Rachel was on her second glass of wine when her phone vibrated, skittering across the shiny table, the display reading “Gill.” She stared at it for a long time, her index finger gently tracing the side of the glass, considering whether or not she should answer. Ignoring a call from her SIO would not be breaking a specific rule, exactly, but it was certainly frowned upon. And besides, what if it was an emergency?
Finally, she pressed the button and pulled the phone up to her ear. “Yes, Boss?” she asked.
There was a fumbling sound on the other end, and for a moment, Rachel’s blood flowed faster, her body and brain immediately hypothesizing that something was terribly wrong. Had Gill been attacked? Was she hurt?
As soon as she thought it, Gill’s voice came through, thick and different than Rachel had ever heard. “Fuck, shit, I thought I dialed Janet.”
“J and R are nowhere near each other on the keyboard,” Rachel said before she could stop herself.
“Fuck off, Rachel,” Gill replied, and before Rachel could retort, Gill was sniffing, and Rachel realized that she was crying. The iron woman who never showed a moment of weakness, even while maintaining eye contact with a dead body, was crying.
“Are you alright?” she asked.
“I meant to ring Janet,” Gill said again, and Rachel smiled, grateful that Gill couldn’t see her smile. There was something comforting about Gill’s stubbornness, her insistence that she meant what she said, booking no argument. It was one of the things that Rachel secretly loved about her.
“Well, you rang me,” she said. “And you sound upset. I’m at pub, if you want to come get pissed with me.”
On the other end of the line, Gill sniffed again, the inhalation ending as a heavy sigh. “Where are you?”
By the time Gill walked through the door, Rachel had ordered another bottle of red wine and had retrieved a glass for her. It was waiting for her when she walked up to the table, her eyes red. Her hair frazzled. Rachel gave her a bracing smile, trying to ignore the warmth in her cheeks at the sight of her.
“That for me?” Gill asked, reaching for the glass before Rachel could even answer. She took a healthy gulp of it and settled into the seat beside Rachel. “Thank God.”
“You alright?” Rachel asked again, this time able to see the way Gill’s eyes darted away from her when she didn’t answer.
“Dave’s a knobhead,” she said in lieu of answer, and drank more of her wine. Rachel watched her do it, searching her face for any clues. She watched Gill’s throat work, her eyes on the table, her hand tapping.
Rachel waited until she put the glass back on the table before she spoke. “The entire world knows Dave is a knobhead, what I don’t understand is why that knowledge made you cry.”
“It didn’t make me cry –”
“It did,” Rachel didn’t say it as an argument, but fact, and Gill’s eyes jumped up to hers. “I’m not saying it as a judgment.” Gill didn’t speak, but shrugged one shoulder. “You left the briefing early to go deal with something.”
“Dave,” Gill said simply.
She didn’t say anything else, and Rachel watched her swirl her wine. Her eyes, usually so intense and intent on maintaining eye contact, stayed away from Rachel. She pulled her bottom lip in between her teeth and worried it. Rachel, with nothing else to say, gently patted Gill’s hair, smoothing it. Gill let her do it, her gaze meeting Rachel’s silently. Her pulse sped up, thudding quietly in her ears, but Gill seemed largely unaffected.
“Thanks,” she said quietly.
They sat in silence for a few moments, Rachel trying to push down the latest rise of her unfortunate and ill-timed crush. Gill didn’t deserve that behavior right now, she deserved a listening ear, she deserved a friend.
“I can ring Janet,” she said.
Gill waved her off and pulled the bottle of wine closer, topping off her glass. “Don’t ring Janet, you twat.” They laughed, and in an exhalation, the tension was gone.
“You know, I don’t know why I don’t want to tell you about Dave,” Gill said, tipping her glass toward her mouth. “You dealt with that tosser Nick Savage, if anything, you would understand better than anyone.”
“You’re right,” Rachel replied. “So what did he do?”
Gill shrugged. “He got himself kicked out of his house, his car repossessed and went to my house to get pissed and cry about it.”
“What, did he think he’d find a sympathetic audience there?” Rachel asked, emptying her own glass. “He’s stupider than I thought he was.”
Gill poured more wine in Rachel’s glass, her voice softer. “He wanted to get back together with me.”
