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A Fair Assumption
What was it about life that meant as soon as things got on an even keel a storm came in and shook everything till it bled? Jo pondered this as she stared at the statement on her desk, the one which had been baffling her for the last two hours.
It was late, very late. After the 'final' argument of the week with her now ex-girlfriend she'd needed somewhere to go, work being the obvious escape route. The trouble was that since she'd arrived she'd barely managed two coherent sentences and reading them back convinced her she was thinking about the break-up rather than the O'Hara assault case. For starters, the name of the victim was Tony not Tess. It just seemed concentration was a bit elusive tonight, understandably but it irritated her since she'd always prided herself on being able to work through landslides. Maybe it was because this one was a little too close to home.
Startled, she looked up as the doors swung open. 'Suzie! What are you doing here? It's almost midnight.'
The DC shrugged. 'I could ask you the same thing.'
'Well, I asked you first.'
Suzie didn't answer immediately, instead going over to her desk and rifling through some papers. 'I think I left something.'
'Um, my phone.'
'The one sticking out of your coat pocket?' Jo questioned innocently.
Shrugging again, Suzie gave up the pretence and dropped into her chair. 'I just needed somewhere to go.'
'Phillipa Manson accused me of having an affair with her husband.'
'Oh.' Thinking about the reasoning behind it and deciding she couldn't be bothered pussy-footing around, she asked, 'And are you?'
Surprisingly, Suzie actually looked shocked. 'Of course not! Why would you think that?'
'Sorry, but it's a fair assumption.'
'Neil and I are friends!'
'I'm sorry I bloody asked,' Jo muttered looking back to the statement then realising it was pointless. Taking her coat from the back of the chair as she stood she glanced back to her colleague. 'I'm going home.'
'Wait,' Suzie said before she could leave. 'You never said why you were here.'
For a moment she considered just walking out. Then she turned back. 'Not that it's any of your business, but I broke up with my girlfriend tonight.'
'Oh.' It appeared like DC Sim was just going to be as evasive on that matter as she was on everything else until she stood. 'I know where Neil keeps his whisky, interested?'
After about a second of deliberation she nodded. 'Never say no to a drink.'
A few minutes later the pair were settled in the DI's office, Suzie knocking back her first glass without hesitation. 'I needed that.'
'Take it easy,' Jo warned. 'This is good stuff.'
'Only the best for Neil, right?' Suzie said with a strong hint of bitterness in her voice.
'Saying it like that makes me want to finish the bottle.'
Restraining her intrigue was only ever going to last so long. 'So what happened, eh, Suzie? What did you do to Phillipa Manson?'
'I had dinner with Neil tonight at his place. She came home early, got the wrong idea I suppose.'
'The wrong idea?' she repeated dubiously.
Suzie frowned. 'Oh, Jo, do you really think I'd have an affair with my boss? Is that all people around here think of me?'
'Well, you have to admit it does seem a little suspicious. Put yourself in Phillipa's shoes. She comes home finding you having a cosy little dinner with her husband, what's she supposed to think?'
'That it's two colleagues having a meal, what's to misinterpret?'
'You're not that naive, are you? You've known the DI for years, right?'
'What's your point?'
'Well, you work with him at Stafford Row then end up here, under him so to speak. All seems a little convenient to an outsider.'
'You mean the whole of the nick thinks I'm sleeping with him?'
'Maybe not everybody but a good majority.'
Digesting this, Suzie poured herself another large drink. 'I'm not.'
'You don't have to tell me that. Or anyone for that matter.'
'The truth is, Jo, I'm... Well, Neil's not my type.'
'Oh.' Suddenly, the true meaning dawned on her. 'Oh! Missed that one didn't I?'
'I don't broadcast it.'
'Okay. Sorry, I'm having a hard time getting my head round this. Does the DI know?'
'He's the only one that does.'
'Right. Well, I suppose it explains a few things anyway.'
'What do you mean?'
'The way he's so protective of you for one. Doesn't want you getting any stick by the look of it.'
'He's a friend. They look out for each other.'
Jo nodded. 'I take it he hasn't let his wife know though.'
'Perhaps he should've. Maybe she thinks we've been having an affair the whole time.'
'It does seem likely, in her eyes anyway.'
'He'll have to tell her won't he?'
'If he wants to save his marriage, probably. Would that be so bad?'
'No. Yes. I don't know. I keep my life private, that's the way I like it.'
'So do I,' argued Jo mildly. 'But it's easier when you're straight about things, people can't fill in the gaps as much.'
'I just...' Suzie looked up from her glass. 'I sound really juvenile don't I? Going on about how scared I am to you.'
'No, you don't, believe me. Ten years ago I was in exactly the same place you are. I just had to make it work that's all.'
'What happened? If you don't mind my asking.'
She shrugged. 'I fell in love didn't I? Same old story, it gave me the courage to be myself.' After a moment, she added, 'I was with her ten years.'
Suzie frowned with concentration. 'She's the one you..?'
'Broke up with tonight? Yeah. It was coming though.'
'I'm sorry. That's a long time.'
'Some might say too long.'
'I'm sorry for burdening you with this right now.'
'It's no burden,' she answered sincerely, refilling both their glasses again. 'To be honest, it's nice to think about something else apart from her and it's not like I was getting much work done before you turned up.'
'I still feel a bit...'
'And that's your problem,' Jo interrupted, stopping Suzie getting into full flow. 'You think about it too much. How you should be acting, how other people view you, it's not worth it.'
'That's easy for you to say.'
'Like I said, Suzie, I've been through all this. There's no point arguing with yourself over who you are, best to just accept it and let the rest of the world do the same.'
The DC nodded. 'You might have to tell me this again when I'm sober.'
Jo laughed. 'You can count on it. Right, I suppose we better get out of here before we demolish this bottle.'
'After the way Phillipa talked to me earlier Neil owes me several of those.'
'That bad was it?'
'Think Pearl Harbour on a smaller scale.'
'Oh, right.' Jo smiled as the two of them threw the office back into darkness and headed into the main- and equally quiet- body of CID. 'Well, it's been quite a night by all accounts.'
Something seemed to occur to Suzie. 'You live with her, don't you? Your girlfriend.'
'Ex-girlfriend,' she corrected. 'Yep. Or rather I did. It was her place so...'
'Where are you planning on going?'
'I've got mates, you know.'
'Who'll be delighted by you waking them up at one o'clock in the morning no doubt. Listen, come back to my flat, I've got a perfectly good sofa.'
'Oh, Suzie, I don't know.'
'It'd be rude to say no.'
As she yawned she realised it would also be very stupid. 'If you insist.'
That's how it had started.
Surprisingly, she had spent that night on the sofa. The next morning though, when she'd gone to pack a bag at Tess', she'd found herself alluding to more than a night on a lumpy piece of furniture. It wasn't until she'd walked back into CID later that day that she realised what she'd done and since it hadn't felt at all wrong she'd decided to just go along with it and see where it led. That had been her way of life for as long as she could remember, why change the habits of a lifetime?
It had only taken a few nights more on the sofa and a couple of months later they were unintentionally revealed as a couple by a shocked Phillipa Manson who had hired a private investigator to prove her husband was having an affair with Suzie. It didn't quite prove that.
Then again, Jo grinned to herself as she rested her head on the sleeping woman beside her, it was a fair assumption after all.
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