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Pragmatism and Wedding Dresses

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Rachel stared at herself in the mirror, trying to force herself to like the cut of the white dress she was wearing. Strictly speaking, it wasn’t horrible, but it certainly didn’t feel like a wedding dress. It was short, for one, and there were shoulder pads involved. Still, it didn’t feel right, choosing something showy and sparkly when she was getting married only because she wasn’t going to jail for murder. It felt like…she pulled the skirt down, frowning at her stockinged feet…it felt like getting married was the consolation prize, something to make up for her brother being in prison for eighteen years plus, for her job being put on the line, for her entire life almost going up in smoke.

It didn’t feel like a good reason to get married, but she’d said yes already, and at this point, it would be impossible to back out. Not when Janet and Allison were sitting on the uncomfortable posh couches outside the dressing room, giddy and excited at the prospect of Rachel’s marital future.

She turned from side to side, trying to like the dress. It was cheap, she told herself. That should be more than enough for her. She didn’t want to invest any more money in this farce if she could help it.

Her pants, abandoned on the floor of the dressing room, jingled lightly, and Rachel reached for the phone gratefully, answering without even looking at the display. “You’re not supposed to call your wife while she’s looking for a wedding dress, knobhead,” she said. “It’s bad luck or summat.”

“I’ll keep that in mind when I line myself up a wife,” Gill’s voice was light, playful, and Rachel pulled the phone away from her ear to glare at the caller ID, gleefully projecting her mistake.

“Hiya, boss,” she muttered, dropping her forehead to her hand. “Do you need me?”

“Need you?”

“At the syndicate,” Rachel clarified.

“Oh, no, I just wanted to check up on you,” Gill said, and Rachel could hear the telltale clack of her keyboard in the background. “Making sure you aren’t running yourself up the wall yet.”

“I’m getting there,” Rachel said with a strained laugh.

“Wedding planning not as fun as you always dreamed?” Gill teased.

Rachel turned her gaze to her reflection again, frowning. “Wedding planning is not a dream,” she said. “Trying on wedding dresses is even worse.”

“Let me guess,” Gill said, her voice going quiet on the line, “You’ve picked yourself out a dress from the clearance rack, because you feel guilty about spending the quid on a really pretty dress. You’re wearing something out of fashion, something you don’t like, and now you’re trying to pretend you like it so you can get the search over and done with.”

Rachel didn’t speak, but scoffed into the receiver.

“You’re not a hard woman to unravel, Rachel,” Gill admonished lightly. “But just because I can predict you doesn’t mean I agree with you. Now take off that dress, and go find yourself something you actually like.”

“I’m just not meant for wedding dresses, Boss,” Rachel said, wiggling her shoulders, feeling the shoulder pads shift with her.

“Don’t let’s self-deprecate where we don’t need to,” Gill said. “You just don’t like dresses.”

“Frocks are stupid,” she grumbled, and Gill laughed, enough that she drew a smile from Rachel’s own lips.

“They are, aren’t they?” she agreed. “Then go get yourself a suit instead.” She paused, and then sighed. “Or consider that you probably don’t want to get married if you aren’t enjoying this even a little. You don’t actually have to marry him, you know.”

“You’re the first person who’s actually said that,” Rachel pointed out. She frowned at her reflection, tugging at the end of the dress. Was it…getting uglier?

Gill sighed. “Someone’s got to,” she said. “What’s this bloke even like? You’ve never mentioned him.”

“He’s a copper,” Rachel offered. “He’s a traffic cop.”

There was a long pause, long enough that Rachel almost asked if Gill was still on the line, and then her voice stuttered over to her. “Is that all you’ve got?” she asked with a laugh. “Goodness, Rachel, are you marrying a person or his job?”

Rachel laughed, a quick, uneasy thing, and then Janet’s voice kept her from replying. “Rachel, do you need help?”

