DISCLAIMER: Murder in Suburbia and its characters are the property of ITV. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Guilty Until Proven Innocent
By lysachan


Detective Inspector Ashurst was a very controlled woman. Her highbrow appearance and manners didn't go unnoticed wherever she went, and when she, on top of everything, flashed her detective's ID, people tended to visibly shrink before her. She made sure her professional mask stayed on at all times when she was working, only to replace it with her posh-and-confident mask when she was off duty.

Her partner, Detective Sergeant Emma Scribbins, was probably the only one who at times got to see the real Ash beneath all those layers of self-protection, and now, lying wide awake in bed in the middle of the night, Ash was beginning to think that that was to blame for everything. Frustrated, she flopped on her back and lay supine among the soft sheets. It was sort of ridiculous how well she was starting to know the panels and seams of her ceiling.

It was those damned dreams, you see. It had started out innocently enough, just a random dream of Scribbs being her usual, quirky self. But then she had another one, a fairly bolder one, too, and before she knew it, these dreams had become a nightly event she both dreaded and secretly looked forward to. She'd never thought about Scribbs in that way—or that's what she kept telling herself—but her blonde colleague seemed to have permanently moved into her subconsciousness. And Ash wasn't certain at all if that was a good thing.

The sharp ringing of her mobile phone echoed through the room, and she thanked whoever was calling at that godawful hour for distracting her, only to find the name flashing on the screen belonging to the one person she was trying to avoid. Burying her head under a pillow she let the phone ring, refusing to pick up because she could still feel her heart beating a little faster than it was supposed to. After a while the ringing stopped, only to start again mere seconds later. Groaning, Ash shoved the pillow aside and grabbed her phone.

"Scribbs, you'd better be dying because it's three o'clock in the bloody morning! What are my rules on late night phone calls?" She didn't even bother to hide the annoyance in her voice.

"Ash-," Scribbs' voice sounded on the other end, but Ash cut her off.

"One. Never call unless the house is on fire, and even then I hope you call the fire brigade first. Two. Never call if-,"

"Ash!" The brunette started at Scribbs' raised voice and sat up on her bed. It hadn't really occurred to her that Scribbs could actually be dying. For real.

"What is it Scribbs?" She frowned and unconsciously scrunched up her nose like she often did when she was concentrating.

"I have a small problem. I...I need your help, Ash." Scribbs' voice sounded uncharacteristically flat, which immediately alarmed the other woman. Scribbs was never under the weather. Pouting or frustrated maybe, but never downright blue.

"Might help if I knew what the problem was," Ash offered and almost rolled her eyes.

"I've been arrested." There was a stunned silence before Ash could form a coherent sentence again.

"Scribbs, don't tell me DS Stewart convinced you to take part in that redundant drinking game after I left, because if you did, I swear I'll-,"

"Ash, please! This is serious!" The voice on the other end was pleading. "They're accusing me of murder," she continued with a small voice and Ash nearly dropped a glass of water she'd been holding.

"They what?!"

"I honestly don't know what's going on. They're holding me at the station."

Ash was up like a lightning, trying to find her clothes and get dressed while still holding the phone to her ear. "Scribbs, stay where you are. I'll be right there."

"I don't think I have much of a choice, Ash." Scribbs voice was a mixture of humour and desperation.

"Funny, Scribbs. Very funny." With that she hung up and was out of the door in record time.

The station house was almost deserted when Ash pushed through the doors and hurried to the front desk. A man in uniform was sitting behind it and he noticeably winced when his eyes landed on the icy-looking detective.

"She's in the first cell on the right," the officer Ash recognized as PC Thompson said, earning a short thank-you-nod from the brunette. Walking around the corner into a narrow corridor, Ash rubbed her eyes tiredly and tried to calm herself down; she had no idea what to say when she'd see her partner.

