DISCLAIMER: Murder in Suburbia and its characters are the property of ITV. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Special thanks to atfm for spotting the numerous typos and to ralst for correcting the equally many Americanisms.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
A Suburbia Christmas
A dark head snapped up as a roar of laughter erupted from the hallway. Ash glared at the group of co-workers, obviously displeased with their lack of professionalism. It was only made worse when the sea of workers parted, revealing the blonde hair of her partner. Scribbs bounded through the assembly of men, sporting a cheeky grin. She pushed forward into the room.
"Too slow, Billings, although, seeing you kiss Jenkins actually made my day." Scribbs chuckled as she plopped down in her chair. She'd set the two men up beautifully with each man taking up a position on either side of her. When they'd leaned in to kiss her cheek, she'd just stepped out from under the mistletoe.
"Scribbs, you're late." Ash busied herself with some papers at her desk, completing the illusion that she'd been working.
"Sorry, Ash; traffic."
Scribbs' one-word excuse didn't sit well with her already irritated partner. "That's the third time you've used that excuse this week. Perhaps you should leave a little earlier."
"Funny you should mention that, Ash. I promised my sister that I'd pick up the doll little Susie's been asking for. One of the shops is getting a new shipment in today. I need to take an early lunch."
Ash crossed her arms. "Oh, that's fine, Scribbs; I'm sure the criminals will gladly wait until you've returned from shopping before they resume their crime spree."
"Lighten up, Ash; it'll just take half an hour." Scribbs grinned. "They won't mind waiting such a short time."
Ash's retort was stopped before it could leave her mouth.
"Ash! Scribbs! Boss wants you in his office," informed a passerby as he gestured towards the stairway which led to Sullivan's office.
Scribbs pushed to her feet and headed for the door. "See, Ash; everything's just fine. Crime didn't take a holiday after all."
A grumbling Ash followed her partner from the room.
Scribbs wheeled the car next to the alleyway.
"There's nothing wrong with those inflatable decorations, Ash."
"Nothing wrong with them? Scribbs, I saw a blown-up Santa leaning over the crib of baby Jesus."
"He probably just wanted to say hello." Scribbs reached for the handle and opened the door.
"There's something terribly wrong with having the two of them share the same lawn, much less the same space." Ash climbed from the car, grateful to have something else to concentrate on besides all things Christmas. A dead body should do the trick.
"Over here, Emma." A bobby gestured towards a very large rubbish bin.
Ash tilted her head and stared at the body. She couldn't believe her eyes.
"Aw, look, Ash; someone killed Santa." Scribbs confirmed the illusion and started towards the body. Ash muttered something about not being able to escape the season as she trailed behind.
Scribbs walked directly to the body and squatted down next to the deceased. She noted the cigar clenched firmly in his hand and the rather large belly. This Santa had no need for padding. Reaching forward, Scribbs tugged on the white beard.
"Scribbs!" Ash was appalled at her partner's actions.
"Haven't you ever wondered if it was real or not, Ash?"
"That man is not Santa Claus, Scribbs."
"So you do believe there is one?"
"What? Of course not, don't be daft."
Scribbs looked up at Ash with a sad expression. "You've never believed, have you, Ash?"
Memories of a small dark-haired girl, sitting on the knee of a man dressed all in red, the child's face filled with excitement as she expressed her desire for a pony, pushed forward uninvited. Ash stared down at the red suit as another memory made itself known; the same little girl racing down the stairs to gaze out on the lawn. There hadn't been a pony that year or any year after; there were only clothes and hair ornaments in its place. Ash looked back towards the busy street.
"No, Scribbs; I've never believed."
Scribbs watched Ash walk to the other side of the rubbish bin; she could've sworn she'd seen a tear in her partner's eye.
"Killed by his own elf, who would've believed it." Scribbs shook her head as she walked away from the interrogation room.
"It wasn't *his* elf, Scribbs; it was just a man playing a part."
"Yeah, well, if he'd gotten the job as Santa instead, this could've all been avoided. Some people just aren't happy with their lot in life."
"Scribbs, it was a temporary job; there wasn't any lot in life."
Scribbs scrunched up her brow in thought. "Suppose it was though; which would you rather be: Santa or an elf?"
Ash looked at her partner as if she'd grown another head. "That is a ridiculous question; neither Santa nor elves actually exist."
"But what if they did?"
"Don't you need to go get that stupid doll?" Ash was in no mood to play make believe, especially when it involved fictitious Christmas characters.
Scribbs checked her watch. "Bloody hell, I forgot all about that; I hope I'm not too late." She jumped from her chair and grabbed for her jacket. "Why don't you come with me, Ash?"
"You've truly lost your mind, Scribbs. There is no way I'm going within a hundred yards of a toy shop at this time of year. The shoppers are lunatics."
"That's why I need you; I need someone to run interference in case I have to wrestle a doll away from someone."
