Pairing/s: Emily/Jess, background Matt/Becker
Word Count: 2,735
Summary: Emily goes shopping with Jess and gets an unexpected, but welcome, invitation.
Notes: From this prompt: Emily getting used to modern clothing, by telperion_15.
Emily was beginning to regret her decision to try and dress more like the others, to try and fit in with them. She did want to fit in now that she would be staying in this time period, which was why she had asked Jess to take her shopping, but she was beginning to feel a little overwhelmed. Who knew that the clothing shops here were so huge, having so much choice? Not to mention that some of it was practically indecent. She saw girls out in the street, wearing what in her day would have been grounds for arrest: some of them looked as though they had gone out in their undergarments.
“Perhaps this wasn’t a good idea.”
The smile on Jess’s face faded slightly. “You don’t want me to help?”
“I am grateful for your efforts, but this,” she indicated to a rail of tiny shorts that wouldn’t even cover her bottom, “is not me.”
Jess smiled. “Well no, those really aren’t you, not unless you want to look as though you belong on a street corner. I wouldn’t let you wear these even if you did like them. Just give me a chance; I promise I won’t make you buy anything that makes you feel uncomfortable.”
Emily nodded. “Very well. I shall defer to your knowledge in these matters.”
“Brilliant! So, what do we need? Jeans, trousers, skirts, T-shirts- I think we’ll leave the lingerie section until last. Oh, and I saw some cute little shirts back there that would look great on you…”
She followed Jess through the shop, trying to keep up as the other woman darted this way and that between displays of clothing, collecting things for Emily to try on. It was a good thing that Jess was wearing a bright yellow cardigan or Emily would have lost her completely. Eventually, Jess re-emerged with an armful of items, ushering Emily toward the fitting rooms.
“Here; we’ll try the tops first,” Jess told her, thrusting some items at her and handing the rest to the sales assistant by the fitting rooms, informing her that she’d be back for the rest soon.
Emily dutifully tried each item before going back outside to show Jess; she knew which ones she liked the best and hoped that Jess agreed.
She had never really done this before, spending time with a friend, buying clothes or just socialising. Back home, her husband hadn’t allowed her to spend time with friends, wanting to keep her close and, it felt, stifling her. Her friends were people he chose, the wives of his friends, women who she never particularly liked. She was sure that the feeling was mutual, but they all played along to please their husbands. At the time it hadn’t bothered her: She had never known any different.
Then the anomaly appeared and her whole life had changed. She went from being the dutiful wife, whose sole purpose was to take care of her husband and make him look good, to being independent. It had been a culture shock, but a pleasant one. There she’d had Charlotte to confide in, the first time she’d had a friend of her own choosing that she had been free to actually spend time with. Of course, they had also been living through the anomalies then and so free time usually consisted of hunting for dinner or moving camp if the creatures had found it. Just doing what Jess referred to as ‘hanging out’ was a new experience to her.
Jess was the complete opposite of Charlotte in outward appearance, though Emily saw a similar spirit in both women. Charlotte had been refined and demure, whereas Jess was outgoing and bright. Even her clothing was as bright as her personality. Despite all of their differences, she had no doubt that Jess and Charlotte would have got along.
“I liked those two,” Jess told her, pointing to two shirts, one black and one pale blue. “What did you think?”
Emily nodded, relieved that Jess had selected the two that she preferred too. “Perhaps just one-”
Jess shook her head. “Get both; the ARC is paying,” she said, grinning as she waved the company credit card. “Oh, and I did love that t-shirt with the rose design on the front. You should get a couple of the plain ones too.”
“I feel uncomfortable accepting charity-”
“It’s not charity, it’s help. This is what friends do for each other. Besides, Lester said that ARC expenses will cover it,” Jess said. “You do need clothes since you’re going to be staying- you can’t keep borrowing Matt’s jeans and shirts.”
Emily nodded reluctantly. Until she could access some funds of her own, or get her first paycheque- another novelty to her, actually having a job and receiving a wage- she would have to rely on her friends. According to Lester, as she and Henry both disappeared from their time, leaving no bodies or death certificates, and they had no children, there was a chance that bank accounts and investments in Henry’s name were still there. Through a combination of Connor’s forged documentation a few calls made by Lester, they were hoping to declare her as her own, long-lost descendant in order to inherit the money.
Jess hurried out to fetch more items, returning with a pile of trousers.
“Here; I got you some jeans and some more formal trousers.”
