DISCLAIMER: Murder in Suburbia and its characters are the property of ITV. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
THANKS: To Ann for the beta.
The Wedding Dress
Scribbs slumped down into the overstuffed chair and tried to pretend she was even the tiniest bit interested in the proceedings. She had agreed to accompany Ash to the bridal boutique simply to stop the other woman from stressing about her choice of wedding dress, but the reality of the situation was far worse than she'd imagined. It wasn't just the wall to wall lace or the overly cheerful saleswoman who insisted on assuring her that 'her day would come', but the whole idea of helping Ash choose a dress to go off and marry someone else was positively excruciating.
"Alan's sister said it was perfect," Ash called from inside the changing area, prompting Scribbs to sit up a little straighter and pretend she wasn't bored out of her mind. "But I think it needs tightening at the waist."
Ash stepped out from the changing room and gave a shy, yet oddly excited twirl. "What do you think?"
Scribbs took in the flowing lace and puffy arms, her lips tightening in an effort not to let loose her inner guffaws. "You look like a giant doily," she choked, her eyes tearing up. "Or one of those weird frilly dolls my mum used to put on the spare loo roll when one of my aunts was visiting."
"You did not just compare me to one of those... those things!" Ash looked like homicidal-bride-Barbie as she gathered up her skirts and took a menacing step towards Scribbs. "Alan's sister said I looked like an angel!"
"Alan's sister is obviously deranged." Scribbs scooted further back in her chair. "You know I think you're gorgeous, but in that get up even I'd be hard pressed to shag you."
"Scribbs!" Ash didn't know what part of that statement to tackle first. "Firstly, a wedding gown isn't supposed to inspire lust -"
"Good thing too."
"- and secondly, we agreed never to talk about our ... little indiscretion."
Scribbs bristled at the dismissive description. "No, we didn't."
Ash's jaw tightened. "Yes, we did."
"No, we didn't."
Ash stomped her foot, setting off a wave of frilly lace. "You agreed that it accomplished nothing to be constantly reminded of our failures in the romance department."
"I was talking about Marcus and the rest of the sad losers you used to date." After their first time together, it had been Scribbs who had suggested they steer clear of conversations involving their previous romantic partners; the jealousy she had felt at the mention of Rick, the chartered accountant, or Brian, the dentist, had surprised even her. But, and she was certain of this, there had been no agreement not to mention their own, in her view, far too brief relationship. "It's different when it comes to us."
"Because I'm not a sad loser?" Ash didn't look as if she was in full agreement with that statement, so Scribbs tried a different approach. "But I am still your best friend, even if you did chuck me for some prat in designer knockoffs."
"I didn't chuck you!"
"Oh, please," Scribbs scoffed, pointing towards the nightmare in lace smothering Ash's body.
Ash bristled at the accusation. "My marrying Alan has nothing to do with it." She brushed at one of the many creases in her dress, the thought that Scribbs might not be entirely wrong about her choice of gown firmly buried beneath an ironclad layer of denial. "We made a mistake -"
"- but were wise enough to stop before we ruined our friendship."
"And the arrival of Prince Charming on the scene had nothing to do with it, I suppose?"
Ash loomed menacingly over her friend, but the effect was somewhat spoilt by the halo of white that seemed to encircle her middle and make her bum look enormous. "I didn't even know Alan when we ... When we stopped ... Doing what we were doing."
"We were shagging," Scribbs supplied helpfully.
Ash took a step back. "Precisely!"
After working side by side for the best part of four years, Scribbs thought herself an expert on all things Ash; she could recite her rules verbatim, even when asleep, and could draw a pretty accurate diagram of the freckles dotting her shoulders, but at that moment, she was completely lost. "Precisely? Precisely, what?"
"Shagging!" Ash's raised voice drew the attention of the sales assistant who poked her head in the door to peer at them curiously. Both Ash and Scribbs gave her a saccharine-sweet smile, which seemed to be enough to scare her rigid and out of their sight. "I'm thirty-five, not twenty-five; I want more out of life than the odd roll in the hay with a friend."
