They might work in the same building but the morgue is Natasha’s domain, the briefing room Anne’s, and and the bathroom on the third floor which houses the only working tampon dispenser is neutral ground. Anne is happy to ignore her and trust that Natasha will do the same. If it weren’t for crime scenes, identifying the body, gleaning evidence from Natasha’s report, running into the morgue to ask Natasha to run tests for an obscure poison she’s half-certain is the name of a Harry Potter character and hiding the occasional Cornetto in one of the morgue freezers, Anne would never have to see her at all.
But it’s almost Asap’s birthday, and the guv won’t stand for the strippers Des wanted to hire so most of their budget has to go on a nice living-room set. Three-seater sofa, one armchair and a footstool, all in white upholstery. The plum would have been cheaper but it wouldn’t have done much to hide the stains.
“So we need your help,” Anne concludes.
Natasha raises her head from in between the thighs of a middle-aged man. Then she holds up both thighs. “Well, alright,” she says. “I don’t suppose he’ll miss them.”
“Because he’s dead,” says Anne. “Wait, no, I didn’t mean that.”
“Well, you should have. Because he’s dead.”
“No, I meant that part,” snaps Anne. She gestures towards the bits of leg in Natasha’s hand. “I didn’t mean those parts. Or want them. Or want to eat them.”
“Well of course you don’t,” Natasha says, with rather more scorn than Anne feels is warranted for someone living up to their promise to Just Say No to cannibalism.
"And what's that supposed to mean?"
"Just that I heard you couldn't handle any more sausage and went back to breast meat."
Anne narrows her eyes and looks Natasha over. Thoroughly. “Well, I think most people would prefer breast over a chewed-up piece of gristle.”
“Are you offering?”
For a moment, Anne can think of nothing but how satisfying it would be to hit her. She imagines socking Natasha right in the face, the crunching noise Natasha’s nose would make against her fist, how she’d jerk backwards with the impact. She thinks about grabbing Natasha’s shoulders and slamming her back against the wall, wrapping her hands around Natasha’s throat until her pulse fluttered against Anne’s fingers and Anne could feel every hitch in her breath; she thinks about bending Natasha over the closest mortuary slab and slapping the tops of her thighs while Natasha squirms and begs her to stop, or not to stop. The background music in her mind switches from something aggressive and instrumental to k.d. lang, here beneath my skin, constant craving, has always been… and she can almost see herself making a fist again, can almost hear Natasha whimper at the sensation of Anne pushing her fist into her again, can almost feel Natasha’s body clenching around hers.
The moment passes.
“Yeah,” Anne says. She feels uncomfortably warm, and is more than a little relieved to discover that Natasha’s lab techs have set up a barbecue behind her while she was lost in her revenge (and only revenge) fantasies.
Natasha steps forward so that her body almost brushes against Anne’s. “When you’re ready, then, Oldman.”
Anne says, “Oldman,” automatically before realizing that Natasha had pronounced it correctly. That is somehow even more infuriating than the reverse, and Natasha smiles as though she knows it.
This isn’t for me, Anne reminds herself, knowing that if it were she would have given in to temptation and really chewed Natasha out a long time ago. Think of Asap’s little face, how disappointed he’ll be when we can’t give him some jelly and ice-cream on his birthday. Think of having to explain to Jack that Natasha got the best of you, again. Think of the boys down the station.
"It's his birthday soon. Asap, I mean," Anne explains. She's a little distracted; over Natasha's shoulder, she can see bits of the autopsy DI Rasch is observing and, just as Anne glances over, one of the doctors loses his grip. He wrenches the tennis elbow loose but it's too late; a buzzer sounds and the body's nose begins to emit a bright red light.
Natasha turns to see what has caught her attention. "Hmm," she says. "Did you want me to take a look at that, Rasch?"
Of course he does, and Natasha is only too happy to ooze all over him. Anne thinks about watching for a while longer in case Natasha remembers that she exists again, and then catches herself humming the theme tune to Rizzoli & Isles and decides to cut her losses and take a cold shower instead.