It wasn’t that Emily objected to wearing trousers, at least not in theory. She had worn them before, borrowed from Matt, and in her own time whilst using her disguise, but what she saw women wearing in this time were more revealing, tight and low-cut and leaving nothing to the imagination.
“Just try them, please?” Jess said when she raised her concerns. “If you’re going to be running around after creatures then a skirt isn’t really practical.”
Emily closed the pink curtain again and tried the first pair of trousers, dark grey with a faint pinstripe, pleasantly surprised that she actually liked them. The ones Jess had chosen weren’t too close fitting so as to cling in inappropriate places.
“Jess? What do you think?”
“Definitely. Ok, try the jeans.”
When she emerged the next time, a huge smile spread across Jess’s face. “You’re so lucky- jeans never look right on me,” Jess said, instructing her to turn around. “On you they’re a perfect fit; they make your bum look fantastic.”
When she realised what she’d said, Jess froze, her eyes widening. Emily wasn’t offended, though. Taking a discreet look in the mirror on the wall, she turned a little, trying to see over her shoulder.
Jess’s cheeks were pink as she nodded. “Yes.”
“Then I think I shall purchase them.”
Three hours later and laden with bags from three more shops, Emily sank down gratefully into the chair. She’d enjoyed herself today, but she was failing to understand why Jess loved shopping so much. She had spent years running for her life on a daily basis, yet a morning shopping with Jess was more exhausting than that. The woman never seemed to stay still, always spying something else that she had to go and look at.
A huge mug of tea and a slice of cake was put down on the table in front of her as Jess sat down opposite with her own plate and mug.
“Here, you might need this too,” Jess said, handing her a spoon. “It’s messy to eat but it’s the best chocolate cake in the city.”
She watched as Jess took a mouthful of the sticky cake, almost purring with delight, and smiled. Since arriving here, her diet had changed dramatically, from whatever they could kill or pick beyond the anomalies, to the rich foods of this time. Even back home she hadn’t indulged herself in sweets and treats. Here, Jess had slowly been educating her in the finer points of chocolate appreciation.
“You, Jessica Parker, are a bad influence,” she said after taking a bite of the cake and realising that it was as good as Jess said. “If I continue to eat this way, I shall be as big as a house.”
Jess laughed. “That’s why I go jogging every morning; it’s either that or give up chocolate,” she said. “You could come with me, if you wanted.”
“Are you sure that you wouldn’t mind?”
“I’d enjoy the company: I don’t like going on my own. I did try joining Becker for a run once but he takes the fun out of it. He sometimes forgets that he’s not still in the Army.”
Jess fell silent then, finishing her tea and cake.
“I’ve had fun today.”
“As have I,” Emily agreed and she had, except for being exhausted.
“I was thinking that we could do this again,” Jess said, not meeting Emily’s eyes. “Not the shopping part- though I wouldn’t object- but the eating part. Maybe dinner. The two of us, I mean.”
Emily frowned a little, watching Jess’s expression. A number of times today, she had thought that Jess’s interest was more than friendship, but so much about this time confused her, including the social etiquette.
“Are you asking me to go…” Not courting, she reminded herself: What did Matt call it? “On a date?”
Jess looked up, the pink tinge back in her cheeks. “That depends.”
“On whether or not you want me to be.”
Had she been in her own time, the mere thought of it would have been enough to cause scandal, but she wasn’t there any more. And, if she was being honest with herself, she felt more of a connection to Jess than she ever really had with Henry. She had married him for money and status, her family’s more than hers, but familiarity was all she felt. Affection was a sentiment that did not come into a marriage such as hers.
She smiled at Jess. “I think I’d like that.”
By the time Jess dropped her off at Matt’s flat an hour later, Emily was beginning to worry about her upcoming date with Jess. She wanted to go, excited by the mere prospect, but it wasn’t an area she felt confident in. What if she made a fool of herself? She hadn’t much experience with men, never mind with women. Henry hadn’t courted her; he had invited her to dinner at his home, accompanied by her sister as chaperone, on a few occasions but then they had been married and that was that. Unfortunately, the one person she would usually turn to for advice was the person she needed advice about.
Matt was sitting on the sofa when she went in, watching a film with Becker, a bowl of popcorn on Becker’s lap. They sat close together, Matt half-leaned against Becker’s side with Becker’s arm around his shoulders and their legs outstretched and their feet on the coffee table.
