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Little White Lies
"Scr.." Ash stopped herself. She shook her head softly, reminding herself that they were undercover and as habitual as calling Emma by her last name had been for her, now was neither the time nor the place. She stepped closer towards Scribbs, the blonde eagerly familiarizing herself with the pastries spread out on the table.
Brushing the strands off the side of Scribbs face and tucking them behind an ear, Ash leaned closer to the blonde. "Emma?"
"Mmmm?" She mumbled while chewing on the pastry she'd just stuffed into her mouth.
Ash smiled politely at the couple across from them. She leaned in closer, whispering into Emma's ear. "You do realize we're undercover?"
Scribbs paused to lick a bit of frosting off her thumb. "Yeah?"
"Then could you do me a favor and stop flirting with Mark. For starters, he's gay. Second, he's married. And most importantly," she made a passing glance at a particularly muscular man pouring himself a cup of coffee. "His partner looks like he crushes small vehicles with his bare hands."
"He did say it was an open relationship. I just wanted to know if that particular door swung both ways," Scribbs paused. Hazel eyes squinted playfully to examine Ash's features as her lips curled into a coy grin. She turned her body fully to face her partner. "Why Kate, I do believe you're jealous. We're going to have to work on that in group."
"Yes, and after that we can work on your interminable habit of flirting with everything with XY chromosomes."
"Doctor Jeff says my flirting is a subconscious response to your intimacy issues."
"I don't have issues with intimacy!" Ash stopped, realizing she'd raised her voice as several sets of eyes and ears had turned in her direction.
"Kate," the doctor in question, a one Doctor Jeffery 'Please Call Me Jeff' Harrison, stood right behind the couple. He pushed his glasses up onto his nose with his index finger to keep from peering over them as he tilted his head forward to give Kate an admonishing look.
"Doct.." Ash paused. "Jeff."
Jeff was no more than a few years older than Ash. He was an American and from the program brochure 'hailed from Tennessee', with wavy, sandy blonde hair pulled off an angular face. The kind of face one would expect to find on a beach in between catching waves, as opposed to a Doctor performing couples therapy. "What's my rule about angry voices?"
Ash sighed. She closed her eyes to keep from rolling out the back of her head. "The angry voice is just a way to obfuscate one's true feelings."
"Good," Jeff smiled politely. "Now why were you using your angry voice?"
"That's probably my fault," Scribbs swallowed the last bit of cake, wiping her mouth with a napkin before turning to face the doctor. "She accused me of flirting. And I said it's because she's such a cold fish in the bedroom."
"Emma," Jeff placed both hands on Scribbs' shoulders. "I thought we worked on this. We don't lash out at our partners. Lashing out doesn't close the chasm between the two of you, it just makes it wider." He took his left hand off Scribbs' shoulder and placed it onto Ash's. "Kate, Emma, we need to stop the hurting and start the healing. That's why you two are here. Healing only begins when we want it to." He removed his hands from their shoulders. "Now, I want you two to hug."
"What?" Ash gasped. "You mean here, right now?"
"If there's no better time than the present, then when?"
Her eyes darted about. A small crowd had gathered about them, members of the group coming to watch the doctor work. "I don't know. Maybe the privacy of our bedroom."
"Yeah," Scribbs snorted. "The fish tank."
"Emma," Jeff warned politely.
"Not to me, to Kate."
Scribbs inhaled and let out a large breath. The coy smile returned on her lips as she spread her arms out. "Come here, schookums."
Ash tried to hide her distasteful swallow, or the repulsed shudder at the idea of such a public display of affection. The situation wasn't helped by Scribbs cheeky grin or the patronizing smile on Jeff's face as he warmly encouraged her with his eyes.
"Fine," she grumbled. Ash stepped into Scribbs' arms.
"C'mon Kate," Jeff urged with a Southern drawl. "Put your heart into it. Express yourself with your arms."
Resigned, Ash lifted her arms, sliding them up Scribbs' torso then wrapping them around the blonde's waist.