“I gotta go,” she said into the receiver just as Gill said, “I’ll let you get back to it.”

She hung up and dropped the phone back on top of her pants, shoving the door open. “Here we go,” she said, firmly enough that Janet’s eyebrows went straight up. “I like it.”

***

Hours later, in the darkness of her flat, Rachel sat in front of the telly in her wedding dress. She put it on the moment her sister and Janet left, hoping that the longer she wore it, the more she’d like it. So far, it wasn’t working.

She considered opening a bottle of wine, but then she pictured what would happen if she drank it and spilled some on this horrible dress, and then what her sister and Janet would say tomorrow when they came to get her and there was a huge red stain on the front.

So she didn’t, but she craved it. She craved the opportunity to get out of her own head.

Five minutes into the news, she pulled out her phone and texted Gill, under the pretense of continuing their aborted conversation from earlier in the day. It was only polite, she insisted to herself as she typed. It wasn’t at all that their conversation was the first time she’d smiled since Dom had been taken in for murder. It was just polite.

“Bought the dress I hated after all,” she wrote. She considered adding more, but at what point would she just be oversharing? Janet and Allison both clearly hated it and I wanted to get back at them for not realizing that I didn’t want to get married, so I bought it? You were the only one who knew immediately that this wedding was a bad idea, so you’re the only person I can talk to? Both options were appealing in a ruin-your-life kind of way.

A moment later, her phone lit up with a reply. “I thought I told you to get a suit? Jesus, Bailey, you are shite at following orders.”

Rachel’s fingers hovered over her keyboard, trying to think of something witty to say in return. Before she could come up with a response, her phone lit up again.

“Still got cold feet?”

The easy answer was yes, she did, but the more complicated one was that she wasn’t scared of getting married – that’s what cold feet was, after all. Rachel wasn’t afraid of it, she just…didn’t want it. It wasn’t about fear – she knew, increasingly every day, who she was, and she wasn’t the marrying kind.

But then she’d have to face why she had allowed Sean to push her this far down the line, and she wasn’t sure she wanted to have that conversation with Gill. Not with Gill, who didn’t let anyone push her anywhere. It was embarrassing, admitting to the woman she admired more than anyone (save probably Janet), that she had allowed herself to be manipulated by a man, again.

She had gone too long without replying – her phone lit up again, the rise in screen brightness almost petulant this time.

“Come over.”

***

Gill was in a pair of linen sleep pants when Rachel knocked on her door, still wearing her wedding dress. She hadn’t realized she still had it on until she was pulling up in the drive. She had groaned, feeling her face grow warm with impending embarrassment, and rested her forehead on her steering wheel.

“Stupid,” she muttered, turning the car off and stepping out of the car.

Gill was waiting on the doorstep, a cup of steaming tea in each hand. Rachel watched her eyes travel down her body, a carefully guarded expression playing at the edge of her lips. She resisted the urge to squirm under the scrutiny. She took the mug of tea gratefully, and Gill moved aside to let her inside.

“That the dress?” she asked, her voice cautious, as if she were trying to hide what she really thought.

“Don’t say anything,” Rachel warned her, and Gill raised her eyebrows, holding her hands up in mock surrender. “It’s hideous.”

“It isn’t,” she said.

Rachel tilted her head at her in disbelief. Gill took in the gesture with a sneaky smile and sipped her tea. “It is.”

“It’s…it’s…I told you to buy a suit,” Gill dodged deftly, but her eyes were on Rachel’s neckline, where the dress was cut differently, exposing more of her collarbone. They lingered there for a moment before finding Rachel’s eyes again. “You chose not to listen.”

“Janet and Allison hated it, so I bought it,” Rachel said simply, as if that would make sense to Gill without any more explanation. Still, to her credit, Gill nodded as if that made perfect sense and moved into the sitting room. Rachel had only been there a couple of times before, for some get together or another that the whole syndicate had been invited to, and it was startlingly comforting and warm without a swarm of people in it.