Rachel, the wine glass halfway to her mouth, paused. Gill’s neck was red, and Rachel stared at it, trying to work out why it was there.
“You’re not going to do it?” she asked, incredulous. She didn’t know why she asked the question; surely Gill wouldn’t have anything to do with Dave after what he did. And then she remembered with a rush that she went back to Nick, even after everything he did to her. She would have married him if Janet hadn’t knocked some sense into her.
“Don’t do it,” she said before Gill could work out a response.
“Of course I’m not going to do it,” Gill said, almost breathlessly. “I’m not an idiot. He just…” she took a breath, her eyes finding Rachel’s almost instantly. “He just said that we had a good…sexual relationship, and we did.”
“He’s still a knobhead.”
Gill laughed, an honest, almost effervescent thing, and Rachel smiled with her. Sometimes, when Gill momentarily let down the walls that made her Godzilla, she managed to be a magnetizing, charming woman.
“He really is,” she agreed. “And what about you? I heard you’re seeing some meathead, Kevin was talking about him.”
“Sean,” Rachel added helpfully. “It’s not so much a relationship. He just comes around –”
“The best kind,” Gill said wistfully. At Rachel’s questioning glance, she continued, “Men are so much easier to deal with when they just come around every now and again. Then you can use them for what you need and send them away again.”
Rachel surveyed her with a smile, trying to figure out if she was being sarcastic or genuine. But Gill didn’t break; she raised an eyebrow and sipped her wine.
“I dunno why you’re looking at me like I just told you your arse was on fire,” she said. “Surely you’ve figured that out by now.”
Rachel shrugged. “I suppose.”
“Ahh,” Gill said as if she’d just figured out a case. “You’re still a romantic.”
Rachel scoffed. “I am the opposite of a romantic.”
“A cynic on the surface and a romantic in the heart,” Gill said, her voice softer and more inquisitive. Rachel squirmed, suddenly uncomfortable with the pub, going quieter as the evening waned into early morning and Gill’s eyes on hers. When Gill pulled her glass up to her lips, Rachel took the opportunity and cleared her throat.
“Are you a romantic for your little toy boy?” she asked, and it was Gill’s turn to look embarrassed. “Don’t worry, I don’t know who it is, I just heard you call him a toy boy.”
Almost immediately, Gill relaxed, the stiffness in her posture melting into something more comfortable. “That’s done,” she said with finality.
“Just giving him a call whenever you need it, and then letting him go?” Rachel asked, dropping her gaze to the table just in case Gill gave her the same penetrating stare that could pull a confession out of an innocent man.
“That idea really worries your romantic sensibilities, doesn’t it, kid?” Gill asked, and Rachel had to bite back a smile at the nickname she adored so much.
“Not a romantic,” she defended. “It just…doesn’t seem like something you’d do.”
“Really?” Gill asked, leaning forward so both of her elbows were on the table. “And, pray tell, what would I do?”
Rachel matched her posture, and Gill followed the movement with her eyes. “You were married for a good while, to Dave, and he, as we know, is a dickhead philanderer who mucked about while he was married and before and after.”
“What’s that got to do with me?” Gill asked.
“You never seemed the type to do something even similar to what Dave did,” Rachel continued. “Especially because what he did hurt you and Sammy so much. No, you’re the one-guy-at-a-time type, and when you’ve got a…toy boy…” she dropped her gaze to the table and brought them back up to Gill, who was watching her carefully, like she’d just figured something out, “he’s the only one until you’ve decided you’re finished. There’s no overlap, and there’s no disconnect.”
“Profiling me, are ya?” Gill asked, pouring them both more wine. The bottle was almost empty, landing with a hollow clatter when she put it back on the table. “Or do you always pay this much attention to your SIO’s love life?”
“Just observations,” Rachel reassured her.
“Okay, your turn,” Gill said, finishing off her own glass of wine and taking Rachel’s, cradling it between her hands as she considered her. “You spent two years with Nick Savage, which I know only because you told me, and even though he was condescending and patronizing, you put up with it because he was classy, and he liked spending money on you, and he made you feel like you were doing so much better than your family expected you to do.”