"There, that wasn't so hard was it?" He beamed like a proud father. "Now let's move to the next step. I want both of you to say you're sorry."
"I'm sorry, schnookums," Scribbs purred, wrapping her arms tighter.
"I'm sorry too, Pookie-bear." It was the first time Ash had grinned since they'd joined the retreat. 'Pookie-Bear' was the nickname one of Scribbs' exes had used. She could feel Scribbs stiffening with tension.
"Aw," Jeff continued. "See what a hug can go? Now you two are ready for the next step - the kiss."
"What?" It was Ash's turn to stiffen. "You mean here?"
Jeff opened his arms, gesturing towards the crowd around them. "We're all amongst loved ones here, Kate. Be an example for the group."
Scribbs puckered her lips, speaking through them like a talking fish. "C'mon love, give us a kiss."
"Fine," she grumbled. "But I swear if you try and slip me the tongue,"
Ash scrunched her eyes closed, leaving them open the tiniest bit. She puckered her lips as Scribbs' face moved closer towards her. As their lips made the slightest of contact, Ash immediately jerked her head away.
"See!" Scribbs exclaimed, stepping back and breaking the hug between them. "A cold fish. And she says my flirting is awful? It can't be as bad as the woman I love refusing to kiss me in public."
Scribbs folded her arms angrily across her chest, huffed one final time before turning on her heel and making her way towards the door.
"It's okay," Jeff stepped next to Ash, patting her on the back reassuringly. "She loves you. She wouldn't be here if she didn't. So, don't you worry. By the end of my sessions it'll take a crowbar to pry you two apart."
Ash watched Scribbs' retreating form as it disappeared behind an angrily opened door. Watched and wondered if this assignment would bring them closer together, or tear them apart.
"A cold fish!" Ash slammed the bedroom door behind her with picture frame rattling intensity.
"If the scales fit," Scribbs harrumphed, barely looking up from her magazine. She lay on her stomach on the bed, feet swaying back and forth as she flipped through one of the many manuals scattered about their cottage.
"And you're just loving this aren't you?" She flopped onto the bed, draped her arms over her face. "I can't believe I agreed to this."
"What? We go undercover all the time."
"Yes, as friends, or colleagues, or random strangers who conveniently strike up a conversation. Not as lovers."
Scribbs rolled onto her side. She propped her head with a hand. "It wouldn't be so hard if you weren't so uptight."
"I'm not uptight," Ash sighed. "Okay, maybe a little."
"And I didn't see you complaining when you had to pose as a married couple with Sullivan."
"That was different."
"He's my superior. You're my subordinate."
"Oh," Scribbs smiled coyly, wagging her eyebrows. "So you're saying you prefer to be on the bottom then?"
"You're going to be insufferable until we solve this case, aren't you?"
"Yea, pretty much. It's not very often I get to see you all tongue-tied and blushing."
"I'll tie your tongue," Ash rose onto her elbows. "Is that my shirt?"
Scribbs took a glance down. "Yea, I think it is."
"Actually," Ash corrected her. "That's Ian's shirt. And I dare say you look better in it than he ever did."
"Why Ash, are you flirting with me?"
"No. If I were flirting I wouldn't be imagining ripping that shirt off you for the sole purpose of burning it."
"Mrs. Cottonbottom," Ash lowered her cup from her lips, setting it politely in the palm of her hand. "I'd heard this is your third time here. May I ask why?"
Mrs. Cottonbottom was a pear of a woman, with silver and grey hair piled into a bun on top of her head. "Viagra," she stated chirpily as if she were describing a particular species of bird in the yard.
Ash ignored the slight choking sound coming from her partner, or when she wiped a bit of tea that had dribbled down her chin. "I'm sorry."
"Me and my George, we've been married for over forty years. And there's a certain point where the spark goes and you just accept it because, well, that's what happens when you get old," she dropped a sugar cube delicately into her cup. "Then he found the little blue pill." She smiled coyly bringing the cup to her lips.
