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All Clued Up: The Transfer

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Ann sighed heavily, massaging her temples with her fingers as the bright screen continued to sting her tired eyes. With a grimace, she straightened her back and looked around the office, now entirely draped in darkness. She had no idea how many hours had passed but it was late, very late. The rest of the team had clocked off hours ago, although Ann had no recollection of them leaving. She tutted, realising she must’ve ignored them entirely as they filtered out the office. One night soon, she promised herself, she’d actually go for a pint with them and leave work at a reasonable hour.

Until this case was solved, however, Ann couldn’t focus on anything else. She stretched her arms above her head, tilting her neck side to side to work out the kinks before finally admitting she needed to sleep. Ann barely slept at her own place these days; pulling out the sofa-bed in the corner of her office and huddling under a flimsy blanket for a few hours had become a well practised routine. There was no time to waste going home, not if she ever wanted to catch the kidnapper.

The trail had gone cold after a month, despite the team’s best efforts. The ransom letters still appeared each week without fail, yet Ann was no closer to finding out where Mrs Ainsworth was being held. The case was personal to her, a little too personal really, but she wouldn’t hand the lead to another detective. The fact the victim was one of her oldest friends meant Ann had made it her duty to find her and bring the perpetrator to justice. Except, Ann was failing and she knew it.

Joining the police as soon as she was old enough, Ann had worked her way up the ranks swiftly. Now in her mid-thirties and a Detective Inspector, Ann had everything she’d ever wanted. Or so she told herself. Truthfully, the rest of her life had fallen by the wayside in favour of her career. She was fortunate enough to own a large house on the outskirts of Halifax but in reality, she barely set foot in the place anymore. It was too big, too cold, too empty. For years, Ann had genuinely been happy with her life but lately, she longed for a bit of excitement. She loved her job and she was bloody good at it, but she did start to wonder if there was more to life.

Her second in command, Sam Washington, had suggested she take a holiday before this case cropped up. Admitting she was feeling more than a little burnt out, she’d contemplated a trip abroad; somewhere hot and relaxing. The morning after she’d booked her flights for two weeks in Sardinia, Thomas Ainsworth had appeared at the police station in a panic. His wife, Eliza, had been one of Ann’s closest friends at school, before following her to the same university and then living only a couple of miles apart. As soon as Ann had seen Thomas waiting for her in reception, she felt sick to her stomach. He wailed loudly as he stuttered through the whole story of how Eliza had been snatched while he was out shooting with his hounds. His house had been ransacked and a single sheet of white paper had been pinned to the wall with ransom instructions. Since then, a new letter appeared on his doorstep each week with more demands. Since Thomas had very little money of his own, he’d taken the letters to Eliza’s wealthy family who had been steadily paying the ransoms, against Ann’s judgement, in the hopes she would be set free. Sadly, all that would appear afterwards were further letters demanding more.

The shrill sound of Ann’s phone alarm woke her up with a start. She grumbled as she silenced it, dropping it to the dark green carpeted floor with a thud. The well worn springs of the mattress creaked as she hauled herself upright, swinging her legs over the frame and stumbling over to the kettle. She had half an hour to make coffee and tidy away all traces of the fact she was living in her office before Sam would arrive for work. She sighed as the coffee brewed, perhaps today they’d make a breakthrough.

--

Anne’s long black coat billowed behind her as she marched towards the police station. She was in a foul mood, sweeping up the stone steps two at a time with a scowl on her face. As she neared the door, a man dressed in hunting gear walked right into her path without looking. Their shoulders took the brunt of the impact as they collided at speed.

“Hey! Watch where you’re going!” The man said weakly.

“Prick.” Anne muttered as she headed inside the station.

Halifax Police HQ was exactly how Anne had imagined it. Situated in a well-worn, beige brick building, it looked tired, under resourced and under funded. A far cry from the station she was used to in London; a new build high rise, right in the thick of it. She approached the front desk and rocked on her heels as she impatiently waited for someone to appear. Her station was manned 24/7, someone always on hand to deal with whoever wandered in, which was why she could feel herself getting more frustrated as the seconds ticked by. She cleared her throat loudly, but still no one appeared.

“Unbelievable.” Anne tutted before pulling out her phone. “Hi, yes. Well, I arrived on time but it appears your lack of attention has resulted in me being late. I’m at the front desk.” Anne ended the call with a shake of her head.

--

Ann had just finished the morning briefing with her team and was brainstorming with Sam when there was a knock on her office door.

“Come in.” Ann replied, not looking up from the document she was examining.

Sam cleared his throat before Ann’s head snapped up to meet her Chief Inspector’s gaze.

“Sir.” Ann straightened herself out.

“Morning, Walker.” He nodded over at Sam. “Washington.”

“Morning, Sir.”

“Could I have a word, Ann?”

“Of course.” Ann’s heart sank, unscheduled meetings with her Inspector were never a good thing.

Sam closed the door behind him before looking back through the glass wall and mouthing, ‘good luck’ to Ann.

The silence stretched between them before Ann couldn’t take the ringing in her ears any longer.

“So, what’s this about?” Ann tried to keep her tone neutral but she was worried.

“It’s nothing bad.”

Ann audibly exhaled.

“I’ve got a detective that I want to put on this case.”

“But…” Ann piped up.

“Before you jump down my throat, I’m not asking them to take over the case. I thought they could just lend a hand? Four eyes are better than two, you know? Perhaps together you can find something you’ve missed.”

A little dig at Ann’s competency. Nice.

“The situation is a little sensitive.”