Outside the first cell she stopped and hesitated. After taking a deep breath she looked through the bars of an eight by twelve hole that decorated every door on both sides of the corridor: Scribbs was sat in the corner of the small space, her knees drawn to her chest and her head leaning against the hard concrete wall behind her. Her eyes were closed, but Ash knew she wasn't sleeping by the manner her fingers tapped against her knees. Given the circumstances, she looked almost cheerful.

Ash opened her mouth to speak, but at that moment Scribbs' eyelids slid up and their eyes met. There was a brief silence when neither of them said anything, but then Scribbs sprang to her feet and was at the door in an instant.

"Ash!" She gripped one of the iron bars and looked intently at Ash.

"I always said those drinking games wouldn't end well," Ash said and put her hand on the bottom edge of the small window, feeling comforted somehow by doing so.

"I haven't done anything, Ash. You do know that?" Scribbs' sigh was full of frustration.

"Don't be daft, Scribbs. Of course I do." The brunette eyed her partner carefully. "What happened?" she asked in a little gentler way.

"I don't know." The blonde released her hold of the bar and started pacing. "I left the pub soon after you. I guess I walked home, went to bed and the next thing I know there are police officers all over my bedroom. They told me I was under arrest for the murder of Sarah Jones and dragged me over here."

"Sarah Jones? The millionaire who fell off her third floor balcony on Flate Street a few hours ago?" Ash asked incredulously and frowned.

"I guess. They whisked me off here so fast that I didn't even find out how I figure into the equation." Scribbs walked in a small circle, her eyes focused on the floor.

"Scribbs, for heaven's sake stop pacing! You're making a trail in the floor."

Apologetically the blonde glanced at Ash and finally sat on the edge of the bunk bed, the only "furniture"in the tiny cell. She buried her head in her hands for a moment and then looked up at Ash.

"What am I going to do, Ash?" She looked utterly lost and for a millisecond Ash wished she could've pulled the other woman in a reassuring hug.

"There's obviously been a misunderstanding. I'll sort it out." Ash's voice was so determined she actually surprised herself. Scribbs swallowed and tried to blink away unshed tears. She stood up again and walked back to the door, her step a little lighter than only moments before. Unconsciously—or maybe it was a conscious move, Ash wasn't sure—laying her hand on top of Ash's, she locked her eyes with the older woman.

"I didn't do it," she said quietly, her eyes pleading for understanding. Ash found that she couldn't look away, nor did she even entertain the idea of pulling her hand back.

"I know." Ash's voice faltered slightly and she cleared her throat to cover it. If Scribbs had noticed, she didn't say anything. Stepping back from the door, the blonde gave a small smile and sat back on the bunk bed. She leaned her back against the wall and closed her eyes again.

Ash studied her for a moment, her brain working through different scenarios of how the Police could've screwed up. She turned and took a step towards the reception area, but couldn't bring herself to leave just yet. She coughed again and stared at the top of her boots.

"Emma? Everything's going to be just fine," she said without looking inside the cell and then strutted towards the front doors.

Had she looked, she would've seen the small smile that was playing on her partner's lips.

It'd been two days since Scribbs' late night phone call, and Ash was beginning to think that getting her partner out of this mess was going to be a lot more difficult than she'd originally presumed. She studied the evidence board in front of her and visibly paled: the sheer volume of evidence against Scribbs was overwhelming.

Ash could hear footsteps and then someone stood beside her. She turned to DI Allen who was one of the detectives in charge of the investigation. The look on his face was almost apologetic when he first glanced at Ash and then all the different objects on the board. Ash gave a small nod, as if showing that she understood his discomfort, and let her eyes fall back on the various photographs and pieces of paper pinned to the board.

"Doesn't look good, Ash." He exhaled and crossed his arms over his chest.

"Bit of an understatement, wouldn't you say?" Ash muttered, going over all the evidence for the umpteenth time in her head. She was about to ask DI Allen to go over everything with her again, but didn't get the chance as Sullivan sailed through the room at that moment.

"Ash, can I see you in my office, please?" Sullivan said and looked over his shoulder to see if his DI had heard. Ash took one last look at the board and followed her boss upstairs.

