DISCLAIMER: Waking the Dead and its characters are the property of the BBC. No infringement intended.
SPOILERS: Takes place right after "Walking On Water" [3x02], so obvious spoilers to that particular episode.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

The Unclean
By lysachan

Mel can still hear the whiz of the bullet in her head and feel the impact of red liquid hitting her on the face. She instinctively puts a hand on her cheek where the blood of Fin Dawley has dried. Her palm is covered in red, and the images of Dawley laying in his own blood in the middle of the street fill her head. The backseat of the police car suddenly feels too small and claustrophobic, and she clenches her fists, fingers digging into the flesh.

"Where to, ma'am?" The voice startles her.

"Met. Cold Case Unit. Please." She doesn't recognise her own voice; it sounds hoarse and weak, even the unfamiliar officer at the wheel looks at her a few seconds too long.

Suburbs of London flash by as the car darts towards downtown, but the scenery is the last thing Mel pays attention to. She tries to breathe evenly, not letting the looming panic get the best of her, but the images and sensations just seem so real and vivid, and they don't leave her alone. She thinks it's almost ridiculous; it's not like she hasn't witnessed a shooting before. In fact, she's already been in far worse places than that during her career, although she's only a constable in rank.

But for some reason she can't shake this one off and blame the profession and its obvious dangers. It's different this time. She can now feel the dried blood on her skin like a burning, and the feeling of panic raises inside of her again. Squeezing her eyes shut, she hopes the officer would drive faster so she could get out of the car and get rid of everything reminding her of the earlier events.

After what feels like hours the car finally comes to a halt and Mel jumps out, mumbling her half-hearted thanks to the frowning officer. Wrapping her coat tighter around herself, Mel wanders to the building, not knowing what she should do next.

Before long she's standing behind the glass doors of the forensics lab, not quite sure what she's doing there, but she goes in anyway. The lab is empty and seems almost spooky, bathing in the blue halogen light, but Mel doesn't care because she needs to get rid of the blood and filth on her; the feeling of it eating into her skin makes her shiver almost violently.

She haphazardly sheds her coat on the floor and nearly runs to the nearest sink. Vigorously scrubbing her hands under the tap, she watches as the water turns red before washing down the drain. It makes her sick. She can feel the hot tears on her cheeks as she continues to wash her hands and wrists. She doesn't care that her skin has already turned slightly red, because it's like the blood has seeped into every pore of her skin. It hurts but she ignores the pain to get it all off.

There's a hand on her shoulder, but she doesn't pay much attention to it – until that someone forces her to turn around and she panics. She tries to fight it, pushing them away, but without much success.

"Mel!" She's distracted for a second and finally sees the brown eyes peering down at her. They are familiar and warm, and gradually she stops resisting. Frankie. Of course it's her, she's always working, she's always there. With a tiny whimper Mel sinks down on the floor, her legs going limp, pulling Frankie with her, and with a thud her knees hit the floor. Holding on to the other woman for dear life, Mel tries to find the words to explain, to make some sense of the situation.

"They...they just shot him. Just...there. I-, I couldn't-," she falters, looking at Frankie with pleading eyes, desperately trying to make her understand.

"I know." Frankie's voice is soft. "Boyd called me," she then adds, brushing a lock of blonde hair from Mel's face behind her ear.

"I-, I just stood there. I couldn't-," she sobs and leans forward, burying her face in the crook of Frankie's neck. The brunette wraps her arms around her, her hand making soothing patterns on Mel's back, and for the first time since the shooting Mel feels safe.

"You're a mess," Frankie says when they finally break apart; Mel's answer is something between a sob and a chuckle. Without letting go of her, Frankie reaches for a paper towel next to the sink, wets it and tenderly wipes the blood and tears from Mel's face. "That's better." She smiles when she's finished.

"I'm sorry." Mel's voice is beginning to sound like her own again. She rubs her bloodshot eyes, a little embarrassed for her earlier episode.

"Oh, please, Mel," Frankie snorts, but the look on her face is nothing short of sympathetic. "Come on, you're staying at my place tonight," she then says and stands up, holding her hand out to the blonde.

"Frankie, I've done that the past month. My plants are probably dying," Mel reasons and let's Frankie pull her up from the floor. She blows her nose in a handkerchief Frankie hands her, still not completely trusting her legs.

"You know better than that to not argue with me when I'm using my 'no bullshit' voice." Frankie raises her eyebrow, her arms crossed on her chest, and Mel can't help smiling. She takes a few steps towards her 'mad lady scientist' (as she once put it), contentedly wraps her arms around Frankie's neck and kisses her sweetly on the lips.

"Thank you," she whispers, that faint smile still playing on her lips. Frankie puts her arm around Mel's shoulders, grabs her coat, and the two of them make their way out of the lab.

"It's going to be alright," Frankie murmurs and kisses the top of Mel's head, pulling her just a little bit closer. Mel lays her head on Frankie's shoulder as they walk and wonders that things are beginning to be alright already.

The End

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