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

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
By Ann


"Ash, Boss wants us in his office." Scribbs fidgeted in the doorway, waiting nervously for her partner to join her. The blonde DS was filled with dread at the thought of meeting with their DCI as the two detectives had experienced a string of bad luck on their last few cases. Surely, Sullivan wasn't going to hold it against them that their latest suspect had managed to elude them by jumping to the rooftop of an adjacent building. Truth be known, Scribbs was so frustrated with the way things had been going, she'd have blindly followed if Ash hadn't grabbed hold of her belt and stopped her.

The brunette DI grimaced at her partner's words and stood, muttering, "We're probably going to be reassigned to dog catching."

"I kind of like dogs." Scribbs shrugged, much to the taller woman's dismay. Canines weren't exactly a favorite of Ash, despite the fact that her current scowl was a brilliant imitation of a pissed off bulldog.

Together, the two women slowly made their way upstairs to Sullivan's office, pausing just outside the doorway. Scribbs smiled pitifully at the brunette and gestured for the DI to enter the office first. Ash simply glared at the blonde and rapped on the door before entering the room.

"Ah, Ash, Scribbs; you're right on time." Sullivan motioned his two detectives forward to take a seat.

Scribbs nodded and took the nearest chair while Ash opted to stand behind the one designated for her. She didn't intend to be sitting when their boss relegated them to the lowest of the low assignments.

"I've just received word that I'm to send two representatives to an international conference on terrorism. You'll need to pack your things for a week's stay," Sullivan informed the pair, handing over a set of airline tickets. Scribbs gingerly reached out to take the offering just as Ash objected to the notion of being the 'chosen ones.'

"Terrorism? In Middleford? Things would have to be pretty slow for the terrorists to attack here, don't you think, Boss?"

Sullivan looked away from the frowning DS and immediately turned his attention to his DI. "Ash, terrorism is not something that should be taken lightly. Granted, Middleford is not a likely target, but we've got to be prepared. Every station in the area is sending someone to the conference."

As Ash opened her mouth to continue with her objection, Scribbs interrupted gleefully. "New York? New York City?"

"What?" Ash was clearly surprised by the apparent location of the conference and, even though she'd always wanted to travel abroad, there was that tiny little fear that kept her from her goal. Flying had never been in her life's agenda.

Sullivan completely ignored the brunette's reply, instead choosing to respond to Scribbs' inquiry. "Yes. The conference will be held in New York and will take place in two different venues; one for the larger cities and the other for the smaller populations. Obviously, you two will attend the latter which is scheduled to take place over five days. You'll fly out tomorrow which will give you a day's rest before the conference begins, and I've scheduled your return flight for the day after the conference."

Scribbs smiled brightly while her partner looked on with a stunned expression. She'd pretty much missed the majority of her DCI's response when she'd come to the startling realization that not only was she going to fly, she was going to fly over a huge expanse of water.

Mindlessly, she trailed behind Scribbs as Sullivan offered his wishes for a good trip, and it wasn't until she reached her desk that she suddenly began to hyperventilate.

Alarmed, Scribbs immediately came to her partner's aid. "Hey, what's wrong? We don't have to chase after any dogs." The blonde quickly cupped her hands and ordered the brunette to take deep breaths into her makeshift 'paper bag' and, without another option, save for passing out, the DI immediately placed her mouth on the small opening conveniently left by her DS's hands.

Several minutes later, Ash pulled away and released a sigh, her breathing finally approaching normalcy. That was, as long as she managed to avoid any thoughts of large silver objects dropping out of the sky.

"Um, thanks, Scribbs," Ash said. Pulling imaginary lint off her dark trousers, she avoided eye contact with the blonde, who was casually wiping her hands on her brightly colored blouse.

"No problem," the blonde returned as she glanced at the tickets she'd been handed. "We'd better go pack. Sullivan said we're off for the next ten days. I guess he's going to give us some time to get over our jet lag."

"More like give us some time to get over our latest string of bad luck, I'd say." Ash logged off her computer and looked up at Scribbs.

"C'mon. I'll give you a lift home and pick you up in the morning to head for the airport. I've got to find my passport and figure out what clothes I'm going to take. I wonder what the weather is like in New York," Scribbs prattled on as the pair headed towards the exit, her excitement growing in intensity the further away they moved from the station. Ash, on the other hand, became more and more anxious with each passing mile.

The next morning found a wide-awake Scribbs pounding on her partner's door, her usual tardiness not evident in the dawn's early light. A few moments later, the door swung open, revealing a highly flustered Ash.

"Scribbs, I don't think I can go."

"Don't be daft, Ash. Of course, you're going. Where're your bags?"

Undaunted, Scribbs walked past her unmoving partner and headed towards the bedroom where an opened suitcase lay prominently in the middle of the bed. Shaking her head, the DS offered a quiet 'tsk' before closing the luggage and securing the locks. She shouldered the small holdall sitting next to the bed and headed towards the sitting room.

Walking directly to the door, Scribbs moved past Ash, rolling the large suitcase behind her. For several minutes, the brunette stood motionless in the middle of the room before unwillingly following her partner out the door. Just because she'd decided to accompany Scribbs to the airport didn't mean that she had to actually get on the plane.

The ride into London was filled with one-sided chatter from an excited Scribbs as she weaved in and out of traffic. Ash sat watching the scenery go by as she silently ran through the various excuses she could use to get out of this assignment, but she was quickly running out of time as her partner exited the M25, taking the Heathrow turnoff.

Pulling next to the curb behind a police cruiser, Scribbs jumped from the car and opened the boot, pulling out their two suitcases and holdalls. One by one, she placed them on the nearby pavement as a grinning bobby took notice of the new arrivals and walked towards the pair with his ticket book in hand.

"Sarge! Long time, no see. I got your message."

"Hey, Donovan. I truly appreciate you driving my car back to the station. It would've been bloody hell trying to find a parking place."

Ash slowly climbed out of the car and listened to her partner banter back and forth with the young bobby. She'd just figured out what Scribbs had planned when Donovan slid into the driver's seat and drove off, waving to the pair as he headed away from the terminal.

"Scribbs, please tell me Donovan is off today, and this isn't some misappropriation of departmental funds."

"What's gotten into you today, Ash? Of course, he's off. I wouldn't have asked him to shirk his duties. Of course, Smythe had to drive him here, and I think he may be on today. But, let's not worry about that; c'mon, we've got a plane to catch."