"How's Scribbs?" Sullivan asked as Ash closed the door behind them and turned to look at him.

"Could be better, boss," Ash replied honestly.

"Yes." He nodded, leaning back in his chair. "You do understand that working this case is off limits for you, Ash?"

"Boss, I-,"

"No. We need to cover our backs with this one. A law suit against the department is the last thing we want." He said, raising his hand to silence the brunette. "And that definitely wouldn't help Scribbs," he added poignantly and Ash's mouth snapped shut.

"Right, boss." Ash said flatly and excused herself. At the door she turned half way back, a conspiratory look on her face. "The evidence board is on the way to the coffee maker." Sullivan studied her, an amused smile playing on his lips.

"Officially you're off the case, Ash. Working other cases. But what you do with your free time is none of my business."

"Yes, boss." Ash closed the door behind her and smoothed her black suit before heading back to her desk. There was no way she would give up this investigation.

The Middleford Police Department seemed empty and cold as it bathed in the pale light of the street lamps that came through the windows. A single desk lamp had a light on, giving all the light that was needed to the only person in the large room. Ash was sitting in her chair in front of the evidence board, twirling her pen and deep in thought.

She felt miserable, to put it mildly. During the past five hours she'd gone through everything, every single piece of evidence collected for the case and it was all solid. Everything fit, and had it been anyone else, Ash would've sworn they were guilty. She would've locked them up for good and personally volunteered to throw away the key.

But it was Scribbs. And Ash knew Scribbs didn't do it.

That thought giving her a new boost of energy, she stood up and walked closer to the board. They'd found Scribbs' finger prints from the balcony where Sarah Jones had fell, her car had been seen leaving the scene, and Scribbs couldn't recall her whereabouts during the murder. Tox screen hadn't come back yet, but Ash assumed it'd only scientifically confirm the fact that Scribbs' had been drinking. She'd been in the pub herself to witness that. And while she knew her partner hadn't been that drunk, Ash also knew it had still been above the legal limit.

"This is the most unbelievable stunt you've ever pulled, Scribbs," Ash muttered, rubbing her tired eyes. She glanced at the clock on the wall, annoyed at how fast time seemed to slip through her fingers. She knew she had to come up with something, soon, because all the existing evidence was already enough to build a strong case against the blonde. The only thing working for Ash was the fact that there seemed to be no connection whatsoever between Scribbs and Sarah Jones. Scribbs had obviously been framed, but Ash had no idea how to prove that.

She realised that Scribbs should've been there to comment on her ideas; she couldn't work alone, she needed someone to reflect her thoughts. Unfortunately the only person qualified was sitting in a cold, concrete cell with thick walls and bars in the windows.

Sighing, Ash picked up the interrogation transcripts for the third time that night, hoping that this time would crack the case.

"Think, Scribbs. Who was there after I left? Someone must've seen something," Ash sighed impatiently while Scribbs scratched the back of her neck, frowning.

"DS Goddard from traffic, DS Stewart of course, Jameson and Pollack...Oh, and Sheila from fraud. She was there with someone." Scribbs followed the pacing Ash with her eyes. "Ash, now you're doing it. Stop that for a second. Please?"

"You are in trouble, Scribbs," Ash said and flopped down on the bunk next to the blonde.

"Well, thanks Ash! I really didn't know that." Scribbs' voice was full of sarcasm and Ash winced.

"All I'm saying is that we need to come up with something. Fast." Rubbing the bridge of her nose, Ash continued. "Right, let's go through this again." Scribbs' groaned. "Do you want to get out of here or not?"

"Fine," the blonde muttered and proceeded to go through everything. Again. "I had a pint or two with the rest after you left. Then I called it a night, paid for the last round, got up and left."

"Did anyone leave with you?"

"Yeah, DS Goddard did. Oh, and I guess Sheila and her date as well because I remember him holding the door open for me." Scribbs was frowning again and in different circumstances Ash might've acknowledged how cute it was.

