Last time the girls did some shopping and the New Years bells sounded.
Darrell had sat down on Anatoly’s other side after saying goodnight to David, and she noticed his slight wince as he put his arm around her again. “Is your shoulder bothering you still Toly?” she asked quietly.
Anatoly nodded sheepishly. “It seems to have been aggravated by the swing boat ride earlier. Julian does not look like he is fairing too well with his shoulder, are you Ju?”
Sally turned to look at Julian who was trying to roll his shoulder without her noticing. She sat up from his embrace and faced him. “Did you want me to rub some arnica into it like I promised dear?”
Julian thought that sounded nice, but he felt it might be a little improper, so he shrugged and immediately regretted it. “You wouldn’t mind?” he asked her.
“I wouldn’t offer if I minded, and I promised I would earlier,” Sally said with a smile. “Now my next question is, do you have an arnica?”
“I do… somewhere,” Julian admitted. “My mother insisted I bring some in case of further rugby injuries.”
Sally smiled and pulled away from him, “You better go and get it then!”
Anatoly sat back, trying to look nonchalant with his aching shoulder as Julian and Sally agreed that Sally could rub his shoulder. He didn’t want to suggest it to Darrell, in case it put her off, but he would have quite liked to as for something similar. A shoulder massage from his lovely girlfriend would be just the thing to ease his shoulder, here in the fire light. Stupidly enough however he found himself too nervous to ask her, in case she would be appalled.
“Aye aye,” Julian said, getting up and loping off. He was glad he was fit, as otherwise it would be a pain to have to climb to the fourth floor every time he had to go to his room. He let himself into his room and raked about a bit, finding the glass bottle after a few minutes and heading down to the common room again. “Here you go,” he said, handing the bottle to Sally who had moved to sit on the chair, the ottoman in front of her.
Sally took it and smiled shyly at him. “Thank you,” she said setting the little bottle beside her on the coffee table. She found the words of her next request for him to take his shirt off, rather got caught in her throat. She wasn’t sure if she was brave enough to ask that of him in front of Anatoly and Darrell.
“I um, I suppose I should take this off,” Julian said awkwardly, indicating his shirt. “I mean… I don’t want to get oil all over it and it’s not like you could really rub the arnica into my shoulder through it…”
Sally nodded in agreement as Anatoly fought back the urge to roll his eyes at the new couple. He couldn’t really comprehend how awkward this was for Sally and Julian.
“Is the ottoman comfortable enough for you to sit on Ju?” Sally asked, as she watched him, cheeks flushed as he pulled his shirt off to reveal his toned chest. This was the first time she had seen him like that as swimming wasn’t widely practised during the winter terms and Julian had been out with his shoulder injury so wouldn’t have been able to swim anyway.
“Yes, it’ll be fine,” he said, balling up his shirt nervously in his hands as he turned and sat in front of her.
Sally nodded, biting her lip, before she remembered the arnica and poured a little into her palm and held it there for a moment to warm it up, before quickly pressing a little kiss to Julian’s shoulder. It looked a little red, and she hoped he hadn’t done any permanent damage to it. She gently began to rub the arnica into his shoulder. She started tentatively at first, gently rubbing just his shoulder blade. “Is that all right Ju?”
“Mm, yes, that’s nice,” he said quietly, feeling some of the tension ease from his shoulder.
Darrell turned a little to Anatoly as Sally started to massage Julian. “Toly? Would you like it if I rubbed your sore shoulder?” she asked nervously.
Anatoly smiled down at her and gave her a little comforting squeeze. “Dorogoy moya, I would love it, but only if you want do. I should hate for you not to be comfortable while doing it. But it would be gratefully appreciated as my shoulder is a little tender.”
“I want to,” she said, a little more firmly. She kissed his cheek and scurried over to Sally, stealing the bottle of arnica with a little wink. She sat down sideways on the sofa again, one leg curled under her and the other on the floor. “Shirt off,” she commanded, trying to sound braver than she felt.
Anatoly and Julian smirked at each other at Darrell’s bossy tone as Anatoly stripped to the waist. He sat with his back to Darrell, presenting her with his bruised shoulder.