Once again, the small blonde walked away, pulling the two suitcases behind her and leaving Ash standing alone on the pavement. The brunette glanced around nervously before reluctantly reaching for their holdalls and following her DS into the terminal. As she watched her partner step into the building, she suddenly came to a stark realization.

"Scribbs! How am I going to get home if we don't have a car?"

The next half-hour was a complete blur for the DI as Scribbs very competently maneuvered them through the various check-in points. The blonde even thought to have them take care of the proper money exchange so that they wouldn't have to be bothered when they landed at JFK. If Ash hadn't been in such a daze, she would probably have been impressed with her partner; however, before she realized what was going on, she was sitting in the waiting area outside their departure gate, watching the various planes taxi to and from the runway as her anxiety began to reach new levels.

"Um, Scribbs? There's something I need to tell you."

"Huh?" The blonde looked up from her current movie magazine and focused on her partner, noting immediately the paler than usual skin.

"Ash? You're not feeling ill, are you?"

"Define ill." The brunette forced herself to take slow even breaths; she certainly didn't want to have to breathe in her partner's hands again, especially in such a public area.

Scribbs scrunched up her nose. "Nauseous, feverish, you know; general overall yucky feeling."

"Yucky feeling?"

"C'mon, Ash. You know what I mean. So, do you or don't you?"

"Do I, or don't I, what?"

"Feel sick?"

The brunette hesitated before answering. She knew she was going to have to be honest about her fear. Scribbs wouldn't need to use her detective skills to determine that Ash was afraid to fly. Anyone over the age of five would be able to figure it out the moment the DI came within ten feet of the steel beast's entrance.

"I'm aviophobic," Ash quietly confessed as Scribbs looked on with a confused expression.

"Avio-what? What's that a fear of birds? We'll be inside the plane, Ash, and, besides, I don't think the birds can fly at the altitude we'll be flying for most of the trip."

The little color gracing the brunette's face quickly faded at the mention of the plane's elevation during the flight. If a bird couldn't fly as high as they would be, Ash figured they were going to be much, much higher than she first imagined. Of course, she'd only really seen a plane flying when it'd just taken off or was making its descent. She'd never given much thought to the rest of the flight. The initial take-off and landing were plenty high enough for her.

"Ash? You're not going to faint on me are you? Do you want me to get you some water? I'm sorry I mentioned the birds."

"What? Oh, no, I'm okay; just a jolt of reality. Um, Scribbs, I'm not afraid of birds; I'm actually a bit frightened of flying," Ash confessed, waiting for her partner to start her usual ribbing when she discovered another flaw of her DI.

"Really? Why didn't you say something earlier? We probably could've gotten you a script for a mild tranquilizer. I had an aunt once who wouldn't get on an aeroplane unless she was heavily sedated. Of course, her drug of choice was alcohol."

"Scribbs, there's not enough alcohol in the world that could help me now. Besides, I have to do this. I don't want anyone else to know about my phobia and certainly not the boss. He'd probably bust me back to parking detail. I could be partnered with Donovan."

Scribbs quickly checked her watch. "We have another half hour before we board. Stay here and watch our things. I'll be right back."

"Scribbs!" Ash shouted in a loud whisper, trying to stop her partner from leaving her alone, but it was already too late. The DS had smiled and quickly walked away, totally ignoring the brunette's plea to stay behind.

Seemingly endless minutes later, Scribbs returned, sporting a smile and a small paper bag. "Here, Ash." The blonde thrust the bag into her partner's lap.

A quick glance inside made the DI look around nervously before quickly shoving it in her holdall. It certainly wouldn't look very good if she was seen sipping an alcoholic beverage from a paper bag.

"What are you doing? You're supposed to drink the stuff, not put it in your luggage. C'mon, Ash; it'll take the edge off."

"Are you completely mad, Scribbs? How would it look if I start drinking before we even board the plane? I'll look like some alcoholic who can't wait to get at the bottle. It's not even 9 a.m."

The DS shrugged. "Suit yourself, but I can promise you, you'll wish you'd taken at least a swig before the plane begins its take-off."

Staring at her partner with narrowed eyes, the brunette casually reached into her bag and removed the small whiskey. Opening the lid, she glanced around before raising the bottle to her lips and taking a big swig.

The two women finally had a bit of luck when it came to their seat assignments. They were located on the right side of the plane, and it appeared they were the only two assigned to their row; meaning they had the luxury of three seats to themselves. It was immediately decided that Ash would take the aisle seat, both women thinking it wise that the brunette not be privy to what was going on outside the plane; before, during, or after the flight.

Scooting next to the window, Scribbs raised the middle seat's armrest. She quickly buckled up and informed her partner to do the same; however, when Ash wasn't able to get the buckle fastened properly, Scribbs removed her own and assisted her partner before returning to her seat. Soon, the flight attendant was going over the safety precautions whilst Ash reached for the sick bag and placed it over her mouth, slowly breathing in and out.

Moments later, the brunette had survived the take-off, but Scribbs was left wondering how long it would take for the feeling to return to her hand. When she'd offered it to the other woman, Ash had taken hold and squeezed tightly as if the appendage was a lemon and she was trying to milk every single drop from the stubborn fruit. Discretely, Scribbs rubbed her hand, working to stimulate proper blood flow.

Two hours into the flight, Ash was finally starting to relax. Scribbs had pulled the plastic covering over the window when she'd noted her partner's change in respiration every time Ash glanced her way. The brunette just couldn't keep her eyes off the clouds floating by, and the image was far from comforting for the DI as she'd nearly panicked whenever she'd caught sight of a cumulous cloud. Of course, the frequent nipping at her whiskey bottle more than likely provided more relief than the shutting of the window covering.

Scribbs was extremely pleased to see a meal finally being served as she'd begun to seriously worry about Ash's level of sobriety. The brunette had a goofy smile plastered on her face as she watched the flight attendants walk up and down the aisles, serving the other passengers. When she leaned out of her seat to get a better view of a passing ass, Scribbs scolded her partner.

"Ash, what's gotten into you? You're going to stare a hole into that poor woman's skirt."

The DI turned back towards her flightmate and grinned saucily. "She's got a great bum, Scribbs."

"Since when do you take notice of other women's bums?"