"Then what?" Ash went on and pushed the distracting thoughts to the back of her mind. Actually, maybe it wasn't such a surprise that her subconscious got back at her at nights.

"I started walking home and then nothing. Blank. I can't remember a thing, Ash." Scribbs hit the bunk in a frustrated manner and sighed. Suddenly Ash stood up, starting Scribbs in the process.

"Are you sure?" she asked feverishly, looking intently at her partner.

"About what?" Scribbs was frowning again.

"About walking home. Are you absolutely certain you walked home?"

"Yes. I remember passing that tiny general store where we stop for bagels every now and then. Why?"

"That's it!" Ash declared victoriously and started pacing again.

"Ash, what are you on about?" Scribbs leaned forward, trying to catch a glimpse of the brunette's face for explanation.

"You walked home! This is exactly why we are a great team, Scribbs! Fantastic!" This making things even more confusing for the blonde, she stood up as well and grabbed Ash by the arm.

"Ash!" Locking eyes with her, Scribbs raised her eyebrows. "What is it?" Ash finally paid attention to Scribbs and blinked.

"You walked home. I know for a fact that you drove us to the pub after work. So how is it possible that your car is in your driveway at this very moment?" Ash's eyes were sparkling with excitement, and for the first time for days Scribbs felt like things could actually take a turn for the better.

"Someone must've driven it back." Her eyes widened when the realisation hit her.

"Exactly. Now, the question is, who?" Ash said and was momentarily distracted by Scribb's lips which she noticed to be surprisingly close. With great effort she drew her eyes away from the temptation and forced herself to concentrate on the issue at hand. "The car needs to be printed."

Ash fished her mobile phone from her coat pocket and was dialing before Scribbs could completely comprehend what was going on. After a few minutes a very satisfied-looking Ash hung up the phone.

"Let's hope the murderer wasn't as clever as he thought he was," Ash said triumphantly and watched happily as a small smile spread on Scribbs' lips as well. She loved it when Scribbs smiled and lately there had been significantly little of that for obvious reasons.

"You're working too hard on this, Ash." The look on Scribbs' face was gentle, making Ash's insides melt. Why couldn't she look at her like that all the time? Not that she would actually want that because there were dozens of other Scribbs expressions that were just as cute.

"Don't be an idiot, Scribbs. I expect you'd do the same for me. Not that I would ever get myself into this kind of a mess of course."

"Of course." Scribbs chuckled and shook her head. "I would do the same for you," she then continued and there was an uncomfortable silence while they looked at each other, not quite knowing how they'd ended up there.

"We are partners," Ash said then, trying to shake the feeling of uneasiness which she wasn't used to. "Work partners," she added quickly and wanted to kick herself, because Scribbs was looking oddly at her and blinking. "So we're supposed to..." Her voice grew weaker. "...help each other," she finished and suddenly had a terrible urge to flee the scene and never think about this conversation ever again.

"Ash, I-," Scribbs begun, but Ash interrupted her before she could say anything.

"I think I'd better go and see how the printing is coming about." With that she walked to the door and called for a guard to come and let her out. "To make sure they're thorough," she then felt the need to explain and turned back to the blonde while the guard turned the key in the lock.

"I'll see you later," Scribbs said, her eyes intense and looking at Ash, which made the brunette shiver.

"Yes. Later. Later it is. Later it definitely is," Ash blabbered and practically ran out of the cell. Near the car park she finally slowed down and slapped her forehead in annoyance.

This was so not good.

Ash could hear her blood pulsing in her ears and her hands shook a little. She glanced up from the document in her hand and met the eyes of a lab tech standing before her.

"Are you absolutely sure?"

"I ran it five times, Ma'am." The young man seemed agitated and Ash was amused to realise he was slightly afraid of her.

"Fantastic." She nodded and a satisfied smile slowly spread on her lips. "Fantastic indeed."

