Vanessa and Daniel: Homecoming
[Players, not pups. v_hazardous comes home to daniel_johns in Los Angeles. Backdated: September 2, 2011.]
It was a long flight from Sydney, as always, but Vanessa had been all but unconscious by the time the plane was in the air. Struggling out of the taxi from LAX now, she's still a little groggy from the extended sleep. She manages to pay the driver and grab her bags, duffle over her shoulder and case dragging behind her as she heads for Daniel's apartment.
The luggage gets put down when she can't find her keys, a sweep of her handbag turning up only her Melbourne set. Not fucking helpful. Sighing, Vanessa pulls out her iPhone and texts Daniel that she's at the front door, knocking immediately after and making sure she's stood where she'll be visible through the peephole. One or the other method should get his attention.
The drag-rattle of luggage outside gets Daniel's attention and he's halfway to the door before there's even a knock. He hasn't been watching the clock – travel-time is meaningless, "about six" just means some time after six, whether it's five minutes or five hours – but he has been listening for a key in the lock. His phone beeps at him just as he pulls open the door but whatever that is can wait.
"Hi." God, it's good to see her, and Daniel knows just how broadly he's smiling right now. Vanessa looks half-asleep and he reaches out to help with her luggage, resisting the urge to hug her until they're both inside.
"Oh, thank you." It's not that heavy – Vanessa has long since learned to pack light – but it's a relief nonetheless to have someone else carry her stuff and she gratefully leaves Daniel to it, closing the door behind them. Vanessa leans against it, watching him set everything neatly to one side, his smile lighting up the room. It's good to see but it'll be even better to feel and she holds her arms out. "Give us a hug."
Daniel gets the cases tucked out of the way to be dealt with later then steps into Vanessa's arms, holding her tight. It hasn't even been a week and a half, marked off on his calendar with little red crosses, but something like relief washes over him as he nuzzles against her hair then leans down for a kiss.
She meets his mouth eagerly, though it's a chaste enough impulse informing her enthusiasm. Vanessa is just so glad to see him. Her senses are full of Daniel in a way that feels so incredibly right and she inhales deeply between kisses, breathing him in.
"Come sit down?" Daniel suggests, though he doesn't let go just yet. "How are you?" It's a bit soon for jetlag but Vanessa has been travelling all day long, that takes it out of anyone.
"Disorientated a little still, and starving – I pretty much died for most of the flight, missed the food. And I would kill for a cup of tea," she sighs. Reluctantly, Vanessa lets go, giving him a last kiss and pushing herself away from the door, towards the sofa. "Do we have anything quick in the cupboards? Toast, maybe?"
"Do you want chilli? I left some in the fridge." Even without sleeping through it, airline food tends to suck, especially the vegetarian option. Daniel starts to make tea as he waits for an answer, still smiling to himself.
Vanessa flops onto the sofa. "Oh my God, yes, please! That would be amazing. You're awesome." She manoeuvres out of her jacket with a groan, tossing it onto the nearby chair, her shoes kicked in that direction too.
Daniel sets the kettle boiling then detours back towards Vanessa's sofa, leaning down for a quick kiss as she lounges backwards. "Just be a couple of minutes then." The chilli goes in to warm up, plate down from the cupboard, and he keeps glancing back towards the sofa, pleased. Home again.
It's a good thing the apartment is open-plan, because Vanessa has the sense that Daniel wouldn't be thrilled about letting her out of his sight at the moment. The attention could feel oppressive but it doesn't – it's far too clearly an expression of happiness. In a way, it reminds Vanessa of the reaction she'd get from her Great Dane whenever she came home after an extended period away. That pure joy. It might seem odd to compare her boy to her dearly departed dog but God knows that Vanessa's never gotten that kind of love and attention from a man before now.
Daniel puts everything on a tray and brings it out to the sofa – the table isn't that far but after a flight that long "not that far" is still a really fucking long way. So he sits down with it all on his lap and waits for her to sit up enough to take it, bumping his knee against hers. "Here you go."