"Since I've been held captive inside this flying machine; I needed something to keep my mind occupied. I don't think I've ever thought of admiring another woman's assets until now. I've only ever paid attention to yours," Ash confessed, not realizing what she'd just admitted to in her slightly inebriated state.

The pair were interrupted when the previously ogled flight attendant asked if they were interested in lunch. Ash turned and smiled sweetly at the women. "That would be lovely. What've you got?"

The redhead returned the smile with a wink and rattled off the menu choices. Scribbs watched in absolute fascination as her partner continued to flirt with the other woman. All this time, she'd thought Ash would never look twice at the same sex. Now, it seemed that she might have a chance with the brunette if she were to play her cards right and, perhaps, by the end of the trip, she'd have the winning hand.

The rest of the flight passed rather quickly for Ash now that she had something to occupy her mind; however, the source of said occupation was not exactly the preferred choice of her DS. By the time the pilot had announced their approach to JFK, Scribbs was ready to tear out every strand of the flight attendant's red hair; her anger only assuaged with the knowledge that it was her hand Ash was holding during the landing and, this time, the blonde wasn't at all concerned with the pain inflicted by her partner's death grip.

"Tiffany said that we could catch the subway straight from the airport. She suggested we take the free parking shuttle to the long term parking lot. It'll drop us off right outside the JFK subway station," Ash informed the blonde as they made their way through the terminal on their way to claim their luggage.

Scribbs shouldered her bag and increased her stride, no longer listening to the brunette expound upon the dialogue she and the flight attendant had exchanged. She couldn't believe the nerve of the woman; she'd given her phone number to Ash with the blonde standing right by her side. For all Tiffany knew, the pair could've been a couple.

"Tiffany said it might be a little difficult to take the subway with our luggage, but she assured me that it was well worth the money we'd save. She said we'd get a connection to all the major subway routes."

"Well, isn't Ms. Tiffany just a wealth of knowledge. Whatever would we do without her?"

"Scribbs? Is something the matter?"

"Oh no, Ash. I'm just peachy, thanks for asking." Veering to the left, the blonde narrowly missed running into the back of an elderly woman. She quickly apologized and moved past the gray haired lady, not bothering to listen to her reply.

"That's okay, honey. By the way, you have a very lovely accent."

Ash politely replied to the compliment and then picked up her pace to catch up with her shorter-legged partner. With a rigid posture, Scribbs wound in and out of the mass of humanity, her eyes focused on the arrows pointing towards her destination.

Finally, she made it to the carousel and placed her holdall by her feet, waiting for the conveyor belt to start its movement. A few minutes later, she was joined by a very pissed off Ash.

"Scribbs, that was very rude of you to ignore that elderly lady."

"What elderly lady?"

"The one you almost mowed down in your race to get to this empty luggage area. I'm sure it'll take another fifteen to twenty minutes for the personnel to transport it here from the airplane. Why are you in such a rush?"

"I'd like to get settled into our hotel as soon as possible," the blonde replied, not able to think of any other suitable explanation.

Nodding in agreement, Ash leaned against the wall nearest the conveyor belt. "It truly is a strange feeling knowing that we arrived at roughly the same time we left. It's a good job that the boss sent us a day early."

"Yeah, it'll be even stranger when we go back home. We'll lose six hours you know. I guess that's why the boss decided to give us a day off when we return. Although, will it really be a whole day off or three-fourths?"

The conveyor belt started its motion, keeping Ash from having to ponder Scribbs' math question. The two women quickly stepped up next to the rotating carousel and watched for their familiar bags.

Cursing, Scribbs hefted her bag up on the luggage rack of the shuttle. She wasn't looking forward to having to remove it and drag it behind her when the pair took the subway into the city. Glancing towards her partner, she smirked when she saw the familiar scowl. Maybe 'Tiffany' wasn't so great after all.

The driver herded the rest of the passengers onto the bus, cramming them into the metal object like they were sardines. By the time the last person took their seat, Scribbs was practically sitting on top of her partner.

"Bloody hell, you'd think with a free shuttle, he wouldn't care if it was full or not," Ash complained, shifting to try to allow her partner more room. Suddenly, the close quarters didn't seem to be a hardship on the blonde.

"I'd hate for people to have to wait for the next shuttle if there were room, wouldn't you, Ash?"

Looking at her DS as if she'd sprouted another head, the DI narrowed her eyes but kept her words to herself. The bumpy ride from JFK to the long term parking certainly didn't help her mood either.

"We should've taken the Airtrain," the man sitting next to Scribbs mumbled under his breath as a rather large pothole caused him to shift to the left, pushing the blonde directly into her partner's lap.

"Airtrain?" Scribbs questioned, attempting to right herself.

"Yeah. It'll take you directly from the airport to one of three different substations."

"Really? Did you hear that, Ash? I wonder why Tiffany, the marvelous, didn't mention it?"

Ash further narrowed her eyes until they were mere slits. Turning, she looked out the window, no longer enamored with the redheaded flight attendant.

Four hours and three subway trains later, the weary pair trudged up to the hotel registration desk. Ash pulled her now one wheeled suitcase behind her while Scribbs worried with the broken strap of her holdall. Both women looked as if they'd been pulled through a hedge backwards. For Scribbs, the only positive note of the marathon journey from the airport to the hotel was when Ash crumpled up Tiffany's phone number and threw it in the trash at the second subway station.

"We have a reservation in the names of Kate Ashurst and Emma Scribbins," Ash informed the clerk as she reached up and pushed a loose strand of hair behind her ear. She'd lost her hair clip when she'd climbed off the shuttle bus, and a triumphant Scribbs had quickly located the errant clip; however, the bus pulled away, crushing it before the blonde could retrieve the metal fastener from under the tire.

The fresh, young clerk smiled at the bone-weary woman and tapped a few keys on the keyboard. Locating the names, she said, "Ah. Here we go. You have a single room on the fourth floor. How many keys will you need?"

"Single?" "Two." The clerk looked from Ash to Scribbs and back again, not sure which of the stereo responses she should answer first.

Ash glared at her partner and then turned back to address the hotel employee. "There must be some mistake. Could you please check again?"

Fingers flew across the keys as green eyes focused on the monitor. No matter how many times the clerk keyed in the information, the results were always the same.

"I'm sorry, ma'am, but there's only the one room."

"Okay, I'll just pay for the second one with my credit card, and the department can reimburse me." Ash reached into her back pack to retrieve her wallet, but all movements ceased at the clerk's response.

