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(MID) JUNE



stunning image by cérise @ TDA



The wool of the blanket scratched at the back of her arm as she walked down the hill, her eyes roving the horizon for the sight of his burly frame and signature smile. He told her to meet him at the park and to bring a blanket; he would cover the rest. She assumed that he wanted to picnic in the park, but she couldn’t be certain. After all, they had only been out together two other times - she certainly didn’t claim to know him very well, but they were getting there.

Slowly, but surely.

The thought was enough to bring a smile to her face and an intense blush to her cheeks. It was a small miracle that there was no-one else around or else she would’ve been even more embarrassed and blushed further. Pushing a dark lock out of her eyes, Clementine scanned the surrounding area, hoping that she had come to the right area of the park. She was unfamiliar with it, but already she felt comfortable here. Just like she felt comfortable, at ease even, when she was with him.

With Charlie.

She knew so little about him, and yet she felt as though she had known him for years. It was silly and assuming, she knew that. Perhaps it was even a bit obsessive, but there was something there. That couldn’t be denied. At least, she didn’t think it was. She wasn’t sure what Charlie felt, given that while he could carry a conversation better than most people can carry themselves, he hadn’t clued her in on how he felt about her. (If he felt anything towards her, that is.) He hadn’t dropped any hints. He hadn’t even attempted to kiss her, for Merlin’s sake!

Clementine shook her head. No, she was being ridiculous. This was only their third date; there was no way she could say that she had any substantial feelings for Charlie. Sure, he was attractive, had a wicked sense of humour, and could make her heart sputter pathetically with the smallest flash of his pearly whites, but that didn’t mean she truly fancied him. Not yet anyway.

It was only as this thought pattern passed through her mind that she caught sight of him. He was standing on the edge of the lake (or was it a pond?), his hands deep in his pockets and even from here, she could see the crease in his brow. Was she late or was he just impatient?

Increasing the length of her stride, she cupped one hand around her mouth and called out to him. His head whipped in her direction and she grinned, waving at him. Either he had mistaken the gesture as a signal for help or he was just a gentleman, he met her halfway down the path, greeting her with a brilliant smile.

“Hi,” Charlie said simply, his eyes crinkling at the corners from the force of his smile.

Heat rushed to her cheeks in a brilliant wave of scarlet. “Hey,” she returned, trying her best to keep her voice from hitching. She wasn’t fifteen anymore; she didn’t get school girl crushes.

“All right?”

She shrugged. “Can’t complain.”

“Good.” He grinned again, and her heart thumped loudly in her chest. “Need any help?” He gestured towards the blanket bundle under her arm.

“Nope,” she dispelled with a shake of her head, the motion causing several strands of hair to escape the bun she’d hastily thrown it into. “I’ve got it.”

“You sure?”

Clementine rolled her eyes good-naturedly. “It’s not a baby elephant, Charlie,” she teased as she started forwards.

Charlie caught up with her easily, his strides being considerably longer than hers. “I know, but it’s the thought that counts, right?”

And then he did something that took her by surprise. He captured her hand within his own and threaded his fingers, which were rough, but not unpleasantly so, through hers. She felt her eyebrows raise, but when she looked up at him, she saw that he was smiling, so she smiled too.

*


They sat facing one another, their legs folded and one hand clasped tightly - Charlie’s right and her left. As they counted out the game, Clementine met Charlie’s eyes. “I’m going to win.”

“Really?” he asked, moving his thumb in time with hers, the sides touching like the blades of swords. “What makes you so sure?”

“You wouldn’t harm a fly, much less me,” Clementine responded as they touched thumbs for the tenth and final time.

Charlie was silent for a prolonged moment, too absorbed in the anticipation of an attack to formulate an adequate reply. However, when he saw that she wasn’t intending to strike first, he averted his gaze to her face and lifted a brow. “I herd, raise, and train dragons, love.”

She laughed, a gentle tinkling sound. “Am I supposed to be impressed by that?”

“Or intimidated. Either one works just fine.”

“What about neither?”

Charlie pinned her with a faux serious look. “And what was it that you said you did for a living again?” His tone was joking and light - lighter than it had been in years, to be certain.

She stuck out her tongue at him.

“Oh, very mature, Clem,” Charlie commented.

“I thought so, too,” she rebuked, wiggling her thumb experimentally to see if he was properly distracted, but he wasn’t. His tightened his grip on her hand, but not to the point where it was painful. In fact, it was pleasant, like it had been when they held hands as they walked to their current spot.

“Now you’re trying to outsmart me, are you?”

Clementine shrugged. “It’s not that difficult.”

“Oh, ouch,” he winced appreciatively, his eyes following the slow circle her thumb made, waiting for the eminent strike. “You aim low, don’t you?”

“I do what I have to.”

“I’ll have to keep that in mind for next time.”

Slightly startled, Clem looked up from their game of thumb wrestling, one eyebrow raised, her eyes a little wide. “Next time?” she asked, trying not to sound too hopeful.

“Yeah, as in the next time we go out,” Charlie said, the left side of his mouth sweeping into a grin as he took advantage of her distraction and pinned her thumb down. The grin turned smug, but no less amused as he met her eyes, blue on brown. “I win.”

“Only because you cheated!”

“Eh,” he said with a nonchalant shrug, “I do what I have to.”

“I should get a consolation prize, you know,” Clementine declared, shaking her head to clear the loose strands of hair from her eyes.


At this, Charlie snorted. “For what? It’s not like you won or anything,” he teased, another impish smile working its way onto his face. If he kept it up, his lips would fall right off his face, and he would never get to know if he’d taste oranges when he kissed Clementine.

She kicked him lightly in the shin. “Well, I had to put up with you, didn’t I?”

“Touché,” Charlie laughed, taking her hand within both of his and running his fingertips over her knuckles. He tried not to smile too widely, too knowingly, when he felt her tremble. “So,” he continued, subtly moving closer to her as he caressed her hand, “what did you have in mind?”

It took Clementine a moment to respond, for she was still recovering from the sensation of his touch. It was odd, the stark contrast between the actual texture of his hands and the feelings they elicited. But there was beauty in the oddity, just like there was beauty in him, the mid-thirties-something man seated across from her on an old, scratchy blanket that smelled of elderberries and dust.

“I can think of a few things,” she whispered suggestively, following his lead and closing the gap between them.

Like the opposite poles of magnets unable to deny their attraction, their lips met halfway, hers North and his South. Or hers were South and his were North. As his hand slid up her arm, crossed over her shoulder, climbed up her neck, and curved around her cheek, it didn’t matter. The world was melting, and they were stuck in the middle of it all.



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