In fifteen minutes she was standing in Sullivan's office, waiting impatiently for him to finish reading the documents which she had just received. Finally he leaned back and looked blankly at Ash.

"Boss?" She wasn't sure if his blank stare was a good or a bad thing.

"Excellent work, Ash." His face finally broke into a smile and Ash released a breath she'd been holding.

"Thank you, boss," she said modestly, but inside she was so proud of herself she was near bursting.

"I'm guessing they're heading out to make the arrest. I assume you want to be there."

"Actually, boss, I think there's a certain DS in a holding cell who's rather eager to get out," Ash said and cast her eyes down on her linked hands.

"Of course." Sullivan's eyes were uncharacteristically sparkly and Ash could feel her cheeks redden slightly. "Wish her well for me."

"Yes, boss."

Outside the office Ash leaned against the wall and grimaced. Was she being totally obvious? But then, to her surprised, she realised that she didn't really care what other people thought. It was a feeling she hadn't had in a long time. And it was a very good feeling indeed.

Copies of the essential documents in her hand, she headed down to the holding cells and was standing in front of her partner in mere minutes. For a while she didn't say anything, but simply stood there, looking as confident as ever. She knew it probably annoyed Scribbs, but her news was so good that a little teasing was completely justified.

"Fine, you win. What is it, Ash?" Scribbs sighed and Ash smirked. Sometimes it was way too easy.

"I thought you'd appreciate being in the company of your saviour a little more." Ash crossed her arms on her chest.

"What do you mean?" There was the famous Scribbs frown again as she was trying to figure out what the joke was this time. She glanced at the door which was slightly ajar and her frown deepened.

Ash licked her lips and handed the documents to the blonde. She watched as Scribbs took them, confused, and started reading. Ash could easily tell the moment the realisation hit her partner, because suddenly all the colour drained from her face and she looked up at Ash with bright eyes.

"I came to escort you out," Ash said and nodded towards the door with her head.

Before Ash even knew what was happening, Scribbs had abandoned the papers on the bunk, crossed the room with a few long strides and was now hugging her tightly. At first Ash was shocked, and her first instinct was to pull away—after all, she was a respectable detective inspector—but then she noticed that she didn't really want to. Nor would she have been able to, because Scribbs' arms were wrapped around her so tightly that she could hardly breathe properly.

It was a natural reaction. Something clicked in her brain and she really didn't care anymore. Slowly she put her arms around Scribbs and returned the hug, not being able to stop the happy smile that now graced her delicate features.

The hug lasted longer than probably was appropriate, and they were both flustered afterwards, not sure where to look or what to say. They stood there awkwardly before Scribbs mentioned that she needed to pick up her belongings and that she'd meet Ash at the car. Ash nodded and watched her partner leave the cell before she followed suit. The guard outside the door was grinning a very satisfied grin, and Ash put on, once again, her mask of professionalism.

"She's my work partner," Ash said poignantly and gave her a disapproving stare.

"Yeah, I'm sure." The smirk on the guard's face irritated Ash even more. She straightened her posture and marched out, feeling the amused eyes of the guard on her back all the way to the front doors.

"I just can't believe Sheila would do something like that," Scribbs shook her head and downed the last drops of her wine. She placed the glass on the table and leaned back on the sofa in Ash's spacious lounge where they'd been having a quiet drink for the past hour. "I mean, planting evidence is one thing, but actually dragging me to the crime scene to get my prints is a little overdoing it." Scribbs looked incredulous and shook her head. "Besides, using me as a tool in their little blackmailing scheme against Sarah Jones was just rude."

"Gives a whole new meaning to fraud," Ash mused, sipping from her glass.

"Huh?" Oh, why did Scribbs have to torture her with that frown?

"She worked at fraud, Scribbs," Ash explained. "It's ironic."

"Oh, yeah. Sad, but ironic," Scribbs shrugged and poured herself some more wine.