There was a beige settee and two arm chairs, some striped cushions on them all, and a dark wood coffee table in the middle of the room, with tasteful art hung on the walls. It wasn’t what Rachel expected the room to look like when it was empty, but then again, she had hardly spared it a glance before. She only knew Gill in the context of her office at the syndicate, and the pub across the street.

Gill folded herself into the corner of the couch, tucking her feet underneath herself, her jumper just long enough that it was almost falling off one shoulder. Beside her, Rachel felt embarrassingly over-dressed and formal.

“How are you doing?” Gill asked finally, and the way she was looking at Rachel hurt, like she was trying to become her therapist all of a sudden, taking pity on her because she thought Rachel surely couldn’t handle her own load of issues alone.

Rachel shifted uncomfortably while she considered the question. “I’m…getting married tomorrow.”

“That’s not an answer,” Gill pointed out, and Rachel finally took the seat beside her, using the opportunity to look away from her, to gaze out at the telly, dark and just reflective enough that she could still see Gill gazing at her, something soft around her eyes. It was easier this way, like she watching this scene unfold outside of herself.

She tried to place the expression she saw on Gill’s face, but no words came to mind. It wasn’t any look she’d given her at the syndicate, and it certainly wasn’t maternal. There was something there, lurking underneath, that Rachel couldn’t put her finger on.

“I should be happy,” Rachel said, the words coming easier when she wasn’t looking at her. “I’m not going to prison, my job is going to be fine, Sean is…”

Gill leaned forward, just enough to put her mug of tea on the table, but the movement brought her close enough to Rachel that she could smell her soap – something like spearmint, and suddenly Rachel felt her chest thud painfully. She inhaled, out of instinct, and Gill’s eyes rose to her in her shaky exhale.

“Sean is what?” she asked quietly. She probably thought Rachel was about to cry, overcome with emotion about her impending nuptials, not at all just intoxicated by the way Gill smelled when she was home and not at work. She felt creepy just thinking about it.

“He’s fine,” Rachel said firmly, looking down at her own tea, willing herself to be calm, to stay focused, to be smart for once.

Gill huffed a quiet, exasperated laugh. “Why don’t you want to tell me about Sean, Rachel?”

“Because –” Rachel blurted and then abruptly stopped. She could see, in the telly reflection, that Gill was watching her closely, and she felt like everything she felt, everything she was thinking, was being put on display for Gill’s sharp eyes.

“Because what?”

Rachel sighed, putting her mug of tea on the table beside Gill’s and using her now-free hands to hide her face. “You’ll hate him,” she groaned.

“Why does it matter what I think of him?” Gill asked, incredulous.

Rachel dropped her hands, turning toward her on the couch. “It matters,” she said simply, booking no argument.

“Okay,” Gill said, accepting easily to move forward. “Okay, why won’t I like him?”

“He’s just…he’s a bloke,” she said, trying to tear her eyes away from the tantalizing piece of shoulder she could see where Gill’s jumper was sliding down. She forced herself to look at her face, but the words were even harder to find now, when Gill’s face was devoid of makeup, open and easy to read. “He’s...he’s got a son.”

“A son?” Gill blurted, and Rachel almost smiled. She knew that would get a reaction. She knew her so well.

“Eight years old,” she clarified. “And didn’t tell me about him until we were already planning to get married.”

Gill raised her eyebrows but seemed to be forcing herself to stay silent. “Continue.”

“He talked me into meeting with my mum,” Rachel said. “I don’t – I don’t really have a good relationship with her. She abandoned me and our Allison and our Dom and ruined Allison’s chance at going to university. She’s a…she’s a drunk and a narcissist and I really don’t want her in my life but –”

“He talked you into it?” Gill asked.

