sue........when we were just starting out......panic, trepidation......bloody terrified.....but in a good way, yeah?"

"Definitely in a good way. Should we tell Stuart and Helen?"

"Not yet. Let's drop it on them when we get back. Be a big surprise!"

Sue chuckled.

"It'll be that alright." She said.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER NINE
DOWN THE PAN.

A shower of rain washed the dust out of the air, everything smelled fresh and clean.
When the sun broke through, mist rose from the shrubs and trees surrounding them, before dissipating and fading into a clear bright day.

Jim had moved onwards and upwards from 'Rise of the Nazis' and was now engrossed in 'Genghis Khan and the Mongol Horde' by Harold Lamb. A cheery little tome, but fascinating to Jim nonetheless.

Glancing at his watch, he realised that it had been a while since he'd seen or heard Sue. She been pottering about in the kitchen, preparing food. He'd offered to help but she'd shooed him away, so he snagged a crafty beer from the fridge and made his escape.

Folding the corner of his page, he levered himself up and went in search of her. Calling her name when he found the kitchen deserted.

oOo

Sue Dawson sat on the toilet, with the top seat down.

She'd been there for almost an hour.

Battling with herself. Christ! Should she do this?

Every fibre of her being told her that what she wanted to do, what she was thinking of doing, was the wrong thing.

Jim would be upset. He might even be angry she'd not spoken to him first.

In her lap was her complete stash of pills.

The crutch that she'd leaned on these last months.

It had taken her a while to seek help. She knew she wasn't feeling right. Lassitude, tearfulness, anxiety attacks, it all crept up on her slowly but surely. Undermining her confidence, destroying every tiny ounce of happiness she once felt.

Jim didn't really know what was going on, he'd tried to understand, but he couldn't, not really.
Mind you, he was kind.......he tried to be loving......but she'd shut him out. Closed herself off.
She knew it was true and she also knew it wasn't entirely his fault, or anyone's fault.

It just happened.

First Stuart left home, then Helen moved out, and her life just seemed to unravel. Fall apart. The days melding into one long painful struggle.
Sleepless nights, pointless days.

Her husband hurt and confused by the change in her and unable to help.

One of many hundreds of women of her age. Feeling lonely, unloved, inadequate and without purpose.
That fucking label......"empty nest syndrome."
How pathetic did that make her feel?

Now things were different.

Sue and Jim had somehow managed to pull it out of the bag.

She had stepped onto that plane with a sense of foreboding. Two whole weeks to get through, to put up with him, to have him close to her where she couldn't bear him to be, and now......now she realised, that she'd never once talked to him. Not really.
When he'd asked her about how she felt she'd just cried, shouted at him, and told him to leave her alone.

Poor Jim.

He must have missed the kids too. He sure as hell missed her. Told her so, only yesterday.

"I've missed you so much Sue."

Felt like he'd lost her, except she was still there. Had never felt so alone, or so helpless.

He'd cried......again, and she'd never really seen him cry before. Hold it all in, be a man......don't show weakness.

Watching twenty years crumble to dust and knowing that he still loved her desperately. Wanted her, fancied her.
They'd always had a pretty healthy sex life, but it all stopped. And as the months passed he grew more and more afraid.
Scared to even so much as touch her......so many times, he confessed.......
Not necessarily sex, just a cuddle......some warmth.......but there was nothing there.
So he assumed it was all him.
She didn't fancy him anymore. Didn't want him. Surplus to requirements.

It damn near broke his heart.

She stared down at the bottle.

There were a lot of tablets. More than a hundred.

Jim didn't know it, but since she'd watched Esther drive away in her cab, she'd only taken a couple. That was several days now.

She wanted to be free.

But she was terrified. She knew if she sought advice the medics would council her to wait. Be cautious. Wean herself off slowly. But she didn't want to. She wanted to be Sue again. She felt stronger now, and with Jim's help and support she could do this.

Because he knew now. He knew how she felt, he understood. He would be there. She was certain. Always.

Just as he'd been when they were seventeen and she'd broken the news to him that she was pregnant.