Rachel blinked, and Gill paused, looking into her eyes for permission to continue. Finally, Gill pressed on.
“And then there’s Sean,” she said. “Who is a puppy, waiting and willing to answer your call. Kind of flipped that, after Nick, didn’t ya? Either way, you’re only willing to let someone else take control if they can give you something you can’t give yourself. Sean can’t, so you don’t care to let him talk down to ya, to give him more commitment than a shag. That’s why you’re fine with that.” She paused, staring down at Rachel’s glass of wine for a moment, far away, as if she had forgotten Rachel was there. “You’re keeping Sean as a placeholder until someone new comes along that you would love to relinquish control to. You’re just waiting.”
“Sure about that?” Rachel asked, her voice soft. Gill was looking at her differently than she ever had before, as if Rachel had become something she truly hadn’t expected, right before her eyes, and Rachel was intoxicated with the soft lighting around them both, with the way Gill spoke so confidently, like she knew her better than she knew herself.
“I am,” Gill answered.
“That’s why you’re the boss,” Rachel said, playing for nonchalance, reaching for the glass of wine between Gill’s fingers, brushing her knuckles as she did. Gill watched her do it, her eyes bright and confident and telling.
“Do you think that someone else should have control over your life?” she asked as Rachel took another sip of the wine.
Rachel shrugged one shoulder, placing the glass back in Gill’s hand. “I usually muck it up a good deal myself, so what harm could it do?”
“Everyone mucks it up,” Gill replied, dropping her hand on Rachel’s wrist. Her hand was cool, soft, gentle. Rachel stared at it for a moment, her brain trying to figure out why it was there, what Gill intended.
“You pissed?” she asked.
“I have to be drunk to touch your wrist?” Gill replied.
Rachel looked back down at Gill’s hand, now gently rubbing a pattern into the skin of her wrist, and back up to Gill. “I figured, yeah.”
“Not drunk,” Gill pointed out. “I just want you to understand. Everyone mucks it up.”
Rachel’s breath was definitely gone by now, especially since Gill was looking up at her with what looked like understanding. Or maybe it was trust.
“You don’t,” she finally replied, the words dry in her throat.
“Don’t I?” Gill asked. “I rang you instead of Janet.”
“That’s not a muck up,” Rachel replied with a laugh. “That’s a mistake.” She glanced down at Gill’s hand on her wrist. “Why did you ring me instead of Janet? You don’t make mistakes like that.”
“You’re first on my speed dial,” Gill admitted. “When Janet got stabbed, I put you first on my speed dial just in case I had to call you in a rush.” Her hand was still on Rachel’s wrist, but her grip tightened just so. “You were so on top of everything while Janet was gone – you rose to that occasion more than I ever expected you to. So…yeah, I relied on you more. I called you more often than I called Janet to check on her. And when she came back, I just didn’t change it back.”
“You rely on me?” Rachel asked, a smile sneaking onto her face.
At the sound of her smile, Gill’s eyes went back up to her. “Don’t get all smug on me, lady, I’ll bump you down so far, you’ll be under Kevin.”
“Kevin!?” Rachel yelped. “That’s just cold.”
Gill laughed, her hand sliding down to take Rachel’s more completely. Rachel noticed but left it there, warmth radiating from the contact. “Kevin’s not on my speed dial,” she said, quietly, like it was a secret.
“Kevin is on no one’s speed dial,” Rachel replied.
“You know, you really are getting better,” Gill said, the laughter gone. “One day, you’ll be me, kid.”
Rachel looked up, noticing as she did that Gill was closer than she had been before. “You think so?” she asked hopefully.
Gill, close enough that her breath was ghosting over Rachel’s cheek, chuckled, the sound more like a sigh than anything else. “I know.”
Rachel let time slow to a stop, very conscious of the effort it took to keep herself from looking down at Gill’s lips, to give away what she was thinking, and just enjoyed the proximity, Gill’s eyelashes devoid of mascara, her gaze steady, open, and her hand still in hers. Finally, with what could almost be called a laugh, she broke the spell, and caught Gill’s gaze fall to her lips for only a moment before she pulled back, a safe distance away.