“How so?” Ann was fast losing patience.

“This officer was forcibly transferred.”

“Oh great. So they’re a liability? I don’t have time to babysit someone, not on top of everything.” Ann held the bridge of her nose. “What did they do?”

--

Anne noticed the paint chipping off the walls as she made her way down the long corridor. The station smelled of musty paper files and coffee and it was freezing. Had they ever heard of heating? Anne shoved her hands into her coat pockets before she was shown into the last office on the right. It was larger than she expected, a bank of eight desks in the middle, a large whiteboard at the far end and a separate compact glass office to the left. If the two people inside thought the glass walls made it soundproof, they were sorely mistaken. Anne clenched her jaw as she overheard the entire conversation.

“No, I get that but why is she my problem?” A blonde woman was gesticulating.

“If I’m being honest, I think you need the help on this.”

“So this is your way of saying I’m incompetent?” The blonde woman folded her arms with an angry look.

Before the other officer could reply, a man appeared in Anne’s eyeline, blocking the view. He smiled and held out his hand. She looked down and nodded her head instead.

“Hi, I’m Sam.” His hand retreated swiftly.

“Anne.”

“I’ll introduce you to the boss, follow me.”

Anne raised her eyebrows brusquely as she followed him towards the glass door. It was hard to shake a first impression once it was made, and, Anne had surmised the officer was hot headed, difficult and apparently incompetent. Her words, not mine.

Sam knocked on the door before opening it gingerly.

“Sorry to intrude but our new detective has arrived.” He moved aside so Anne could walk into the room. “This is Anne Lister.”

Ann’s Chief Inspector nodded before vacating his chair. “Anne, we’ve met already so I’ll leave you in the capable hands of Ann here. You know where my office is if you have any problems.”

Anne smiled insincerely as he left and turned to face her new partner.

“Hello.” Anne said curtly.

For a moment, Ann’s brain stalled as she took in the figure in front of her. Anne was rugged and tall, in tight black jeans, brogues and a long flowing black coat. She had an air about her and it caught Ann off guard for a few seconds before she shook herself out of it.

“Ann Walker.” Ann held out her hand.

“Hm.” Anne muttered as her hands remained in her pockets.

Ann pulled her hand back and scoffed. Prick.

“I’ll let Sam bring you up to speed on the case. Coffee is over there, we have a biscuit fund so if you help yourself, put some change in the pot. If my door is closed, I’m busy.”

“Understood.” Anne nodded, a small smile playing on her lips as she left Ann’s office. Feisty.

Ann closed her door and sighed audibly. The last thing she needed was having to babysit a loose canon. They had a case to solve and no time to dawdle.

As the day drew on, Ann tried not to let her eyes linger on Anne. She was sat next to Washington asking ten thousand questions a minute as he went over the case notes. Her low voice permeated through the glass as she meticulously picked apart each individual detail. She’d shed her coat and was sat, legs spread, in a fitted black shirt with the sleeves rolled up. Ann would be lying if she didn’t think Anne was handsome; in an arrogant, prickish kind of way. Ann soon shook those thoughts from her head as her phone rang.

“Sam!” Ann jumped up out of her chair and opened her door. “We’ve got another letter, come on let’s go.”

As Ann hurriedly raised her arms to put her coat on, her white shirt rode up slightly, showing the soft skin of her stomach. This small flash of skin intrigued Anne in a way it probably shouldn’t. After all, her new partner was bull-headed and rude. Anne tutted to herself, blaming her intrigue on the fact she hadn’t gotten laid for a while. Ann wasn’t her type and truthfully, Anne couldn’t wait to get back to London. Her transfer to Yorkshire Police wasn’t a mutual agreement, it was a way of biding time until her Chief retired.

“Lister, are you coming?” Ann’s irritated voice cut through Anne’s thoughts as she grabbed her coat and followed them out.

The lights on the black Ford Focus blinked as Ann unlocked the door and climbed into the driver seat. Anne rolled her eyes as she realised she’d been relegated to the back seat for being the new kid. She huffed as she sat down and clipped her seatbelt. Back in London she always drove, very rarely being in the passenger side and certainly never in the back. Plus, the force had much newer fleet cars than these. Anne glanced up at the rear view mirror to see Ann’s eyes fixed firmly on hers, an irritated expression on her face. Anne straightened herself out in her seat and chose to press Ann a little further.

“So why has this case been dragging on without any suspects?” Anne was blunt and to the point.

Ann sighed as she pulled out of the station car park.

“It’s not that simple.”

“Then explain it to me?”

“I have a suspect!” Ann said sharply. “But I can’t bloody prove it and my boss doesn’t give a fuck about my intuition.” She sighed out audibly, almost surprised at how short she was with Anne.

Anne raised her eyebrows as their eyes met again in the rear-view.

“What Ann’s trying to say is that we don’t have much evidence to back up her theory, but, for what it’s worth, I think she’s onto something.” Sam soothed.

“Rawson?” Anne sounded from the back.

“How did you…?” Ann’s mouth was open and her brow was furrowed.

“I went over all the case notes last night and I think you’re onto something.” Anne held her large hand out, counting on her fingers as she listed her points, backing up everything Ann had been thinking over the past few weeks.

With each agreement, Ann felt her confidence surge anew. Anne had been on this case less than 24 hours and already, she was echoing some of Ann’s best theories. Her boss had drummed it into her that she was barking up the wrong tree because of her personal connection with the Rawson family, that it was some grudge she was harbouring rather than just good detective work. Anne was good, she’d quickly reached the same conclusion without even meeting the man.

