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ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Ash groaned as another rendition of Slade's 'Merry Xmas Everybody' echoed around the incident room for what felt like the hundredth time that morning. It was the 23rd of December and the day of the station's annual Christmas party. And if the current singing was anything to go by, everyone seemed to be getting into the festive swing of things; everyone but Ash that was.
She persevered in trying to finish the report she'd been staring blankly at for the last half an hour but knew it was hopeless. Leaning back in her seat and taking a sip of coffee, she watched as another member of the team floated past in a swathe of tinsel and a Santa hat. She did a double take when she noticed it was Scribbs. There was something about the way the tinsel clung to her that Ash found very alluring and she desperately tried to tear her eyes away.
"Hey Ash, where's your tinsel?" she asked cheerfully as she dropped into her chair opposite.
"It's on my tree where it belongs," she drained her coffee and rested her elbows on the desk, still trying not to stare at Scribbs.
"Are you busy?" Scribbs asked as she re-arranged her hat.
"Not especially, why?"
"I just thought you'd be overseeing the closure of a few orphanages, and making sure Bob Cratchit was on desk duty on Christmas day." Scribbs giggled at the scowl on Ash's face.
"I'm not a Scrooge, I like Christmas as much as the next person but when you're subjected to the same song over and over again, it makes you want to locate the nearest elf and give it a swift kick up the arse," Ash explained as she turned her attention to her computer screen.
"So, are you looking forward to the party tonight?" Scribbs fiddled with a few files on the pretence of work but her heart wasn't in it, she was too excited; visions of sharing a dance floor with Ash running steadily through her mind.
"I'm not really feeling up to it; I might stay for half an hour and then get an early night."
"Is something wrong Ash? You're not ill or anything are you?" Scribbs was concerned, Ash wasn't normally miserable when it came to Christmas.
"No, honestly I'm fine. I'm just a little tired," she said with a smile, giving Scribbs the immediate feeling it was more than that.
"What did you say your plans were for the holidays?" Scribbs had asked a few times already but didn't recall ever getting an answer.
Ash knew she couldn't keep avoiding the question, "It will be a quiet Christmas this year, my parents are abroad."
"Why didn't you say you were spending Christmas on your own?!" Scribbs was horrified at the thought.
"It wasn't that big of a deal, I'm quite looking forward to the peace and quiet." Ash tried to give the impression she didn't mind, but the feeling of loneliness was eating away at her already and Christmas hadn't even arrived yet.
"Right you're coming to me for Christmas, no arguments," Scribbs ordered, "I'd have offered earlier but I didn't know."
Scribbs normally traveled to her parent's for the holidays but she knew they wouldn't mind if she didn't go, they would understand that she couldn't leave a close friend on her own at this time of year.
"I appreciate the thought, really I do. But I'll be fine honestly, thanks for asking though." Ash really wanted to spend the time with her but she was too afraid to accept.
Her feelings for Scribbs had become much stronger of late and it was getting to the point where she'd almost collapse into a puddle of mush whenever she was near. She couldn't afford to let slip how she felt about her and spending the next few days with her was going to increase the risk of Ash blurting out something she shouldn't.
"The offer still stands if you change your mind " Scribbs said with disappointment.
She desperately wished Ash would change her mind and so decided she would ring her parents and cancel anyway. She'd rather be close to Ash knowing she'd be there if she decided she wanted some company rather than being miles away and not being able to see her.
"But you can at least come over tomorrow night for a glass of wine, and you can even help me put the last of my lights up." Scribbs made an attempt at a smile.
"Thanks, that would be really nice," she replied weakly, "How many sets is that now?"
"Fourteen," Scribbs beamed proudly, "six sets on the tree and the rest dotted around, but I've got another few still sitting in their boxes, and I've yet to switch all the reindeers, Santas and snowmen on in the garden."
"I've seen fewer lights at Harrods," Ash quipped, "isn't that dangerous having so many plugs in the one outlet?"
"Certainly is; you get your bill in January and want to chuck yourself off a cliff don't you?" Scribbs chuckled and saw a smile tug at the corner of Ash's mouth.
"Right, I better get this report finished if we're ever going to get to this party tonight," Ash ended the conversation and all references to the festive season, her heart aching because she'd just turned down the best invitation she'd ever had.
Music pounded as disco lights bounced off the walls and floor, momentarily turning Ash's face a multitude of colours, before she was bathed in shadows again. She sat nursing her drink at the edge of the dance floor like a wallflower as she watched Scribbs energetically twist her hips this way and that. She didn't mind watching her dancing, she just objected to the people who danced with her and right at this moment in time, she very much objected to Sullivan.