"The thing that makes me wonder, though, is that how did they manage to drug you? The tox report showed significant amounts of rohypnol, but how did they do it with ten other cops around?" Ash studied the red liquid in her glass and then glanced up at Scribbs who looked somewhat sheepish. Ash's face fell. "What?"

"DS Stewart asked me to dance." Scribbs' voice was small and she looked like five-year-old who knew she was going to get lectured.

"He what?!" Ash's head snapped up. "And more importantly, you said yes?!"

"Oh, come on, Ash! He's cute and he's been flirting with me since day one. I figured I might just go for it."

"And how did it go?" Ash asked through gritted teeth and tried not to show her true feelings towards an idea of Scribbs with that sodding excuse of a man.

"Not very well," Scribbs sighed and Ash's interest peaked right away. "His hands were the sweatiest hands I've ever seen, well, felt really. And the moment I give in to him, I get drugged and accused of murder. I think it's a very clear sign that I should just forget the whole thing." Scribbs rolled her eyes and picked up the wine glass again.

"I am proud of your Scribbs. That was the right thing to do," Ash agreed a little too eagerly. Scribbs glanced at her, a teasing look on her face.

"Why, are you jealous?" She grinned.

"What?! No!" Ash looked at the blonde with wild eyes and Scribbs' grin faded.

"Ash, I was kidding." She chuckled and watched as her partner tried to recollect herself.

"Yes, I knew that." Ash smoothed her hair in a nervous manner. When she looked at Scribbs, the blonde didn't look very convinced. "I did!"

"The right answer would've been 'yes'," Scribbs then said quietly and inspected the woman before her.

"I beg your pardon?" Ash blinked.

"To my question. Whether you were jealous or not. I would've preferred 'yes'," Scribbs said, her smile a little sad.

Ash didn't know which way to be; her emotions were pulling her to a hundred different directions as she was trying to decipher what Scribbs had just said. Eventually she figured that there probably wasn't anything to decipher. It suspiciously sounded like Scribbs wanted her to be jealous, which only lead to one, earth-shattering conclusion.

"Right," she finally uttered, unable to tear her eyes off Scribbs. "Well, ahem, maybe I was. A little, you know?" She gestured furiously with her hands. Scribbs raised her eyebrows in a silent question. "Jealous." Ash gave in and blushed.

"I know." Scribbs' smile was that of a thousand volts again. "I just wanted to hear you admit it." Ash narrowed her eyes at that, and Scribbs took a sip from her glass, looking satisfied with herself.

"Right, of course you knew. Christ, I think the whole world knows." Ash snorted, reaching for the bottle on the table, only to be stopped by a pair of hands on her own.

"I think we've had enough," Scribbs whispered, her face now only centimetres from Ash's. The brunette swallowed, her eyes involuntarily sliding down to stare at Scribbs' lips which were impossibly close, closer than she'd ever seen them.

"Right," Ash whispered back, her eyes still on the blonde's lips.

"Ash?" Scribbs inquired quietly

"Shut up, Scribbs. I'm just drunk enough to actually do this." And it's not like she could've passed up the opportunity anyway.

The kiss that followed was so much better than any fantasy or dream could ever be. Ash's head was spinning and she was certain she'd pass out. Her breathing was laboured, her pulse through the roof.

"This is insane," she tried to reason when they finally broke apart, her brain telling her at the same time to go for it and reminding her that, technically, she was Scribbs' superior and this was so very wrong.

"Yeah, but who cares?" Scribbs asked, her hands still tightly around Ash's.

"I have rules, Scribbs."

"Sod the rules."

The look on Scribbs' face was that of lust and desperation. She was looking at Ash with so much need that the brunette's breath caught in her throat. She'd never seen Scribbs look at anyone like that, and she knew in an instant that that Scribbs look was her absolute favourite. And she never wanted to share it with anyone.

Ash leaned forward again and covered Scribbs' lips with her own, wondering that she'd never been quite so inappropriately happy for a murder before.

The End

Return to Murder in Suburbia Fiction

Return to Main Page