"Ah," Scribbs grinned. "The old spark returned?"
"Spark, oh dear," Mrs. Cottonbottom chuckled. "It wasn't a spark. MY George turned into an inferno!"
Ash leaned forward, trying to steer the conversation away from any impoliteness, or downright embarrassment. "I hate to be rude but if the spark's returned what's a couple like you doing in a place like this?"
"Cunnilingus," Mrs. Cottonbottom stated and a fine spray of Earl Grey shot a yard from Ash's lips onto the rug.
"You'll have to forgive my dear schnookums," Scribbs smiled, patting Ash on the back to ease her coughing fit. "A bit of sexual repression."
"No worries. I was like you once, my dear. Couldn't even say the word 'breasts' without blushing like a school marm. Anyway, George had his pill, my old tiger returned and his lioness reawakened. Except, after forty years of marriage, he still won't go down on me. Can you imagine? Knowing only one man and never knowing the touch of a tongue on my vagina. After all the times I've sucked.."
"Look at the time," Ash blurted, jerking up from her seat and pulling Scribbs with her. "This has been lovely but it looks like we're late for a session."
"Oh, which one?"
"I.." Ash stammered. "I don't know. Emma?"
Emma turned towards Ash, cheeky grin and smiling eyes and Ash felt her stomach drop. "Erotic massage."
"Oh," Mrs. Cottonbottom's eyes widened in excitement. "You'll love it, especially the clitoris stimulation exercise."
"Stop!" Ash held up her hand as Scribbs opened her mouth. "I am NOT having an erotic massage. And neither are you."
"Welcome to erotic massage 101!" Her name was Hilga. She was from Hungary and spoke with the thickest of accents. Almost six feet tall with long brown hair and smoky green eyes, with a figure that looked like she stepped off the catwalk. A nude catwalk.
Ash tightened the rope around her body trying desperately not to stare at Hilga's pert, and eye level, breasts. She chose the moment to focus on something else, her eyes scanning about the room. "Where's everyone else?"
Hilga tilted her head slightly in confusion. "Your partner requested a private session, did you not?"
Ash could feel the color draining from her face. She turned to face her partner. "You didn't?"
"What? Did I forget to mention that?"
"No matter," Hilga waved a hand. "I've heard about your," she pointed towards Scribbs. "What you call it? Intimacy issues? Kate," Hilga swung towards Ash, placing her hands on her shoulders and staring at her seriously enough to make Ash gulp. "When we are done, your partner will touch you in ways you've never imagined. And intimacy will be the least of your issues."
"Gah!" Ash groaned in frustration flopping backwards onto the bed. "We're getting absolutely nowhere!"
"You might not," Scribbs mumbled through her pillow where she lay face down on the mattress. "I'm getting pretty far."
"Yeah," Ash harrumphed. "If I hadn't intervened, you and Hilga would have gone all the way."
"Well, she did say she needed a volunteer and you certainly weren't going to step up."
"Step up? We're here to solve a murder not have our chi's aligned through clitoral stimulation."
"We're playing roles."
"So?" Scribbs lifted her head. "It's not like you haven't done this before."
"I most certainly have not!"
"You're right. If it's not you, it must be me then," Scribbs jerked up from the bed. She headed towards the bathroom, stopping momentarily. "If you didn't want to go undercover with me as lovers, all you had to do was say so."
With that, Scribbs slammed the door behind her. And Ash sat staring dumbfounded at the door wondering why the Hell she was the one in trouble.
"Ladies," Doctor Jeff drawled, clapping his hands together then placing them onto his knees. "Where I'm from, we call this a Texas Standoff."
The two women sat in Doctor Jeff's office, each in their own chair, arms folded across chests, Ash petulantly, Scribbs sulkily. Doctor Jeff sat across from them in his own chair. He leaned back, folding his arms across his chest and stroking his goatee with his fingers.