"And I knew you'd never be interested in -"
"What do you mean?" Scribbs interrupted. "I know I might act like an overgrown kid at times, but I'm looking for the same things you are." She thought of Alan and his strange affinity for loud ties and leering comments about her cleavage. "Well, not the oily prat in a shiny suit, but someone I could come home to." There was a slight pause. "Someone I could say 'I love you' to without the help of four double vodkas."
It had taken Ash five G&Ts before she'd managed to say those particular words to Alan, and even then, she'd felt embarrassed over the sentiment. It wasn't that she didn't care for him, she was marrying the man after all, but she just wasn't the kind of woman given to flowery declarations and simpering romanticism. "It would never have worked out."
"You made sure of that."
"Scribbs, I -"
"No, forget it." Scribbs stood, her hands jammed into her pockets as if she was afraid what they'd do if she let them have free reign. "Forget that we could have been amazing together. Forget that no one on this fucked up little planet of ours gets you like I do, and heaven forbid, forget the fact that sex with me is a million times better than anything you've ever had with that prat!"
"I never told you that!"
"In two weeks time, you'll be Mrs. Alan, and we can go back to being nothing more than work colleagues and, given enough time, we'll just be faded names in each other's address book and a handful of memories we're too chicken-shit to bring out into the open." Tears of frustration stung the corners of Scribbs' eyes, but she refused to let them fall. She had kept quiet about everything for far too long, but despite the wreck she knew she was making of their friendship, she couldn't stop. "I love you," she said, her words oddly devoid of emotion. "Stupid, really, I mean I should have known that the one time I allow myself to really feel something for someone, she'd only go and break my heart, but that's me, always cocking things up." She took a step back as Ash reached for her. "No, don't. I don't want your sympathy or any of your damn rules. I just..." Words caught in her throat as the tears finally came.
Ash didn't bother with words; she simply pulled the trembling figure into her arms and tightened her hold against the ensuing struggle. It was almost as if she was seeing Scribbs for the first time; devoid of witty one-liners and elfish charm, she was an unholy mess of screwed up emotions and pent-up fear. "I love you too." Scribbs' sniff wasn't the least bit romantic, and certainly not what Ash would have chosen as the answer to her declaration of love, but it had at least signalled an end to Scribbs' struggles. "Did you hear me?"
"I'm not deaf," Scribbs mumbled.
Again, not the response that Ash had hoped for, but she couldn't deny that the way Scribbs' breath had tickled her neck had been enjoyable. "Is that all you have to say?"
Scribbs was far too embarrassed, hopeful, confused and petrified to know what to say. "You're creasing your dress."
"It's not my dress." At Scribbs' look of confusion, she explained, "I only put down a deposit; I didn't want to make a final decision until you'd seen it." She waited a beat. "Am I to understand that you're not fond of it?"
"What gave you that idea?" Scribbs' smile was somewhat watery but carried with it a warmth that had been missing for weeks. "Are you still planning to go through with it? Alan, I mean."
"I hardly think so." Ash didn't believe in the validity of spur of the moment decisions, especially in circumstances like these, but looking into Scribbs' eyes, she knew there was no turning back. Like it or not, they were made for each other, which was somewhat of a scary thought, but Ash was willing to live with it. "I don't think it's safe to let you loose on the unsuspecting public, so it's my duty as a police officer to take you off the market and keep you away from innocent bystanders."
"And you think I'm sexy."
Ash smiled. "And I think you're sexy."
Scribbs hiccuped. "Is it really that easy?"
"No." There would be phone calls, arguments, recriminations and tears before the day was out, and Ash knew she'd be hurting a man who, despite Scribbs' unwarranted epithets, was a decent person and didn't deserve the pain and humiliation she was about to bestow upon him. "But it'll all work out." She kissed the top of Scribbs' head. "It has to."
"And if it doesn't?"
Ash gently raked a hand through Scribbs' hair and marvelled that she'd ever been strong enough to deny what they had together. "If it doesn't," she murmured, depositing a second kiss on Scribbs' cheek, "I know where to dispose of your body so no one will ever find it."
Scribbs smiled as she turned to capture Ash's lips with her own, "I love you too."
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