Whatever he may have thought privately at the time, whatever his parents had said to him.....and she knew they'd given him grief.......
'You're too young Jim.......don't get yourself tied down......she doesn't have to have the kid......she can get rid of it.......or get it adopted......you'll ruin your life.......you don't know what you're doing........it's as much her fault as yours.......you could have had a bright future.....gone to college, travelled abroad......you're a bright lad Jim......and she's just a tramp.......'

Yes......he'd taken an awful lot of grief, and he'd never once listened to them.

Never.

It was his child he said, his responsibility, and he'd look after them both........and he damn well had.......

Sue began to sob as the memories flooded through her.

He didn't abandon her, he married her, he loved her, he stayed.

God, how she'd loved him for that. Clung to him, relied on him, as her own parents disowned her.
Without him she'd be dead, she was sure of it, she'd never have coped alone.

He'd worked so hard. Been so loyal. Never given her cause to worry.

Pouring a dozen tablets into her hand, she stood up, lifted the lid, threw them in and flushed.

Just then came a furious knocking on the door.

"Sue! Sue! What are you doing in there? Open the door!"

"Go away Jim. I'm fine!" She'd been crying so hard it was impossible to make her voice sound unaffected.

"SUE! Let me in! OPEN THIS DOOR!" His tone was frantic, the door knob rattling.

The door flew wide with an almighty crash from the force of Jim's shoulder, and he was catapulted through it, almost falling into the bath.

"Sue! What are you doing? Oh my god! How many have you taken?"

The horror and fear in his voice stopped her, mid handful, with a jolt.

He'd thought she was in there to swallow them.

She turned to face him, opening her fist, where another two dozen pills lay, she threw them into the toilet and flushed the chain again.

Watching him, she saw as the penny dropped.

He sank down onto the floor in relief, his shock palpable.

"God! I thought........" He whispered.

"No, Jim. They're going. All of them.......I don't want to take them anymore. I've just been sitting up here plucking up the courage."

"But you shouldn't Sue......they should be reduced slowly.......tailed off......not just stopped dead.....you might get withdrawal symptoms, it might make you ill."

She sat down on the floor next to him and they held each other tight.

"I've only taken two this whole week........"

".........I've been okay. A little bit tearful, but okay......I was a bit dizzy, the day after our evening out, but I think that might have been the joint........!"

"........I've got to do this Jim. I need to. I want my life back."

He kissed her then, fervently, passionately.

"You're the bravest, most wonderful woman I have ever known!" He whispered.

His kisses turned tender, his hands on her, trying to push her down onto her back.......she pulled away with a giggle.

"Jim......we're on the bathroom floor........seriously........?"

His expression was one of amused irreverence.

"So what?"

"Well, the tiles are bloody cold for a start......and there's not much room......I wouldn't want you to bang your head on the sink!"

"Felipe told me Esther did that........hit her head on the low ceiling.......when they were furiously copulating.......knocked herself out." Jim mused, with a smirk.

Sue exploded into a fit of laughter.

"Esther told me she passed out from the sheer intensity of the sex.......Le petit mort......the little death she called it.......bloody little liar!"

Jim threw back his head and roared.

"Well, I think I know who I believe!"

He struggled to his feet and held his hand out to her.

"Come on, up you get......lets take this elsewhere! I'm not done with you yet!"

"Jim!" She giggled. "You say the nicest things!"

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TEN.
LAST DAY.

Waking naked and curled together comfortably in bed had become the norm.

Sue moved away from her husband's limpet embrace and stretched, yawning expansively and sitting up.

"Our last day!" She murmured.

A cacophony of grunts and snorts came from Jim as he came from a deep sleep and into the land of the living.

"Mmmph!" He said, feeling for her body without turning his head.

"I can't believe we are going tomorrow." She continued, turning back to look at him fondly.

"The thought of this fortnight was so horrible, I didn't think I could possibly get through it....and look at us now!" She smiled down at him.

"C'mere." He whispered, holding his arms out to her.

She nestled herself under his wing, her head against his chest with a happy sigh.