“Brought photos to the house and said he saw her a lot, pretty much convinced me to meet with her. She’ll be at the wedding tomorrow, drunk off her arse, as usual, making a fool of herself and me,” Rachel dropped her head to her hands again; the mere thought of her mother, drunk at her wedding, was almost too exhausting to even mention, let alone accept.

She waited, head in hands, for Gill to say something, but the silence stretched on longer and longer until Rachel couldn’t bear it. Anxiously, she looked up from her hands to see Gill staring pensively into her mug of tea. When had she gotten that again?

“Boss?” she asked.

“I don’t like admitting when you’re right,” she explained with a mirthless laugh; the smile was gone as soon as the laugh was.. “Why are you marrying this bloke, then?”

“He kept asking,” Rachel shrugged. “He tried really hard to prove that I had an alibi on the night Nick Savage was beaten –”

“Wait, so,” Gill held up a hand, leaning forward to put her tea back on the table, this time the move so sudden Rachel almost jumped back, away from her. “So this guy badgered you into seeing your mum, who you don’t like, hid a child from you, and pretty much coerced you into an engagement, and you’re going to marry him because he…what? Did some basic police work for you?”

“I told you you wouldn’t like him,” Rachel said, but Gill laughed, a dangerous, angry laugh that Rachel didn’t like, and stood up to pace in front of the coffee table.

“No, you’re right, Sherlock, I don’t like him, but what I don’t like is that you seemed to get out from under Nick Savage just to get under another one like him.”

“He’s not like Nick –”

“No? So he didn’t manipulate you, lie to you, and keep things from you?” Gill asked heatedly. “Or is the difference that this guy isn’t married?”

Rachel looked down at the floor, trying hard not to feel like a child being scolded. “I shouldn’t have come here,” she said quietly.

Gill paused in her pacing to rush to her side. “No, you absolutely should have,” she said, and her voice was, momentarily, gentle again. “You should have. Because if you need someone to tell you not to marry him, and Janet and your sister won’t be that person, I’d be glad to be the one to tell you. Don’t marry him.”

“Gill –”

“Don’t marry him,” she repeated firmly, and her hands came to rest on either side of Rachel’s face, forcing Rachel to look at her. “I don’t care if he was nice to you, I don’t care if breaking off the wedding will be complicated. If you do marry him, you’re going to get divorced. And that’s going to be way harder than just cancelling tomorrow.”

Rachel stared at her, her eyes wide and lost, the color high in her cheeks. Gill was as serious as Rachel had ever seen her, but not angry. She was certain, absolutely sure that she was giving Rachel good advice, and that, alone, convinced her that Gill knew what she was talking about. And maybe she did – but she didn’t know what Rachel knew about herself, and that was that she was, ultimately, too complicated, too hard to love, for another person to even think of marrying her. Sean was probably her only shot at a long-term anything.

“And what if he’s the only one who will ever care enough about me to marry me?” she said, and Gill’s eyes hardened, the same look crossing her face that Rachel only saw when she was desperately trying to figure out a detail in a case they hadn’t cracked yet.

And then Gill pulled her close and kissed her, hard and punishing and painful while her hands on her hands on Rachel’s face softened to a gentle caress, her fingertips just barely tracing the edge of her jaw. Rachel froze, too surprised to do anything but take it, but as Gill pulled away, she felt herself lean forward, chasing her.

“You’re an idiot,” Gill said, her breath warm on Rachel’s open mouth.

“You’re going to have to be more specific,” Rachel replied, pulling one of Gill’s hands from her face so she could hold it.

“It’s an all-encompassing statement, Sherlock,” Gill answered, but her eyes weren’t smiling. She was searching Rachel’s face for a reaction that she could use to quantify how she felt. Rachel squeezed her hand, and Gill visibly relaxed, her other hand on Rachel’s face now pressing gently on her cheekbone.

“Humor me,” Rachel said. “Explain to me all the ways that I’m an idiot.”

Gill sighed, and dropped her hand from Rachel’s face. “We might be here all night and into tomorrow if I do that.”