Ash stared at Scribbs in shock.
"Just kidding, Ash; why don't you ride along anyway? There's a sandwich shop nearby. You can order, and I'll join you after I've made my purchase."
Ash furrowed her brow. She was a bit hungry. "Okay, but I am not stepping foot in that toy shop and that's final."
An hour later, Ash sat alone in the booth next to the window, glancing across the way at the toy shop. She'd finished her ham and cheese sandwich long ago and was now eyeing Scribbs' lunch. It would serve her partner right if she were to arrive to an empty plate. She reached across the table only to have her hand slapped just before it'd grabbed the sandwich.
"Hey, that's mine." Scribbs tossed her package onto the seat and slid into the booth.
"Technically, it's still mine. I paid for it."
Scribbs took a generous bite. "Sshhminenow."
"Scribbs, please don't talk with your mouth full." Ash grimaced and glanced away, her eye catching the package. "Isn't that bag a little large to hold just a doll?"
Scribbs took another bite. "Allsstheyhad."
"I hate Christmas shopping; the shops run out of adequately sized bags, sticking your purchases into something that it gets lost in."
"It's better than being too small." Scribbs finally stopped chewing long enough to swallow.
"Well, it's a waste of plastic if you ask me." Ash sipped on her tea. She couldn't believe that Scribbs had already devoured half her sandwich.
Scribbs smiled and dug into the other half. There was no way she was going to tell Ash there was more than just the doll in the bag.
We wish you a merry Christmas, we wish you a merry Christmas, we wish you a merry Christmas, and a happy New Year!
"Bloody hell, the station is no place for carolers." Ash stomped past the group of singers and made her way towards her desk. Scribbs stopped briefly to add her applause to the rest of her co-workers, but she kept her attention on the dark-haired woman who was slamming the drawers of her desk and muttering her unhappiness at the situation.
"Carolers in the station . . .what will they think of next? Serenading the prisoners? Decorating the prison bars with boughs of holly?"
Scribbs stepped next to her grumbling partner. "You forgot adding Christmas cheer to the water cooler."
"I wouldn't be a bit surprised to find some odd colored mixture awaiting us in the morning. Everyone has gone mad over Christmas this year, Scribbs." Ash plopped down in her chair and closed her eyes, massaging her forehead with her fingertips.
Scribbs propped herself on the edge of Ash's desk. "Oh c'mon, Ash; this year isn't any different from the others. You're just blowing things out of proportion."
Ash looked up sharply. "Carolers and mistletoe, Scribbs. I've a good mind to put in for leave next year."
"You don't mean that, Ash." Scribbs was horrified at the prospect of Ash being away at any time, much less during the most wonderful time of the year.
"I most certainly do." Ash looked towards the hallway where the carolers were still loitering. "I wonder if it's too late to put in a request for the remainder of the week."
"Where would you go?" Scribbs' voice took on a sad tone.
"Nowhere; I'd just stay in my flat, catch up on reading, watch movies, and do whatever I pleased."
"What about Christmas?"
Ash turned to face her partner. "What about it? It's just another day, Scribbs."
"Won't you at least visit your parents?"
"They're away on holiday." Ash shrugged, the practiced move made with an air of nonchalance just as it always had when someone questioned her Christmas plans. She hadn't spent Christmas with the family in years.
"Ash . . ." Scribbs began only to be interrupted by an excited voice from the hallway.
"Emma, hurry along, it's time to reveal our Secret Santas."
Scribbs' face lit up like a Christmas tree. "Oh, I can't wait to see Henderson's expression when he unwraps the boxers I got him; they light up and sound a siren." She rose and started towards the door, stopping to call back to Ash. "C'mon, Ash, let's see who drew us."
"I didn't participate," Ash informed her, reaching for the paperwork on their latest arrest.
Scribbs walked back towards Ash. "What do you mean you didn't participate? I saw you put your name in the hat."
"No, you didn't, Scribbs; you saw me place a blank piece of paper in the hat and then palm it when I removed my hand."
"But but " Scribbs faltered, "I saw you draw someone's name, open it, and frown. You drew someone, Ash. Please don't tell me you only pretended to participate. Someone's going to be left out."
Ash glanced up and met Scribbs' concerned eyes. "No one will be left out, Scribbs. I drew my blank slip of paper. I only frowned because I knew that would be expected of me."
A silence fell upon the room as the two women held each other's gaze until Ash could no longer stand the intense scrutiny projected her way. She gestured towards the door.
"You go along; I'll finish up the file on the elf." Ash immediately focused on the papers in front of her.
Scribbs was torn. As much as she wanted to find out who'd drawn her, she didn't want to leave things as they stood. Her decision was made when Ash abruptly stood and left the room, brushing by her without even a glance. Scribbs sighed dejectedly and headed towards the Secret Santa unveiling.