“Please, don’t let me interrupt,” she said as they noticed her. “I’ll go and read in my room.”
Matt sat up, looking over the back of the sofa at her. When he saw the shopping bags, he smiled.
“That’s a lot of stuff; I think that’s more clothes than I’ve got in my entire wardrobe,” he joked. He eyed her curiously for a moment before getting up to go over to her. “What’s wrong?”
Emily shook her head. “Nothing,” she assured him, putting her bags down.
Matt took her arm and steered her toward an empty armchair near to the sofa.
“Right, sit down and tell me what happened.” He glanced over at Becker. “Hils, make us a cup of tea, would you?”
With a sigh, Becker got up. “What did your last slave die of?” he muttered, heading for the kitchen. “You know, you could have just said, ‘Becker, give us a minute to talk in private’.”
Matt turned and grinned at him. “I know, but this way I get a cup of tea as well.”
Emily watched the exchange, seeing the affection between the two of them. For a time, she’d thought that Matt was interested in her but then she’d seen him with Becker and it was obvious that he was spoken for. He had remained a good friend to her, though, giving her a place to stay, helping her out whenever she needed it.
“Now then, what’s bothering you? Did Jess do something to upset you?”
“No! We had a wonderful time. She,” Emily paused, feeling just a bit awkward talking to him about it. “She asked me to dinner,” she said eventually. “I accepted the invitation, but now I am having second thoughts.”
He looked surprised. “You don’t want to go?”
Matt frowned. “So what’s the problem?”
“My experience with these matters is not what you would call extensive,” she admitted. “Henry and I never courted; the marriage was arranged by our families leaving us little to do but participate. Even so, I would expect that courting a man would be very different to a woman.”
“You do realise that if you’re after advice, you’re asking the wrong bloke,” Becker told her, coming back into the room.
Matt glared. “I thought you’d gone to make tea?”
“I did.” Becker put three mugs on the table and sat back down on the sofa. “Seriously, asking for advice from Mr Oblivious? Took him months to realise that I was actually interested,” Becker continued. “I couldn’t stand it any longer; I had to corner him in his office and kiss him before he figured it out.”
Emily laughed at the embarrassed look on Matt’s face; it was nice to know that she wasn’t the only one having difficulties in this area.
“From what I heard, you’re thinking that you’re out of your depth since you’ve never really dated, right? And you think that- what?- you’ll make a fool of yourself, especially since Jess is female?” Becker asked.
Emily nodded. “I don’t want to ruin the friendship I already have with her by doing something to drive her away.”
“Look, she already likes you, odd habits and lack of experience and all. I should think that’s obvious even to him,” he said, indicating to Matt. “She wouldn’t have asked you out if she didn’t. So, go to dinner and enjoy yourself. Jess won’t push you into anything you aren’t ready for and, if you decide that you are, then I’m sure she’d be happy to teach you.”
Blushing at the implications of his words, and at the amusement in his eyes as he said it, she nodded. He was right; Jess already knew her and yet she had still made the invitation.
“You’re a wise man, Hilary Becker,” she said, only half-teasing.
He smiled. “I have my moments.”
The next day, during a quiet few hours at the ARC, Jess approached rather hesitantly, looking anxious.
“Do you like Chinese food?”
Emily nodded. Matt had brought Chinese takeaway home a few times; she was rather fond of Kung Po Chicken and fried rice.
At her nod, Jess continued. “There’s a new Chinese restaurant near my flat and it looks really nice, so I was thinking that we could go there. It’s just an idea; if you want to go somewhere different, we can.” She paused. “Or if you’ve changed your mind completely and don’t want to go out for dinner-”
Emily cut her off with a kiss, nothing more than a brief brush of lips, but it silenced Jess. It was an impulsive move; the thought had crossed her mind and she’d acted before thinking it through. Now, Emily could feel her cheeks heating up as Jess just stared at her.
“My apologies. That was inappropriate.”
“It wasn’t; you just surprised me, that’s all.” A smile spread across Jess’s face.
“I’m not. So, do you think you might want to try that again?”
This time, Jess initiated the kiss, lips soft and warm against Emily’s, one small hand on her cheek. Random thoughts flickered through Emily’s mind, how she could taste the raspberry lip balm that Jess used, how well Jess fitted against her, how just the spark from one kiss was more than she’d felt for Henry throughout most of their marriage.
“So, I assume that means that we’re still on for dinner?” Jess asked a few moments later.
Emily smiled. “Absolutely.”