"It's all her fault," Scribbs mumbled.
"How is this MY fault?
"Ladies?" Doctor Jeff held up his hands, trying to keep the conversation from escalating.
"Go on," Scribbs jerked a thumb as Ash. "Ask her about HIM."
"Who?" Doctor Jeff and Ash asked in unison.
"You know who Sullivan."
"That's preposterous!" Ash blurted.
"Who's Sullivan?" Doctor Jeff asked.
"Our boss," Scribbs answered. "And she fancies him."
"I can't believe you would tell HIM that!"
"So it's true?" Doctor Jeff began patting his chest, suddenly feeling the need for a notepad to write it all down on.
"Of course it's not true!" Ash softened, tilting her head sheepishly. "Okay, maybe a little."
Doctor Jeff licked the tip of his pen and began scribbling. "And Emma, how does this make you feel?"
"How do you think it makes me feel? All day, every day, it's 'Sullivan this' and 'Sullivan that'. He's all broad shouldered and beefy. And I'm flat chested and scrawny. How am I supposed to compete with that? Then there's the swooning," she placed a hand on her forehead, posing dramatically. "Oh DCI Sullivan, he's soo dreamy."
"I didn't call him dreamy."
"DCI?" Doctor Jeff gulped hard.
"Oh, that's right," Ash turned her head towards Doctor Jeff, wagging her finger between herself and Scribbs. "I'm Detective Inspector Kate Ashurst, this is my partner Detective Sergeant Emma Scribbins, and you, Doctor Jeff, are under arrest for murder."
That's when Doctor Jeff bolted towards the nearest exit.
"Who is it?" Scribbs asked through the closed door of her flat.
"It's me," Ash's voice carried through.
"I'm not home."
"C'mon Scribbs, open up. Please."
Scribbs paused just enough to watch Ash squirm a bit more through the peephole before opening the door. Ash pulled a bouquet of flowers from behind her back.
"What's that?" Scribbs asked.
"I've been told these are what you give after making an ass of one's self and wanting to make amends."
"So who's the ass?" Scribbs kept a hand on the door, keeping Ash from entering.
"A certain Detective Inspector who didn't realize she'd been making her partner feel inadequate."
"Who says I'm feeling inadequate?"
Ash stepped closer, bracing an arm against the door frame and leaning closer. "And I don't fancy him. Not really."
"Then why all the talk?"
"I don't know," she shrugged. "To fill the air with something. I've been doing it for so long, sometimes I forget what's chatter and what's real."
"And what do you think is real?"
"I know I talk about Sullivan a lot, but you're my partner. You're the first person I think of in the morning and the last one I call at night. And I talk a lot because I like how you listen. How you tilt your head and peer with your eyes at me. Like I'm the only person in the world and nothing else matters"
Scribbs could feel herself blushing. She tucked a long strand of hair behind an ear to give her hands something to do. "Do I?"
"Mmm-hmm," Ash stepped inside the doorway, closing the space between them. "And I don't think you're flat-chested, or scrawny, or inadequate in any physical way possible."
She'd been backed against the wall and hadn't realized it. Now Ash was moving closer and Scribbs could feel her heart hammering in her chest, thankful she had the flowers to hold on to because her hands were shaking. "What else?" She asked. Her voice barely above a whisper.
"What else?" Kate leaned in, brushing her lips across the line of Scribbs ear. "After being called a cold fish in the bedroom for a week, maybe it's time for me to refute your claim."
Scribbs bit her lip to keep from gasping. "That seems the logical conclusion."
Ash stepped backwards, walking deeper into Scribbs' flat and heading towards the bedroom. "Oh and Scribbs," she asked as she peeled out of her leather jacket and tossed it onto a chair. "If you're still studying, I'd like to volunteer as a subject for that erotic massage."
Scribbs couldn't stop her lips from breaking into a smile even if she tried. She bounded towards the bedroom. "Does that include the clitoral stimulation?"
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