“Pub’s closing soon,” Rachel whispered, and Gill was still close enough that she caught it, and nodded. She stood, as if Rachel was going to let her go wandering into the street like this, pissed in the middle of the night. Rachel caught her hand, the same one that had just been holding hers, and stopped her. Gill’s gaze went back to their hands before it went to her face again.
“Come to mine,” Rachel said quietly. She didn’t know why she said it; perhaps she really didn’t believe Gill’s resolve when it came to Dave. Maybe she just didn’t trust that this tenuous existence between them would survive them going to different places. “In case Dave comes back.”
“Wouldn’t he love to see this,” Gill mused.
Rachel didn’t know what she meant by that, so she didn’t say anything. She kept tight hold of Gill’s hand while she paid for their bottle, and didn’t let go until she was safely deposited into the back of the cab, with Rachel on the other side.
Once Rachel stopped trying to be so stroppy all the time, she was surprisingly comforting company. Gill could feel the warmth of her leg pressed into hers in the back of the cab, and found that the more the cab bounced over the streets, the closer they were getting. She didn’t mind – she had avoided all physical contact with Rachel specifically for this reason.
Rachel Bailey was the queen of bad decisions, of inappropriate sexual liaisons, of many other things, but to be any of those things, she had to be a charming, beautiful woman. And she was, Gill could testify, and she was so woefully naïve about her charms that she didn’t even know when she was putting someone under her spell.
A spell Gill had very determinedly ignored for years until she couldn’t anymore, and even after that she channeled it into a healthy mentor relationship. But in the dark backseat of the cab, what did that matter, anyway?
She let the swaying cab lull her head to the side, let it settle on Rachel’s shoulder, and Rachel, without even looking, slipped an arm around her shoulder, her thumb rubbing gentle circles into the bare skin of Gill’s arm. Gill closed her eyes and let the sensation take her, the cab, the skin, the late night.
And then it was over; Rachel was helping Gill out of the cab, probably thinking Gill was even more pissed than she originally implied, her eyes careful and guarded on Gill’s in the dark outside on her stoop.
“My brother is at me sister’s,” she explained quietly, as if she had to be quiet for someone. “So…if he left the place a mess –”
“Just open the bloody door, Rachel.”
“Yes, Boss,” she muttered, shouldering the door open and stepping aside to let Gill in first.
The place was a mess, but only superficially. Gill cast her gaze around the room, trying to find something to joke about, but the worst thing in the room was a set of teacups in the sink with dregs still in them and the blanket on the settee.
“Not as distinguished as Your Majesty’s house, but –”
“You always feel like you need to impress me, kid?” Gill asked.
Rachel’s eyebrows went up, and as Gill was trying to interpret the movement, she schooled her face into something more neutral. “Yes,” she said unapologetically. “Everyone does.”
“Does so,” Rachel said firmly.
Gill raised an eyebrow at her and leaned against the kitchen counter. “And here I thought you just had an authority thing.”
She watched the blush rise in Rachel’s neck and settle around her cheekbones as Rachel pursed her lips and tried not to react. “Oh, bingo!” Gill laughed. “You really are an open book, kid.”
“You are pissed,” Rachel said with a nervous laugh. “Come on, you need to get into bed.”
Gill allowed Rachel to take her down a short hall to a room she immediately recognized as Rachel’s bedroom; the purple satin sheets and discarded slacks in the corner of the room were as definitively Rachel as the food she left in the precinct fridge. She crossed to the bed and sat on the edge while Rachel rifled through her drawers, settling on a thin jumper and pair of boxer shorts.
“No matching pajamas today, Boss,” she said, passing them over to Gill, who smiled at them.
“Somehow I’ll make do,” she replied.
Rachel left her in the bedroom to change, closing the door securely behind her before reaching quickly for her phone. She scrolled through her contacts before landing on Janet, her finger hovering over the call button. She wanted, desperately, to call Janet and tell her what was happening, but then she’d have to tell Janet why she was so excited, and all of that was a conversation Gill could certainly overhear, pissed or not.
She settled for a text: “Godzilla is in my flat. Worlds colliding.”
She was proud of herself for not adding any exclamation points, or giving more information. That would have to do for Janet until the morning.
