They wander around for a little bit after the big switch-on, with Moses keeping up a running commentary on the lights and what he thinks of them. The ones above the pub door are his favourites, he tells them, and he likes all the red ones, but he's not too keen on white ones because they're 'boring'. Charity leaves them discussing the relative merits of the lights shaped like Christmas trees and returns with a mug and a mince pie.
"You looked cold," she tells Vanessa, pressing the mug of mulled wine into her hands. "Get that down you." She holds out the pie for Moses. "Here, you, a treat before tea. Don't tell Johnny."
He takes it with a grin, letting go of Vanessa's hand for the first time since they arrived so that he can negotiate the foil holder. Charity takes over, her fingers slipping between Vanessa's; they're freezing.
"I look cold?" Vanessa shakes her head. "At least I'm dressed for the weather!" She sets her wine down on a nearby table, pulling Charity closer with their joined hands. She whips her hat off and Charity's eyes grow wide.
"Ness, no, don't you d-"
She plonks the hat on Charity's head, pulling it down over her ears and arranging it around her hair. All the while she ignores the glare Charity's sending her. Stepping back, she admires her work with a nod. "There. Gorgeous."
Charity rolls her eyes. "Well, obviously." She tugs the hat a little further back on her head, lifting her eyebrows. "First time you've put clothes on me this week."
Picking her wine back up, Vanessa bumps her arm against Charity's as they start walking again. Charity's arm links with her own and she bites her lip, guilt and the acid in the wine burn at the back of her throat. So many people have used Charity's body in the past, and now she's gone and let her think that's all she was good for. The thought of it makes her feel sick. "Charity...I'm sorry that I, you know, used you like that. I never meant to-"
"Don't be daft," Charity tells her, squeezing her arm. "Wasn't exactly complaining, was I?"
"No, I know, but-" Vanessa stops walking, waiting until Charity turns to look at her. "I never wanted to be one of the people who've-"
She's cut off when Charity's lips press softly against her own. Briefly she considers pushing Charity away and pressing on with her apology, but then Charity's hand comes to frame her face and the other lands on her waist, pulling her in and she lets her body melt. When the kiss ends, Charity stays close, her lips moving against Vanessa's cheek as she speaks.
"Not everything has to be about my dark and sordid past, Ness. It's not the same, okay? Not even close." She pulls back a little and looks into Vanessa's eyes. She gives her a little smile. "You needing to feel good for a bit is not the same as-" She presses her lips together and shakes her head. "I'm happy that being with me makes you feel good, because being with you makes me feel good." She tilts her head. "And it's not like I've been drawing the short straw, babe." She leans in close and bumps her nose against Vanessa's. "It's been pretty spectacular for both of us, I'd say."
Warmth rushes to Vanessa's cheeks, and it's not from the mulled wine. She ducks her head and presses her face into Charity's shoulder. "It has. It always is." She lifts her head and meets Charity's eyes. "But if you ever feel, even just a little bit, that I'm taking adv-"
"You'll be the first to know," Charity assures her with a grin and a peck to her lips.
Moses bumps against her legs and she looks down and laughs when she sees crumbs around his mouth and a currant stuck to his cheek. "Seen all the lights, then?" she asks.
"Mmmhmm." He yawns. "Can we go home now?"
"It's not exactly Blackpool Illuminations, is it?" Charity says, looking up and wrinkling her nose as Vanessa's phone beeps in her pocket. She sets her empty cup down and pulls it out, reading the text from Tracy and smiling.
"Johnny's woken up from his nap." She widens her eyes at Moses. "And he's grumpy as anything!"
"Like mummy," Moses says, with a nod.
"Oi!" Charity frowns as she looks between them. "Is this something the two of you discuss regularly?"
"He's just an observant child," Vanessa tells her, taking Moses' hand and winking at him. "Let's nip over and get Johnny, eh? And then we can all go home and have tea."
Moses runs ahead of them to Tug Ghyll and pounds on the door because he's not quite worked out the slightly fiddly handle yet. Tracy opens the door as they're heading up the path and Moses zips by her into the living room. She rolls her eyes at them, but her attention is caught by something and she breaks out in a grin.
"Nice hat," she says to Charity as she steps back to let them in.
Charity narrows her eyes. "Shut it, you. I'm wearing it under duress."
"The two of you are ridiculous, she looks beautiful," Vanessa says with a roll of her eyes. "Right, Master Woodfield, home time."
"It's too far," Johnny whines, throwing his hands up, as if he's just been asked to trek to the arctic.
"Fine. You can just stay here with Auntie Tracy, then."
Vanessa knows he won't agree to that. That week he spent here when her and Charity had split up he spent constantly asking to go home. He gets up on his knees on the couch, shaking his head at her with wide eyes.
"I wanna go home, but my legs is too tired to walk."
"What if I carry you, then?" Charity asks, sweeping past Vanessa and sitting down beside him on the couch. He immediately leans against her and nods his head.
"Charity," Vanessa sighs. "You shouldn't pander to-"
"But it's so far, Vanessa," Charity says, hefting him onto her hip and tugging her coat around him. "Right. Home for tea."
Vanessa can't bring herself to complain about the arrangement. Not when Johnny wraps his arms around Charity's neck and smiles for the first time since they came in. He looks so safe and warm and it fills Vanessa's heart up with love for both of them. Moses hand slips into hers and she looks down at him.
"I don't need a carry, Ness." He leans in as if sharing a secret. "It's not really far."
She laughs and presses a kiss to his still sticky cheek. "No, you're right, it's not. Johnny's just taking the mick."
They follow Charity and Johnny out the door, Tracy shoving Johnny's jacket into Vanessa's hand as she passes and bidding them all goodnight.
They hurry to catch up with the other two. Johnny's pointing at the various lights, looking far more alert than he had inside. Charity's eyes are sparkling as she talks to him about the different colours. Vanessa comes to stand beside them, slipping her hand under Charity's elbow and all four of them look up at the lights.
Christmas will still be great, because she'll be spending it with her family.
Shifting her focus just beyond the Christmas lights to the stars in the clear sky, she smiles and hopes her dad can see it.