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I Am So Proud of You

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Chapter 1:

 

Rachel arrives at Gill’s house about forty minutes after Gill has run out of the office in the middle of her own briefing and left Andy in charge.

Janet had tried to ring Gill after the briefing, but since Gill didn’t answer her phone, Rachel volunteered to deliver the updated case file on Susan Bishop to Gill in person. Janet still had a report to finish and would probably have to stay late – thanks to Andy who had moved up the deadline, probably just to annoy her.

Driving over to Gill’s house Rachel has a vague idea that she might use this opportunity, away from the office, to talk to Gill about Andy’s problematic behavior towards Janet. She knows Gill won’t be pleased that Rachel is interfering, but she really needs to be aware how much Andy is finding opportunities to harass Janet, and all because she asked the knobhead to keep his distance.

If she is really honest with herself, she also wants to check on Gill. Gill has never left in the middle of a briefing before. And the expression on her face when she did. Annoyed. But also worried and ...something else...weary? hurt? So she’ll deliver the file and just make sure everything is okay.

When Rachel pulls into Gill’s street she sees a taxi waiting on the curb. She parks on the opposite side of the road, and has just turned the motor off when she sees the door of Gill’s house open and Gill wrestle a stumbling, heavy-set, broad-shouldered man down the stairs whom Rachel immediately recognizes as Gill’s ex-husband, Dave. Obviously pissed. Gill is resolutely maneuvering him out the door, but she looks rather tiny next to him and Rachel can see the stairs ending in disaster for them both.

She quickly gets out of the car, rushes over, and as she breaths a “hiya” at Gill’s surprised expression, she grabs Dave’s other arm and together they get him down the steps towards the taxi. Dave looks at her – muddled, and grunts: “who’ryou? let go’ame yatwat”.

But Rachel holds on steady, opening the taxi doors with her other hand, as Gill hisses: “Just shut up, Dave,” pushing him into the seat. Without looking at Rachel, she then walks up to the driver, gives him instructions and hands him some bills.

Only when the cab has driven off, does Gill raise her glance briefly at Rachel’s face. Rachel can see that her eyes are red-rimmed and she looks more exhausted than when a difficult case drags on. Without further comment, Gill walks back towards the house.

“Boss” – Rachel begins, briskly following her. “I’ve brought the Bishop file. We tried to ring ya – Janet did, but. . .”

Gill turns around sharply forcing Rachel to stop in her tracks so she doesn’t run into her.
“. . . you didn’t answer,” she finishes somewhat lamely. “It’s just in the car, I’ll get it.”
She rushes back to her car, retrieving the file from the passenger seat. When she turns around Gill has disappeared back inside the house. Rachel jogs towards the steps, finding the door still open.

“Boss?” As she cautiously steps into the living room, she sees Gill, standing with her back to her, opening a bottle of gin and pouring herself a generous glass. She turns around, looking at Rachel with a harassed look in her eyes. Rachel half-heartedly holds out the file to her, unsure what to do.
“You want a glass?” There’s an edge in Gill’s voice. Rachel just nods, and puts the file down on the TV-table in front of the couch.

“Well sit down, kid.” Gill gestures, then goes into the kitchen, coming back with a second glass which she fills up as generously as her own. “Wonderful Dave used up all the ice . . . and it’s not the occasion to bother with tonic” is all she says by way of explanation. Placing the glass in front of Rachel on the table, she then sinks down on the ottoman, takes a large sip of her own glass, and exhales, still glaring furiously at the room at large.
Rachel opens her mouth, but Gill is already up again,

“Actually, you wouldn’t happen to have a fag on you?”

Rachel fishes the pack our of her purse and holds its out to Gill. “Sure, boss.”

Gill takes it and starts walking out of the room. “Can I join ya?” Rachel asks, unnerved by Gill’s behavior. She is convinced Gill would rather Rachel dissipate into thin air, but she just receives a sharp nod in answer.