“Tell you what…” Anne’s voice broke Ann’s internal thoughts. “I’ll pay a house call on this Mr Rawson and see if I can press his buttons.”

Ann smiled for the first time since they set off, nodding at Anne in the mirror. When Anne returned her smile, Ann felt her heart race for a moment before she turned her concentration back on the road ahead.

As the car pulled up the gravel drive and approached the Ainsworth residence, Anne clicked her tongue.

“Well, well, well.” She muttered.

Standing outside the front door, looking a little pathetic, was the man who had walked straight into her that morning at the police station. She immediately got the feeling there was more to this man than the worried husband he was portraying.

“Ann, thank god you’re here.” Thomas clutched onto Ann tightly.

The subtle way he squeezed her waist just before letting her go wasn’t lost on Anne. She could see Ann was entirely uncomfortable, so she stepped in between them both, thrusting out her hand to the man and introducing herself. She grimaced when his limp, clammy hand shook hers before leading them into the large front door.

“This came today.” Thomas handed the letter to Ann before pulling out a handkerchief and wiping his nose.

The scrawl was the same as the others, only this time the sum of money being demanded was obscene. Ann’s blood began to boil, whoever was making these threats had been getting away with it for too long, holding an innocent woman to ransom like this? It was perverse.

“This ends now.” Ann was furious. “Do not pay this, I really must insist you listen to me.”

“The thing is…” Thomas snivelled. “I’ve already telephoned her family and they’re making the transfer today.”

“Why didn’t you wait for us to arrive?” Ann was livid.

Just as she was about to continue, Rawson appeared from the kitchen and walked towards the group. Anne eyed him suspiciously, why was he lurking in the house?

“Maybe this is one last go?” Rawson smirked. “The last payment before they release her?”

“What?” Ann frowned.

“I’m just saying, that’s what it sounds like.”

“You seem to know a lot about it.” Anne looked him up and down.

He smirked, returning the suspicious look. “Only what Thomas here has told me.”

“Hm.” Anne folded her arms. “And what were you doing at the time Mrs Ainsworth disappeared?”

“Out hunting.” Rawson’s demeanour changed. “As well you know.”

“Hm.” Anne hummed again.

“I’m taking this back to the station. Don’t leave the house, don’t make any more calls to Eliza’s family. I mean it, you’re undermining this investigation every step of the way.” Ann said to Thomas.

“Now, Annie. There’s no need to be like that.” He smiled.

Ann recoiled before turning and swiftly leaving the house. Anne looked the men up and down with a sneer before following Sam back to the car. Ann was right, they were thick as thieves and something definitely didn’t add up. Thomas wasn’t fooling anyone with his crocodile tears and feigned worry, he was utterly transparent. Rawson was harder to figure out but Anne was determined. The car journey back to the station was mostly spent in silence, even though Anne was bursting to ask about the connection between Ann and Mr Ainsworth. Instead, she bit her tongue and stared out the window.

--

The rain hammered against the office window as Ann and Anne re-read the case notes for the hundredth time, searching for any clues they might have missed. The orange glow of the streetlights filtered through the dark office, casting shadows across the empty desks. The only light that reached Ann’s office came from the two lamps they were both huddled under as they rifled through file after file after file.

“It’s so late, Anne. Really, you don’t have to be here.” Ann rubbed her sore eyes, it had been an awfully long day.

“Are you trying to get rid of me so that you can pull out that sofa-bed?” Anne replied, not even looking up from the folder she was reading from.

“How do you know I sleep in here?” Ann’s mouth hung open.

“I do the same thing.” Anne caught herself. “did the same thing. Back in London.”

Ann’s cheeks coloured, she was embarrassed that her entire life was based around work. If Anne had sussed it out, perhaps her whole team knew.

“It’s nothing to be ashamed of, it shows you really care about solving this case.” Anne offered.

“Alright, how about another hour reading and then we clock off? Deal?”

“It’s a deal if you tell me what’s going on with you and Ainsworth.”

Ann sighed. “He’s, how do I put this, made a few passes at me.” Ann picked at her nail. “He’s tried to force himself on me more than once.”

“Ann!” Anne was furious.

“I told him if he ever tries it again, I’ll arrest him and throw away the key. The worst part? Eliza knows all about what he’s like. I can’t make her see sense.”

“Grubby little wretch.” Anne muttered.

“It would give me great pleasure to prosecute him, I’m just biding my time.”

“Hm.”

“Anyway.” Ann brushed the conversation off rather abruptly.

Anne watched in confusion as Ann rummaged around in her desk drawer. She poked her tongue out the side of her mouth as she fished out a bottle of whiskey and two glasses, placing them onto the table with a thud.

“Wait, you’re not driving are you?” Ann snatched back one of the glasses.

“Give that here.” Anne laughed. “I’m staying in that shitty hotel down the street, no driving involved.”

Ann nodded sympathetically as she passed Anne the glass. Her eyebrows raised as she watched Anne knock the whole thing back in one go. She would be lying if she didn’t enjoy having some company in this late hour at work, especially since they shared a similar theory about Christopher Rawson. She hummed as she refilled their glasses and sipped her second drink.

Perhaps it was the alcohol in her system, perhaps it was the fact she’d skipped lunch for the third day in a row but Ann was emboldened by the whiskey. So much so, she decided to broach the elephant in the room.

“For what it’s worth…” Ann started, causing Anne to look up from the file she was studying. “I don’t believe what my boss told me about the reason you were transferred.”