"Um, ma'am? There aren't any more rooms. With three different conventions in town, we're booked solid."

"Bloody hell, Ash; let it go. It isn't like we haven't slept together before."

A slight blush ran its way from the brunette's neck all the way to her cheeks as the hotel clerk raised an eyebrow but somehow managed to swallow her chuckle.

"Er, what my partner means is that we've shared a bed to sleep in, and I can assure you that's all that took place."

Scribbs stepped up to the desk and held out her hand. "Two keys, please." The grinning clerk turned to code the keys to the rooms as the DS quietly addressed her DI.

"No one cares who sleeps with whom here, Ash. So there's no need for explanation."

"But, ..." Ash began, but the hotel employee interrupted her rebuttal.

"Here you go. The elevators are located at the end of the corridor. Have a nice stay."

Scribbs thanked the woman and pocketed the keys. Turning, she headed toward the elevators, leaving her partner standing awkwardly at the counter.

"Oh, um, yes, um, ... well, thank you."

The sound of a one-wheeled, rolling suitcase echoed loudly in the empty lobby.

The blonde threw the door open and was greeted with a blast of cool air from inside the room. Hot, tired, and sweaty, she welcomed the relief. The only sign that Ash was behind her was a soft sigh and, of course, the thump of her suitcase.

The door quietly closed, and both women moved further into the room, stopping at the end of the king sized bed and staring at the mints on the pillow.

"At least this bed is bigger than the last one we shared." Scribbs fell forwards onto said bed, remembering to keep to the left side as Ash could only sleep on the right.

"Well, my rules still apply," Ash countered as she joined the blonde. Scribbs never bothered to protest and, soon, the sounds of soft snoring filled the stillness in the room.

Scribbs was the first to wake, slowly opening her eyes and stretching fully. At the feel of another set of limbs, she glanced down to find that sometime during her nap she'd acquired a whole other body. She grinned at the thought of Ash breaking one of her own rules; stray limbs indeed.

Gently extricating herself from the brunette's embrace, the blonde headed for the bathroom, pleased to see that despite the room only having one bed, it made up for it with an adequately sized bath. There was even a separate sink and vanity located outside the main bathroom door. She was sure Ash would be pleased that they wouldn't have to share toiletry space. Closing the door, she turned on the water to run a bath.

A pair of rumbling stomachs alerted the two women that they hadn't eaten since the flight. Ash suggested room service, but Scribbs wanted to explore the city and stop at the first restaurant that caught their fancy. A compromise had the detectives heading for the front desk with Ash secretly hoping the young redhead would be off-duty.

The hotel doorman hailed a taxi as Scribbs waited on the sidewalk, grinning from ear to ear. The redheaded clerk had recommended a quaint Italian restaurant, citing its atmosphere as being very romantic. As the two had turned towards the exit, the woman had winked at a red-faced Ash.

The doorman held the taxi door open for Scribbs, and she offered a smile as she gestured for her partner to climb in first. The door to the cab had barely shut when the driver suddenly pealed away from the curb as if he were being pursued by gun-toting criminals.

"Whoa! Slow down, would you? If I'm going to die, I'd rather it be on a full stomach." Scribbs returned to an upright position to find the face of the smiling cabbie in the rear view mirror. In silent reply, the man accelerated and took the next turn on what felt like two wheels to the backseat passengers.

Arriving at their destination, Ash crawled out of the cab behind her partner while Scribbs laughed and paid the driver through the passenger side window. He grinned at the blonde and pulled into the traffic at his only speed, 'fast and scary as hell.'

"Bloody hell, Scribbs. We're walking back. I don't care how far it is."

"Ah, c'mon, Ash. It wasn't that bad; it was like being on a whip. You remember like you went on as a girl. "

"Well, I, for one, would prefer my drive to be ordinary. I'll never criticize your driving skills again. He makes your driving compare to that of a little old lady's."

"You've evidently never seen my granny drive." Scribbs opened the restaurant door and motioned for her partner to enter.

The food was indeed very good, and the clerk hadn't lied about the atmosphere either. Several times during their meal, Ash had smiled and actually chuckled, making Scribbs wish for just a moment that the nature of their relationship was something entirely different, but instead, she chose to enjoy the rare occasion.

True to Ash's words, the couple had made an attempt to walk back to the hotel, but neither woman had paid attention to any of the landmarks, and asking directions had proved to be ineffective to say the least. In fact, one woman actually told them to 'fuck off'.

Just as Scribbs was opening her mouth to inform the woman what she could do in return, a set of screeching tires garnered both women's attention as a cab slid across four lanes of traffic, including several oncoming cars, before stopping against the curb, facing in the wrong direction. The window rolled down to reveal a familiar face.

"Oh no, Scribbs. I'm not climbing into that bloody cab with that madman."

"C'mon, Ash. No one else is trying to help us. Look, he's even smiling."

The brunette glanced over at the waiting cab to see that the man was indeed smiling at her and her partner. With fatigue setting in, she made the only decision she could as she sighed and started walking towards the car. Grinning, Scribbs followed closely behind.

Ash once again climbed from the back seat of the amusement park on wheels and headed directly for the doors of the hotel, leaving Scribbs to settle the fare. The doorman quickly moved to open the heavy doors for the brunette, and she just nodded her head in thanks. Right now, her full concentration centered on crawling into bed and pulling the covers over her head.

Scribbs was just able to squeeze into the elevators as the doors were closing, and her intermittent chuckles did little for the brunette's frame of mind. Instead of responding to the blonde's childish display of communication, Ash chose to lean against the back of the elevator and close her eyes as she anxiously awaited the sounding of the chime announcing their floor.

In fulfillment of her intentions, Ash headed directly to the bed, kicked off her shoes, and climbed in; however, she did stop short of pulling the covers over her head. Scribbs looked on with a smile, looking forward to spending the next seven days with her partner.

A groan pulled Scribbs from her thoughts.

"I can't believe we made it back alive."

"Oh, I forgot to tell you, Ash. Antonio gave me his card and said to call him if we needed to go anywhere else in the city."

"I hope you threw it in the nearest dustbin."

A chuckle escaped the blonde. "No, I think I'll hang onto it. You never know when we might need it."

"Never. I'll never need him again. I'm not leaving this hotel except to travel to the conference and back. Good job there's a shuttle to carry us to and from the conference hall."