In the end, she sends Jack to go negotiate for access to one of the morgue's freezers, grill, wine cellar and some of the blindfolds Natasha pretends she has on hand for emergency games of Pin The Tail On The Donkey.
He comes back two hours later and heads straight for his office. Through the glass, she watches him sit down very, very gingerly, and hold a bag of frozen peas against his crotch. It's the happiest she's ever seen him.
She's wedged between WPC Cardboard Cut-Out and one of the boys in forensics on their new off-white sofa. Tiffany, one of the girls Des had recommended, stretches her arms above her head and shimmies, dislodging a small cascade of body glitter. Some of the boys wolf-whistle. A few of them get out their police whistles, and Anne is pretty sure that she can hear a train whistle in the background.
Anne stands up, neatly dodging the bra Tiffany throws at Asap's head. "Come on, Cut-Out. I need a drink," she says, and drags Cut-Out over to the bar.
"Body shots?" someone hisses into Anne's ear. Natasha. She's leaning against the bar, watching Asap model his new treasure, and helping herself to some of the pick'n'mix. As Anne watches, Natasha picks up a strawberry shoelace and lowers the end of it into her mouth so she can bite it off. The flash of tongue does unspeakable things to Anne's knicker dampness levels.
"Bite me," she says, which is not an invitation. Disappointingly, Natasha doesn't treat it as one. She just plucks a jelly bean out of the bowl and holds it before her mouth. She looks straight at Anne when she bites in two with a quick snap of her teeth.
And then she spits it on the floor. "Oh, god, capuccino flavour. I could have sworn that was the watermelon."
Cut-Out looks at her sympathetically, which is the only reason Anne hands over the rest of her pint so Natasha can rinse her mouth out. And then, inexplicably, they're kissing.
It's not bad, all things considered.
(All things being, of course, Natasha's low-level general malevolence, the way WPC Cardboard Cut-Out brushes up against them as though they can't feel her trying to muscle in on their action, the half-glimpse of Asap being helped into a pair of fishnets in the background, and the taste of capuccino jelly bean on Natasha's tongue.)
"Bathroom," Natasha mumbles into her mouth. Then: "Not you," to Cut-Out, and Anne lets herself be pulled the rest of the way, almost.
'Almost' is acceptable. She can still respect herself with an 'almost'.
The third floor bathroom is empty and as soon as they're inside, Natasha kisses her again. Anne pulls on her hair until Natasha squeaks.
"I didn't say stop."
Natasha rolls her eyes. "And I didn't say 'top'." She tugs Anne's zip down and shoves her fingers inside.
"Oh, yeah?" Anne pants. She nips at the side of Natasha's neck, not gently. "Well, Piers Morgan Live didn't say 'flop'..."
The speed and intensity of Natasha's fingers increases, and Anne finds herself rolling her hips. "And gravity," says Natasha with a low moan, the sort that makes Anne's hair stand on end. "Never... said 'drop'."
She has both hands up Natasha's shirt, rolling her nipples between her thumb and forefinger like she's trying to open a pair of very small jars. Without warning, she digs her nails into the soft flesh but says nothing, even as Natasha whimpers and shudders beneath her.
"What's the problem now, Oldman?"
"Nothing," Anne tells her. "I was... just trying to work something out for 'swap'."
Natasha has that expression on her face again, the one that makes Anne want to reach out and shake her or scream or possibly just snap her in two and feast upon her remains, so she grabs hold of Natasha's wrist where her fingers are still inside Anne's cunt and corrects the angle. "Thought you would have been more familiar with a woman's body," she says, and Natasha rakes her free hand over Anne's belly.
"You know I prefer the stiff ones," she says. And then, almost nicely, she says, "The Multi-Coloured Swap Shop. Hosted by Noel Edmonds, last aired 1982."
"Oh." Anne blinks up at her, a little lightheaded. "That could work."