“Ah.” Anne replied, slowly closing the folder and preparing herself for the third degree.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to overstep.” Ann’s confidence went up in a puff of smoke.

“Look, you seem to appreciate honesty, so, I’ll be honest. I was fucking the Chief Inspector’s wife.”

Ann clenched her jaw and nodded.

“But we were in a relationship, it wasn’t a one time thing.” Anne swallowed hard. “But well, when we got caught, she threw me under the bus and my career went along with it. No one wants to work with me now.” Anne shook her head and finished her drink. “The stupid thing is, I believed her when she said she’d leave him for me.”

Ann’s face softened as she instinctively put her hand on Anne’s arm. “I’m sorry that happened to you, Anne.”

“Mm. Well, it did.” Anne straightened herself out. “And now here we are.”  

Anne looked up to see Ann looking at her, a soft and understanding smile playing on her lips. For a moment, Ann’s gaze dropped to Anne’s mouth before flicking back up again. It was subtle but Anne noticed it. Anne noticed everything. She gladly accepted another glass of whiskey and felt the unmistakable crackle of electricity as her fingers brushed Ann’s. Blaming it on the alcohol, Anne ignored the butterflies in her stomach, instead downing her drink and standing up swiftly.

“Careful!” Ann teased as Anne looked a little unsteady.

“I should really eat lunch.” Anne laughed before draping her long coat over her shoulders. “See you tomorrow, Ann.”

“See you tomorrow.” Ann echoed with a soft smile.

Anne winked before leaving Ann’s office and making her way out into the dark night. Ann smoothed her thumb over her glass before finishing her drink. She felt warm inside and not just from the whiskey. Anne’s presence was throwing her off a little, usually she was so guarded but she could feel herself start to relax in the older woman’s company.

By the time she’d done her usual nightly routine in the staff bathroom, pulled out the sofa-bed for the ten millionth time, she flopped onto her back with a sigh, falling asleep almost immediately.

Suddenly, she was in a noisy bar, the music thumping through her body as the revellers around her danced and swayed. Ann was on the dancefloor, alone and puzzled before a tall figure appeared through the crowd, walking over to her and handing her a glass of whiskey. They shared a smile before letting the music take over, dancing lazily, pressed against each other. Ann could barely breathe, the proximity was intoxicating. Suddenly, she was being pushed backwards, her shoulders gently hitting the wall as their lips met hungrily. The feeling of the woman’s body pressed against her made Ann’s head swim as she clutched at her clothing, pulling her in impossibly closer. Ann moaned as a strong hand gripped her hip, inching lower and lower, making Ann writhe under her expert touch. She cried out before gazing up at the woman’s face. She immediately recognised the cocky smirk, the dark eyes, the sharp jaw. It was Anne. The next thing Ann felt were long fingers flicking open the button on her jeans and pulling down her zipper. Bolts of electricity travelled to her core as Anne trailed her fingers up and over Ann’s stomach before inching lower again to dip under the waistband of her underwear. Ann gripped onto Anne’s strong bicep as she tilted her hips upwards, readying herself for what was to come next, the anticipation of what those fingers were capable of was sending Ann into a frenzy.

Suddenly, without warning, Ann woke up, drenched in sweat and breathing heavily. She sat bolt upright as she fought to catch her breath and calm her thumping heart. Good lord. A blush crept over her face as she settled herself back into the sheets.

She tried to go back to sleep, she really did, only, she was uncomfortably wet and turned on beyond comprehension. She bit her lip as she trailed her right hand downwards, groaning as she realised just how worked up she’d gotten in her sleep. She circled her clit, trying to get all thoughts of Anne out of her head. It was just the whiskey, she told herself, nothing more. As she rapidly approached her peak, she screwed her eyes shut, focusing on the warmth beginning to spread throughout her body. Her hips lifted, her legs tensed, she began to moan as the wave of her release rushed towards her. Suddenly, an image of Anne above her, sweaty and dishevelled, flashed in her mind and in that instant, she came hard with a loud cry.

“Fuck.” Ann sighed as she slowly returned to her body. 

--

About 5am Ann’s phone vibrated next to her head on the pillow. She’d not managed to sleep a wink since her dream woke her up. Racing thoughts and embarrassment filled her mind as she unlocked the screen, squinting at the bright light. A blush instantly crept over her cheeks as she saw Anne’s name in her inbox.

I’m stocking up on lunch things. I’ll bring enough for two. A

Ann cradled her phone to her chest as she inhaled deeply. Anne was thinking about her, making sure she ate. Ann shook her head, she’s just being nice. Realising she might as well get up and start work, she hauled herself upright and set to her morning routine. As the kettle boiled, she pulled out her phone again.

Thanks. PS why are you in the shop at 5am?

The kettle clicked.

Couldn’t sleep. See you soon.

Ann stirred her coffee before gathering her clothes and making her way to the bathroom while it brewed. Feeling like she was treading water far from the shore, Ann’s stomach dropped. How would she look Anne in the eye today? After imagining her doing all those things with her. This was all Ann needed, something else to stress her out and get in the way of the case. She groaned as she made her way back to her office, shutting the door behind her. Pull yourself together.

About an hour later, Anne swept in looking devastatingly handsome in a charcoal grey plaid suit with a crisp white shirt underneath. A canvas bag hung over her right shoulder and her hair was loose today, framing her strong jawline.

"Knock knock.” Her low, irresistible tone snapped Ann out of her thoughts.

“Come in.” Ann inhaled, bracing for impact.