She could see them both waving at her to join them but pretended not to notice as she took another sip of her wine. She felt even more miserable than she had that morning; all too aware of what she'd missed out on, after turning down Scribbs' invitation. She felt guilty too, she'd been so preoccupied with the fact that her feelings for Scribbs were spiraling out of control that she had barely spoken to her all week and the poor woman was probably wondering what she'd done wrong.
As she mulled things over, she noticed she was being approached by a young DC. He had tried to get her attention from the minute she'd stepped in the door but she waved him off quickly. She'd already been asked to dance twice and politely refused, both men in question had a reputation for being free and easy with their hands and she hadn't much fancied having to fend them off all evening.
"Ash doesn't look all that happy does she?" Sullivan remarked as he moved in time to the beat of the loud music.
"I found out this morning that her parents are away for Christmas and she'll be on her own, so I've got a feeling that's why. I did invite her over to my place but she said no." Scribbs took the opportunity to look over at Ash, "she's knocking the sauce back a bit."
Sullivan smiled, "so is everyone else, tends to happen when the force picks up the bill."
"Maybe she wants some time on her own but I'm worried about her," she said, barely hearing Sullivan's previous response.
"I think you should go over, she looks lonely. Invite her to your place again, she might just say yes," he said shooing Scribbs off the dance floor.
By this time, Ash had moved across to the bar again and had ordered another glass of wine; she'd lost count, was this her third or fourth? Didn't much matter anyway, she was intending to get sloshed very quickly and then leave long before the night ended with everyone propping each other up drunkenly on the dance floor.
"Pint please mate!" Scribbs shouted over the noise at the barman as she touched Ash gently on the arm, "are you ok? You should come and dance with us, you look miserable sat there on you own."
"Oh don't worry about me, I'm having a whale of a time," Ash said sarcastically, "I've been dodging the pervy twins from Vice, and this wine is bloody horrible."
"You're drinking enough of it." Scribbs smiled and then frowned when Ash glared at her, "you've got your knickers in a right twist, what's up with you?"
"Won't Sullivan be expecting you back?" she asked, trying not to sound like a jealous teenager and getting the feeling she'd failed spectacularly.
"We both noticed you're not your usual self, he suggested I come and talk to you."
"Sounds very cosy." Ash drained her glass and motioned to the barman for another.
"DI Ashurst, I do believe you're jealous!" Scribbs bit back on a comment, and teased instead in an attempt to lighten the mood.
"I am not bloody jealous!" Ash argued back, going slightly pink, knowing full well that she was but not for the reasons Scribbs would suppose.
"Hey it's ok even if you are, Sullivan is a nice guy, and I can understand why you like him," she replied with a smile, feeling a sudden aching sensation in her stomach, wishing that she was the one Ash wanted instead.
Ash shook her head sadly, "and to think you actually made it to detective."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Scribbs huffed, but no reply was forthcoming, Ash had already marched off.
Scribbs stood by the bar, sipping her drink thoughtfully. Ash had been gone a remarkably long time but she didn't fancy following her just yet, she wanted to give them both time to cool off. She'd noticed that Ash had been quiet all week, it wasn't like her at all and she was seriously worried. At first she had wondered if it had been something she'd done wrong but she'd been on her best behaviour all week.
That was the problem with Ash though, when something was seriously wrong, she'd keep it to herself and the barriers would come crashing down. It drove Scribbs mad, all she wanted to do was talk to her, comfort her perhaps or even help find a solution to the problem but she knew Ash would never allow it.
"Where did Ash get to?" Sullivan asked over her shoulder as he raised a hand to the barman and ordered more drinks.
"Ladies loo I think. I didn't bother following, she's in a right strop." Scribbs sighed, "Didn't even get a chance to invite her over to my place again, although after that little performance, she's lucky I'm still speaking to her."
She folded her arms, and tried to look stern but where Ash was concerned, she never could stay mad with her for long, and she was already worrying she'd hurt or upset her whilst instantly forgetting that Ash hadn't been entirely nice to her either.
"Go after her," he urged, "It's obvious she's really upset. I'm sure it's more than her parents being away for Christmas."
"Me too but she won't talk to me, hasn't said two words all week and now she's taking it out on me. I don't understand what I've done wrong."
"You haven't done anything wrong Scribbs. She's letting you know how much she's hurting the only way she can because she can't or won't talk about it. What started it all off?" Sullivan said, as he stood there like a patient father.
"She was jealous because we were dancing, so I told her there's no way I fancy you no offence boss."
"None taken," he winked at her, finally figuring out what was up with Ash.
"And then the cheeky mare said something about me being a plank basically and stormed off!"
"I wouldn't say you were a plank but I've got a feeling you're missing the point," he smiled enigmatically.
