DISCLAIMER: Murder in Suburbia and its characters are the property of ITV. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Part of the FSAC:DD12. Thanks to Ann for the beta.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To ralst31[at]yahoo.co.uk
Knickers or a Ring?
Her tongue poking out of the corner of her mouth and a piece of sellotape clinging defiantly to her golden hair, Emma Scribbins was the epitome of a harassed Christmas wrapper. It had taken her the better part of twenty minutes to wrap her nephew's scooter and another ten to disguise his Dark Knight action figure as something other than the caped crusader. Her sister's cutlery set, by far the dullest thing she'd bought in years, had been a piece of cake in comparison and, all in all, things had gone far smoother than she'd imagined.
"There!" She set the scooter on its paper-clad side and took a step back from the small pile of presents littered around her Christmas tree. "Nine down, one to go," she muttered, her good mood vanishing as her thoughts turned to the one gift she had yet to acquire: Kate's.
Originally, Emma had intended to purchase something frivolous, just to see the look of bewildered joy on Kate's face, but in the end she'd scrapped that idea. A TARDIS tea-cosy was all well and good, but it hardly said I love you in a way that would penetrate Kate's stubborn refusal to see through her blatant hints. She'd considered buying a ring; something elegant and understated, but knowing her luck, Kate would mistake it for a proposal and run screaming from the room.
No, it had to be obvious, but non-threatening: I love you and don't panic all wrapped up in one perfect gift.
Emma sighed and reached for her laptop. She'd searched through every on-line shop she could find, but despite the plastic wrapped models smiling toothily at everything in sight, she'd yet to find anything she thought would appeal to Kate. She'd almost splurged on a weekend for two aboard the Orient Express, but without a baffling murder, Kate would probably feel cheated.
"Lingerie?" Emma mumbled, a crease forming between her brows as she clicked from one page to the next. "Something silky?" Her question lacked confidence and she knew even before it finished that she'd never have the nerve to give Kate anything so skimpy. "Thermal?"
Months earlier, when she'd thought of Kate as Ash, she could have bought her crotch-less undies without any problem. Kate would have threatened to eviscerate her, naturally, but even knowing that it wouldn't have stopped her from purchasing the naughty-knickers. Then she'd gone and fallen in love with her best friend and suddenly she was over-thinking every purchase.
The telephone rang, interrupting her gift-analysis, and she quickly snatched up the receiver to stop her thoughts from wandering back to the subject of Kate.
"Scribbs?" Naturally, it was Kate on the other end of the line. "Where are you?" There was a definite hint of tetchiness in Kate's voice that forced Emma to search her memory and the kitchen clock for any suggestion of a missed appointment.
"At home." She refrained from mentioning that as Kate had called her on her land-line, she couldn't really be anywhere else, having sat through two hours of silence the last time she'd made a similar remark. "Did we have a d -" The word 'date' was quickly locked behind her lips and a hasty, and grammatically incorrect, "appointment" substituted in its place.
"The Boss asked us to the pub for drinks, remember?"
Emma remembered the invitation all too well and hadn't for a moment been stupid enough to assume that it had extended to her as well as Kate. "I'm sure the Boss won't miss me." He'd have probably blown an ultra-polite gasket if she had arrived, Emma thought, his intentions towards Kate growing increasingly obvious with each passing month.
"I'll miss you." It was said with some force, and for a fleeting moment, Emma thought that her anvil-sized hints hadn't been entirely wasted after all. "That sweaty-palmed boy from the CPS keeps offering to buy me drinks and I need you to run interference."
"Oh." Emma would normally have relished the idea of thwarting the romantic delusions of some baby-faced lawyer, especially if they were directed towards Kate, but she had a sneaking suspicion that the oik was the only thing standing between Kate and a declaration of affection from the Boss. "Why don't you just leave?"
"I can't do that." Kate sounded affronted at the very idea. "The Boss said he had something important he wanted to discuss with me." There was a distinct hint of excitement in Kate's voice that made Emma feel sick. "I think he..." She lowered her voice, presumably to prevent any hovering lawyers from overhearing, "...is going to recommend me for a promotion."
"A promotion?" Emma's relief came out sounding more like disbelief, so she quickly added an, "About bloody time."
"So, you see why I need you?"