"Don't you want to see some of the city while we're here, Ash?"

"Scribbs, the conference begins tomorrow, and I doubt we'll have much time at the end of the day. Besides, we'll probably be too knackered to venture out and sightsee."

The ringing of the phone saved Ash from the protest hovering on the blonde's lips, and Scribbs moved across the room to grab the phone on the desk before Ash could answer the one by the bedside.

"Hello? . . . Boss? What's wrong? Why are you calling?"

Ash sat straight up in bed at the mention of the caller, looking at her partner frantically; something horrible had to have happened if he were calling at the current overseas rate. The sound of Scribbs' laugh immediately calmed the brunette, and she lay back in bed, awaiting the reason for the call.

"Really? Okay, if you say so. See you in a week then, bye."

Scribbs placed the receiver in the cradle and turned to face the brunette who'd stretched out and was lying with a pillow propped under her head.

"Well?" Ash questioned, gesturing for her partner to explain the call.

"You're never going to guess what's happened."

Wondering how she could've possibly misread Scribbs' body language and tone, Ash sat back up in bed, a worried expression on her face.

"What? Did someone die?"

"No, Ash. No one died."

Holding her hand over her heart, the DI slumped back onto the bed. "Bloody hell, Scribbs. Don't ever scare me like that again."

"Huh? How did I scare you? All I said was 'you're never going to guess what's happened.' How is that scary?"

"Never mind, Scribbs. Just tell me what's happened."

Crossing the room, the DS climbed into the other side of the bed and smiled. "The part of the conference dealing with the smaller populations has been cancelled. Boss didn't get the news until after we'd taken off. There was some mix-up in communication. He was supposed to have been notified yesterday."

"So, you're saying our conference has been cancelled?"

"Precisely. Boss said we just have to go to the opening session tomorrow morning, and then we're free for the rest of the week until our flight on Saturday."

"The rest of the week? Why aren't we flying out the day after tomorrow?"

"Tickets; they can't be traded in for some reason or other. Something was said about buying the hotel and tickets in some kind of package deal and, now that we're here, we're stuck. Isn't it great?"

"Great? Scribbs, the whole reason for us being here has been cancelled. We're stuck here for the rest of the week with nowhere to go."

"Ash? Think about it. Our room is paid for, our airfare is paid for, and boss said the department will pick up our meals… um, as long as they're not too extravagant, I mean. If we want to do anything else, we've got our own money. It'll be like we're on holiday."

"Scribbs, we've never gone on holiday together, so how can this feel like a holiday?"

"Please tell me you don't have rules about holidays."

The brunette pursed her lips, and the blonde pounced.

"You do! You have bloody rules about holidays. Well, keep them to yourself. I want to enjoy myself, thank you very much."

Before Ash could adequately defend herself and her rules, Scribbs walked towards the door. "I'm going to the front desk to see if that young clerk is still here. Maybe she can plan some activities for us."

"Scribbs!" Ash called out, but her partner had already closed the door. Crawling under the covers, the brunette pulled them over her head.

Ash awoke, drenched in sweat. Worried that she'd contracted a fever, she was relieved to discover her problem lie with the fact that she'd fallen asleep tucked under the heavy blanket and, without even her head sticking out, she'd generated quite a bit of heat. In the darkness, she reached out for her partner.

Her hand came away empty, and Ash immediately reached for the lamp beside the bed, blinking owlishly when the bright light illuminated the room. The first thing the brunette noticed was the clock on the nightstand displaying the hour, midnight, and the second was the conspicuous absence of Scribbs.

The sound of someone attempting to gain entry into the room caught the brunette's attention and, after several failed efforts by the intruder, Ash crawled out of bed and headed towards the door. Peering through the peephole, she was greeted with the sight of a cursing Scribbs. The blonde seemed to be having a great deal of trouble manipulating the key into the slot and, on closer inspection, she also appeared to be having a bit of difficulty standing as well.

Reaching for the doorknob, Ash flung the door open just as Scribbs was making another stab at the key slot. An 'oomph' was uttered from the brunette as she suddenly found herself with two armfuls of Scribbs. Leg and arms flailed wildly as Ash tried to gain purchase on her DS, with the strong smell of beer immediately alerting the DI to the problem. Her partner's lack of coordination now had a name; in fact, it had several: sloshed, plastered, drunk, and three sheets to the wind, just to name a few.

"Scribbs, you're pissed!"

"Oh, hey Ash. When did you get here?" Scribbs grinned stupidly. Her glazed-over eyes struggled to focus on the brunette.

"Where else did you think I'd be? After all, this is where you left me to go gallivanting around to who knows where."

Scribbs frowned, squinting to study her partner more carefully. Ash sounded angry, and the blonde was having trouble understanding what she could've possibly done wrong to incur the brunette's wrath. Suddenly, the DS had a moment of clarity.

"You were sleeping. I came back to get you, and you were snoring."

"I don't snore." Ash maneuvered her partner backwards until the blonde's legs hit the end of the bed. Scribbs went with the motion and found herself flat on her back, looking up at the ceiling.

Not deterred in the slightest by her change in position, the blonde challenged her DI's words. "Yes, you do. You snored the last time we slept together, too."

"I most certainly did not! You were probably hearing your own heavy breathing despite me warning you of my heavy breathing rule."

Scribbs struggled to sit up, muttering, "I bet you don't even breathe heavily during sex. I imagine sex with you would be one rule after another."

Not wanting to continue the conversation along its current course, Ash shifted back to safer ground, or, at least, what she thought would be safer ground.

"Where have you been?"

Successfully upright, Scribbs placed her hands on the mattress to steady herself. "Carrie got off at ten. She asked if you and I would like to join her in the bar."


"Yeah, the redheaded desk clerk. She's really very nice."

"Oh, I just bet she is."

The level of alcohol flowing through Scribbs was quickly dulling her senses. She completely missed the jealous tone in her partner's voice.

"Oh, she is. I didn't have to pay for one drink. She's a good friend of the bartender, too, if you know what I mean."

Scribbs winked at Ash, puzzling the brunette further. She had no idea what the blonde meant but, just as she opened her mouth to question the DS's words, Scribbs promptly fell back on the bed, a soft snore escaping her lips.

The next morning Scribbs woke with a pounding headache and, peeling her eyes open, she noted the light coming through the small crack in the curtain. Rolling over, she reached for her partner, only to come up empty handed much like Ash had the night before.

