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ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Temporary Engagement
By Gem


It was 9.30 on a Monday morning and Ash had already been sat at her desk for nearly two hours. The slight negative of getting up early was far outweighed by the positives of beating rush hour traffic and having at least an hour, if not two, alone in the office without the usual distractions of colleagues, telephone calls and gossip. So far this morning she'd already gone through several witness statements relating to their current case, making extensive notes on each, before the office started to fill up. She was starting to draw up a chart of possible lines of enquiry when the door opened and Scribbs came in. Ash glanced at her watch. Just after half nine, not bad, she thought. Scribbs was not a morning person by any means and given the look on her face, this morning was not going to be the exception.

"Morning. Good weekend?" Ash asked brightly as Scribbs dropped her bag with a thud on her desk.

The cheery greeting was met by a non-committal shrug and a grunt. Ash got to her feet and headed in the direction of the kettle. There was no way she was going to get any sense out of her partner until she'd had her morning hit of caffeine. She poured boiling water over the instant granules remembering to add two sugars and milk and again wondered how anyone could drink their coffee like that. Ash tried not to drink instant coffee at all if she could help it and certainly would never add milk or sugar to it. Still, given that this was the woman who had concocted the Sugar Puff drink, Ash supposed she should be grateful that Scribbs didn't add anything weirder to it. She passed the mug to Scribbs and returned to her desk. Scribbs took a gulp of coffee, wincing slightly as the liquid scalded her mouth, and started to sort out the mess of papers on her desk. Ash leaned back in her seat and regarded her partner critically. Her eyes narrowed in thought.

"Ok. What's up?" she asked finally.

"Why should anything be up?"

"Let's see. It's a Monday morning and you're in early. Well, early for you at least. You've barely said more than two words, even after coffee, and you're tidying your desk, which you never do. The detective inside me says something's bothering you. So spill it."

"Pete proposed last night."

"God. I wasn't expecting that." Ash leaned forward excitedly. "What did he say when you turned him down? Was he really upset? He didn't cry, did he? I had enough of that with Alex."

"Who said I turned him down?"

"You didn't say yes, did you? Ash was incredulous. "You've only known the guy five minutes!"

"It's been six weeks," Scribbs replied indignantly. "Just 'cause you don't want to get married in case you end up killing someone doesn't mean the rest of us don't."

"But how can you marry a man who goes to bed with an Aston Villa bobble hat on?"

"He only did that once. And it's not like there's a line of blokes queuing up at the altar, is there?"

Ash, wisely, didn't answer. She looked at her partner closely. Scribbs seemed agitated and defensive, and not just because of Ash's gentle ribbing. Her last comment had got Ash thinking. She'd never thought of Scribbs as the type of woman to worry about being left on the shelf, those sort of worries were more her domain, and though Scribbs had always been the more spontaneous, reckless one of the two of them, this sudden plunge into matrimony seemed a little out of character. Whilst she tried to work out what was going on in her partner's head she did her best to ignore her own churning stomach at the thought of Scribbs getting married. The image of her partner in a white dress standing at the altar of some church with Pete made her feel slightly sick. She shook the thought from her mind. Knowing Scribbs it would probably be a jeans and trainers affair at a registry office followed by a couple of pints in the pub. She suddenly realised she'd been quiet for too long. Scribbs was looking at her both expectantly and a little accusingly.

"Well, I guess six weeks without either you putting him in hospital or him threatening to suck your brains out with a straw has got to be a good omen for the longevity of the relationship. I suppose congratulations are in order."

"Thanks." Scribbs seemed to have cheered up a bit.

"Just please promise me that you're not going to start reading those terrible bridal magazines? I don't think my sanity can handle it."

"Deal," Scribbs grinned.

"Did I hear someone mention bridal magazines, ladies? Ash, is someone finally going to make an honest woman of you?" Sullivan had stopped next to their desks. Ash couldn't help giving a wry smile at their boss' assumption.

"No boss, it's actually Scribbs who's had the proposal." Sullivan raised his eyebrows in surprise.

"Scribbs? Really? Well, congratulations. We'll have to go for a celebratory drink later. My shout. Ok?"

"Cheers boss." Scribbs watched as Sullivan headed towards his office before turning to Ash. "Why did he sound so surprised that I'm getting married?"

"Maybe he thinks you're not the marrying type," Ash replied without thinking. Scribbs opened her mouth to argue but Ash quickly changed the subject. "Come on. I've been going through these statements and I think someone's lying to us. Do you want the grieving husband and sole beneficiary of his wife's life insurance policy or the apparently distraught sister with several large credit card debts who seems a little too eager to comfort him? I'd put money on them being in this together."

"I'll take the husband. Meet you back here later?" Scribbs was already heading for the door.

"Fine. See you later." Ash watched her partner's back disappear out the door and sat back in her chair fighting an overwhelming urge to cry. For God's sake Ashurst, get a grip, she chastised herself. It's not like anything was going to happen between the two of you anyway. What difference does it make if she's married? She closed her eyes. It does make a difference, she thought. It matters. Somehow it matters.