“I didn’t know what you liked, so I just bought everything.” Anne spoke confidently as she took the heavy tub out of the canvas bag and placed it on Ann’s desk with a thud.

“Anne, your lunchbox is massive!” Ann chuckled as she looked at the large tupperware, stuffed to the brim.

Anne smirked mischievously. “So I’ve been told.”

Ann turned bright red in an instant, realising her slip of the tongue. She tried to reply but all that came out of her mouth was a high pitched squeak as she sank further into her chair, willing the ground to swallow her up entirely.

Taking pity on the poor woman, Anne came to her rescue, unclipping the lid and unpacking the food. Arguably, Anne had gone completely overboard buying supplies this morning but for some reason, she was anxious. She would’ve been mortified if she’d bought something Ann didn’t like, she had no idea if she was vegetarian, or vegan, or if she was allergic to anything. So she bought it all. Meat options, fish options, veggie options, vegan options. There was enough food to last them all week.

“I, uh, didn’t know what you liked.” Anne rubbed the back of her neck. “Just pick whatever, we can keep the rest in the staff fridge, I’m sure the boys will eat it.”

Ann muttered a weak thank you before concentrating far too hard on each item. Reading and re-reading the labels ten times, anything to avoid looking up at the woman responsible for giving her, quite possibly, the biggest orgasm she could recall. Even if it was just in her head.

Anne noticed Ann’s reluctance to meet her gaze as she shuffled on her feet. She wondered if she’d pushed Ann too far last night, asking her about Ainsworth and getting her to open up. Perhaps she regretted it after the whiskey had worn off. Anne didn’t blame her, she knew Ann wasn’t her biggest fan. This was fine, they could get back to being distant colleagues, concentrate on the task at hand and get the case solved. The quicker they could make an arrest, the quicker Anne could get back to London. Good plan.

--

As the afternoon drew on, Anne wheeled on her chair over to Sam’s desk. She nodded at him to lean in close.

“What’s the deal with Ann?” She whispered, briefly looking up at her hard at work through the glass.

“What do you mean?” Sam replied.

“You surely know she lives in her office.”

Sam nodded. Everyone knew.

“Does she have family? A partner? A cat? Anything?”

“Yes, no and no.” Sam leaned back in his chair. “Our Ann likes to keep to herself and we’ve learned not to question it. She’s a brilliant detective, we all have our processes.”

“Hm.” Anne hummed. “But does she ever let herself have any fun?”

Sam raised his eyebrows.

“What! I’m just saying.” Anne feigned innocence.

“I know exactly what you’re saying. Watch it, Lister.” Sam said with a deadpan expression before winking.

Anne held her hands up in surrender and wheeled her chair back to her desk. She chuckled to herself before glancing up at Ann’s desk again, only to find her gaze fixed firmly in Anne’s direction. The look lingered slightly longer than was probably appropriate and Anne bit her lip, widening her grin before picking up her empty mug and holding it up in the air. Raising her eyebrows, she silently challenged Ann to a round of coffee.

“Fine!” Ann laughed, her voice sounding muffled to Anne from behind the glass.

Anne smirked before standing up and walking over to Ann’s office, mug in hand. She was just about to knock when Ann’s office door flung open, the two women almost bumping right into each other.

“Oh.” Ann was instantly flustered.

“Sorry.” Anne said at the same time.

Neither of them moved back for a moment, staying in close proximity. The smell of Anne’s rich cologne flooded Ann’s senses, making her feel lightheaded. She let her eyes travel upwards, button by button until she fixed on the way Anne’s shirt opened at her throat, her tanned skin peeked from under her collar. Ann’s heart thumped in her chest, she couldn’t take this silent tension any longer.

“I was going to offer to get a fancy one from the canteen. It’s the least I can do to pay you back for the banquet we had for lunch.”

Anne saw the blush on Ann’s face, the way her breathing hitched, the look in her eyes. Fuck, she was hot like this. Anne scolded herself internally, she’d literally just said to herself to concentrate on the job, get it solved and get back to her old life. And yet. She felt the unmistakable excitement in her stomach. Errant thoughts of what Ann’s lips would feel like against hers, what noises she might make when she fucked, how she might taste flooded Anne’s brain. It was entirely inappropriate, Anne knew this, and yet she couldn’t stop staring at Ann’s ass as she lead the way to the canteen.

“This really isn’t necessary.” Anne managed to say as they reached the elevator.

The way Ann turned to look at Anne nonchalantly over her right shoulder with a cheeky eye roll made Anne’s grin widen.

Reaching the elevator, Ann pressed for the first floor and folded her arms. Anne rocked on her heels as they waited in silence. After what felt like forever, the doors finally pinged open and the pair of them stepped inside. It was almost at capacity, leaving Anne and Ann no choice but to weave themselves closely together near the back. Training courses on the fourth floor meant there were far more officers in the building than usual, that coupled with the fact they only had one elevator between them, made Ann realise they really should have taken the stairs.

Anne bit the inside of her cheek as Ann’s hand accidentally brushed her torso as they shuffled themselves into the small space. Ann’s heavy breathing made the few stray curls flutter in front of her face and it took every ounce of willpower for Anne not to reach out and tuck them behind her ear. Ann was counting up to ten and back down again over and over to try and keep her composure. It was an old trick her therapist had taught her when she was feeling anxious, only this time, she wasn’t feeling anxiety. Electricity, arousal and panic swirled around her in equal measure, Anne was standing so close, her warm body just centimetres away from her, Ann was losing her ability to think.

“Are you okay?” Anne’s smooth whisper was hot against her ear.