Water running in the shower confirmed that Ash hadn't totally abandoned her, and it was times such as these that Scribbs wished she was gifted with amnesia after she'd had a few too many drinks; however, much to her dismay, she always remembered the night before. Throwing her arm over her eyes, she groaned just as the water shut off in the bathroom and, a few moments later, the door swung open, revealing a robe-clad Ash.

"Well, at least you've survived. But, if you don't get out of bed and into the shower, we're going to be late for the opening session. Since it's the only one we're attending, don't you think we should be on time?"

Rolling out of bed, Scribbs promptly fell on the floor. Cursing, she pulled herself up and shuffled into the bathroom, followed by the sound of her partner's laughter.

Freshly showered, the blonde's condition was improving by the second. The room service breakfast ordered by the brunette, including a carafe of coffee, was just the thing Scribbs needed to put her night's activities behind her, or, so she thought.

Ash checked her watch as the pair stepped into the elevator and smiled. They should arrive at the conference with plenty of time to spare.

"So, how's the head, Scribbs?"

"Fine, now. Thanks for the coffee. It cleared the cobwebs nicely."

Ash nodded as she watched the floor numbers change. "Tell me about this Carrie person."

"She's bright and funny and ... Why Ash, you're not jealous, are you?"

"What? Of course not, don't be daft, Scribbs. I was just wondering about her, that's all."

The elevator doors opened as the blonde was recounting the night before, and Ash strode from the car, head held high. The details of Scribbs' evening caused her more than just a little distress, but her thoughts and feelings were temporarily put on hold when she exited the building to see the conference shuttle bus drive away. A honk turned her attention back to the curb where she immediately spotted a familiar cabbie.

"We're doomed," Ash muttered as her partner laughed and guided her towards the friendly taxi driver.

The two women arrived in one piece, although, the color in Ash's knuckles didn't return until the opening speaker had taken the stage. The brunette was certain that her fingers had left a lasting impression on the shoulder harness of the taxi's seat belt.

At the end of the session, the doors to the auditorium opened, allowing the participants to exit from the various locations. No one spoke a word as they walked from the large room, a somber expression firmly etched on each person's face. Ash and Scribbs, deeply affected by the words spoken by the different speakers, mimicked the other's actions as they slowly moved towards the front entrance.

Worried as he drove his fares back to their hotel, Antonio kept his eye on both the street and his rear-view mirror. The usually jovial blonde was as quiet as a mouse, her projected tone as subdued as the time she'd changed her wardrobe at the advice of a fashion consultant. As for the brunette, she just looked out the window, her hands resting in her lap, not showing any concern for the cabby's reckless driving skills.

Scribbs offered a sad smile as she paid their private taxi driver, and Antonio returned the gesture, patting the blonde on the hand and reminding her to call him if the two planned to travel in the city.

Back in their room, Scribbs crawled into the bed while Ash chose to move towards the window. The blonde watched her partner stare out at the skyline, deep in thought.

"Kind of scary to have everything laid out like that, huh, Ash?

Looking towards the area where she now knew two strong towers once stood, the DI refused to turn her eyes from the empty space.

"I can't even imagine the horror, Scribbs. We live in our own little world, concentrating on our own little problems, and, only occasionally, do we give any thought to other's plights. Terrorism rarely enters my mind."

The DS pushed herself from the bed and moved to stand beside her partner. "It's not on purpose, Ash. Everyone's guilty of getting caught up in their own problems. I do the same thing. People not directly affected by acts of terrorism do the same. We're all horrified by the actions and feel deeply for the casualties and the survivors. It's just too easy to slip back into our world, even when London is the target. After a few days, we're removed from the incident; it's not that we don't care."

Ash swallowed the lump in her throat. The raw emotions elicited by the opening session speeches and her guilt at forgetting the impact terrorism had on others consumed her thoughts. She slowly nodded her head in acknowledgement of Scribbs' words; she simply wasn't capable of expressing herself verbally at this time.

The two women stood side by side, staring out the window as a single tear made its way down the brunette's face. Scribbs reached over and took her partner's hand. No words needed to be spoken.

The DS finally talked Ash into going to the hotel's restaurant for a bite to eat. The brunette had truly been shaken by the morning session, and Scribbs felt a little guilty for being happy that they didn't need to attend the others. She and Ash had plenty to tell their colleagues upon their return just from what they learned from the opening session.

Ash slowly began to pull out of her funk as the meal progressed, and Scribbs was pleased that the DI had agreed to go to the bar next door for a drink afterwards, hoping that once the brunette had loosened up a bit, she could talk her into planning their sight-seeing tour of the city. The moment the pair entered the bar, a tall blonde motioned Scribbs over towards the far corner.

"Hey, Scribbs! I've saved a stool for you."

Ash looked at the blonde and then looked at the bar. There wasn't any need to save her partner a bar stool; there were plenty open spaces around the bar. Narrowing her eyes at the bartender, she followed her DS towards the 'saved stool.'

"Hey, Monica. I'll have the usual, and Ash, here, will have . . . um, what will you have, Ash?"

"Whiskey." Ash answered abruptly, sitting on the stool intended for the blonde and forcing Scribbs to take the one by the wall. She'd be damned if she would have another woman after her partner.

"Have it right up." Monica winked at Scribbs as she walked away towards the bottles lining the shelf, and the DS smiled in return.

Settling on the stool, Scribbs turned her attention to her DI, wondering what had happened between the restaurant and the bar.

"What's the matter, Ash? You were just fine when we left the restaurant and, now, you're brooding again."

"I'm not brooding, Scribbs. I'm just not fawning all over the bartender like a certain DS I know."

"Fawning? She's not even my type."

"Well then, what exactly is your type?" During their exchange, Ash had leaned forward, invading the blonde's space in an attempt to intimidate her partner into finally describing her ideal mate, selfishly hoping the qualities included tall, dark, compulsive, detailed, with a fondness of rules, and, of course, female.

Scribbs was saved from responding by the appearance of a perky, redhead who somehow stepped into the very narrow space between the two women.

"Emma, how was the conference?"

'Emma?' Ash raised an eyebrow, wondering what else had happened when Scribbs had joined the redhead for drinks.

"Depressing, but Ash and I have decided to not let it interfere with our plans to sight-see. Oh, where are my manners. Carrie, this is Kate Ashurst. Ash, this is Carrie."