“Well, then you would get your wish of me cancelling my wedding,” Rachel pointed out.

“For starters, you’re marrying a bloke that you don’t want to marry,” Gill said, holding up one finger. “Idiot. Second, you think this one single bloke is the only one who will ever love you enough to marry you. Stupendously idiotic of you.” She paused, taking in Rachel’s quietly interested face, turned toward her pleasantly. She hesitated. “And all of the other ones are work related.”

“Oh, not realizing that you wanted to kiss me doesn’t make the list?” Rachel asked, tilting her head innocently, smiling smugly when Gill’s face flushed pink. Now it was her turn to let her fingers hover over the skin of Gill’s cheek, just barely touching.

***

Gill Murray was a pragmatic person – it was one of the things that she prided herself most on. She could look at a situation, dissect it, realize the risks, and behave accordingly. She had tried to do that when Rachel told her she was getting married, but something didn’t compute. She knew that Rachel getting married was a bad idea, but figuring out exactly why it was a bad idea eluded her.

It wasn’t that she thought Rachel was too immature, or that Rachel clearly didn’t love whoever she was marrying – those things never really factored into her calculations. It wasn’t until Rachel answered the phone, her voice naturally lower (and more annoyed) than it ever was when she spoke to Gill that she started thinking about it more diligently.

Her crush on Rachel was handled, she was sure, handled and repressed enough that she didn’t have to worry about it rearing its ugly head when she was trying to give her the good advice she clearly needed. At least, that’s what she thought until Rachel was standing outside her door, in her wedding dress for some unfathomable reason.

Then it was a problem – a problem Gill couldn’t solve.

She thought that would be the worst of it – seeing Rachel in her wedding dress before she was married, before she was permanently unattainable, but the worst was hearing Rachel admit that she was sure no one else would ever want to marry her.

Gill wanted to call it a lie, she wanted to ask if Rachel was fishing for compliments, but her face was so open, so vulnerable, so obviously frightened at the prospect of being unlovable, that she couldn’t bring herself to make a joke.

And now, because her brilliant brain hadn’t predicted this turn of events, she was sitting on her settee with Rachel’s surprisingly warm hand tracing shapes into the skin of her cheek, her eyes alight with something dangerous, something Gill wasn’t sure she could resist.

She didn’t know how to answer Rachel’s question, so she settled for a brief shrug instead. She wasn’t sure what she wanted Rachel to say or do next; all of the options she could map out in her head, all of them ranged from one end of problematic to the other.

“I don’t want to be a twat, but this is definitely something you would have bollocked me for,” Rachel pointed out, her hand still gentle on Gill’s face, the other one rhythmically squeezing her fingers.

Finally, Gill was forced to respond. “Desperate times,” she said, her voice just barely above a whisper, as if she worried about being overheard.

“Does that mean you have more desperate measures to enact that I don’t know about yet?” Rachel asked, and her gaze was so flirtatious, so irresistible, that Gill suddenly understood how she got herself into so much trouble. Who said no to that face? She tightened her jaw, trying to figure out a plan, something that wasn’t far more unprofessional than what they had already done, but she was coming up empty.

“That depends on you, Sherlock,” Gill said instead.

That was a dangerous choice, putting the ball in Rachel’s court, knowing how many impulsive decisions the woman made daily, but she hadn’t kissed her back, so perhaps Gill would get lucky, and she could say she’d kissed Rachel Bailey and hadn’t ruined her life afterward.

That would be the dream, second only to actually convincing Rachel not to marry Sean or whatever his name was.

Gill wasn’t sure that she believed in God, or any divine entity, but when Rachel leaned forward and kissed her, properly this time, she felt like whoever was up there had seen Gill’s wish for Rachel to leave and accurately disregarded it, knowing that it wasn’t genuine. Pragmatic Gill Murray would have pulled away and ended the evening there, but with Rachel in the room, smelling like cigarettes and tea, pragmatic Gill Murray had taken leave of her senses.

