DISCLAIMER: Murder in Suburbia and its characters are the property of ITV. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Named for the Cardigans’ song, My Favorite Game: “I’m losing my favorite game.”
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By zennie


Part Two

And I'm losing my favourite game
you're losing your mind again
I'm losing my baby
losing my favourite game

A week went by with forced smiles and tense, uncomfortable silences. Ash got into a habit of coming into the office early, organizing their day, leaving notes for Scribbs, and heading to her appointments before the blonde put in an appearance, effectively dividing their attention and cutting down on the amount of time they spent together in both the car and the office.

Ash noted, not without a bit of regret, that Scribbs seemed to be feeling the strain as much as she was. The dark circles under the blonde's eyes were becoming a permanent feature, and she had gotten into the habit of not speaking unless spoken to. The silence, where once there had been lighthearted banter and talk, wore on Ash. Early in their partnership, Ash could remember her fervent wishes for Scribbs to keep quiet or, at the very least, keep conversation limited to workplace topics, but now that she had achieved this wish, Ash couldn't for the life of her recall why she had thought the silence would be a good thing.

Several times a day, she felt those brown eyes with an expression closely mirroring that of a hurt puppy dog on her, and when she glanced up, Ash always paused, waiting, even hoping, for Scribbs to open up and talk to her again. But the blonde was proving to be more stubborn than Ash gave her credit for, and in those moments, Scribbs would just stare at her sadly for a moment before returning to her work.

Ash resolved to stay strong, but, daily, Ash felt her determination crumbling. Every time she caught herself remembering a funny bit to share with Scribbs, every time she had to order one, not two, cups of coffee at the coffee shop around the corner, every time she reached out to catch Scribbs' hand to get her attention, Ash's resolve eroded, bit by bit.

"I'm out," Scribbs told Ash, standing and reaching for the multicolored scarf she had taken to wearing in the past week. Looping it twice around her neck, she left the ends to dangle as she tugged on her brown overcoat.

"Have a good evening," Ash responded politely. Upon hearing Scribbs sigh, she couldn't help but to add, "With any luck, tomorrow we'll have a body." Her attempt to be cheerful didn't work, as Scribbs just nodded and said, "Yeah." She shuffled out of the office, her shoulders slumped and all the spring out of her step.

Ash stared after Scribbs wistfully for a long moment before grabbing her coat off the coat rack and following. After a long, meandering drive, Scribbs pulled up in front of a seedy pub on the outskirts of town and, after a nervous glance that missed Ash's car in the alley halfway up the block, headed inside. The name, location, and clientele of the pub were all known to Ash, as well as any other officer in Middleford, and the implications staggered Ash as she watched the door swing shut behind her partner.

"New hang out?"

Scribbs blinked the smoke out of her eyes to find Ash leaned up against her car, arms crossed and her expression guarded. "Ash! What, what are you doing here?" Scribbs's eyes darted around the dark street nervously.

"I followed you, of course," Ash replied, as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

Scribbs caught Ash's arm and pulled her, bodily, away from the lit entrance and corner streetlight and into the shadows. "You shouldn't be here."

Ash pulled her arm free angrily and swung around to fix Scribbs with a basilisk stare. "I could say the same thing about you," she said, pointedly, her voice even and calm, even though she could feel equal parts rage and fear building in her body.

Scribbs looked back at the door, her eyes narrow with worry, before searching the street. "Where's your car?" Ash pointed to the alley and Scribbs hurried in that direction, catching Ash and pulling her along. "Let's get a drink."

"Why go? There's a perfectly good pub right here." The glare Scribbs shot her as she held out her hand for Ash's keys stopped the sarcasm, and the drive across town was silent for the duration.

Ash sipped her wine, nervously tapping the rim of the glass, as Scribbs downed a shot. She had spent most of the time Scribbs had been in that other pub just trying to control the sickening spinning of her stomach, and she felt like she hadn't had enough time to formulate the right words to confront Scribbs. Finding no answers in the bottom of her glass, Ash leaned her head into her hand and asked, simply, "Scribbs, what were you doing there?"

"I was just having a pint with some mates."

"BULLSHIT!" Ash's hand connected with tabletop with such vehemence that it rattled the glassware. "You were only in for half an hour." Ash met Scribbs' eyes coolly, as Scribbs opened her mouth to speak, "And don't plead ignorance. It's a known bookie establishment… with suspected ties to organized crime. You know that."

"It's just a pub."

"No, it isn't. Just because we've never managed to close it down, every copper in town knows that that's the place to place bets or make a deal."

Scribbs signaled the barman, and Ash quieted as he deposited another shot. They both stared at the glass for a moment before Ash snatched it from the tabletop and drank half before setting it in front of Scribbs again. "So which where you doing, Scribbs? Placing a bet? Making a deal?" Ash paused; she inhaled sharply past the pain in her chest as she spoke her last suspicion. "Taking a bribe?"