The blonde gestured back and forth with her hand during the introduction, giving Ash a moment to lean away. Having Scribbs so close was one thing, but a flirting tart was something completely different.

Ash reluctantly extended her hand in greeting, her posh school upbringing not allowing her to be rude, and Carrie smiled and greeted the brunette warmly, causing a brief moment of guilt for the DI. Before the guilt had time to take hold, another voice interrupted her musing.

"Hey! What are you doing here? I thought you had to work tonight?"

The bartender leaned over the bar and placed a soft kiss on Carrie's lips. Scribbs smiled at the affection, and Ash positively beamed at the sight, the single gesture immediately dispelling any and all jealousy the brunette felt towards the other women.

It turned out that Carrie had changed days with another clerk and was free for the next day as well. With Monica not working until Wednesday, the couple offered to take the British women to Central Park and, specifically, the Central Park Zoo.

Scribbs almost jumped off her stool with excitement while Ash forced herself to swallow her 'I'm not fond of animals' comment. She'd just have to sacrifice her dislike of all things furry for her partner's happiness.

Scribbs and Carrie chatted animatedly while being watched by the other two women. Monica motioned to the two women and shook her head, signifying to the brunette that she was going to be in for a very long day. Ash shrugged. What else did she have to do?

The next evening, Ash almost crawled to the bed, exhaustion not a strong enough word for what she was currently feeling. Carrie and Scribbs were like a couple of Energizer bunnies. They'd just kept going and going and going. Monica had seemed to do just fine keeping up with the pair, but Ash was pretty certain she'd pulled a muscle trying to catch the excited duo when they'd raced to the see the penguins. The brunette had bravely limped along, cursing 'Happy Feet' every step of the way.

"Ash, why don't you have a soak in the bath? You'd feel better, I'm sure."

With eyes closed, Ash groaned. "Scribbs, in order to have a soak, I'd have to move."

Scribbs chuckled. "Oh, c'mon. I'll even run the bath for you."

The thought of hot water caressing her sore muscles finally won out and Ash agreed; however, she couldn't help the groan that escaped her when Scribbs returned from the bathroom to inform her that her bath was ready. Somehow, the brunette hadn't realized how fast sore muscles seize up when one lies perfectly still.

The next several days were filled with tours of the Empire State Building and the American Museum of Natural History as well as a somber visit to Ground Zero. Antonio had insisted that the pair lunch at Sardis and see Times Square, and even Ash had smiled at his enthusiasm to ensure they'd experienced as much as possible during their short stay; however, she still clinched the seatbelt tightly every time she climbed into his cab.

The last night of their stay, Carrie had surprised the two with tickets to see "Chicago." She and Monica had planned to go, but both women had to work at the last minute, and she'd told Scribbs she couldn't think of anyone else she'd rather give the tickets to and had refused payment when Ash tried to buy the tickets from her.

After the show, Ash opened the door to their room and motioned for the blonde to enter first; Scribbs had to smile at the gesture, normally the DI led the way.

"What a perfect way to end our trip. That Bebe Neuwirth was phenomenal as Roxie Hart. I can't believe we got to see one of her last performances. I can't imagine anyone else in that role. Well, maybe Renée Zellweger, but that's only because I saw her on the big screen. No one could do better on the stage, I don't think."

Scribbs prattled on in excitement as Ash smiled and slipped off her shoes. She'd enjoyed the show as well, but seeing the delight in her partner's eyes, made it more worthwhile.

Later, the pair lay in bed, trying to wind down so that they could get some much needed sleep. They'd need to get to the airport fairly early, but at least they didn't have to worry about how they would get there. Antonio had offered to drive them free of charge, and Scribbs was pleasantly surprised when Ash took him up on his offer.

"Hey, Ash?"

"Hmm..." Ash answered sleepily, just starting to relax.

"Why'd you agree to let Antonio drive us to the airport?"

Ash sighed. "Well, I thought about my luggage with the wheel missing, then changing trains at three different subway stations, and finally I remembered how stifling it was on that airport shuttle bus."

"Ah, so the lesser of the evils, huh?"

"Yeah, I guess so."

Silence ensued, and Ash thought that Scribbs had finally fallen asleep as she moved to turn on her side to watch the blonde in slumber. The last few nights she'd drifted off looking at her partner; it'd been nice seeing the relaxed expression on the other woman's face right before she'd succumbed to sleep.

"Thanks, Ash." Scribbs whispered, leaving the brunette waiting for more.

When no other words were forthcoming, Ash wondered aloud, "What for?"

Scribbs could easily see her partner's face turning towards her. She slowly reached down and took Ash's hand, raising their joined hands so that they could both see as well as feel the touch.

"For putting up with me all week. I know how different we are. You're neat and tidy, and I'm ... well, not neat and tidy."

Ash chuckled her agreement as Scribbs continued. "Anyway, I know you probably didn't want to see quite as much of the city as I did, and I wanted to thank you for acquiescing so nicely to my wishes."

The brunette squeezed the blonde's hand and smiled. "No thanks necessary, Scribbs. I truly wanted to see all those places, but I probably wouldn't have if you hadn't been so insistent and allowed me to tag along."

Scribbs smiled broadly, her happiness spreading to every feature of her face. Leaning forwards, she lightly kissed her partner's lips, lingering for a short while to enjoy the sweet taste.

Ever so slowly, Scribbs released the soft lips. "Thanks anyway, Ash."

Turning onto her back, Scribbs closed her eyes, never releasing the brunette's hand and, Ash continued to watch her partner until the other woman's breathing evened out. Moving her free hand up to her lips, she touched them reverently as a smile began to form.

Antonio drove the pair directly to the airport's main entrance, ignoring the security guard and jumping out of the cab to place his passenger's luggage on the pavement. Scribbs gave the man a kiss on the cheek, and Ash merely waved. Grinning from ear to ear, he jumped back into the car and peeled out into the traffic. Both women laughed aloud as he veered across two lanes of traffic and sped off.

The check-in at JFK went just as smoothly as the check-in at Heathrow, much to Scribbs' delight. Ash hadn't seemed nearly as nervous as she was in London, and the blonde was hoping that nothing would go wrong to change her current state of mind.

At the departure gate, the pair found a couple of chairs away from the other passengers and took advantage of the solitude while they could. Ash had immediately taken Scribbs hand when they took their seats and watched the planes from the large window.

"Um, Ash?"