"Jim, I'm so lucky I've got you, you're such a dear......"

"I'm the lucky one.....always have been. You're a wonderful woman, wife, and mother. Thank you Sue.....for everything."

"Stop it! You're gonna have me blubbing again......and we're having none of that on our last day! It's going to be a happy day......a nice day.......a lazy day."

"What shall we do?" He kissed the top of her head gently.

"Nothing! Just enjoy the sunshine, have a swim, drink some wine, and just chill."

"Sounds pretty perfect! Can we have nooky too? Pretty please?"

Sue giggled.

"Yes, Jim! We can have nooky.....if that's what you want! What are you trying to do....make up for lost time?"

"Dunno......just wanna do it.......I've missed it so much.....just being close......really, really missed it.....makes me feel like you want me again, that you're not sick of me.....and it makes me feel like I used to feel......when you welcome me and don't push me away anymore."

"Oh God Jim! I'm so sorry, I hurt you so much, I can't believe I was such a cow. That you wanted me so badly, and I was so horrible to you......I'm truly sorry I did that to you. Made you feel like that."

"Doesn't matter. Done now. Over. Forgotten. Just being able to talk to you again, or cuddle you.....that's nice by itself.......without all the rest. It's not all about the sex......honestly.....although that's pretty damn good, it's about feeling close. I hated being denied that."

"You hungry?" She asked, as his stomach interrupted by making loud burbling noises.

"Guess I must be!" He laughed.

"Come on.....lets have a nice breakfast out on the terrace.....I've got fruit and eggs, bacon and toast....and good coffee."

It was a glorious day.

They sat opposite each other, and talked......properly.
Not stilted, not forced.
A proper conversation........about everything.......
Their pretty bloody amazing kids, the place they were hopefully purchasing, the future, all the little nuances of their twenty years of history together.

Today they were not just husband and wife, they were best friends.

Everything they'd shared a treasured memory. Locked away and held inside.

Stupid things that made them both laugh.

Like Stuart loosing his first tooth when he was sitting in school assembly. Helen dressing up in Sue's high heels and stealing her crimson lipstick, which she proceeded to paint almost her entire face with.
Jim bringing home a puppy, which promptly peed on the carpet, and chewed the front off his best boots.

Times which bought tears to their eyes.

The moment Stuart came into the world. The enormity of it, for both of them, at eighteen years old. Feeling completely overwhelmed and shit scared.
Jim losing his job, and not knowing what on earth to do next. Never having two pennies to rub together, when they were first married, wondering how they'd manage. Sue's mother passing away without ever being reconciled to her only daughter.

So many things they'd shared. Up's and downs. Thick and thin. For better or worse, richer or poorer......

Just chatting.......normally.

It was wonderful.

Later they swam in the pool......splashing around, punctuated by hoots of hysterical laughter as Jim pretended to be a shark whilst singing the 'Jaws' music.....their arms around each other, kissing.....then suddenly becoming aware they were not alone......

Breaking their deep snog, they were interrupted by a discrete cough, and two strangers approaching.

"Um, hi! Sorry to disturb!" The man began, clearly embarrassed.

Jim and Sue separated slowly and both turned their heads at the same time, unable to suppress fits of giggles.

"I'm Terry......this is my wife Janet.......we have just arrived." He pointed to the neighbouring villa, which had been Esther and Felipe's. "Staying there."

"Hi!" The Dawson's both chorused together.

"Jim and Sue!" Sue smiled, pulling herself together, but not parting from Jim or releasing him from her embrace.

"I'm guessing you're on honeymoon?" Terry winked dramatically. "So are we! Second time around? It is for us!"

Jim opened his mouth to speak, but Sue beat him to it.

"Well, no actually." She beamed. "Jim's my new boyfriend. We only met the other day!"

"Oh! Gosh! Wow.....that's er......that's great." Terry replied, shifting a little awkwardly. "Well perhaps we'll see you round!"

"Well, sadly we leave tomorrow." Sue responded, keeping her face deadly serious.
"Jim has to go back to work and I have to go back to my husband."