“Oh Toly!” Darrell gasped, looking at the black-and-blue bruise across his shoulder, suddenly afraid she would hurt him if she touched it.
“That’s a stunner of a bruise,” Julian commented, able to see it from where he was sitting. Sally looked up and nodded in agreement as she worked Julian’s other shoulder now, making him smile
“I wish I could see this magnificent bruise,” Anatoly said with a wry smile.
“Take one of the mirrors off the wall and stand in front of another,” Sally said with a grin.
“It’s certainly a cracker,” Darrell agreed, very carefully running her fingers around the edge of it. “I’m just worried I’m going to hurt you if I touch it!”
“Oh dorogoy, you are sweet, very sweet in fact, but you can touch it. I will have hurt worse,” Anatoly said in a soft voice.
“Well, all right,” Darrell said doubtfully, tipping a little of the slightly sticky arnica onto her hand, letting it warm up a little before tentatively rubbing it over the bruise.
Anatoly groaned a little as her hands worked on his bruise.
“Toly?” Julian asked as Sally’s hands began rubbing the back of his neck. “What’s that on your chest?”
Anatoly was confused for a moment as he looked down and didn’t see anything, then it twigged and he touched the cross that lay over his heart. “My tattoo?” he asked as he felt Darrell’s hands still.
“You’ve got a tattoo?” he heard her ask from behind him.
Anatoly nodded. “I do,” he said, his voice a little tight. “Just something personal,” he said awkwardly.
“Did it hurt to have done Anatoly?” Sally asked, hearing the pain in his voice. “I’ve never seen any tattoos. I know sailors and soldiers sometimes have them.”
“Isn’t it rather a dangerous thing to have with your job?” Julian asked. “Doesn’t it make you identifiable?”
“It was a little painful,” he admitted, though the physical pain had been a welcome distraction from the mental pain and grief that had ultimately inspired it. “It is just a cross, nothing too outlandish or memorable,” he added, not mentioning the initials hidden in the intricate pattern. He was aware Darrell had knelt up behind him and was trying to peer over his shoulder so he turned, letting her see it properly. “Does it put you off?” he asked her as she stared a little.
Darrell trailed her oily finger over the cross and shook her head, looking up at him with dewy eyes. “No, it’s sweet,” she whispered.
The reasoning behind the cross was on the tip of his tongue, but he swallowed it down. “Well I am glad you feel like that,” he said, “as tattoos are rather permanent.”
Darrell smiled and kissed his cheek. “You don’t have to worry about me liking it, I do,” she said softly. “Just as long as you understand that if you have too many, I shall be having words,” she teased.
Sally giggled as she finished rubbing the arnica into Julian’s skin. “I think I should go and wash my hands. Which way is the kitchen Ju?”
“I do not have plans for any more tattoos,” he reassured her as she sat down behind him again.
Julian was a little disappointed, he had very much enjoyed the feeling of Sally’s hands on his back, though if he was honest that had rather made him feel like he wanted her hands to keep moving to explore more of his skin. “Across the hall, down the corridor on the left right to the end,” he said. “Do you want me to come with you, though, in case you run into anyone?”
Sally nodded, “Thank you. Are you going to put your shirt back on?” she asked.
“I’d better not,” he said, “at least not right away, the arnica might stain. You don’t mind if I go around like this, do you?” he asked as he stood and pulled her to her feet.
Sally glanced at Darrell and then shook her head. “No, I don’t,” she whispered. “I forgot that it would stain,” she added waving her sticky fingers against his face teasingly. “It is sticky.”
“All right, come on then,” he said, leaning out of range of her fingers and moving to open the door for her, “let’s get you washed off.” ‘And leave those two alone for a bit,’ he added mentally, knowing the other couple didn’t get much time together.
“That feels so nice,” Anatoly said quietly as the door close behind Julian and Sally, trying to remember how long it had been since he’d had that sort of physical contact with someone.
Darrell smiled and kissed his neck. “As long as I’m not hurting you sweetheart,” she whispered gently as her hands moved down his back, massaging him.
