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 Three

Even though Scribbs was rarely in before half 9, Ash had already run everyone out of the office by half 8. Ash's heels clicked across the floor in a rapid-fire staccato: click-click-click-turn-click-click-click-turn. Any of the other detectives resilient enough to withstand the pacing had been run off by her muttering under her breath, just loud enough to be annoying but not loud enough to be distinct.

Ash had gotten no more sleep last night as she had the night before, and her exhaustion was evident in her drawn features and tired eyes. She had been through all the options in the last 38 hours, from worst to best, and none of the scenarios ended well. They had ranged from Scribbs being a seriously bent cop, which meant that she, Ash, had been completely wrong about her friend and colleague to Scribbs being involved in some kind of department-sanctioned sting, which meant that Scribbs had kept her in the dark about the whole thing. The last seemed to be an impossibility anyway, since departmental policy had strict rules about undercover operations and Ash knew she would have been kept out of the loop if Scribbs was involved.

And even in the best of all scenarios, the very idea that Scribbs hadn't told her, hadn't trusted her with something so important, caused a tight pulling across her shoulders and ribcage that made it difficult to breathe. And so she paced, scaring all of her co-workers out of the office, the chaos in her mind propelling her body toward absolute exhaustion.

"Ash?" It took a while for her name to register and even longer for her to realize it was Sullivan, calling to her from the door. "Can I see you in my office for a minute?"

"Sure, Boss," Ash replied, following him up the stairs with reluctance.

He motioned for her to close the door as he settled into his chair, and he waited until she was comfortable before he asked, "Ash, what's going on?"

"On, Boss?" Ash tried to play it off, but by the look on Sullivan's face, she wasn't succeeding very well.

"You're obviously upset about something." Ash opened her mouth to protest, but he held up a finger to stop her. "And I haven't seen Scribbs much lately. Is everything alright?"

Ash leaned her head back, her eyes focused somewhere off in the distance, as she reviewed her options. None of her rules had prepared her for this: the choice between her principles and her friendship. The rules, rigid and unmoving, told her to tell the truth and damn the consequences, but when Scribbs was the consequence…

"Well, obviously something is the matter," Sullivan said, gently probing.

"Yes." Ash fixed her gaze on him. "I can't… I can't tell you, not yet, anyway. I told Scribbs I'd give her time, to, um, tell you herself."

Understanding warred with impatience on Sullivan's face, and he rubbed his chin thoughtfully. He came to a decision and met Ash's eyes. "Well, then, I guess you better swing round to her flat and get her." Ash nodded her head. "I want this resolved."

"Yes, Boss."

It took Ash a moment to realize what was wrong when she pulled up in front of Scribbs' flat, and when she did, her heart sank. Scribbs' car was missing from the car park. The ominous feeling grew deeper as Ash pounded on the door to no answer. Finally, Ash pulled her keys out of her pocket, thumbing through them carefully until she found Scribbs' flat key. Taking a deep breath, Ash slid the key home and swung the door open, pausing before she stepped over the threshold in fervent hope that she had been mistaken and this was all a very big misunderstanding.

Stepping carefully over the threshold, Ash called her partner's name, her eyes automatically cataloging the room. The living and dining room were a typical Scribbs' mess; an empty wine bottle on the coffee table, a discarded sweater on the couch, magazines and newspapers flung about, an empty candy wrapper on the floor by her foot. She noted other things as well, like Scribbs' brown coat was missing from the coat rack by the door and there was an empty space among the clutter of shoes as if a pair were missing.

With reluctance, Ash approached the bedroom, rapping her knuckles on the wood sharply before pushing the door open. The unmade bed dominated the small space, and Ash noted that Scribbs had light blue flannel sheets, a warm, cozy touch that was so Scribbs, always picking comfort over the coldness of modern decor. The closet doors were flung open, in and of itself not a surprise, but several of the hangers closest to the bed were empty. Ash walked across the floor to the chest, seeing the open drawer half-emptied of underwear and bras.

Sinking down onto the bed, Ash took in the room that seemed to be the site of a hasty, whirlwind packing effort. If her thoughts had been coherent enough to form a sentence, it would have been, "Oh, Emma, what have you done?" Scribbs had, it appeared, fled in the time Ash had given her to come clean, and now Ash had no idea what to do, about either Scribbs or Sullivan. The very thought of putting out a fugitive bulletin on her friend and colleague caused Ash's head to spin. Images of Scribbs, captured and disgraced, were absolutely too much to bear, and Ash hoped, perversely, that Scribbs had made good use of the time and had effectively fled the country to parts unknown. Ash smiled grimly at image of Scribbs on a beach in some exotic locale, on the lam yet still happy and carefree. Even thought the policewoman in her revolted, that image was easier to take than the alternative.

The ringing of her mobile roused Ash, and she pulled it free and raised it on auto-pilot, not bothering to check on who was calling. "Ashurst," she said, expecting Sullivan to ask where she was and why she wasn't back at the station yet.

Instead, "Hey, Ash," came through the speaker, the warm tones at curious odds with the chill in Ash's body.

"Scribbs?" Ash found an edge of panic creeping into her voice, and took pains to moderate her tone, trying to sound nonchalant, "Where are you?"

"At home," and Ash looked around the empty bedroom and started to contradict, but Scribbs continued too quickly, "I've got a bit of a stomach bug, so I'm calling off today." Scribbs' voice held a note of anxiety, like she was desperately hoping Ash would play along and not mention the importance of the day. "I really shouldn't have had the fish."

"What, did you cook for yourself, again?" Ash tried to interject a teasing tone to her words, but felt like she was failing miserably. "You really must stop doing that."

"No," Scribbs almost laughed, "I went to a restaurant. And had the fish. You know, like that case we had last year."

Ash's eyebrows raised in confusion, wondering why Scribbs would be bringing up an old case at a time like this. "So you won't be in today?" she asked, switching gears.

"No, I don't think so. I feel like death."

"You keep this up and we won't be able to retire together to that home you've booked us into," Ash tried to be lighthearted, but a note of warning crept into her voice nonetheless.

"Yes, it would be a shame to deprive Wilshire Gardens of future residents."

"It was Birch Grove," Ash correctly automatically, before she puzzled over the uncharacteristic misstep.

"Oh, yes, right," Scribbs replied, a bit distractedly. "Look, Ash, I really should get back to bed. I'll see you tomorrow."

Ash fingered the soft flannel beneath her fingers and suppressed the sigh that threatened to escape. "Right. See you tomorrow."

Hanging up the phone, Ash replayed the odd conversation over in her head, feeling like she was missing something that she couldn't quite put her finger on.

When the phone rang again, Ash did check the display hopefully, but it was Sullivan and not Scribbs. She did sigh then, and answered. "Ashurst."

"Ash? You'd better get back to the station. There's been a development." Something in Sullivan's voice told Ash that this was information best conveyed in person, and she was on her feet and half-way down the stairs before responding, "On my way, Boss."

And I'm losing my favourite game
you're losing your mind again
I'm losing my favourite game
I've tried but you're still the same
I'm losing my baby
you're losing a saviour and a saint

Part 4

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