"Bless you," Vanessa's tone is fervent as she hauls herself upright from the boneless sprawl. She takes the tea first, closing her eyes to concentrate on the perfect taste of it for a few sips, then sets it down on a coaster on the side table and picks up the chilli. It smells wonderful and her stomach growls loudly as soon as she notices, making her laugh. "And apparently just in time!"
Daniel definitely recognises that look and he laughs when her stomach rumbles. "The joys of travel, right?" He settles into his own cup of tea, relaxing back onto the sofa. "How was it, apart from the sleep?"
"The flight? Fine. Pretty unremarkable, as these things go." Vanessa isn't quite shovelling in the chilli, and she does pause long enough to answer him without her mouth being full. "This is really good, by the way. Thank you for donating your leftovers to a worthy cause!"
"I wasn't sure what time you'd get in, didn't think you'd want to wait for something complicated." Daniel stays mostly quiet, letting Vanessa dig into her food as he drinks his tea. They can talk and play catch-up – it really wasn't that long – after, once she's settled back in.
"Smart boy." She shifts position sideways, extending her legs to drape over Daniel's lap, careful of his tea. Vanessa wriggles to get comfy then leans back again, the high arm of the sofa providing adequate support for her sprawl. The chilli bowl gets balanced on her stomach, hand keeping the cooled crockery steady as she finishes eating.
Daniel waits until Vanessa is settled into place then rests his hand on her calf, petting as he drinks his tea. He's wide awake – it's just a normal day in L.A. for him – but it won't really be a surprise if they end up in bed by eight. Or don't end up there before four, though that could be interesting.
When the bowl is empty, Vanessa twists round to exchange it for her tea, then sprawls again, just barely upright enough to enable her to drink without pouring the liquid down her front. She sighs and it's a supremely contented sound this time. "That seriously hit the spot. I appreciate the foresight." Vanessa's only been gone a little over a week, but they'd only started sharing this apartment a couple of weeks before her departure, and it surprises her how normal this feels, how much like coming home.
"I know what travelling is like." And I want to look after you. The last bit goes unsaid, now doesn't seem like the time for provocative statements, no matter how true they are.
"Yes, you do," she chuckles. Vanessa wiggles her toes, happy to be out of her shoes. The gentle hand on her leg has her venturing, "You could massage my calves, if you like. My feet are okay but those flight socks only help the legs so much."
Now Daniel has both hands free and he nods, getting himself comfortable under her legs. It's something he would offer anyway but it feels good to have her ask, to have her remember that she can. "I'll rub everything else in the morning. Or," he amends. "Whenever you wake up."
"Everything else?" Her tone is suggestive, one eyebrow rising, but Vanessa can't help laughing and spoiling the effect. "That sounds good, either way." He's got the immensely unattractive flight socks off her now, the stretchy material of her leggings pushed up over her knees, and Vanessa relaxes under Daniel's touch, her eyelids drooping half-closed. She mumbles, "You have the best hands."
"Once you wake up," he promises, though it's hard not to join in with her laughing.
"Mmm, deal." Sipping at her tea, Vanessa watches Daniel while he works – his face, mostly; she can feel what he's doing with his hands, and she knows what her own legs look like. It's the quiet pleasure in his expression that holds her attention. "I was in Sydney during Fashion Week, so I went to a bunch of shows. I ran into Natalie at one of them." No need to specify that she means Ms Imbruglia, Daniel's ex-wife. Vanessa makes a face. "If it had been the big deal the papers seemed to think it was, I would have mentioned it at the time. But it wasn't. Brief encounter, very polite."
That's unexpected, but the fact the papers made a fuss sadly isn't. They alwaysmake a fuss, somehow, and Daniel shakes his head. "I hadn't seen the papers, but they're usually full of crap."
