DISCLAIMER: Murder in Suburbia and its characters are the property of ITV. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Inspiration for this fic came courtesy of a colleague of mine who knows no bounds when it comes to outrageous performances. Special thanks to the spectacular Deb for the beta and for gently pushing for a much better ending.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Fringe Benefit
By Ann


"Scribbs, you look…" Ash paused and ran her gaze from the other woman's head to her feet, mentally shuffling through a series of appropriate adjectives: ridiculous, outrageous, over-the-top, trashy - her eyes lit on a pair of black fishnet hose and the toned, sexy legs encased within – and seriously hot.

"Ridiculous," she grabbed at the first word that had come into her head, and then grabbed at her collar, easing a finger inside and pulling the stiff, unyielding material away from her neck. Her temperature was rising quickly, even though the maintenance staff of the local theater had nudged the backstage thermostat down several notches.

Scribbs frowned and looked down at her costume: gray knee-high boots with 4 inch boxy heels, a shiny silver, very short dress made of tin foil and a round hoop sewn into the bottom hem causing the 'dress' to extend outward almost an entire foot from the tops of her thighs. Two funnel-shaped apparatuses were attached to each of her breasts in Madonna-like fashion, and the entire dress was encased in layers of transparent plastic wrap. A black leotard, a blonde wig with two matching tin foil hair decorations, dark sunglasses, and a receiver and cord from a red telephone gripped loosely in her hand completed the homemade, highly overdone outfit.

"I'm Lady Gaga, Ash. I'm supposed to look like this," Scribbs replied, not seeing anything even remotely ridiculous about her current attire. "You're the one with the weird outfit." She chuckled lightly and gestured toward the nun's robe and habit Ash had chosen to wear for her lip-sync performance at Middleford 'Save the Arts' yearly benefit. Scribbs's teasing lost all effect, however, when her right funnel drooped sadly. She quickly moved to lift it back into place. "Bollocks! My boobs won't stay up." She didn't seem at all bothered that she'd just cursed in front of a nun.

Ash stared at the pointy cones and spoke without thinking. "Your boobs aren't the problem, Scribbs," she stated honestly, having actually had numerous opportunities to carefully study her partner's physical attributes and without any type of bulky barrier other than regular street clothes. She'd even had a few occasions to see Scribbs, sans bra, in her pajamas. No, Scribbs's boobs stood up just fine. "I mean, your real boobs… um, that is that they, er, seem to… well…" she spluttered, clearly flustered when she realized she'd almost voiced her firsthand knowledge and, in her mind, completely scientifically-based opinion of Scribbs's more than adequate breasts. "Maybe you should try larger cones."

"You think?" Scribbs asked as she maneuvered the funnel back into position. She tilted her head and turned an ear toward the door where the current performer was instructing the crowd to lay off of his blue suede shoes. "There's not time, Ash. I'm up next. Quick, hand me the plastic wrap!"

Ash hurriedly scooped up the roll from Scribbs's bag and offered it to her partner. Scribbs looked from her left hand that held the telephone receiver to her right that still gripped the fallen funnel. In her near panic, she dropped the receiver and reached for the roll. "Hold the funnel, Ash, while I secure it again." It didn't seem to occur to either woman that it was more logical for Scribbs to do the holding and Ash to do the securing.

With a less than solid grip on the funnel's tip, Ash nervously peered over her shoulder at the door. "Hurry, Scribbs," she said as loud clapping and a few boisterous whoops filtered into the room. "I think the song is nearing its conclusion."

"Move your hand down a little," Scribbs ordered as she worked to free the end of the plastic wrap. "If you could just…" Scribbs lifted one edge of the plastic and eased a finger along its length, successfully separating the loose end from the rest of the roll, "kind of cup your hand around the bottom, I think I can apply enough wrap to keep it in place."

Nodding in understanding, Ash turned her attention to the task at hand and gently cupped the funnel. She wore an expression of intense concentration as she struggled to keep a hold on the cone-shaped breast while staying out of Scribbs's way and, of course, trying to avoid touching Scribbs's actual breast. It was this very compromising position that Elvis strolled upon.

"Scribbs, you're up," Sullivan reported breathlessly as he stepped into the room, a guitar slung loosely over his back and a classic white, rhinestone decorated jumpsuit hugging his body. A thick gold belt rested on his hips and the open vee of his shirt displayed more than a few chest hairs. "Um…" he stuttered as he finally took in his two detectives.

Ash's head snapped up and she tried to pull away, but Scribbs had accidentally plastic-wrapped her hand to the fake boob. "It's not what it looks like, Boss. Scribbs needed me to lend a hand with her bust," she rushed to explain, making matters worse. It had appeared to Sullivan that that was exactly what was taking place, and it also appeared that Ash's hand was doing a very good job of offering 'assistance'. To walk in and see a nun fondling a rock star's breast had never figured into any of Sullivan's fantasies before, but he was certain it would now.

"I'll just, um…" Sullivan backpedaled to the door. "I'll get DS Garcia to go on ahead of you, Scribbs. You can just go back to…" his blush extended to his painted on sideburns, "whatever it was that you were doing." With a quick nod, he vanished as quickly as he'd appeared.

"Scribbs, let me go!" Ash protested as she tried to release her trapped hand by lifting the tight wrap with her free one, but instead, gave the appearance that she was attempting to tunnel under the barrier to actually get to Scribbs's breast.

Scribbs laughed and made a lame effort to help extricate Ash's hand from its confinement. "I think we just made Sullivan's day."