He would never admit it, but he very much liked it when Darrell called him that. “No, definitely not hurting,” he sighed, letting himself relax into her touch.
Darrell smiled and gently worked the muscles in his back. She pressed down on the knots in his muscles and sighed. “You’re very tense Toly,” she said carefully. “Maybe we should do this more often, if you think it will help you relax?”
“Mmm,” he said, unable to remember the last time he had felt quite so at peace with the world. He smiled as he felt Darrell gently kiss his sore shoulder, thinking himself so lucky to have her. He would have offered to return the favour, but he felt sure that would just sound terribly inappropriate, so he kept quiet.
“Well if you don’t think it’s a good idea Toly, all you have to do is say,” she said, pretending to be hurt.
“No, I do,” he said quickly, thinking she was more serious than she was. “I just would not wish to appear too forward!”
Darrell laughed and leant forward to wind her arms around his waist. She stroked his stomach making him laugh. “You don’t laugh enough Toly,” she whispered in his ear. “I love seeing you laugh.”
“You will just have to make it happen more often then,” he said, “but not by tickling, I cannot stand to be tickled!”
“I shall tickle you all I want if it makes you laugh Anatoly,” Darrell told him haughtily. “I don’t seem to make you laugh any other way,” she said, moving to sit on his lap.
Anatoly swallowed as she settled, wondering if it was really appropriate for her to be sitting like that when he was half-dressed. He decided if she was all right with it though, that he could be and grinned at her. “Well if you tickle me dorogoy… I shall just have to tickle you.”
“You wouldn’t dare!” Darrell said with a laugh. She kissed Anatoly and stroked his neck.
Anatoly smiled as he kissed her, his hands on her waist moving suddenly, tickling her sides through her dress.
Darrell shrieked with laughter, trying to push him away and falling back onto the sofa. “You mean man Toly!”
“Sorry,” he said with a grin, not sounding sorry in the least. She was sprawled in a rather undignified position, her legs splayed across his lap and he lighty tickled one calf through her woollen tights. “Tickly feet dorogoy?” he asked as he slid his hand lower to find out.
“You’ll get a kick in the face if you try that Toly!” she warned him, trying to squirm out of his way.
He held her ankle in one hand and then tickled the sole of her foot with the other, earning himself another shriek. “I take that as a yes!” he laughed.
Darrell was crying with laughter, trying to wriggle away from him. “Please stop, oh Toly please!” she cried out, when she was gasping for breath.
Anatoly couldn’t help but laugh with her, but he did stop tickling her eventually, letting her pull her foot away to safety. “Well that was fun,” he said cheekily.
“You’re horrid!” she gasped at him, pushing herself up, still laughing and then giving up and pulling him down for a kiss. “I don’t know why I like you so much!”
“Neither do I,” he remarked as he wound his arms around her waist, grateful that a girl as special as Darrell would let him anywhere near her.
Darrell settled back against the sofa, with Anatoly laying against her, his head on her shoulder. She ran her hand through his hair. “But I do, that is what is the most important thing,” she told him. She kissed the top of his head and wriggled a little. “Thank you for a lovely new year,” she said as the door opened and Julian and Sally slipped back inside.
“Hullo, nice and cosy are you?” Julian teased as he sat down in a chair and pulled Sally down onto his lap, much to her surprise.
Anatoly wasn’t easily embarrassed but still he shifted a little so he wasn’t lying on Darrell quite so much. “Very cosy,” he said as Darrell stroked his side, her fingers brushing over a slightly uneven scar, from a wound that hadn’t been stitched up as well as it could have been.
Sally smiled and settled herself into Julian’s arms. “We mustn’t be too late back Darrell,” she said lazily as she stroked the back of Julian’s neck, where his hair met the skin. “Especially if you want to swim tomorrow.”
“Today,” Darrell corrected her absently, her fingers running over a nasty-feeling scar on Anatoly’s side. She wanted to ask what had happened but kept quiet as she wasn’t sure it would go down well.
“Today,” Sally agreed with a yawn, smiling down at Julian. “It’s going to be a very funny today isn’t it?”