No, I’m not fucking okay.

Ann managed to nod silently before the doors suddenly flung open.

Oh, thank god.

Uncomfortably aware of how wet she’d gotten in the space of two minutes, Ann steadied her breathing and made her way over to the counter. Realising she hadn’t even asked what Anne wanted, she turned around only to catch Anne’s gaze a little lower than anticipated. A flash of guilt crept over Anne’s face before it was swiftly replaced with her usual cocky smile. Ann raised a single eyebrow in judgement before clicking her tongue and turning back around. She’ll get what she’s given.

“How did you know?” Anne smiled as she sipped her black Americano.

“You seemed the type.” Ann shrugged.

“You’re a constant surprise, Miss Walker.” Anne muttered as they took the stairs back to the office.

--

Ainsworth blew his nose loudly in the family liaison room as he showed Ann the latest offering from Eliza’s kidnapper. It was a polaroid showing a very bleached image of Eliza tied to a chair with thick rope and blindfolded. The kidnapper was holding today’s paper in the corner of the shot, in an attempt to prove she was still alive, Ann presumed. The black scrawl in sharpie at the bottom of the photo demanded the payment be in the usual account by 7PM tonight.

“I’m going to need to take this as evidence.” Ann said to Thomas.

He snivelled dramatically. “Yes, yes of course, whatever you need, Annie.”

Ann clenched her jaw and placed the polaroid in a clear evidence bag.

“Eliza’s family are going to comply and perhaps, she’ll be able to come home to me.” Thomas said, almost as if he’d rehearsed it before.

An unexplained chill ran up Ann’s spine as she got up from her seat, leaving him in the care of the family liaison officers and returned to her desk.

“Anne, Washington, my office.”

The pair of them followed Ann into the room, clicking the door shut behind them.

“I want this solved. Tonight.”

Anne and Sam shared a slightly worried glance between them before looking back at Ann.

“I know he’s involved. I just know it.” Ann was prodding her index finger hard against her desk, punctuating every word.

“What happened down there?” Sam asked softly.

“He’s playing us, why can’t you see that? Why can’t anyone see?” Ann’s voice was raised now. “He’s laughing at me, he thinks I can’t see him for what he is!”

Ann was holding her head in her hands, her elbows propped on her desk as a tear rolled down her cheek.

“Sam, will you pop downstairs and get us all a tea, hm?” Anne gave him a tight lipped smile. “Maybe some chocolate too.”

Sam nodded, taking the hint and wandered off in search of caffeine and snacks.

“Hey, look at me.” Anne said softly.

Ann raised her head, her expression entirely defeated, her eyes red.

“What happened?”  

Pulling out the polaroid, Ann slid the bag over to Anne.

“They’re going to kill her, Anne. It’s going to be my fault because I can’t prove Ainsworth is in on it. Her family is going to pay the ransom and she’s still going to die. I can feel it. I can’t breathe… Anne, I can’t…”

Anne rushed over to Ann, kneeling at her feet and taking her hand before moving her long fingers up her wrist to check her pulse. Her thumb brushed Ann’s soft pale skin affectionately as she counted the beats in her head.

“You’re alright Ann, take some deep breaths for me, okay?” Anne breathed along with her, trying to get her heart-rate to slow. “You’re alright, I’ve got you.”

Ann wanted to scream at herself for having a full blown panic attack in front of Anne. The fact she could feel Anne’s fingers tracing her skin made her head swim even more. Her breathing slowed slightly but as her eyes locked with Anne’s, it began to pick up again. Ann leaned closer, her gaze flitting briefly to Anne’s full lips before fixing with her dark brown eyes again. God, she was handsome. Anne swallowed hard as she felt her own pulse raise slightly. Was Ann about to kiss her? Anne licked her lips, causing Ann to nearly combust in her chair as she watched the quick sweep of Anne’s tongue. Ann leaned in even closer.

“Anne.” Ann’s voice was shaky, barely even a whisper.

The sound of the office door opening snapped the pair of them apart as Sam brought in the tea and a mountain of chocolate, seemingly entirely unaware of what he’d just interrupted. In an attempt to disperse the awkward tension in the room, Anne picked up the evidence bag and studied the polaroid under Ann’s desk lamp.

“Hm.” She hummed.

“What?” Ann had managed to control her breathing, the same couldn’t quite be said for her hormones, however.

“The person holding the newspaper, they’re wearing a signet ring.” Anne brought the photo closer to her eyes but truthfully, she was struggling. “I, uh, forgot my glasses.” Her face coloured as she looked sheepishly at Ann.

The truth was, Anne refused to accept she needed glasses, choosing instead to ignore the signs that she was getting older. The silver wisps at her temples traitorously kept growing more visible as the years went on, her knees creaked each morning as she put her socks on and reading a book was getting near impossible without squinting at the tiny black letters…and still, she refused to wear glasses.

“Give that here.” Ann chuckled. “You’re ridiculous.”

Anne rolled her eyes dramatically before handing the evidence bag to Ann.

“There’s definitely something on it but I can’t make it out.” Ann frowned.

The polaroid was bleached out, making small details hard to distinguish but there was definitely a line or two visible etched into the metal ring.

“Sam, could you take this to get enhanced? With a bit of tinkering, we might be able to get a better look.”

“Sure thing, boss.” Sam took the evidence bag and closed Ann’s office door behind him.

“Good thinking.” Anne tapped her head with her index finger as she spoke. “Not just a pretty face.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Oh, I just meant, uh, really I was just meaning…” Anne didn’t mean to say that last part out loud.

