DISCLAIMER: Murder in Suburbia and its characters are the property of ITV. No infringement intended.
CHALLENGE: Written for Passion & Perfection's Big 5000.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Five conversations between Ash and Scribbs
(and one occasion where actions spoke louder than words)

By Angie


"Being single on a Tuesday's an absolute breeze!"

Ash smiled a little too widely and nodded her head a little too vigorously in response to Scribbs' assertion about Tuesdays. And her reply was just slightly too bright.

"Exactly! So what's the problem? Being single on Tuesdays is fine," Ash decided, giving herself a final approving nod.

Scribbs glanced to the side and smirked, turning her attention back to the road.

"Well, that's sorted then," she said, knowing fine well that there was no such thing as 'sorted' when it came to singlehood. They'd moan about it 'til the cows came home, Tuesday or no Tuesday.

"Completely," Ash agreed.

Scribbs shook her head slightly, an affectionate smile still playing about her lips. She turned the wipers up a notch, the rain was starting to get heavier. She heard Ash take in a breath and hold it for a moment. That generally signalled that an awkward conversation was about to commence, usually about something that Ash found distasteful. Of course, Ash found lots of things distasteful and Scribbs wasn't squeamish in the slightest, so the conversations held a certain entertainment value for her.

"So…are you going to tell me what it said, then?" Ash finally ventured.

Scribbs frowned.

"What what said?"

Ash sighed deeply, obviously not pleased at having to elaborate.

"Your 'love map'," she said, the last two words drenched in scorn.

"Oh, that," Scribbs stalled, suddenly thankful for the darkness of the dreary Winter's evening as a blush had rapidly spread up her neck and across her cheeks. "Nothing much, really. It's like reading your horoscope. The stuff's so general it could be talking about anybody."

"Just tell me what the bloody thing said!" Ash blurted out.

"Well…it um…" Scribbs debated whether to make something up or just go for the truth. Unfortunately, she couldn't think of a convincing lie quickly enough so truth was the only option. "It basically said that I like dark hair, strong features…there was something about authority figures or some other rubbish in there as well…I can't remember the rest."

Ash was quiet for a few moments. Scribbs kept her eyes on the road and tried not to notice Ash being quiet.

"And how do they come to all of these, presumably highly scientific, conclusions about you?" Ash asked.

Scribbs was grateful she hadn't pursued the 'authority figure' bit.

"There's a questionnaire, but I filled it in when I was pissed so I could've written anything."

"The truth comes out when the spirit goes in," Ash muttered.



"Well done."

Ash watched approvingly as Scribbs broke up with her married boyfriend via text message. Normally Ash would've been horrified at the impropriety of such a medium for communicating that kind of news. In this case, however, she was willing to make an exception as the whole relationship had been extremely improper from the outset. Scribbs' phone beeped.

"That was quick!" Scribbs exclaimed, somewhat too cheerfully for Ash's liking.

"Be strong. You've done the right thing," Ash encouraged.

As Scribbs read the message, Ash was mentally preparing another spiel on married men and their accompanying problems should it be required. The smile that spread across Scribbs' face suggested that it just might be.

"It's not from him. It's from Clive Fraser. Wants to know if I'd like to go out for a drink with him."

Ash was momentarily thrown by the breakneck speed at which Scribbs appeared to go through suitors. She grasped around for something to say in response.

"Charles of the jungle? But he's a witness."

Not strictly relevant as he hadn't actually witnessed anything vital relating to the case and was unlikely to be of much use in court. But something inside Ash compelled her to find a reason for Scribbs not to go out with him. Scribbs shrugged.

"Well, at least he's not married."

Ash made a last-gasp attempt to put her off.

"You sure?"

"Dunno." Scribbs started walking towards the car. "Maybe I'll run a check on him when I get back."

Ash narrowed her eyes at the back of Scribbs' head before following her to the vehicle and getting in.

"Running a check on someone can save a lot of grief in the long-run," Ash said as she pulled on her seat-belt.

"Not strictly ethical though, is it? I mean, they can't run a check on us."

"We're officers of the law! What could they possibly hope to find?"

"But still…"

Ash was not in the mood to hear her ethics challenged by someone who had until five minutes previously been conducting an affair with a married man. She fell back on an old stalwart to divert the conversation.

"Bloody men!"

Scribbs looked at her with raised eyebrows.

"There is an alternative…as this case proved."

Ash snorted, but felt her face get hot.

"Yes, and look how well that ended."

Scribbs looked thoughtful.

"She didn't get killed because she was having an affair with a woman, you can't blame it on that."

"I didn't say she did."

"I wonder why Fiona stayed married to that arrogant prick of a husband when she was in love with Lynn?"

"Keeping up appearances?" Ash suggested, her voice quieter than usual.

"She couldn't have been happy, though."

Ash looked out of the window at the passing scenery.

"No, I don't suppose she was."