“Yes,” Julian said. “But a simply smashing New Year’s day.”
They were all feeling deliciously warm and cosy as the fire started to die down that it was a wrench to force themselves up to walk the girls home. Sally remembered something as Julian helped her on with her coat. She turned to him. “Can I borrow a couple of rugby shirts before I go please Ju?”
Julian chuckled. “All right, but on the understanding that I need to get at least one back!”
“Promise,” Sally said with a smile, pressing a kiss to his jaw.
“Do you want one of my rugby shirts to swim in then dorogoy?” Anatoly teased as Julian and Sally slipped upstairs. Darrell considered this.
“Well, it would be nice, if you had a spare one Toly,” she said with a smile.
“For you, of course,” he said with a grin. “Wait there and I will find one that works for you.”
A little while later, with the rugby shirts over their arms, the girls were walked back to their halls by Julian and Anatoly. The snow was coming down quite heavily now with a little hiss, though it was drowned out by some of the revelry streets away.
Julian wrapped his arm around Sally’s shoulders and kissed the side of her head as they got to University Halls. “So see you in the morning. Shall we come and call for you?” he asked her as Darrell and Anatoly stood on the step, kissing.
“That’s a bit silly to come all the way back here for us, we’ll wait outside St Sal’s for you,” Sally said with a smile. She looked up at him and pulled him to one side so that they couldn’t be overheard by Anatoly and Darrell, even though Sally was sure that they wouldn’t be paying attention to her and Julian. “Thank you for this evening,” she said softly, looking down at their hands as she wound her fingers through his. “It was a rather smashing first date.”
Julian grinned. “Yes I suppose it rather was our first date, though it would have been nicer to be a little more on our own. I’ll make it up to you I promise,” he said with a smile. He kissed her softly on the lips, holding her tighter to him.
“You don’t have to make anything up to me at all!” Sally told him, hugging him close and pulling him down for another kiss. “I have had a lovely evening with you and I wouldn’t change a thing,” she said softly. “Thank you.”
Julian hugged her close and kissed her again, before cuddling her to his chest. He pressed his face to her hair as the snow whirled around them and began to settle on their clothes. “You better be getting inside,” he told her eventually. “Otherwise we’ll freeze and become living snow men!”
“David’s humour is rubbing off on you,” Sally told him with a laugh. She lifted her face and pressed a kiss to the underside of his jaw.
Julian grinned. “Do you ever consider that the humour is my own?” he asked her, trying to tickle her through her coat. She laughed and tried to dodge out of his arms.
“Yes, but I thought I was giving you a get out card as some of your jokes are awful!” she teased. Julian smiled down at her and kissed her again.
“I think,” he said after the kiss. “I think I could spend a lot of time kissing you Sally,” he told her, stroking her cheek.
Sally bit her lip, “I know what you mean.” She kissed him again as the church bells tolled two in the morning. “I better go Ju. Otherwise I will turn into that snowman with you.” She moved away for him, but he caught her hand and pulled her back for another kiss, a little more fiery than the others. Sally kissed him back, arms winding around his neck.
“I really must go,” she whispered as she pulled back, her forehead resting against his. “I’ll see you in the morning. Darrell! Come on!” she called as she finally tore herself away from Julian. “We’ve to be up at seven for this swim!”
Darrell gave Anatoly one more kiss as Sally moved to unlock the front door of their halls. She bounced inside as Sally locked the door behind them, waving at the boys through the window.
Anatoly looked around as the girls went upstairs and smiled at Julian, carefully not mentioning that he had smudges of Sally’s pink lipstick on his face. “You look rather shell shocked old thing! How about a nightcap before bed?”
Julian was just about able to nod. “Nightcap, yes, good idea,” he said with a cheesy smirk. “Ready for the swim tomorrow?”
“Of course, are you?” Anatoly asked as they walked back slowly through the snow.
“Yes, I think I might very well be,” he said with a grin. “You know, this is going to be a brilliant year.”
Anatoly looked at him. “What makes you say that?”
But all Julian could do was smile.