By the time Ash got back to the station it was late afternoon and emptying fast. Most people seemed to resent being in work on a Monday more than any other day of the week and couldn't wait to get home. She dropped her bag on her desk and tried to hang up her jacket. She missed the hook by a good few inches and watched sadly as the material crumpled to the floor. Sighing, she stooped to retrieve it before slumping down onto her chair. A day spent interrogating people who thought they were smart enough to get away with murder and were sadly mistaken, combined with Scribbs' announcement, had made her tense and irritable. Just thinking about the morning's conversation with her partner caused her shoulder muscles to tighten further. She absentmindedly tried to massage out some of the knots, wincing slightly in pain. Her eyes dropped to her desk and the scrap of paper lying there.

Ash. Got back early so heading home to get changed. Meeting the lads in the pub for celebratory drink – any excuse eh? See you down there? Scribbs.

She sighed again. The last thing she felt like doing was going to the pub to celebrate Scribbs' engagement. Especially with a group of people who seemed to find some amusement in seeing who could drink a pint of lager quickest. An image formed in her mind – a hot bath, a bottle of wine, an old black and white film and a big box of tissues. It was an appealing image and one that didn't involve lager, pork scratchings or anyone trying to make anyone else do karaoke. However, tomorrow she would have an entire day of her partner sulking and pouting and giving her those puppy dog eyes, which were infuriating but somehow terribly sexy, if she didn't at least put in an appearance.

"Ash? I didn't realise anyone else was still here. Aren't you going to the pub with the others?" Sullivan was standing behind her. She spun her chair round to face him.

"Yes, I am. I'm just tying up a few loose ends here and then I'm going." She tried to smile but felt sure it was more of a grimace. Her suspicion was confirmed by the look of concern on her boss' face.

"Are you ok?"

"Yes, I'm fine. I'm just a little tired and you know, it's a Monday, but I'm ok", she tried to sound breezy and relaxed but could tell that Sullivan was buying none of it.

"Have you talked to her about it?" The direct question caught Ash by surprise.

"Talked to who about what?" she tried to sound nonchalant and failed.

"Scribbs. About this engagement. There's something between the two of you…" Ash opened her mouth to argue but Sullivan continued, silencing the words before they'd formed. "Or at least you'd like there to be. You can't deny it. You need to talk to her."

"I can't. Anyway, it's too late. She's getting married." Ash paused, scrunching her nose up in thought. "How did you know? I didn't think anyone did."

"You don't get to be a DCI without being able to read people, Ash, and I'm not quite as clueless as you lot sometimes think I am. It's never too late and it's certainly not too late before she's even started trying wedding dresses on."

Ash spun her chair back towards her desk flinching at the thought of Scribbs in a wedding gown. She felt Sullivan's hand on her shoulder.

"Just talk to her, Kate." He squeezed her shoulder gently and walked away.

Ok, Kate. You're going to walk in there and talk to her. Find some quiet corner, if that's even possible, and just tell her. 'Scribbs. Please don't marry Pete, I'm in love with you.' Easy. Quick and painless. Just like ripping off a plaster. You can do this.

Ash put her hand on the door handle of the pub and took a deep breath. She opened the door and immediately caught sight of her partner laughing and joking, surrounded by their colleagues. I can't do this, she thought and started to turn when she heard her name being called. Damn it. I could have got away. She turned back into the warmth of the pub and tried to arrange her expression into one of cheerfulness.

"Ash! You're just in time. We were discussing my hen night."

Ash shuddered at the thought of what Scribbs and her mates might plan for her last night of freedom.

"I only have one thing to say to you about that Scribbs. If you even attempt to make me go out wearing matching t-shirts with our names on, fluffy bunny rabbit ears or a big sash saying 'Emma's Hen Night' then I swear I'm actually going to hurt you. Is that clear?"

"Perfectly," Scribbs giggled tipsily.

Ash rolled her eyes and headed to the bar. While the barman was busy getting her glass of wine she glanced back to the table where Scribbs was holding court. Her partner was pointing something out in what looked suspiciously like a bridal magazine and laughing. Ash's eyes travelled down from the messy blonde hair, following the line of Scribbs' body to the fitted t-shirt and tight jeans she was wearing and felt her chest tighten. She took a deep breath and turned back to the barman.

"Can I have a double whisky as well? No ice."

If I'm going to make it through this situation I'm going to need lots of alcohol, she thought draining her glass and starting on the wine.

"Ash, are you alright?" Scribbs' voice seemed to come from too far away and it took a moment for the meaning of the words to filter through Ash's brain.

"Me? I'm fine! Really!" she gestured to make her point knocking over the remains of her seventh glass of wine. Or was it her eighth? She couldn't quite remember.

"You're pissed aren't you?"

"No. I'm not pished. I'm just a little inebrialated."

"I think you mean 'inebriated'," Scribbs corrected her.

"Thash what I said," Ash replied indignantly, leaning against Scribbs for support.

"Right. That's it. I'm taking you home. Come on."