"What's the valuable lesson she's taught us, Scribbs?" Ash asked, as they watched their latest arrest be bundled into the back of a panda-car.

"Don't gatecrash stag-parties?" Scribbs suggested.


"Don't mix business with pleasure."


"It'll end in tears."


Scribbs couldn't help but feel there was an undertone to the conversation. Like she was being warned off something. Or someone. She decided not to pursue that line of thinking, but to point out the limitations of the 'don't mix business with pleasure' ethos.

"But, if normal blokes won't go out with us what hope is there?"

Scribbs had resigned herself long ago to the fact that she'd probably end up with a copper. It was easier than always apologising for long hours and phone calls in the middle of the night. Ash caught her eye across the roof of the car and Scribbs felt her chest get tight. Of course, the fact that there was only one person in the world who made her feel like that, combined with the fact that this person just happened to be on the force also added to her dislike of the 'no dating colleagues' thing.

"There's always hope." Ash said, firmly.

Scribbs smiled. Yes, hope springs eternal and all that. She got into the car and started the engine, deciding to tease Ash a little.

"And if not there's always that lovely new DI in fraud."

Who was as gay as they came, she'd met him with his boyfriend in a pub the week before, but she didn't add that bit in.

"I really wouldn't recommend it, not after your performance at the Christmas party with that DS from traffic."

Scribbs' smile dropped at the mention of that particular event. She'd had a tiny bit too much to drink and, OK, she'd given the ugliest bloke in the room a lapdance…but everybody makes a fool of themselves at the Christmas do.

"You're never gonna let me forget that, are you?"


Scribbs sighed. Two could play at that game.

"So…how come you didn't whip out the handcuffs and high-heels for this Matt, then? I thought you said he was 'perfect'?"

She turned to see that Ash had turned crimson.

"Yes, well, that was before I found out he was a pervert."

Scribbs laughed.

"It's a bit of a tame perversion."

Ash turned to face her, a horrified expression firmly in place.

"You've done it, haven't you?"

"Yeah, a couple of times," Scribbs said with a shrug. "It can be quite sexy, a bit of power-play."

"Oh my God, I don't want to hear any more," Ash protested, actually putting her hands over her ears.

"Anyway, you look great in your uniform," Scribbs continued.

"That's not the point."

But Scribbs wasn't listening. Flashes of Ash in uniform brandishing a pair of handcuffs invaded her thoughts. Now that would definitely be mixing business with pleasure.

As Ash watched Scribbs walk away looking like she just stepped off a runway, she felt a sudden pang of longing. Longing to be going with her. Longing for her to stay. Longing just to see her again for another second. Before she could stop herself she called out.

"Hey, Scribbs?"

A blonde head popped back around the corner.

"Don't worry! If I catch the bouquet I'm keeping it, doesn't matter how cute she is."

Scribbs grinned widely and Ash couldn't help but grin in return. Scribbs disappeared from view for a second time and Ash turned reluctantly back to work. But her heart wasn't in it, neither was her head. She idly thought that the break-up with Alex must have affected her more than she'd thought. She went through the motions and managed to get the paperwork on the case finished before heading home.

Unusually, she couldn't settle on a task. Normally she would clean something, but she couldn't summon up the will. Before long, she found herself sitting in front of the telly with a glass of wine in her hand. There was nothing interesting on, but she wasn't really watching anyway.

Around half past ten, her phone rang. She leaned over and picked it up.


"Well, that was a bloody waste of a good suit."

Immediately the TV was muted and the wine put down on the coffee table. Ash curled up in her chair, legs pulled under her, the phone cradled against her shoulder.

"You didn't catch the bouquet, I take it?"

"Catch it? There was a rugby scrum in the middle of the dancefloor trying to get it, I stayed well clear. The bride's family were all a bit rough, I was scared."

"Apart from the bouquet related carnage, how was it?"

"Depressing. The bride looked stunning. The groom looked gorgeous. I was the only single person there. They sat me at a table with the teenage cousins. The fact that it's half-ten and I'm home talking to you on the phone should tell you something."

And that's when Ash realised that she'd been waiting for this call all evening. That's why she couldn't settle to anything. It had nothing to do with missing Alex, and everything to do with missing Scribbs.

"Ash? You listening?"

Scribbs' voice jolted her out of her unnerving thoughts and back to the conversation.

"What? Oh, yeah…his granny thought he should've married you, that was nice of her to say."

"Yeah, except she thought I was someone else. She kept calling me 'Helen'. Who was the slapper he'd gone out with before he went out with me."

"Nightmare," Ash agreed, distracted.

"You OK?" Scribbs asked.

"Me? Fine."

She was far from fine. Her head was swimming in confusion.

"You sure? Is this anything to do with the crybaby?"

Ash smiled. Scribbs always knew how to make her do that.

"No, it's…it's nothing to do with him," she answered honestly.

Scribbs was quiet for a bit and Ash could picture the look on her face as she decided whether or not to push Ash for more information.