The response came so quickly Rachel almost laughed. Typical Janet. “Maybe you two will finally shag???”
Rachel’s mind went fuzzy. Not only was this the last thing she expected to hear from Janet, but it was far too close to what Rachel’s mind had been saying on repeat since Gill’s head landed on her shoulder in the cab. Was that what was happening? Not that she’d complain, but this was exactly what Gill had bollocked her for in the past.
The phone in her hand buzzed, Janet’s name on the display. Panicked, Rachel answered it, dashing back into the kitchen. “Janet!”
“My, you do sound excited,” Janet’s voice was full of amusement, and the sound of it, the knowing significance of it, made Rachel flush all over again. “She really is in your flat, then?”
“She’s in my bedroom, putting on my pajamas,” Rachel said in a rushed whisper. “She’s being nice, she’s being…”
“Flirty?” Janet supplied helpfully.
“Don’t,” Rachel said firmly. “Don’t go there.”
“You’re already there, Rach, she’s in your flat, in your clothes,” Janet reasoned, the same calm, careful way she did with murderers and psychopaths. “Just…if you’re worried, let her take the lead.” She paused, and Rachel knew a cheeky comment was coming right as it started, “you’d like that anyway.”
“I’m hanging up on you now,” Rachel hissed.
“Oi, before you do,” Janet said, “I’m not taking the piss. You have obviously had a crush on her for years, Gill clearly feels something for you. Just…be careful.”
“Thanks, mum,” Rachel muttered, and Janet laughed, her full, honest laugh, and she felt light again.
And then she heard Gill call her name.
“She’s calling me, I gotta go,” Rachel said into the phone, and before Janet could respond, she hung up and left the phone on the counter.
Whatever Rachel expected when she walked into her bedroom, Gill Murray dressed in her clothes, the sleeves too long, her hair just slightly mussed, was more than she was prepared for. She took a moment, leaning against the door frame, to take it in, a soft smile playing on her lips. And then Gill glanced up and caught her.
“What are you lookin’ at, lady?” she asked, a knowing smile on her face.
“Godzilla, surprisingly small,” Rachel replied, stepping into the room.
“Are you getting in?” Gill asked, patting the bed beside her.
“Oh,” Rachel said, surprised. “I was going to take the settee –”
“Come on, Rachel,” Gill said, and it was the use of her first name that made her go silent. “Live a little.”
So Rachel slid into the bed, still fully clothed, and immediately Gill shoved at her. “Go put on pajamas, what kind of heathen are you?” she asked.
“Bossy,” Rachel muttered, rising from the bed and going to her drawers again, pulling out an oversized shirt and another pair of boxers.
“I’ll close my eyes so you can change,” Gill said, covering her eyes comically with her hands, as if Rachel couldn’t leave the room.
Let her take the lead, Janet had said. So Rachel slipped off her slacks, unbuttoned her shirt, and left them on the floor, not caring at the moment what Gill thought about her if she didn’t put her clothes away perfectly, and slipped on the pajamas, taking her spot back beside Gill. She gently tapped Gill’s hands.
“You can peek now,” she said quietly, and Gill dropped her hands, openly taking in her appearance.
“Thank you,” she said softly. “For picking up the phone when I called.”
“I have to,” Rachel replied. “You’re the boss.”
Gill huffed a quiet laugh, capturing Rachel’s hand between her own again. “You know what I mean.”
“I always know what you mean,” Rachel answered.
“That’s why we call you Sherlock,” Gill had moved closer, so much closer that Rachel couldn’t think, could barely breathe, because if she breathed, if she moved, she’d be touching Gill even more. She wanted to ask if this was okay, if Gill thought she was being stupid, or looking too much into it, but then Gill was kissing her, and she couldn’t ask anything anymore.
She was surprisingly gentle, her lips prying away Rachel’s insecurities, replacing them with silent compliments, silent assurances.
“Stop thinking so much, Rach,” she whispered into her mouth and Rachel finally reached for her, the dam breached, and pulled her close, even closer than before, and she could feel Gill hum appreciatively against her mouth.
“Such a quick learner,” Gill said when Rachel pulled back, smug.
“Learned from the best,” Rachel replied, breathless, and dove in for more.