"More like his year, Scribbs. Now quit laughing and help me," Ash demanded as she tilted her head – and her habit – to try to get a better view of the problem. Scribbs tilted her head as well and released the roll of plastic wrap, leaving it to unfurl and land with a soft 'thunk' at their feet. She leaned forward just as Ash raised her head to ask if Scribbs had brought along any scissors. Two pairs of lips met softly and then more firmly before either woman realized what was happening.

Ash was the first to react. Her eyes grew huge and she stepped away. "Scribbs, I'm…" she started to apologize and then turned to bolt for the door, completely forgetting that she was still attached to the other woman. The sudden move knocked Scribbs off-balance and, with such clunky shoes, she wasn't able to regain it. It was as if she were falling in slow motion with Ash falling even slower. The two hit the floor with staggered 'oomphs'. Black polyester flew up over Ash's head, showcasing a pair of black tights and a matching leotard, while Scribbs's hoop held firm and revealed the exact location where her fishnet hose disappeared. Had Sullivan walked in, it would've made his decade.

"Are you okay, Ash?" Scribbs looked to her right as she tried to push into a sitting position, but the hoop made it virtually impossible to do anything but roll side-to-side.

"Define okay," Ash groaned pitifully and screwed her eyes closed tightly. She knew there wasn't a definition in existence that would include her lying on a dressing room floor, wearing a nun's habit and with said habit flipped over her head, next to her friend and partner who she'd just kissed. Oh, and with her hand affixed firmly to her partner's breast. She was definitely not okay.

Scribbs rolled closer to Ash, only to roll just as far away when she bumped into the other woman's side. "Well, while you're trying to decide, do you think you could help me up? DS Garcia should be about finished with his Salsa routine."

A definite pregnant pause followed and then another groan; the sound of rustling material came next as Ash pushed the fabric off her head and moved to sit up. She avoided eye contact with Scribbs and slowly eased into a sitting position. Sighing, she finally looked Scribbs in the eye and extended her hand.

"Thanks, Ash," Scribbs said with a smile as she gripped her partner's hand tightly. Together, they were able to stand without losing their balance again. "I've got a pair of scissors in the bottom of my bag. If we're careful, we can cut you free without damaging my costume."

A low, deep chuckle bubbled up from Ash's lips and quickly turned into full-bellied laughter, a very non-Ash-like response to an uncomfortable situation or any situation, for that matter. Scribbs just went with the flow and joined in, shuffling along with Ash as her partner stepped sideways to dig into Scribbs's bag.

"You really do have a single-minded focus, Scribbs," Ash said, a ghost of a smile belying any negative connotations that might come from her statement. She carefully cut a small slit in the plastic near the palm of her trapped hand and gently pulled it downward. It slipped free with only minimal damage to the funnel and surrounding plastic. "I still think you need a bigger funnel."

This time is was Scribbs who burst out in laughter as the pair worked quickly to refasten the wayward funnel. They'd just secured it into place when Sullivan's voice filtered from around the corner. He had chosen to stand outside and a good distance from the door.

"Scribbs, you're on in ten," he called out and quickly scrambled back to the stage. He wasn't ready to face Ash and Scribbs just yet.

Scribbs bent over and retrieved the red phone receiver. "Well, here goes nothing," she said as she took a deep breath and headed for the door.

"Scribbs," Ash said and waited for her partner to turn. "Break a leg."

Scribbs grinned widely and hurried from the room, bursting onstage just as the soft intro to Telephone began to play. The crowd erupted with cheering as Scribbs began to strut across stage, lip-syncing flawlessly as she wowed the crowd.

Ash leaned against the door facing and stared at the closed curtain. Her relationship with Scribbs had taken a dramatic turn. All that teasing banter and those longing looks hadn't been her imagination, after all. She'd kissed Scribbs and Scribbs had kissed her back. The chemistry was definitely there, but they were so different. What they'd each chosen for their act today had proven that. Scribbs, as the flamboyant Lady Gaga; Ash, as a nun from The Sound of Music - couldn't get much different there. What was she going to do?

Movement from the curtain startled Ash from her deep musings and she looked over to see Scribbs step through, a huge smile on her face as the crowd chanted for an encore. She headed toward Ash, sweaty and completely breathless.

"That was so much fun," she panted and gestured at her still-standing funnels. "Look, my boobs stayed up, too." Her smile was huge and her mood contagious.

"Yes, they most certain did," Ash replied cheerily just as her own music cue began. She looked at the stage and then looked back at Scribbs. How in the world could she follow an act like that?

"Go on, Ash, show'em what you've got," Scribbs said with a wink, motioning the other woman toward the stage. "When you're done, we can grab some take away and go back to my place."

Ash just nodded and walked toward the slit in the curtain; suddenly, she stopped. She looked out at the audience, still screaming for an encore, and then looked back at a bemused Scribbs. She knew exactly how to follow an act like that…

"Scribbs, has your disc got any other GaGa songs?"

A confused look crossed Scribbs's face as she answered, "Yeah… why?"

Five minutes later, as the strains of the quickly re-chosen music finally announced the arrival of Ash and the return of Scribbs to the stage, Scribbs had her answer. Prancing around the stage to the wonderfully apt Bad Romance, seeing the leer on Scribbs's face, and hearing the crowd roar with delight, Ash knew she'd made the right choice, on all counts.

Climb Every Mountain could wait, she had a much better 'mountain' to climb, and tonight she was ready.

The End

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