Ann smiled with her eyebrow raised as she watched Anne squirm on the spot, trying to dig herself out. She looked at the ceiling and then down at her toes.

“Anne?”

“Hm?” Anne’s head snapped up to meet Ann’s gaze.

“You can make it up to me by passing all that chocolate over in this direction.” Ann laughed.

“Yes, your majesty.”

Ann’s heart fluttered, Anne was teasing her. The energy between them had shifted, Anne wasn’t the surly, impenetrable detective that walked into her office a few days ago anymore. She’d softened slightly, perhaps she was finding her feet, realising she had nothing to prove to anyone. Ann mused for a while before realising neither of them had spoken for a few minutes.

“Shall we take a break? The tech team won’t be able to give us the enhanced photos for an hour or so.”

“Sounds good.” Anne said kindly. “I’ll just, uh, go for a walk if that’s alright?”

“Sure.” Ann nodded.

Anne needed to work off some of her excess energy. Ever since she had been in such close proximity with Ann, her pulse had been racing. Had she misread it? She was sure Ann was going to lean in and kiss her. If Sam hadn’t interrupted, what would’ve happened? The moment played over and over in Anne’s mind as she marched up and down the streets of Halifax. Before she knew it, she’d been walking for an hour, her sweat sticking to the fabric of her shirt. Shaking the inappropriate thoughts of Ann from her mind, she turned back towards the station. Soon, she’d be back in London and all this would be behind her.

“Perfect timing.” Sam held the office door open as Anne swept in behind him. “These just came back and I think we’ve found something.”

The pair of them walked towards Ann’s office, she’d stayed behind to catch up on paperwork while they waited for the photo enhancement results. Anne’s eyebrows raised involuntarily as she looked through the glass pane at Ann sat at her desk. Her eyes were glazed over, her lips parted, she was in an entire world of her own. Anne couldn’t help but wonder what she was thinking about, was she having the same thoughts Anne was? The same thoughts she tried to banish and ignore, except the more she tried to push them away, the stronger they’d come back later?

Pull yourself together, Lister.

“Ann, we’ve got some results.” Sam placed the paperwork on Ann’s desk, swiftly bringing her attention back into the room.

Anne couldn’t be sure, but she thought she detected a slight hint of red on Ann’s cheeks as she looked up to see Anne stood next to Sam. Ann swallowed before dropping her gaze to her desk, studying the enhanced photos.

“Oh my god.” Ann’s eyes widened. “I recognise this.”

“What is it?” Anne squinted at the faded lines of the image.

“It’s something I’ve seen many, many years ago.” Ann closed her eyes in concentration, trying to get her brain to piece the puzzle together. “From my childhood, I can’t quite place it. There was a painting of the same symbol, in a grand hallway…” Ann was beginning to trace shapes in the air with her hands, trying to unlock the memories. “It smelled of apple pie. Wait, I’m almost there.”

Anne and Sam both glanced at each other before Ann’s eyes snapped open.

“It was Easter. I was 9, maybe 10. We used to always host the Easter family dinner, have the whole extended tribe over but this year, this year was different. I always hated the family get-togethers, I was always ignored, anyway, this time Catherine and I snuck off and played hide and seek while the adults got drunk. We got bored, eventually, and started snooping in all the rooms of the house. On the second floor, the carpet was a rich burgundy colour, as we ran towards the stairs up to the attic, we passed this exact painting.” Ann stopped and shook her head, the soft smile she had from the memory switched to a grimace. “That bastard. I knew it.”

“Who was it, Ann?!” Sam and Anne shouted at the same time.

“Rawson! This is the old family coat of arms, it was in his grandfather’s house. I bloody knew he was involved, I said it all this time and no one believed me!”

Sam’s mouth remained open as Anne clenched her jaw.

“The thing is.” Ann calmed her breathing. “He’s not clever enough to pull this off alone.”

“You mean?” Anne saw where Ann was going.

“Rawson’s an important figure in Halifax, sure. But he’s not particularly clever. Let’s get him in, I’ve got a plan.”

“You’re the boss.” Anne said as the trio swept out of the office and headed towards the fleet cars.

--

The interview room light was purposely bright, designed to make the interviewee as uncomfortable as possible. Rawson shuffled in the plastic chair looking rather pale and sweaty. His lawyer sat next to him, scribbling things in his notepad as Ann presented the photograph.

“Never seen that before in my life.” Rawson spat.

His lawyer clicked his tongue for the third time in five minutes, reminding his client that he was supposed to say ‘no comment’ to every question. Rawson wasn’t one for following rules.

“Never?” Ann said, sitting back in her chair confidently.

Rawson squirmed.

“Not even, oh I don’t know, in a family house?” Ann was enjoying this a little too much. “It’s not a significant emblem in your family?”

His hand shook as he took a sip of water from the white plastic cup.

“Look, here’s the thing.” Ann decided to change tack. “I know you’re not capable of coming up with this alone.”

Rawson’s face turned a shade of red as his anger boiled, only retreating when his lawyer put his hand on his arm, reminding him where he was.

“If you talk, I can lessen your sentence. You and I both know who you’re protecting and I can tell you for certain, he wouldn’t do the same for you.”

Rawson seemed to take the information on board, but still he sat there in silence.

“I can do you a deal, if you cooperate with our investigation, the judge will take that into account when deciding what to do with you. You’ve been coerced, Christopher. We both know you’ve been taken advantage of. Tell us what you know and we can help you.”