"Do you still have some whiskey left from the flight over?"

"I left it in the room. I didn't think security would let me bring any alcohol into the airport."

"Oh, yeah. Er, do you need me to go and get you some?"

"Hmm, no, I don't think it'll be necessary."

"Are you sure, Ash? I don't want you having a panic attack."

Ash squeezed the blonde's hand. "I think I have everything I need right here."

Scribbs looked down at their joined hands and then back up at her partner. Neither woman had made a reference to last night's kiss, and Scribbs was beginning to think that Ash was choosing to ignore the display of affection.

The DI winked at her DS and moved her gaze back to the window. Scribbs sat perfectly still for several moments, and then she smiled and shook her head. Turning back to her magazine, she tried to focus on the article she'd been reading. Ash was definitely going to keep her on her toes that was for certain.

The pair looked for their seats, once again happy to be on one of the sides; however, a rather large man sat dead center in their assigned row, meaning, of course, that the two women were left to sit on either side. Ash squeezed Scribbs' hand almost painfully, in a universal signal that she didn't want to let go.

Scribbs looked at the dilemma before her. She would barely be able to squeeze between the man and the seats in front to get to the window seat, but the obvious problem was that she wouldn't be able to hold Ash's hand during the dreaded take-off and landing or any of the time in-between.

Glancing around, the blonde noticed a flight attendant heading their way, and she walked towards her, pulling a willing Ash behind. It appeared the brunette had figured out the logistics problem of their seating arrangements as well.

Several minutes later, Scribbs looked out the window of the plane and smiled. The last row of first class now held two of Middleford's finest detectives.

Mid-way into the flight, Ash was sleeping peacefully, her hand entwined with that of her partner's. She'd had no problem with the take-off and had decided if she ever had to fly again that it might be worth parting with the extra money, and Scribbs had laughed at the idea of a frugal Ash squandering money away on a first class ticket.

The flight attendant who'd solved their seating problem was working first class, and she made it a point to check on the couple as often as possible, especially in the light of Ash's strong dislike of flying. At least, that's how the brunette had described it when the blonde said something about aviophobia, making certain that the flight attendant knew it didn't have anything to do with birds.

Scribbs looked up from her book to see the older woman standing next to their row.

"Is everything okay? She seems to be doing fine, but I just wanted to be sure."

"Yes, she's doing great. Thanks for bumping us up. I'd really only intended to try to get a window seat where no one would be sitting in the middle."

The woman nodded in agreement, understanding the situation perfectly. It was bad enough to be uncomfortable when you weren't afraid of flying, but with fear added to the mixture, it certainly exacerbated the problem.

"Alright, as long as everything's okay. I'll check back on you two later."

When the attendant turned to leave, a thought suddenly occurred to the blonde detective.

"Um, Ms.?"

"Oh, call me Sally."

Scribbs smiled. "Okay, Sally. Listen, I was wondering something. Is it common practice for flight attendants to flirt with the passengers and give out their number?"

The attendant grimaced and then looked around to be certain no one could overhear their conversation.

"You're talking about Tiffany, aren't you?"

At Scribbs' nod, she continued. "She's on probation. I've turned her in, but there has to be a formal inquiry before anything is done. Did she proposition you?"

"No." The blonde gestured towards the sleeping brunette. "She gave Ash her number, but if she fancied Ash, I don't understand why the filthy slag didn't tell her about the Airtrain from JFK. She sent us on the trip from hell to the substation."

"Ah. It looks like she's still following her same game plan. You see, her home base is New York City. Her partner always meets her at the airport, and the two take the Airtrain back into the city. If your friend had seen Tiffany with another woman, she'd have never called her. So, she sent you two on a different route."

Scribbs narrowed her eyes in an Ash-like gesture. "You mean to tell me, she sent us on a hot, smelly, packed shuttle to catch three different trains with all of our luggage in tow on purpose, just so she could avoid a run-in between us and her lover?"

"You've got it in a nutshell. I'm sure she was afraid her girlfriend might somehow find out about her arrangement with your friend."

"Good job Ash threw her number away on our marathon ride into the city."

Sally frowned at the comment and looked down at Ash. "You mean, your partner was seriously considering calling Tiffany even when she knew you were aware of the exchange?"

"Um, oh, well, Ash isn't actually my partner/partner. I mean, we're both police officers so I guess we're partners as far as work goes, but we've only just started to play around with anything else."

"I'd have never known. You both seem to be so caring towards each other."

Scribbs glanced at Ash and chuckled. "Not always, but now that I think about it; we do bicker like an old couple."

"Then, there you have it. You've been a couple all this time and never knew it." Sally laughed and was soon joined by the blonde. The pair continued their quiet conversation with Scribbs detailing their adventure of planes, trains, and automobiles, concluding with her promise to leave their addresses and phone numbers in case she or Ash needed to be contacted in regards to Tiffany's inappropriate behavior.

Ash finally woke as the captain was announcing the time and weather in London, signaling the end of the flight was near. However, this time, the brunette smiled at the prospect of landing. She'd enjoyed her trip abroad and had discovered a whole new world on the other side of the pond.

"It'll be good to be home again, huh, Ash?

"Yes, Scribbs. It certainly will, but I'm just glad we don't have to go into work tomorrow. It was smart of the boss to realize we'd need the extra rest."

Scribbs nodded in agreement, despite feeling sad that she and Ash would be apart for the first time in a week. She wondered exactly how long she should wait until she asked the brunette out on a real date.

The blonde hardly had any time to make plans as Ash seemed to be thinking along the same lines but, unlike her partner, Ash got straight to the point.

"Scribbs? Would you like to go out to dinner tonight?"

The plane's landing gear hit the runway just as the words left the brunette's mouth, but Ash never even flinched at the sensation; she just continued looking into her partner's eyes, waiting for an answer.

"I'd love to, Ash."

The brunette gave the blonde one of her rare full-blown smiles.

"You know something, Scribbs? I think our bad luck is about to change."

"Me, too, Ash. Me, too." Scribbs had indeed drawn a winning hand.

The plane taxied to the gate and came to a full stop as the passengers began to stand to gather their belongings. Ash reached up to pull down their holdalls, and the two women were the first to deplane, bidding Sally a fond farewell.

As they made their way towards the luggage area, Ash suddenly stopped and frowned.

"Hey, Scribbs? How are we getting home from the airport?"

The End

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