"Are you doing something? You sound…I mean, I can let you go if…"

"No, I'm sorry, I was a little distracted," Ash attempted to focus. "Tell me all about it."

She settled down as Scribbs launched into a story about the bride's Scottish cousin and exactly what he hadn't been wearing under his kilt. She'd think about the other stuff later. For now she'd enjoy the sound of Scribbs' voice.

She saw his face fall as she brushed him off to follow Ash into the office. He was cute. It could have been fun. But she couldn't summon up the energy to put into what would end up being an entertaining but ultimately short-lived relationship. Not again.

Ash was typing away on her computer, trying to look disinterested as Scribbs passed her to go to the filing cabinet.

"He's trying very hard. I think he likes you," she observed, lightly.

Both very true statements. She played the easy card.

"Too complicated."

It hid a multitude of sins. Most men could be 'too complicated'. All men not on the force were 'too complicated' because they couldn't understand the trials and tribulations of being a police officer and would most likely be afraid of strong women. All men on the force were 'too complicated' because of the awkwardness and professionalism and the fact that they too were all afraid of strong women. 'Too complicated' was a great excuse. Unfortunately, it also applied to the one person Scribbs wished that it didn't cover.

Ash didn't argue, which surprised Scribbs a little. She had practically thrown Scribbs into the guy's lap earlier. It was always one way or the other with Ash. Either she totally hated Scribbs' boyfriends, or potential boyfriends, or men who glanced in Scribbs' general direction. Or she would be forcing Scribbs to go out with them. One time she had actually phoned a bloke that Scribbs was interested in and pretended to be Scribbs. The conversation had Scribbs in stitches as Ash attempted to be common. The relationship did not work out.

"Why is it always so difficult? I just want the good bits," Ash said, looking back at her monitor.

"Yeah, me too," Scribbs sat down across from Ash. "Shall we only have relationships with good bits?"

"Yes," Ash nodded firmly.

Scribbs felt something tugging at her insides. Nerves, she supposed. Probably caused by the words that had just shot through her brain and straight out of her mouth without any time for rational thought to temper them.

"Could end up growing very old together."

She raised her eyebrows at Ash, crinkling her brow, anxiously awaiting a response. Ash contemplated the statement for a few seconds.

"There's always a downside," she said, giving Scribbs a strangely unreadable look.

Scribbs looked down at her desk and picked up her pen, a rueful smile making its way across her lips. She glanced back up when she heard Ash laugh softly.

"What is it?"

Ash shook her head, still smiling.

"I was just thinking about us living together. Can you imagine?"

'Yes' was the short answer. And she had. A number of times. But she shrugged and gestured for Ash to elaborate.

"Well, for starters I'd murder you within a week for leaving wet towels in the bathroom, but even if we got past that issue, we'd never agree on what music to listen to or what telly programmes to watch or what food to eat. You definitely wouldn't stick to any of my rules. It'd be a nightmare!"

Scribbs looked confused.

"You make it sound like we don't spend time in each others' company. Ash, I'm always round at yours, or you're round at mine. We manage not to murder each other during visits."

Ash turned serious.

"But it's different though, isn't it? Living with someone, I mean. It's constant. And there has to be compromise and co-operation. It's…it's like a commitment."

Scribbs suddenly felt the need to lighten the tone again. It was getting too near the bone and she didn't want to say something that she wouldn't be able to unsay.

"Jesus. I was kidding earlier. I'm not proposing marriage to you just because I'm having a bit of a dry spell on the bloke front!"

Ash smiled, uncertainly.

"No. Of course not. Us, growing old together. Preposterous!"


The stared at each other for a long moment before turning their attention back to their work. But the atmosphere had changed. It was charged.

They watched the long-lost son of their former prime suspect make his way to his mother's front door, haltingly. Ash sympathised with him. She approached her own mother's house with the same trepidation every time she visited.

"D'you think this job makes us cynical, Ash?" Scribbs said, out of the blue.

Ash considered her reply. In her eyes, the world made people cynical. People made people cynical. It just so happened that their particular job gave them more insight into both the world and its people.

"Don't you mean more cynical? I'll be honest Scribbs, I don't think it helps."

The door opened and a mother welcomed her son home after years of thinking he was dead.

"Sometimes it seems really worthwhile, though, doesn't it?" Scribbs pushed, her voice tinged with hope.

"Most times, actually," Ash conceded.

She could sense Scribbs turn to look at her. She could almost feel the warmth and intensity of that smile, like the sun on her face.

"That's got to be a pretty good average, right?"

Ash turned to face Scribbs, a small smile appearing on her own lips.

"Better than most."

And as suburbia got on with its business of long-lost relatives, unfaithful wives and murderous neighbours, Detective Inspector Kate Ashurst leaned across to the driver's side of the car and kissed her subordinate officer gently on the lips.

The End

Return to Murder in Suburbia Fiction

Return to Main Page