Gill let Rachel lead, knowing as she did that even this small concession of power would make Rachel smug, but better to let her get a big head than accidentally take this too far and ruin not only Rachel’s career but her own.

“You’re thinking too much,” Rachel murmured, pulling away far enough to see Gill’s face, but not so far that Gill could think straight.

“Someone’s got to,” Gill retorted, using her free hand to tuck some of Rachel’s long hair behind her ear.

Rachel rolled her eyes. “What exactly would you like me to be thinking about while I’m kissing you?” she asked. She leaned her head on her hand, propping her elbow up on the back of the couch. “Because I think I was thinking about exactly what I should be thinking about.”

“Now you’re just repeating yourself.”

Rachel groaned, her head falling back onto the couch. “What would you like me to think about?” she asked. “Enlighten me.”

“You’re getting married tomorrow,” Gill pointed out.

“Am I?” Rachel asked, reaching for her cup of tea and taking a long sip, the tea inside now cold.

Gill watched her drink carefully, the breath in her lungs stuck while Rachel was being coy. “Aren’t you?”

Rachel shrugged, leaning over to put the mug back on the table. “I told Sean, back when he proposed the first time, of many, that I might not turn up,” she said. “I think some part of him always believed it.”

“That’s,” Gill paused. “That’s – Rachel that’s not a solution!”

“I don’t want to marry Sean,” Rachel said firmly, dropping a lingering kiss to the top of Gill’s hand. “That’s not to say I want to marry you or something,” she added, turning over Gill’s hand to kiss the inside of her wrist.

“Romantic,” Gill said blithely, watching Rachel carefully press her lips to the inside of her wrist a second and third time. “But you should probably tell him if you’re calling off the wedding.”

Rachel gently placed Gill’s hand on her neck and fumbled for her phone while Gill watched her, trying to ignore that she could feel Rachel’s pulse thundering under her hand. Was she really going to call off the wedding, just like that? It felt like it was too easy a fix, too simple for Rachel’s life.

But Rachel wasn’t dialing, wasn’t texting, and before Gill could come to terms with the fact that Rachel was, for some reason, tricking her, Rachel was passing her the phone, a text message on the screen.

“Not turning up tomorrow, x,” it said.

“I sent it when you got up and started pacing,” Rachel said quietly. “While you were talking about why you didn’t like him. He hasn’t seen it yet, since he’s out drinking with his mates, but the damage is done. I imagine he’ll start calling early tomorrow morning, and I’ll have a considerable amount of explaining to do.”

“You dumped him over text?”

“I could explain why I did that, and you could give me a stern talking-to about how immature that was, but I only have a few hours before Sean starts calling, so if I could make a suggestion…” she leaned in, close enough that her intention was clear, but made sure to keep a breadth of distance between their mouths to let Gill make the final call.

But did she want to make the move? Was it really so simple to do this, when Rachel had just sent a text and effectively ended an entire wedding?

“You only have a few hours,” Rachel whispered, “before the real world comes back.”

“And what do we do tomorrow?”

“We figure it out tomorrow,” Rachel said plaintively. She pulled back a few inches to see all of Gill’s face. “I don’t think it needs to be said, but since you’re not saying anything, I’ll say it. I’d much rather be here with you than anywhere else.”

“You didn’t even know I wanted to kiss you until I did,” Gill pointed out, using her hand that was on Rachel’s neck to cup the side of her face again, her thumb running gently over her bottom lip. Rachel didn’t speak, let her admire, and for that, Gill was grateful.

Do it again, her face seemed to be saying, her head tilted to the side for easy access, her eyes on Gill’s.