Jim could not look at either Terry's or Sue's faces, and turned his head away, his mouth twisted in a valiant and not entirely successful attempt at holding in his mirth.

When their new neighbour had gone. Sue exploded.

"What a bloody thing to say! To total strangers!.......I mean! We could have been anything! Why would you just say that? So nosy too.....not to mention rude. Silly bugger."

"That wasn't very friendly." Jim scolded. "Although I have to say, you gave him what he deserved."

"Thank god they haven't been here all week!" Sue continued crossly. Then imitated Terry's voice in a sing song manner.
"Guessing you're on honeymoon? Second time round for us! Stupid arse!"

"I suppose we should take it as a compliment, that he thought we were newly married." Jim said as he left the water and wrapped himself in a towel.

"Bloody good job we weren't skinny dipping too." He added.

"Pah! I wish we had been. Given him something to look at." His wife replied curtly.

oOo

As evening progressed Sue began to prepare them an evening meal.

Jim was busying himself and she was rather annoyed he wasn't helping.
However, her anger melted away in an instant, when she bought out the food, and found that, not only had he laid the table on the terrace, and poured the wine but he had also set several dozen candle lanterns all along the edges of their covered area, and out towards the pool, making it look like a fairyland.

"Oh Jim! How lovely!" She beamed, setting the food down before him.

"It's so pretty. All lit up. You are so brilliant. What made you think of it?" She kissed him warmly and they clinked their glasses together.

"Here's to us." He said quietly. "And here's to the next twenty years. Health, love and happiness."

She joined him in the toast.

"To Health, love and happiness!" She repeated, her eyes glistening.

"I found all these lanterns in the store cupboard yesterday, they've been there all along. Shame I didn't know, because they're lovely. When we get our place, we must get some.....create an ambiance don't they?" He beamed, admiring his handiwork.

"Lovely! A perfect end to a wonderful holiday. Do you think the kids will ever know just what they did for us by giving us this anniversary present?" She asked, looking down at him.

"Not unless we tell them. Do you think they were aware that all wasn't well with us......do you think that's why they gave us the break in the first place?" He stroked her arms as she held them around his neck, leaning over from behind him, where he sat.

"I'm not sure. If they did it was extremely clever of them." She smiled.

"Well, they are extremely clever children, so I'm guessing they took a calculated risk.....and it's paid off......big time! I feel like we should thank them, and tell them." Jim twisted his head to kiss her.

"Oh, I think they'll know soon enough. When we get back. I don't think we'll have to say much. It'll be self evident."

They fell to kissing deeply. Breaking with great reluctance.

"Food'll get cold." Sue murmured.

"Yeah." He responded, kissing her again.

"Or I could just reheat it." She whispered, sitting herself astride his lap, and taking his face in her hands tenderly.

"Sue! How old are we? We can do this afterwards......how about we eat!" He laughed.

"Always the sensible one! But you're right. It'll spoil. Let's set to!"

Their new neighbours appeared to have gone out to eat, and as they were to be uninterrupted, Jim and Sue went for a moonlit naked swim.

Afterwards they were laying together on a sunbed.

"What if they come back?" Jim whispered, as she began to stroke his manhood seductively.

"Then they'll get an eyeful." She breathed. "I don't care! We'll be gone tomorrow before they're even up!"

"True!" He hissed. Taking her earlobe into his mouth and sucking on it gently.

"Christ! Jim! That is so turning me on!" She squirmed and quickened her caressing of him.

"That is the general idea!" His mouth continued down her neck.

"Did you used to do that to me before? I don't remember.....and I think I would definitely remember you doing that!" She wriggled under him as he shifted position, prior to entering her gently.

"Sue......" He breathed.

"What?" Her voice no more than a gasp as he slid inside her.

"Stop bloody talking."

Chapter Text

CHAPTER ELEVEN.
HOME.

Sue was sitting on top of her suitcase, desperately trying to zip it up.

"Jim, help me can you? I can't bloody do this, cab'll be here in a minute!"