Scribbs stared at Ash, indignant, "I had a pint," she asserted, a warning tone in her voice. "Everything else is just… conjecture on your part." She finished the whiskey and brought the glass down with an angry clink.

"Why were you so nervous, then? So quick to get me out of there?"

Scribbs ignored the question. "I can't believe you followed me."

"What the bloody hell did you expect me to do? You've been acting weird." She paused, considered. "Well, weirder than usual, at least, and you wouldn't talk to me about it."

"Maybe because it's none of your business?"

"We're friends, Scribbs, and if there's something troubling you, we should be able to talk about it."

Scribbs gave a bitter, mirthless laugh and shook her head in exasperation. "So now we get to it. You, the great Kate Ashurst, cannot stand that maybe I have friends and a life that doesn't revolve around you. That's what this is about, isn't it?"

"No, it isn't," Ash replied evenly.

"So that's not why you decided to follow me?" Ash was silent, and Scribbs shook her head again. "You can't stand that maybe I got over your shit and your rules, so now you are following me around and concocting stories about me." They glared at each other across the table. This time, the barman delivered two glasses and Ash reached for her glass desperately and took a huge gulp, feeling the liquor burn down her throat.

Ash didn't try to pretend the words didn't hurt, but she didn't let Scribbs' outburst keep her from plowing ahead with the question that needed asking, "Scribbs, are you on the take?"

Scribbs' look of shock should have been answer enough, but Ash didn't stop as she laid out her evidence. "You were only in there half an hour, and I've never known you to spend only half an hour in a pub in your life."

Suddenly, Scribbs was around on Ash's side of the table; her grip on Ash's arm was hard enough to bruise as she pulled the brunette up from her stool. "You don't know what you're talking about, Ash. I'm not on the take." She seemed to realize how her actions might look and she released the brunette; Ash reached to rub the sore muscle absently, all of her attention focused on her blonde colleague. "I can't believe you would even suggest that. Now leave me alone and stop following me."

Having said her piece, Scribbs stormed out of the pub, leaving Ash to watch her departure with sad eyes. Collapsing back onto her stool with shaky legs, Ash drained Scribbs' untouched glass before heading up to settle the tab.

The next morning Scribbs didn't say a word as she breezed into work, sat down, and immediately turned to her computer. Ash regarded her for a few silent moments, weighing her options. The clatter of a folder landing square in the middle of the papers on Scribbs' desk broke the silence. Scribbs glanced down, then met Ash's eyes with a nonchalant expression. "Your bank records," Ash explained, waving her hand at the file. "Nothing out of the ordinary." Scribbs opened her mouth to demand an apology, but Ash wasn't done. "Of course, I didn't think you would be that stupid. Luckily, or rather, unluckily, I'm persistent. And I had nothing better to do half five this morning, anyway." Another file landed on top of the first.

Scribbs' fingers twitched as she stared at the file in front of her.

"A lot of activity in that account," Ash commented blandly, and this time Scribbs did open the folder in front of her.

"It's my mother's account," Scribbs said with a shrug.

"You're a signatory."

"So?" Ash raised her eyebrow in a skeptical manner. "Doesn't mean the deposits are mine."

"Shall we ring your mum, then?" Ash's hand hovered over the phone on her desk, her eyebrow still raised as she waited on Scribbs' answer.

"She won't be happy that you've woken her." Ash's eyes narrowed suspiciously, and Scribbs shrugged again. "She's not a morning person."

Ash lowered her hand from the phone and, instead, circled around the desks, swiveling Scribbs' chair around and grabbing the armrests to lean in so only Scribbs could hear her. "Scribbs, whatever's going on, we can get you out of it. We'll go talk to Sullivan, work out some kind of deal for your testimony, maybe, try for a…"

Scribbs stood suddenly, knocking Ash off-balance and back against the desk. Her hand tightened painfully on Ash's arm as Scribbs held her steady, and in close quarters, as she said, "There's nothing going on, Ash, except for your vivid paranoia, and there will be no going to Sullivan. Is that clear?" Ash couldn't remember ever seeing Scribbs glare quite like that before, and she hoped to never see it again. The threat was clear in those hazel eyes, as well as in the way Scribbs shook her arm. "Just leave it alone."

Ash shook her head 'no,' sadly. "I can't, Scribbs," she whispered. "I wish I could, but I can't."

Scribbs released Ash's arm and stepped back. She reached down, picked up both files of bank records, snatched up her coat, and left the office without another word. Ash hurried after her, catching her just outside the door of the station. "24 hours, Scribbs. Tomorrow morning, I'm telling Sullivan."

Scribbs stared at Ash with an unreadable expression for a moment before heading to her car.

I had a vision I could turn you right
a stupid mission and a lethal fight
I should have seen it when my hope was new
my heart is black and my body is blue

Part 3

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