Scribbs guided her partner out of the pub and into a taxi, struggling to keep them both upright and hoping that Ash wasn't going to be sick before she got her home. They spent the short taxi ride in an uncomfortable silence until the car pulled up outside Ash's flat.

"Come on. We're here. Get out," Scribbs voice cut into the quiet of the car as she paid the fare. Ash struggled with her seatbelt and staggered out onto the street. Scribbs followed her.

"Hey! What are you doing?" Ash noticed Scribbs following her out of the car.

"I'm making sure you get into the building in one piece. No arguments. Keys," she held out her hand for the front door key. Ash fumbled in her pocket for a moment, finally producing a set of keys.

"You know you can be really bossy when you want, don't you?" she dumped the keys in her partner's hand.

"Look whose talking Miss 'I have rules for everything'. Get in"

Scribbs guided Ash up the stairs and into the flat and watched as the brunette flopped down heavily on the sofa. Scribbs stood in front of her, arms folded, in an attempt at being stern.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

"Talk about what?" Ash feigned innocence as if being trashed on a Monday night was an everyday occurrence for her.

"Whatever it is that made you try and drink your body weight in wine tonight. Ash, look at me. Talk to me."

Ash made herself look at the blonde woman in front of her, the alcohol clouding her vision until her gaze rested on soft hazel eyes, eyes that were questioning and wanting an answer. Her mind cleared and little and she took a deep breath.

"I don't want you to marry Pete," Ash said quietly

"Why? What's wrong with Pete?"

"Nothing. Well, numerous things actually but that's not the reason why. You just can't marry him."

"Look, Ash, if I'm going to break off my engagement on your say-so you're going to have to give me a better reason than that!"

Ash opened her mouth to speak but no words came out. Come on, Ashurst, it's now or never, she thought to herself and in a flash she was on her feet and planting a hurried kiss on a startled Scribbs' lips. Ok, not the best kiss ever, she thought. Still, there's no going back now I might as well do it properly. She kissed her again, backing her partner up against the wall as she did so, and felt a surge of happiness as the kiss was returned. She wrapped one hand around Scribbs' waist, pulling their bodies closer together, and tangled her other in the mess of blonde hair. She broke off the kiss and leaned back to look into her partner's eyes.

"That's one good reason I suppose," Scribbs said breathlessly

Ash grinned and leaned back into Scribbs' body, the fingers of the hand around her waist dipping under the waistband of her jeans.

"Come with me and I'll give you a better one," she whispered.

They stumbled towards the bedroom, barely breaking lip contact and shedding clothes as they went.

Early morning sunlight streamed through the open curtains waking Ash from her sleep. She opened her eyes and instantly regretted it. She tried again, more slowly this time, allowing her eyes to adjust to the change in light. The room spun slightly in an unpleasant fashion and she felt the beginnings of a headache start to throb in her temples. She groaned quietly and tried to bring herself to full consciousness however painful that was going to be. Ok, take it slowly. You're at home. This is your bedroom. It might be spinning slightly but it's the same as always. Lamp, bedside table, alarm clock, wardrobe, semi-naked Scribbs… what?! Scribbs was grinning at her from the other side of the bed.

"Morning!" she said brightly.

"Scribbs… I… um… look I don't know what happened last night…" Ash stammered.

"Really? Try and remember."

Ash paused for a moment trying to piece together the events of the evening. Scribbs watched her, clearly enjoying every moment of her colleagues discomfort, and laughed as realisation dawned and Ash buried her head in her pillow in embarrassment.

"Scribbs, if you're still going to marry him, please tell me now so I can put in for a transfer or possibly kill myself right now," she said into the pillow. There was no reply. Ash looked up to find her partner grinning sheepishly.

"Ash, did you really think I'd ever marry a guy like Pete? I mean he's nice enough but he's not exactly my type."

"Then why did you accept his proposal?" Ash's mind struggled to follow.

"He never proposed, Ash. I made it up. Not a bad little plan if I do say so myself. Not only did I get a lot of drinks bought for me last night but I got you to shag me finally."

Ash was speechless.

"Oh come on Ash. I needed to do something to get you to admit how you really feel about me. And it worked didn't it?"

"That's besides the point!" Ash replied indignantly "I can't believe you made all that up. Do you realise what that sort of evil scheming plan says about you?"

"That I'm a genius? Anyway, it wasn't really evil. Manipulative, yes, and maybe a little slutty but not evil. Well not really." Scribbs smirked smugly.

"You can wipe that smug grin off your face right now." Ash was still annoyed.

"Don't be mad. Were you ever going to do anything about our little situation? Didn't think so. I had to do something to get you to make a move. The sexual tension was killing me."

Ash didn't answer. The annoyance she felt at the deception was battling against the elation of the whole situation and she wasn't sure yet which emotion would win out. She glanced across at Scribbs who was wearing a devilish smile.

"Why don't you call in sick for us both and I'll show you just how evil I can be?"

Ash hesitated for a second then grinned and reached for the phone.

The End

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