Her husband joined her, and their combined weight allowed her to tug the zipper round.

"I was seriously thinking I'd have to try and put the rest in the hand luggage." She groaned.

"I can't believe you've bought that much stuff......the only extra that I'm going home with is a pair of swimming trunks....and I threw the speedos away."

"You should have burnt them on a ceremonial pyre!" She laughed.

"Bonfire of the Vanities?"

"Something like that, yeah! You ready?"

"Yeah, all packed. Gonna be weird....going home. I've got a load of bumph from the estate agent. They dropped it round this morning."

There was a honk from a car horn outside.

"This is it! Time to go!"

Sue leaned her head on her husband's shoulder as the plane took off and they settled themselves.
His arm snaked around her reassuringly and he kissed her head.

"You okay?" He whispered into her hair.

"Yeah. I'm fine. Hold my hand Jim."

He wound his fingers around hers and squeezed slightly.

"Don't worry Sue. Never going back to that......not ever again. From now on, we talk.....you tell me, I tell you.....we communicate......we love......we don't lose sight of what's important.....agreed?"

"Agreed Jim, bless you. Love you so much."

She snuggled against him and closed her eyes.

They'd be okay, she was sure of it now.

oOo

Laundry churned around in the washing machine. Another pile waiting to go in.
The house felt strangely musty and unlived in.

Jim went round and threw open all the windows, and the patio doors, letting in the fresh air.
He then climbed up the loft ladder to deposit the empty suitcases into the attic.

" 'Spose I'll have to go to the supermarket, get some milk and stuff. Fridge is empty." Sue said miserably, when he wandered downstairs and into the lounge.
She was slumped on the sofa, looking dejected.

"I'll come too, if you like. Be quicker if we both go."

She looked up at him then, and her lip wobbled slightly.

"Scared Jim.......afraid it'll all come back to haunt me......like the holiday has never been."

Jim sat himself next to her and took her face in his hands kissing her tenderly, much to her surprise, brushing her cheeks with his thumbs.

"No! No, Sue......it's not going to happen, because we won't let it. I've got my wife back and I'm not letting that go......I'm not!"

"Jim, bloody take me upstairs and shag me......I want you to.......I want to feel amazing like I did last night on that sunbed.....with me kneeling and you......well.......you doing what you do.......I want you to make me come....."

Without another word, he took her hand and they almost ran upstairs.

Both naked, clothes stripped off and flung aside, the bedcovers strewn on the floor, Jim Dawson pounded into his wife, his hands on her buttocks, while she knelt moaning and gasping in front of him, urging him on.

Mid thrust, they both stopped dead......a sound.......

The front door opening and closing.

A call.

"COOOOEEEEEEE!"

"SHIT!" Jim jumped backwards as if his arse had been stung.

Sue sank down onto the mattress before him, her bum in the air.

"Sod it! That's Stuart." She groaned.

"MUM? DAD? WHERE ARE YOU? I've bought you some shopping!!"

"Just a second love!! Just unpacking!" She called back, stifling her sniggers.

There then began a frantic rush to dress themselves.

Giggling like two naughty children as they scrabbled around each other to grab discarded clothing.

Sue hurriedly putting on her knickers, inside out. Jim hopping on one foot as he tried to get his leg into his trousers, commando.....because he couldn't find his underpants.

(They were actually hanging suspended from the overhead light fitting where he'd tossed them in his ardour.)

"Mum? Dad? What are you doing up there? You alright?"

"Hang on love! Be down in a mo!! I'm just putting away the last of the clean stuff......your Dad's been putting the cases away."

They both tumbled down the stairs one behind the other, breathless and flushed, as their son stood in the hallway, arms folded, regarding them with an air of scepticism.

"Putting the cases away eh?" He said, with a hint of doubt in his voice, eying his father's bare feet.

His mother gave him an awkward hug, and his dad shook his son's hand warmly.

"We didn't expect you!" He said, trying to sound nonchalant.

"Clearly!" Their son replied. "I bought you some shopping, to save you a trip to Tesco's as soon as you got back!"