This puzzled her even further until she thought she'd grasped his point, "Oh don't you bloody well start, ok so Scribbs is thick, Merry Christmas."
He sighed, trying to think of another way to explain it, "Ash is jealous, but not of you, more of me."
"Eh?" Scribbs looked mystified.
"Ash likes you."
"Course she does, we're partners and friends. What else is new?" Scribbs shrugged.
"I think I should be sending you back to Hendon." Sullivan rolled his eyes and shook his head with a smile, "Ash was jealous because she fancies you, that's why she was in a strop. I've seen the way she looks at you, it sticks out a mile."
"Oh my god," was all Scribbs could manage, she was in shock; she'd never expected Ash to fancy her back.
She was also a little peeved that Sullivan seemed to know things she didn't, wondering why she'd never picked up on it when she'd always been hyper-aware of Ash's every look, touch or movement.
"Do you like her?"
A slow smile spread across her face, "I'm nuts about her. I think she's gorgeous and that little thing she does with her "
Sullivan held up his hand and smiled, "I get the point Scribbs, but it's no good telling me how you feel, you should be telling Ash."
"Are you sure that's wise? What if it all goes horribly wrong?" Scribbs could feel a slight panic coming on.
"Take my word for it, she needs to know how you feel," he'd accepted a long time ago that Ash didn't like him the way he liked her, he'd been watching the way she looked at Scribbs for a while now and he wanted them both to be happy.
Scribbs took a deep breath and blew it out slowly, "I love her boss, I mean really love her. I've often thought about telling her but I didn't know how she'd react, the last thing I want to do is ruin things between us."
Sullivan's smile became wider, "Sounds to me like you've got it bad, and I think Ash has too. If you don't tell her how you feel, she'll be heartbroken and you wouldn't want that now would you?"
"Bloody hell; great skills you've got in coercion Sir, no wonder you're a DCI. Cheers!" she raised her glass in a toast to him, "I'll go and talk to her, but I need another drink first."
"I'll drink to that." Sullivan clinked glasses with her and downed the rest of his drink in one.
Ash was running dangerously low on wine, she had maybe three mouthfuls left and was feeling annoyed she hadn't brought in supplies with her. She was currently sitting in the end stall, on the lid of the loo with her feet propped up against the door.
Why in god's name had she turned Scribbs down when all she had to look forward to was hours of sitting in front of the TV with nothing but a huge box of chocolates and a bottle of wine for company? But the one upside at least this year, was that she wouldn't have to put up with her mother's constant questions over lunch about whom she was dating and when grandchildren were going to put in an appearance.
And thinking about that, led her to thinking about Scribbs again, the woman was the complete antithesis of everything she would normally have gone for. And maybe that was the problem, perhaps opposites really did attract. The practical side of her wasn't convinced it would work, she had too many rules and Scribbs was far too laid back but the emotional side of her told practicality to shut its face, she loved Scribbs to distraction, which was more than she could say about anyone else she'd ever had a relationship with.
For the first time in her life, she didn't give a damn if someone was untidy or did things differently to how she wanted them done; Scribbs was Scribbs and she wouldn't change her for the world. It was official, Kate Ashurst was head over heels in love and probably had been since the first moment she'd set eyes on her.
She'd wanted to tell her how she felt many times, but the words would never come, not even when she tried to envision it in her mind's eye. The million quid question was though; would Scribbs ever feel the same way? Ash didn't know, somehow she didn't think so, and she was sure a confession wasn't worth risking their friendship over.
She twisted her face into a painful smile and raised her glass bitterly, "Merry Christmas Ash, you're bloody hopeless."
She downed the rest of the wine and thought about moving to get more when the door of the bathroom opened and Scribbs called out.
"Ash, you in here?"
"End cubicle," she replied, knowing Scribbs would have found her anyway.
"Ah there you are, what you doing sitting in here all by yourself?" she asked as she grabbed the top of the door and hoisted herself up to look over at Ash.
"Do you mind? I could have been sat here with my knickers around my knees," Ash said with mock severity.
"Just as well you're not, because I didn't bring my camera." Scribbs giggled, "come back to the party, I miss you being there. Where's your Christmas spirit woman?"
"It's buggered off. I got tired of following the star, called social services to take the Messiah away and left the donkey getting pissed at the bar, there was no room at the Inn anyway," Ash replied comically as she shrugged.
Scribbs giggled again, "long time since you've been a virgin though eh Ash?" getting a semi-smile in response, "You forgot Joseph by the way, where is he?"
"You mean Josephine and she's leaning over the top of the door looking at me." Ash kicked herself when she realised what she'd said bloody wine.
Scribbs tried to hide a smile, mostly managing it, "come and dance with me, we always have a boogie at Christmas."