Ash shuffled into the sitting room, still clad in her pyjama bottoms and tank top. She wiped the sleep from her eyes and walked towards the window to gaze upon the empty streets. It seemed no one had ventured out on Christmas morning; everyone was spending the precious time with their family. Uttering a quiet, 'bah humbug', Ash headed towards the kitchen for her first cup of coffee, her departure from the window just a fraction of a second too early. She never saw the bundled up blonde walking towards her building.
Adding a bit of Irish whiskey to her coffee, Ash made her way back to the sofa. She'd just taken a sip of her spiked drink when a knock sounded on her door. Canting her head, she stared at the door, wondering if she was hearing things. Another knock confirmed that her hearing was perfectly fine. Placing her coffee on the nearby table, Ash stood and headed towards the unwanted intruder.
Scribbs stood on the other side of the door, holding her precious cargo tightly against her body. She worried at her lip and waited for Ash to come to the door, hoping her idea wouldn't backfire on her. Glancing over her shoulder, she briefly considered leaving, but the opening of the door had her turning to face an obviously irritated Ash. Scribbs now had intimate knowledge of how Tiny Tim must've felt.
"Merry Christmas, Ash." Scribbs smiled brightly despite the scowl that greeted her.
"Scribbs? What are you doing here?" Ash stood in her bare feet and pyjamas with her dark hair tousled. It was the first time Scribbs would've ever described Ash as cute; attractive, stunning, beautiful even, but never had Scribbs ever seen her partner look so cute.
"I thought I'd bring a little Christmas cheer your way." Scribbs pushed past Ash and made her way to the sofa. Ash glanced over at her mug of coffee; she'd already had a little Christmas cheer.
Closing the door, she moved back into the flat to find Scribbs pulling a brightly colored gift from her bag. Her partner sat down and made herself at home as she turned towards Ash.
"C'mon, Ash. It's time to open your pressie."
"Scribbs, we've never exchanged gifts before."
Scribbs shrugged. "Well, I got you something anyway."
"But, I didn't get you anything." Ash sat down at the end of the couch and stared at the beautifully wrapped present.
"That's okay, Ash," Scribbs gestured towards the package, "it's really not much. Just a little something I picked up the other day."
Ash slowly reached for the gift, placing it on her lap. She stared down at the decorated paper, depicting Santa and his elves. Chuckling, she said, "Looks like these elves are much happier than the one we dealt with this week."
"Yeah," Scribbs agreed. "Now, open your pressie!"
Ash laughed aloud and began to do just that, taking her time to peel the tape off carefully. Scribbs took exception to the slow and deliberate procedure.
"Just rip the paper, Ash; that's half the fun of opening gifts."
Ash looked down at the box again. Growing up, she'd have been reprimanded for tearing the paper. Grinning widely, Ash grabbed hold of one end and pulled hard, the sound of the ripping paper filling the room.
"Now that's the proper way to open a Christmas pressie." Scribbs smiled and watched as Ash turned the gift over. The expression on her face made Scribbs' Christmas.
"Oh, Scribbs." With shaky hands, Ash gently removed the plastic wrapping and lifted the toy for closer inspection. The stuffed pony was an exact replica of the one she'd asked for so many years before. Tears filled her eyes.
"Um, I figured you might like it." Scribbs wasn't sure what to say; she'd never expected such a strong reaction. "When I was little, I asked for a pony. We couldn't afford one, much less pay for its upkeep. My mother gave me this instead, explaining why it wasn't possible for me to have the real thing. I still have it."
Ash ran her hand over the pony's soft coat. "My parents never offered a word of explanation. They just let me believe that Santa hadn't granted my wish. I never asked for another thing after that year."
Scribbs reached out and placed a hand on Ash's arm. "Oh, Ash, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to bring back bad memories. I just thought you'd think it childish and laugh it off."
"It's not childish at all." Ash slid her hand on top of Scribbs'. "It's a wonderful pressie, Scribbs."
"I'm glad you like it." She smiled at Ash. "Now, what do you say you change out of those pyjamas and come with me to my parents' for Christmas dinner? Mum bought a huge turkey this year, and Dad'll be grateful to have someone help eat it so he won't be dining on leftovers for the next week."
Ash hesitated. "I don't know, Scribbs; Christmas is for family."
Scribbs squeezed Ash's hand. "You are my family, Ash."
Barely able to choke back a sob, Ash nodded her head and pushed to her feet. As she turned toward her bedroom, she offered up one of her rare smiles, the kind she reserved for the most special of times. Seeing the smile that lit up Ash's face, Scribbs grinned as she watched her partner practically bound down the hallway. Her plan to pull Ash from her Christmas funk had worked much better than she'd imagined.
Staring out the window, Scribbs turned her focus to New Year's Eve. When the clock struck midnight, she intended to be the first to wish Ash a very happy New Year.
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