A minute later they sit on the back stairs to the garden, both with lighted cigarettes in their hands. Rachel sips from her glass, watching Gill inhale the smoke deeply.

“What you just witnessed” Gill says looking at Rachel, making an expansive gesture which sloshes around the liquid in her glass, “was my ex-husband at his finest.”

“Why was he at your house?” Rachel asks. “Was that why you left the briefing?”

“He got himself thrown out by his– girlfriend – he’s got his car-repossessed, he’s living with his mother currently, and now – well he thought he could leech off here – thinking as this was his home. Which it isn’t – hasn’t been for some time. In fact, there’s few places where he’d be less welcome and that’s saying something, but he was harassing Sammy and he was pissed off his arse - Sammy, had to leave to go to a concert for his girlfriend’s birthday, so he called because he was worried his dad would set the house on fire – and so. . . I ran out of my own briefing because . . . ” she gestures haphazardly again - towards the house.

Gill delivers the whole speech in the exact, prim, precise tone of voice that she uses in briefings, but at the same time Rachel can see her hands tremble ever so slightly, can see her eyes grow just a bit shiny and unfocused as she trails off, tips her glass back, and takes another large swallow of gin.

Rachel exhales smoke. She feels angry on Gill’s behalf. But, somewhere in her gut, she also feels an unwelcome twinge of jealousy, that he can get to Gill, can crack that wall of professionalism - has played an important enough part in her life that he can clearly make her feel things –make her rush home, leave her this upset. She fidgets with the sleeve of her blouse, then bites down the jealousy and says, “They’re just entitled, aren’t they?”

Gill looks at her quizzically. “Blokes, I mean.” Rachel says. “They’re just like. . . big twats who think that because we find them tolerable enough for an evening, or a while, they can just stick around indefinitely, or turn up on the doorstep just when they like.”

Gill huffs out a laugh that makes something in Rachel’s stomach tingle. “Life experience speaking, eh kid?” She sighs, then continues “well, I suppose if you sign up for a till death do us part kind of arrangement then there are some things you’re really stuck with for life, even if you change your mind at some point.”

“But that’s just bullshit,” Rachel bursts out. “Sorry, I just mean . . . it’s not fair, is it? They don’t expect to ever be stuck with any fallout, why should we?”

She takes another drag of her cigarette and then chucks it. “Also, you should take your own advice.” Gill looks at her sharply.

“You should change the locks. That’s what you told me, after they let off Nick Savage. Looks like that might have helped in your own situation.”

Now Gill is truly laughing – her eyes crinkling and her face relaxing for the first time since Rachel arrived. “You’ve got a point there.” Gill chucks her own fag. “I need a top up . . . I’ll bring the bottle out.” She goes inside to retrieve it and Rachel watches her as she walks away. Despite her petite features, Gill never seems actually small. Not when you know she can cut you to size in the space of two sentences.

And Rachel would know, seeing as she regularly finds herself on the other end of a bollocking from Gill. But then, there are those few times when she actually manages to do right, to impress her, and the fluttery feeling that runs through her on those rare occasions when Gill looks at her with a nod, saying those three words: “well done, kid.”

“What are you smiling about?” Gill says, reappearing, bottle in hand, and fills up Rachel’s glass again, which is only half-empty.

“Oh, nothin’ I just” – Rachel shifts a bit uncomfortably, “. . . thinking I will pass my sergeant’s exams next time.”

“Of course you will” Gill says matter-of-factly, sitting down on the step, “you’ve got a brilliant mind – but you’ve got to stop letting yourself get distracted.”

“I won’t this time, I promise” Rachel says, trying to reign in the daft lopsided grin that she can feel spreading across her face, the combination of Gill’s compliment and the gin warming her. Gill raises an eyebrow – whether at the surprising solemnity of Rachel promising to do better or the grin Rachel isn’t sure. She hates the way that every fiber of her body strains for Gill’s approval, but she still wants it.