Emma was torn. She knew damn well that it wasn't a promotion the Boss was thinking about, but she could hardly tell Kate that, could she? It was only a supposition, after all, and she didn't want to ruin Kate's chances if, by some miracle, he was intending to talk to her about work and not getting his leg over. "I'll be there in twenty minutes."
After wedging herself between Kate and the sweaty-palmed lawyer and listening to the Boss's never ending tale of financial wrongdoing at the local branch of Tesco, Emma was ready to put a big pink bow on the evening and let it be Kate's gift. The only thing that stopped it from being a total waste of her time and sanity was the feel of Kate's thigh pressed against her own and the hotly whispered 'Thank you' she had received on her arrival.
"Another drink, Kate?" asked the oily little tyke, otherwise known as Darren from the CPS or Mr. Sweaty-palms, depending on whom you asked.
Kate's nod was accompanied by a smile of politeness that almost, but not quite, masked her growing irritation. "Scribbs will have a Coke," she cut in, before Emma could comment on the raised unibrow aimed in her direction, "she's driving." Emma would have taken offence, but she knew how Kate's mind worked and she could already see an escape plan formulating behind her partner's deep brown eyes. "Why don't you help him carry the drinks?" she whispered into Emma's ear, unleashing a tidal wave of fire into the blonde's belly before the thought of leaving Kate and the Boss alone quickly doused the flames.
Ten minutes later, Emma was congratulating herself on successfully blocking Darren's many attempts to return to the table and interrupt what she suspected was a very personal conversation between Kate and the Boss. Not that she wanted the conversation to take place, she wasn't a masochist after all, but she couldn't stand in the way of Kate's happiness, even if it did mean she ended up with Sullivan instead of her.
"Scribbs, we're going."
The fleeting glimpse of a dark-clad figure storming through the doors of the pub was all that Emma was able to detect as she turned to question the clipped command. Somewhat bemused, she offered Darren a shrug-come-goodbye and followed Kate out into the car park. If they'd been called out to investigate a murder, she was buggered, because there was no way Kate would let her out of her sight long enough to go present shopping unless she was dragging a handcuffed suspect along for the ride.
"You'd think people could at least stop killing each other during the holidays," Emma whined as she came within hailing distance of her partner. "What happened to the season of good will and all that crap?" Emma had expected a lecture on the stresses of the holiday season and the subsequent increase in suicide and murder rates throughout the country, but instead she was met with a flinty glare and the silent instruction to open the damn door and drive.
"Where are we going?" Emma questioned once they were safely out of the car park and heading in what she hoped was the right direction.
There was a pause as Kate appeared to consider the suitability of her answer before she issued a resolute, "My place."
"Yours?" Murderers rarely delivered, so Emma was forced to reject her original assumption. "Why? Is something wrong?" Her mind whizzed through a myriad of scenarios ranging from dead family members to an iron having been left on and none were filling her with much in the way of hope. "Kate, what's going on?"
The set of Kate's jaw relaxed in astonishment at the use of her first name, but it quickly reset as her eyes swivelled back from looking at Emma's face to staring intensely at the road ahead. "DCI Sullivan made a pass at me," she seethed.
"Yeah?" She'd known it would happen eventually, but that didn't stop the wave of nausea from roiling in Emma's stomach. "That's nice."
"Nice? What in God's name is nice about it?" Kate turned to stare daggers at her partner, causing Emma to swerve slightly at the onslaught. "Three years! Three bloody years he's had, and he waits until now to ask me out?" Kate's voice rose and Emma was sure that if they'd been anywhere other than a car Kate would have been pacing like a maniac by now.
It had taken Emma a similar amount of time to realise that she'd fallen head over heels in love with her best friend, so she couldn't really fault him on that score, although if she'd been a bloke she'd have probably asked Kate out twenty minutes after meeting her. "The pillock."
Kate nodded in agreement. "If he'd asked me out last year I could have said yes, but no, he had to wait until this year and give me time enough to fall in love with someone else!"
"Yeah, a right toss... What?"
"You don't need to pretend, Scribbs, you know exactly what I'm talking about." Emma had absolutely no idea. "I know nothing will ever come of it, so you needn't feel threatened or anything, but let's not pretend we both don't know what I mean."
"What do you mean?"
"Really." Emma pulled into Kate's driveway and came to a screeching stop, the two of them jerking towards the windscreen before being restrained by their safety belts in a manoeuvre that would have normally earned a rebuke if not full on rant from Kate's side of the car. Instead, Emma was met with the sound of the car door slamming and the now familiar sight of Kate storming through doors ahead of her. "Ash?"