Vanessa rolls her eyes. "Yeah, it was total crap. Making it out like it was some big showdown. We exchanged such confrontational words as 'Hi, how are you?' and 'Didn't that last show have great shoes?'." She snorts a laugh. "No wonder you were so easy-going about making space for my shoes in the closet here."
It's hard to imagine Natalie and Vanessa getting into a fight – they both have tempers but only with some kind of provocation, and even if dealing with people's exes is awkward it's not like that. But he laughs at the shoe bit and nods. "Yeah, doesn't mean I learned anything about shoes, but I know how to live with them."
"Kind of like with women," she smiles. It's not that Vanessa hasn't made any compromises in living here, but it hasn't escaped her notice that Daniel tends to work around her when that's possible, and as long as it doesn't mean he's ignoring his own needs, she's okay with that. Maybe part of it is because it hasn't been for very long, but sharing space has been fairly harmonious. Eyes on his hands now, Vanessa adds, "She did ask after you, mentioned emailing you after the Silverchair news broke. Said to give you her best." She's quiet for a moment, feeling Daniel's hands on her, watching the smooth movement of his fingers. It gives her a grounded sense of here-and-now, something that helps when talking about Natalie. "It was crowded and very public, or I would have said more to her. Not, like, 'Oh my God, catfight!' more, just... thank you, maybe."
"Yeah, we keep in touch a bit – never going to be going out to dinner or anything, but it isn't a big deal if I bump into her in a bar or on the journals," Daniel explains. It took a while to get to that point, but it feels right, with the way things ended. But the rest of Vanessa's words catch him by surprise and he looks a question at her.
That look is easy to read and Vanessa shrugs. "You do know how to live with shoes. And date temperamental women. And a whole lot of other things that I wouldn't have the first clue how to teach you, but I didn't have to, because she did." It's a realisation that often causes conflicting feelings for Vanessa, because whilst she's genuinely grateful that's true, it does occasionally grate that nothing is new for Daniel. But there's no sense in mentioning that part – it's not like he can do anything to change it. She shrugs again. "Maybe that's weird, but you wouldn't be who you are now if you hadn't been with her, and I like who you are."
That does make sense and Daniel nods, hands still working down over Vanessa's legs, petting now as much as working out the knots. "I don't think it's weird – I get it." He's not sure he'd thank any of Vanessa's exes but that's different, and she probably isn't expecting him to.
"Good." The soft touches feel good and Vanessa is plenty relaxed now, if pensive. Her smile is teasing, though, when she says, "Might have asked her if it took her some time to get used to you, too."
That does make Daniel laugh. "I can answer that one for her..." he's teasing right back but it is true.
"Oh? Do tell," she coaxes, fluttering her eyelashes.
"Well, I was nuts at the time." Still teasing, still serious, and Daniel's not sure if Vanessa has put the numbers together or not, it hasn't come up yet. "But yeah. She was used to, uh, more typical guys." He says the last with a smile, it was never an insult, just exasperated confusion half the time.
"Nuts?" Thinking it over, Vanessa's eyes widen. "Oh, right. You started dating around when Neon Ballroom came out, yeah? So that's when you were on all the medication and stuff? That had to be extra awkward."
"Yeah, I wasn't at my worst but definitely not at my best either. We broke up for a while, I wasn't as OK as I was pretending to be, needed to sort everything out first." It's all so strange to look back on now, but at least some could probably be chalked up to being twenty as well as being medicated.
"Some things you've got to do on your own." One leg bends, the sole of her foot petting over Daniel's thigh before Vanessa puts it back. "I'm glad you did get yourself sorted. Well, obviously! I'm sure Natalie was, too." Shaking her head, she admits with a small smile, "In the truly bizarre column, you were one of my favourite rock couples. You seemed really happy together. I knew enough about you to be glad you were happy."