“Do you mean it?” she asks. The words are out of her mouth before she can stop them.

“Well, if risking your career over a complete knob like Nick Savage isn’t an indication to you . . .”

“No, I mean. . .” Rachel interrupts her. “Do you really think. . . that I’m . . .” she ducks her head, feeling shy and ridiculous , the way she so often feels when she has Gill’s complete focused attention. “You think I could do alright? As a sergeant?”

“Look” Gill says – laying her hand on Rachel’s bare forearm, the warm contact making Rachel swallow thickly. “I’ve told you when we were in Bristol, I made a stupid mistake waiting years to tell Dave where to get off, which I should have much earlier, and I paid for it. I’ve made my peace with it - mostly,” she grimaces. “but there are days like today when the bastard still gets to me. Not because he’s a knob – but because of what I let him do to my life.” Her hand remains steadily on Rachel’s arm.

“So, when I am hard on you – it’s well, for the reason I am hard on everyone, keeps you lot focused on doing your best work. But with you – I don’t want to see you throw away your potential. You go in there with the right edge – you’re magnificent in that interview room – and you have a knack of figuring out just which dots to connect, Sherlock.”

Rachel swallows, trying not to let on that Gill is unraveling her composure like a piece of twine. But she feels on edge, strung out, and exhausted. The thought of Sean’s puppy face suffocates her. The way that he keeps bringing up marriage – it’s the type of stability everyone seems to think she needs, but pure claustrophobia is all she feels when she so much as considers it. Meanwhile her anger at Dom for making her miss her exams sits deep in her bones. Eclipsed only by her anger at Nick bloody Savage and the whole bloody system of justice which is letting her down, dropping the bloody charges. But mostly she is angry at herself, for the way that whatever she touches, or how hard she tries, everything just seems to turn to shit whenever she finally seems to be making some headway.

Looking away from Gill, she scowls at the garden wall. Gill lets go of her arm, and touches her shoulder, turning a surprised Rachel’s gaze back towards her. Looking her straight in the eye, with a softened, almost tender look, Gill says, “I know it’s not been easy for you lately. You’ve done really well. I am so proud of you, Rachel.”

Maybe it’s the way that Gill says her first name, but a small sob escapes Rachel before she can help it. She sets down her glass and hastily wipes at her eyes with the back of her hand. It’s embarrassing, but hearing those words from the woman that she admires so much for her competence, her brilliance, and her integrity – the woman she’s fancied more than a bit since day one, if she’s honest – after she’s been so sure with each time she’s mucked up recently, that Gill can’t be anything but disappointed in her – it’s just too much.

Rachel smiles self-consciously at Gill, her lips trembling, and sniffling a little. Gill looks a mixture of concerned and embarrassed herself.

“I’m sorry, boss.” Rachel says, her voice a bit hoarse. “I just. . . I don’t usually give a toss what people think, that I’m summat a mess – like, I know that’s true enough but –“ she gnaws her lower lip and starts fishing another fag out of the pack– lighting it. “It means a lot to me, what you think.” She inhales a bit shakily, “that you think I’m worth something, I mean I know I haven’t . . . ”
Gill still looks at her steadily.

“I do.” Gill says almost too quietly to hear. But Rachel hears her. And holds her breath.

“Rachel, when you have your head screwed on right, I think the world of you. I brag about having you on my syndicate. Truth is, you are going to be the death of me one day, kid. You are a brilliant detective, but you are also. . .

Rachel is sure she hasn’t even had that much gin – but something in her just short-circuits – zeroing in on those piercing brown eyes, gone soft in the fading light of the day, she interrupts Gill mid-sentence, by leaning forward and planting a kiss squarely on her mouth. There is no good reason on earth for the kiss, except she tries to convey what she doesn’t know how to say –because she has never been as daring in her words as she is when it comes to her body –and for one short moment, the whole world is condensed into the sensation of Gill’s lips, surprisingly soft, and warm.