The first thing to capture Emma's attention as she walked in the house was Kate's hastily thrown coat balanced precariously across the banister rail and threatening at any second to tumble onto the floor and trip the unwary. It was so unlike Kate that Emma actually stopped and stared for a second, before removing the coat and carefully placing it on its assigned peg of the coat rack. "Ash?" She cautiously looked around the door into the living room and saw Kate pacing back and forth in front of a pristine looking Christmas tree. "Are you okay?"
"Okay? Do I look okay?" There was a distinct tread pattern developing in the carpet and the baubles on the tree had started to sway in time with Kate's movements, so Emma couldn't, in all good conscience, say that she looked anywhere close to 'okay'. "First Sullivan, now you, it's hardly been the best day of my life!"
"Me? What did I do?"
"Enough, already, I know that you know." Kate stopped her pacing to better poke an accusing finger in Emma's direction. "I saw what you did with the mistletoe."
"I didn't do anything." Emma had been tempted to do something, true, but before her baser instincts could take over, she'd removed the sprig from above Kate's desk, where Davison had placed it, to somewhere far more innocuous.
Kate glared. "Was the idea of me kissing you so scary that you had to risk life and limb to get the bloody thing down? Or were you afraid that I'd get the wrong idea and start chasing you around the office making inappropriate suggestions?"
"What?" Emma took one step forward and then two, until she had invaded Kate's pacing area and started to back her into the tree. "Are you saying that you wanted me to kiss you?" It was ludicrous but there was no other interpretation she could think of for Kate's little rant, unless... "Are you drunk?"
It was Kate's turn to issue a confused and hostile, "What?"
"Perhaps I should make some coffee." Emma knew that if she stayed in that room, with Kate looking at her like she'd just walked naked out of Loch Ness singing the theme tune to Skippy, the Bush Kangaroo, she'd lose it and end up kissing her best and obviously drunk friend.
Kate grabbed her arm. "I am not drunk!"
Emma wasn't entirely sure she believed that assertion but it was too late, her baser instincts had already taken over the asylum and it would have taken a bucket of ice-cold water or one of Kate's piercing stares to keep her from reaching across and planting a so-far-from-chaste-they're-in-a-different-area-code kiss on Kate's lips.
The kiss was either over before it began or continued throughout a lifetime, Emma couldn't tell, all she knew was that Kate hadn't rebuffed her advances and she'd literally combust if she didn't get to kiss her again. So she did. Then when that kiss ended, she kissed her again, and then again, until her entire universe was the feel of Kate's lips against her own.
The body curled around Emma's was warm and soft and smelled like the kind of sex she'd only dreamt about until that morning. It was also pressing against her bladder and causing her hand to go numb where it lay trapped beneath Kate's thigh. "Ash?" In the throws of passion she'd called her 'Kate', but in the semi-darkness of the still room, she wasn't sure if it would be appropriate. "I need the loo." It wasn't the kind of romantic claptrap she'd planned to say in the very unlikely event that she and Kate would end up in bed together, but in the circumstances, it was far more loving than rolling Kate off the bed so she could make a mad dash for the toilet.
Kate rolled onto her back but otherwise gave no indication that she'd heard.
Her visit to the toilet complete, Emma took a moment to give herself a mental high-five, before rushing back to the bedroom and her slumbering lover. "Ash?" The sight of a sated and barely covered Kate Ashurst was enough to kick-start Emma's libido into overdrive, but before she could put her lascivious ideas into practice, there were a few things she had to know. "Kate?"
"It is me, isn't it, that you're in love with?"
"No," said Kate, finally opening her eyes, "it's the man that cleans the station windows on alternate Fridays; I was just sleeping with you until he finished his rounds." She waited a beat for the cloud of confusion to descend on Emma's face before adding, "Of course it's you, you idiot."
"Okay, good." Emma made a mental note to keep an eye on the window cleaner. "And this isn't a one-time, get-me-out-of-your-system type of deal?"
"No, I plan on having my way with you repeatedly," Kate assured her. "Starting as soon as you run out of daft questions."
"Oh, okay, just one more." She slipped beneath the covers and started to nibble a trail of kisses down Kate's arm. "Would you rather a ring or edible undies for Christmas?"
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