"Some of it was doing things on my own, some of it was..." Daniel sighs at himself and makes the 'crazy' gesture. "I was convinced I couldn't write if I was happy. Which obviously was bullshit, but this was before the good drugs and therapy, so... it stuck." The rest of what Vanessa has to say gets a surprised blink from him, but he smiles back. "Well, I'm glad you were wishing me well..." he reaches for her hand, laces their fingers together.
"You're the kind of person that people do wish well, Froggie," her tone is affectionate; her grip, tight. "The unhappy equals creativity thing is a widespread myth. I had a very drunken conversation with Rob about that once." Vanessa laughs, remembering. "Now, there is a blissfully happy bloke. He's got everything a man could want and then some. But he's known for some bloody maudlin songs, and he was saying that no matter how happy you are in your daily life or in your relationships, there are always those little moments of doubt, and that's what he captures. Then he's gotten it out of his head, and written a song to boot – or at least the bare bones of one – and can go back to being the happy dude."
"Yeah, a lot of people buy into that – and I was still young enough to have the left over teen angst bullshit, so..." he waves his free hand. "I got older and I learned, thank god."
"Ah, yes, the teen angst bullshit." Her free hand goes to the fiery strands straggling over her shoulder, released from the confines of her ponytail. Vanessa laughs. "I dyed my hair."
"I'm shocked." Daniel doesn't even try to keep a straight face for that one.
"Ha ha." Her foot thumps down on his thigh, though it's not hard enough to actually hurt. She's finished her tea now and on impulse, Vanessa swings her legs down to put her feet on the floor, tugging her leggings back into place. Then she stands up, motioning to Daniel to move into the corner of the sofa – once he does, she sits back down in his lap, wiggling her bum in between his parted thighs, sideways so she can lean back against the sofa arm at the same time as she leans sideways against Daniel's chest, her head resting on his collarbone.
That's much, much better and Daniel wraps around Vanessa, nuzzling against her hair. He won't be surprised if she falls asleep against him here but it doesn't matter, he's comfortable enough for now. "Better?"
"Much." Her hand slips under his T-shirt to rest on skin, taking comfort from his body. Daniel's warm and solid, and no matter what old relationships they talk about or whether he was happy or not then, he's hers now and Vanessa isn't going to give him up without a fight. Never mind that it's an entirely rhetorical statement, since no one but crazy fangirls is trying to take him from her; it's a very real sentiment amidst the ghosts and her fingers crook a little, nails set into his skin. "Mine."
"Yours," Daniel answers, and just because it's easy to say doesn't make it any less true. He tightens his hold a moment and kisses the top of her head then relaxes back into place, just holding her.
Now she's home, and if the thought scares Vanessa, well, at least she's not running from it. She shifts in place, trying to figure out if she can get her hair undone without serious contortions or letting go of Daniel, and finally decides that no, it's not possible. Instead she requests, "Can you take out my hair elastic, please?"
The squirming around makes Daniel raise an eyebrow but the question explains it. "Sure." It's a little awkward with her cuddled up against him – and doing it on someone else anyway – but he's careful and he reaches over to drop it on the table once he has, smoothing down Vanessa's hair.
That elicits a purr from Vanessa and without thinking about it, she demands, "Keep petting."
The demand just makes Daniel smile and he relaxes into it, hand sweeping down over her hair, stroking slowly. It's easy, comfortable, and he could do this all night if she let him.
Vanessa snuggles closer, her cheek pressed tight against his T-shirt so every inhale smells like Daniel. She makes soft, happy sounds as he strokes her hair, purring approvingly, the hand on his chest kneading a little, nails pricking his skin as her eyes close and she sinks into the safety she feels here. Later, she'll get Daniel to carry her to bed. Now, this is everything Vanessa needs.
The purring and sharp little touches say Vanessa's still awake but she's relaxed against him and Daniel enjoys the feeling, eyes half-closed while she snuggles in against him. Definitely right, in a way that's been missing for the last week and a half.
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