But then the world comes awkwardly flooding back. Gill doesn’t react – doesn’t pull away – doesn’t kiss her back. After a second – or an eternity - she slowly steadies Rachel with a hand on her shoulder. Rachel looks at her in horror – wants to jump up but keeps sitting as if bolted to the spot on the stairs. Shit - what has she done? She’s just went and lost her job, not two minutes after she swore to Gill she’d be worthy of her good opinion – she gulps for air, feels just short of hyperventilating. Shit, shit, shit.

“Rachel” Gill says – and when Rachel meets her gaze Gill looks at her without anger. She cups Rachel’s face with her perfect, fine-boned hand and the intimate touch, so out of the ordinary, doesn’t help her panic one bit.
“Rachel – I want you to become a sergeant - and then a DCI – SIO. . . I want you to have the career that you deserve to have. And I know you will. You’re so much braver than you think.” Gill inhales. “But I’m your superior officer and as much - ” she tucks a stray strand of Rachel’s hair behind her ear, and she looks so tender, and pained as she does it that Rachel has to sharply dig her right thumbnail into the palm of her left hand in order not to start crying again, - “as much. . .” Gill seems to be fumbling for words, finally huffs out a breath, “This cannot happen.”

Rachel shivers and finally stands up, backing away from Gill –“I’ll leave the case file, boss.” She almost stumbles back inside, grabs her purse of the TV table and basically runs out the front door to her car, fumbling with the ignition – swearing. She knows she shouldn’t even be driving, but she needs to get away. She drives in a daze, angrily swiping at her eyes.

She makes it home, drops her purse and opens a bottle of wine, drinking down the first glass almost without pause. Gropes for her fags in her purse, groaning at the realization that she’s left them at Gill’s. Sits down hard on the sofa and pours herself another glass, drinking, staring into the dark.

 

***

Gill Murray is a proud woman. She has worked hard to be where she is in her career. She knows she is good at what she is doing and that she deserves her position at MIT. She is well aware that some people think her cold-hearted as much as levelheaded, but at least they respect her. If there’s one thing that Gill hates, it is being humiliated.

Having to run out of her own briefing is humiliating. Having Rachel Bailey show up at the very moment when she tries to get Dave out of the house, and then have her help getting her sodding ex-husband into a taxi is even more humiliating. Because at best Rachel must read this as a sign that Dave does not respect her, his ex-wife, enough, even after years of being bloody divorced, to crawl into some other hole to wallow in self-pity, and at worst it must look as if Gill doesn’t have any respect for herself, is still accepting Dave as a part of her life – after what he has done to her.

But Rachel doesn’t say anything – just looks at her with that intense gaze of hers. What is she even doing here? Gill walks back towards the house – she needs a drink. Hears Rachel mumble something about a case file but just keeps going. Leaves the door open.

She’s pouring herself as glass of gin when the younger detective walks in – careful movements. She must be worried that her boss is losing it. She’s likely to have spotted Gill’s smeared makeup, and her red eyes. There’s not much Sherlock doesn’t register. She is good at reading people. And Gill has caught her watching her more than once – often apprehensively – as if she expects Gill to tell her off. God knows on more than one occasion she’s had to. Rachel has great instinct when it comes to police work, but she’s a mess when it comes to personal relationships. An entirely enthralling mess, if she’s honest – which she isn’t because that would be an absolutely inappropriate way to regard her detective . . . Her detective who comes to work in wrinkled clothes and hung-over – but even then is still smarter than most of the syndicate. Quick. Tenacious. And with the warmest, charming smile, if she gets something right.