"You're a dear!" Sue smiled, smoothing down her very obviously ruffled hair.

oOo

Helen Dawson's mobile rang loudly......her ring tone was the Sherlock theme music. People around her in the university library glared angrily.

Hurriedly answering to shut it up, she quickly went out into the corridor.

"Stuart! Why are you ringing me now? I have a lecture in ten minutes!"

"You mean you actually GO to lectures! Jeez....Helen, you're such a swot!"

"Shut up! What's up? Why are you calling me!"

"I've just left Mum and Dad's......they're home!"

"Great. How are the Parental Units? Did they have a good time?"

"Er.....yeah.....I think they definitely had a great time......when I got there, they were upstairs......."

"So, bloody what!"

"No! You don't get it.......they were blatantly DOING IT! Going hammer and tongs if mum's shouts were anything to go by!"

"EEWWWW! That's disgusting! Too much information Stew!"

"They came downstairs all dishevelled and breathless, saying some crap about unpacking, like a couple of bloody teenagers.....it was really funny Sis.....I wished you'd been there! They were all embarrassed! And they SO knew I knew!"

"Wow! Bro! If you were here with me I'd give you a high-five!! WOO HOO!" She yelped. "So you think our plan worked then?"

"I think it's a ten on the frickin Richter Scale. AND!! There's more! They're buying a holiday home.......Dad said you and me can use it, take our mates there......they want to go back and have more holidays.......Dad's gonna cut his hours back......and Mum's gonna apply for that job in the dress shop in the High Street."

"Bloody Hell! That's amazing! Even better than we hoped for then!"

"Heaps better! I think they are really back together......I think we may just have averted disaster. Peace has been declared! All is well again in the Dawson household."

"Thank Christ for that......God, Stew, I'm so relieved. I just had visions of it all going down the pan, just when they've got rid of us and can start enjoying themselves. Mum's been so bloody miserable these last few months."

"So has Dad. Every time I saw him, he looked more unhappy and confused. Like he didn't know what the hell was going on. It was bloody awful. And they always used to be so tight together, such a team.....dunno what the heck happened."

"Well, I do........you idiot, it was us leaving.......mum couldn't handle it......and Dad's as daft as a brush with feelings! All Scottish repression! God! And they never bloody talked about it!"

"Christ! Hel........parents eh? What would you do with them! Lucky they've got sensible kids! It's bloody role reversal!"

"Listen, Stew.....I gotta go......my lecture is any minute.....I'll ring you tonight so we can have a longer chat, yeah? It's all good news anyhow. I'm so happy.......Mum and Dad love each other so much....and I just knew that hadn't changed.......I think we should give ourselves a hefty pat on the back. For restoring the Entente Cordiale!"

"Yep, definitely. Okay, call me later. Bye sis!"

oOo

Jim and Sue were lying together on the sofa......horizontal, one on top of the other, tussling.

Sue suddenly began to laugh, it began as a chuckle, then built to a full blown belly laugh.

Her husband tried to raise his head.

"What on earth?"

"Oh, Jim!!! Stuart SO knew what we were doing earlier......he's not daft!" Tears were rolling down her face.

"Oh....who bloody cares!" He gave a self satisfied smirk. "Why is is so difficult for kids to believe their parents still have sex? It's like only they have exclusive rights on it! How the bloody hell do they think they got there in the first place? It's laughable!"

"He looked very pleased with himself, anyway. Like the cat that got the cream! I reckon they DID plan it you know......I think they knew, and it was their way of trying to help us."

"Well, if that was the case, it worked!"

"Come on.....lets go up to bed.....what with the flight and everything, I'm flippin' knackered."

Sue eased herself off him.

"Thank you Jim. It was a wonderful eleven days. The best I've had in many years, you made it special, and I love you for it."

"And I love you. More than I can possibly say. It frightened the crap out of me when you said about a divorce, because I can't imagine my life without you in it.......you're everything to me.......absolutely everything!"

Together they followed each other up the stairs.

Tomorrow was to be the first day of the rest of their lives.

Fin.