Gill wondered if her common sense would leap up and stop her if she very slowly leaned in, so tantalizingly slowly that Rachel huffed impatiently, but didn’t move. She sat there, eyes stubbornly open, refusing to even think about closing them until Gill’s lips touched hers. She was gentle; in fact, she was trying very hard to be gentle, hoping pragmatism would kick in and she would realize what a terrible idea this all was and she could pull back, give Rachel an excuse, and send her home.

But Rachel had no such objections. She pulled Gill closer, impossibly closer, one hand on the back of her neck, tangled in her hair, the other on her waist, temptingly close to being underneath her jumper, on her bare skin. Gill leaned toward her, far enough that Rachel’s hand slid easily under the jumper and up her back, her hand pressing fire into her skin, hot and cold, pleasant and terrifying all at the same time.

Bad idea, bad idea, this was a terribly bad idea, Gill thought, but her hands weren’t listening to her brain. Instead of firmly putting her foot down, she was reaching for the back of Rachel’s wedding dress – her bloody wedding dress, of a wedding that was, apparently, no longer happening – and yanking the zipper down, not even caring if the zipper was thin and feminine and fragile and she could easily snap it off.

Rachel laughed, breathlessly, into her mouth and pulled away long enough to yank the dress down off her arms, down her shoulders, so the dress was relegated to nothing more than a skirt. Gill watched the practiced movement, so easy for someone who hated dresses as much as Rachel. Rachel ginned up at her, the lipstick Gill hadn’t realized she was wearing smeared just enough that she looked thoroughly tousled, a model in a magazine Gill never looked bought, but gazed at in the checkout line at Sainsbury’s. Unattainable and yet somehow here.

“Are you going to take me upstairs or do you want me to do it?” she asked.

***

Gill woke the next morning to the sound of Rachel’s voice, travelling up from the stairs. She listened closely to it, the timbre of her annoyance, irritation but not hysteria, and upon deciding that it didn’t sound like she was about to start screaming, sat up and reached for her jumper, discarded at the edge of the bed, and slipped it on, her eyes searching the bedroom floor for other bits of clothing around the room, but all she could find were her clothes.

Then she remembered that Rachel’s wedding dress was downstairs, on the floor of the sitting room.

Rachel greeted her with a cup of coffee and a silent kiss on the top of her head. She was dressed in nothing but her bra, underwear, and her socks. Her ear was still glued to her phone. “I’ve said it to Sean, and now I’m saying it to you. There’s nothing to cancel except the food. Hell, take the food home with you, Allison, I don’t care.” She paused, listening to the squawk on the other line. “I’ll – no, I’ll tell Sean to tell our mum that the wedding is off.”

“You okay?” Gill mouthed at her. Rachel shrugged, taking a sip of the coffee.

“I just don’t want to get married, Allison, that’s all the reason you need,” she said. “I’m – no, Allison, stop talking. I’m hanging up now. Call me if there are any problems with the food. The other problems can go do one.”

The moment the phone was set on the counter, Rachel was far more relaxed. She slid her arm around Gill’s shoulders and held her for a moment, her head buried in her neck.

“Thank you,” she said sincerely. “For helping me not make a huge mistake.”

“Might have made another one,” Gill pointed out, her raised eyebrows landing on Rachel’s still mostly undressed body.

“No, I don’t think so,” Rachel said simply, taking another sip of her coffee.

“It’ll be complicated,” Gill replied.

“I know that.”

“It’s unprofessional.”

“I know that, too,” Rachel shrugged. “I can keep a secret.”

Gill felt a grin sneaking up on her, and bit the inside of her cheek to keep from actually smiling. “You’re terrible at keeping secrets.”

Rachel caught the determined set of Gill’s mouth and smiled, pulling a reluctant smile out of Gill herself. “But I’m good at following your orders.”

Gill rolled her eyes, choosing not to point out that, in fact, Rachel was pretty shite at following her orders as well as anyone else’s. “I suppose we’ll see,” she said instead, kissing Rachel’s shoulder as her phone started ringing again.

“Yes, we will.”