Gill enjoys her presence – it might cost her her last nerve, but it also steadies her, - which is why she asked Rachel to come to Bristol for the Jeremy Leach case. When she’s not making horrible decisions about her life, Rachel is focused and confident – it’s reassuring. And just maybe Gill wanted to show off a bit, impress Rachel with her past at NPIA, with her skills. And they solved that case brilliantly – smiling at each other – proud of their work.
If the way Gill’s stomach swooped at Rachel’s answering smiles as they pieced the case together, wasn’t an ample enough warning sign that she needed to back off, the way she enjoys spending time with her, one on one in the car, the way she finds herself telling Rachel personal things, wants to keep talking to her, learn more about her while they are in Bristol, certainly is. When they get back to Oldham, with the whole syndicate around, Gill finds it easier to retreat into her professional role and push those moments in Bristol to the back of her mind.

But when Rachel appears at her house, Gill, already shaken by Dave’s drunken appearance, finds herself frazzled by the realization that for the first time since Bristol, they are alone just the two of them. Rachel takes the gin offered, hands over her cigarettes to Gill, and follows her out to the back stairs. They smoke. But then the inevitable “Why was he at the house?”

Gill, usually so adamant about keeping her private life sheltered, finds herself wanting to justify herself to Rachel, which irritates her in its own way. Nevertheless, she proceeds to to explain, in her best DCI Murray tone, what happened. And Rachel doesn’t seem to judge her, like she feared she would. Makes her laugh instead. That formidable woman. All wavy hair and infatuating smile and directness, like she has no idea at all what effect she has on her superior officer.

And then there’s the vulnerable version of Rachel, who becomes all bashful and shy – asking Gill if she really thinks she is brilliant, with that look in her eyes – like Gill is a life-line.
And Gill has to stop herself then and there from reaching out to her. Which would be entirely out of character. Gill doesn’t hug her officers – she doesn’t believe in coddling anyone in her syndicate. She’s good at compartmentalizing. Even with Janet, who has been her friend going on twenty years now, it doesn’t interfere with their professional work, though they’ve accumulated their share of inside jokes over time. But damn her if her protective feelings for Bailey aren’t painfully undermining all those principles. She is well aware how much Rachel has had the kind of life in which people have made her understand too many times that she’s not worth the effort. Her mother for one - who walked out on her kids, making no secret of her priorities there. But also her brother, dragging Rachel into his own mess of a life as if she owes it to him just for being family. Gill feels a strange anger at Rachel’s family for letting her down. And the string of boyfriends – first and foremost Savage – who take advantage of the fact that she needs reassurance – that Rachel never feels quite good enough –- they don’t get her – don’t understand her brilliance – how her mind works. Even this Sean, who seems to have no ambition beyond the next weekend. Gill just wants to make Rachel understand that she is good enough. Far more than good enough.

And it’s the day she’s had – and the arsehole presence of Dave, who after all evidence to the contrary still takes her for granted – and Rachel doesn’t, and the gin downed too fast, and Rachel’s soulful eyes – that make her say the words she swore to herself she would not say – tell her how proud she is. And then, even worse, Rachel starts crying and Gill keeps on blundering through. . .

“I brag about having you on my syndicate.” What Gill doesn’t tell Rachel is that Julie Dodson has smirked at her a bit too knowingly more than once when she was going on about Rachel and how marvellously she put the right clues together.

“You are going to be the death of me one day, kid. You are a brilliant detective, but you are also” – and it’s maybe as well that suddenly Rachel’s lips are on her own and she freezes. Because she was about to confess to Rachel that she thinks that she’s the most beautiful, magnificent mess of a woman she’s ever met.

Even though she doesn’t actually say those words, she immediately blames herself when Rachel kisses her– that she provoked this – because the moment it happens she knows she wants this – wanted it at least since Bristol. But she has to end it. Because she cannot risk Rachel’s career to satisfy her own petty desires. That would make her no better than Dave. She stutters out the words to make Rachel back off – though she does her best to sound firm and controlled – worthy of Godzilla.

And then Rachel runs out on her, leaving her fags behind. And Gill sits on the back stairs, smoking one cigarette, then another, staring into the dark. Julie will have such a laugh at her, getting herself into this mess. If she ever tells her.

***