"Alright but maybe a bit later though, let's get another round in first." she stood up and waited till Scribbs had jumped down before unlocking the door.
Scribbs smiled at her, the sort of smile that told Ash she'd been forgiven and she felt bad all over again. She walked towards her and reached out to touch her arm, giving it a gentle squeeze.
"Scribbs, I'm really sor "
"Don't you dare say sorry, there is nothing to apologise for." Scribbs wagged a finger at her, "Back to the subject of Christmas. Want to spend it with me? Yea or nay?"
Ash was determined to accept, "I'd be honoured to spend Christmas with you. Right lead on, I need more wine," she said grinning, suddenly feeling a hundred times better.
"We'll go and find the donkey, I think it's his round," Scribbs said smiling as she held Ash's hand tightly and dragged her from the room.
Ash had spent the rest of the evening propping up the bar with Scribbs and Sullivan in-between dances, as she attempted normal conversation. Still wondering how on earth she was going to get through Christmas and conceal her feelings without making a total twonk of herself. She would never be able to tell Scribbs how she felt but at least now they would be spending the holiday together and that meant the world to her.
At close to 1am she was fairly inebriated and watched with amusement as the throng of people began to thin out; with the hardier members of the force remaining on the dance floor, propping each other up drunkenly just as she'd predicted.
She was just about ready for another dance; and looked around with confusion, she was sure Scribbs had been standing next to her five minutes ago, but she wasn't there now. She tried to clear the alcoholic fug from her mind, wondering if she'd succeeded when she felt something being thrown over her head. She looked up to find Scribbs grinning seductively at her and waving the ends of a piece of tinsel which was now being drawn tighter around the back of her neck as she was pulled towards the dance floor.
That did it for Ash, she was now entirely sober and her hormones were racing into the bargain. Contemplating being propped up by the object of your dreams during a drunken dance was one thing, but contemplating it when you're sober was another thing entirely.
"Scribbs what on earth are you doing?"
"Dragging you onto the dance floor." Scribbs could tell Ash had sobered up, she'd pretty much sobered up herself now.
"And strangling me with tinsel while you're at it " Ash paused and almost groaned aloud when she recognised the song the DJ had started playing, could it get any worse?
Scribbs' arms were suddenly around her and they were swaying in time to the music. Or at least Scribbs was; Ash was swaying for an entirely different reason, her legs had turned to jelly. The room faded out and only Scribbs and the music remained, she watched the blonde's lips as she sang the words.
We go to a party
And everyone turns to see
The beautiful lady
That's walking around with me.
And then she asks me,
"Do you feel all right?"
And I say,
"Yes, I feel wonderful tonight."
Ash watched mesmerised as Scribbs continued to sing to her, nobody had ever sung to her before. For that matter, nobody had ever looked at her like that or taken her in their arms with quite so much tenderness before either. Her thoughts raced, if someone had told her that morning; that she'd have been seen at the Christmas party, with her arms around Scribbs dancing to a love song while a fair few of her colleagues looked on, she'd have been convinced they were out of their mind.
At this point in time though, she didn't care, she was focused solely on the woman in front of her. The world could have come crashing down around her and she wouldn't have noticed. Just like she hadn't noticed the knowing looks that passed among the other members of the team; or Sullivan standing to one side with a smile on his face.
I feel wonderful because I see
The love shine in your eyes.
And the wonder of it all
Is that you just don't realize
How much I love you.
Scribbs pulled Ash closer and rubbed her thumb gently down the side of her face, bracing herself for what she had to say, "And I do love you Ash, more than you'll ever know."
"I I love you too," Ash replied feeling breathless and more than a little light headed, this was more than she'd ever dared hope for, "Scribbs, I'm really sorry about how I've treated you this past week, it's just "
Scribbs silenced her with a slow gentle kiss to the lips, not caring about Ash's rules on public displays of affection, "Stop saying sorry, you know I'd forgive you for anything. Come home with me tonight?" she said as she smoothed the brunette's hair back from her forehead.
"I'd go home with you every night for a lifetime," Ash replied with a grin, "but not till this song has finished."
"You're right, there's plenty of time. Scribbs is for life not just for Christmas." she winked and carried on singing.
It's time to go home now
And I've got an aching head,
So I give her the car keys
And she helps me to bed.
And then I tell her,
As I turn out the light,
I say,"My darling, you were wonderful tonight."
"Oh my darling, you were wonderful tonight."
The last few bars of the song faded out as Scribbs made for the door, pulling Ash alongside her. This Christmas was going to be different; they had just been given the best gift ever. And as Scribbs placed her arm around her shoulder and pulled her close to ward off the cold; Ash felt as if she was walking on air, she did indeed feel wonderful tonight.
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