He paused for a long while before finally breaking down. He wailed and stuttered and confessed everything. Ann couldn’t actually believe her tactic worked so quickly, she’d prepared herself for days of questioning trying to get him to crack and here he was, crying and spilling the truth without much prodding.

“Alright, Christopher. You’ve done the right thing here today.” Ann smiled, partly because she felt a bit bad for him and partly because she now had enough evidence for an arrest warrant. “Go back to your cell and I’ll get someone to bring you in a tea.”

The custody officer’s keys jangled on his belt as he stood, leading Rawson back out to his cell. Ann bounded up the stairs, excitement swirling in her stomach as she hurried to tell Anne about the confession. She burst into her office to find Anne pacing, anxiously waiting for her to return.

“He confessed! We need to go make the arrest.”

“Ann!” Anne beamed. “You’re brilliant!”

Without being able to stop herself, Anne enveloped Ann into a tight hug. She squeezed her gently, which was all she meant to do, a purely innocent act to express how excited she was on Ann’s behalf for this case finally drawing to a close. As Ann exhaled shakily, they parted slightly to look at each other, their torsos still pressed against each other. All Anne was aware of in this moment were Ann’s blue eyes, everything else just faded away. Her throat became dry as Ann bit her bottom lip before gently running her teeth over the pink flesh. Fuck, Anne wanted to kiss her. She was barely holding herself back, she was drawn to Ann like a magnet and entirely powerless, like she’d been dragged into her orbit by forces beyond her control. Ann’s ragged breath tickled the loose strands of hair that framed Anne’s face as her lips tingled in anticipation.

“Excuse me, ladies.” Ann’s boss cleared his throat as the two women sprung apart.

“Sir.” Ann smoothed down her shirt before returning to her senses.

“Well done on Rawson.”

“Thank you, Sir.”

“I’m sending in another team to pick the ring leader up.”

“What?”

“You’ve gotten us so far, Ann. You should be really proud of yourself.”

“Now hang on.” Anne interrupted. “Ann’s done all the leg work here, the final arrest should be hers.”

“Excuse me but you have no authority here, Lister. Don’t make me regret approving your transfer.”

Anne’s blood began to boil, who the fuck did this guy think he was?

“No.” Ann stood firm.

“No?” He repeated.

“That’s right. As Anne explained, I’ve worked on this case week after week, I told you I thought Rawson was in on it and you dismissed me time and time again. You can’t put a new team on this now, the paperwork alone would extend the workload and we need to get him arrested and sentenced.”

“Right, but I’m your boss, Ann. So.”

Anne clenched her fist at her side. What a fucking prick, wanting all the glory for Ann’s hard work.

“Actually.” Anne cleared her throat. “What you’re doing is against protocol. I know you know the extent of my relationship with the Chief. Well, I know his wife rather well…” Anne winked in a preposterously arrogant way, causing Ann to blush and her boss to stutter. “I don’t think he’d take very kindly to a case of outright dismissal at this stage in the case, it’s not very professional is it?”

“I, uh, well.” He stuttered again like a child who’d been caught with his hand in the biscuit tin.

“Anne’s right.” Ann stepped forward, emboldened by the ridiculously handsome and supportive woman standing alongside her. “I’m going to arrest him. Right now. It’s my decision. Everything from now on, when it comes to me, is my decision.”

Ann swept out her office, grabbing her coat and beckoning Sam towards the door. Anne raised her eyebrows at Ann’s boss before following her. Anne began to wonder how she’d make it through the afternoon without relieving some of this tension. Seeing Ann like that? Hot.

--

The late afternoon sun hung low, flooding the sky with a deep orange glow as the trio stepped outside.

“Here.” Ann looked in Anne’s direction before tossing the car keys over to her.

Without missing a beat, Anne caught them one handed with a surprised grin over her face. “Really?”

“Really.” Ann’s eyebrow twitched a fraction as she made her way to the passenger side.

Sam shook his head to himself as he opened the rear door and climbed in.

Anne closed her door, started the engine and glanced over to Ann. She was bathed in sunlight, her golden hair glowing, her eyes soft as she smiled back at her. Anne’s heart skipped a beat, she’d never seen anyone so beautiful before in her life, she was sure of it.

“Let’s go get your suspect.” Anne said quietly into the space between them before pulling out of the car park and out onto the road.

Ann felt euphoric, not only was she closing the case but she felt closer to Anne now more than ever. Anne’s walls had started to come down, she was letting Ann in little by little. Trying not to get too drunk on power, Ann remained cautious but it was hard not to fall head over heels in love with the dark, brooding, brilliant woman sat next to her. Her strong hands gripping the wheel, the satisfied smirk playing on her lips as she expertly drove down the backstreets of Halifax. Ann found herself unable to look away, Anne was mesmerising. It was only when Anne turned her head quickly that Ann broke her gaze with a blush. Shit. She caught me staring.

“Left here.” Sam shouted from the back, breaking up the tension.

The stones crunched under the tyres as they approached the house along the gravel driveway. Ann readied herself, she’d been waiting for this moment for a long time. Anne pulled the handbrake and switched off the engine.

“You ready?” Her eyes were gentle, understanding.

“Ready.” Ann smiled before getting out the car and walking confidently to the large front door.

The bell chimed as Ann pressed the button before stepping back with her arms folded. The footsteps got louder and the door slowly opened.

“Annie, what are you doing here? We didn’t schedule a meeting?”

“Thomas Ainsworth, I’m arresting you on suspicion of unlawful kidnapping, extortion, fraud and perverting the course of justice.”

“What? No, Annie, there’s been a mistake.” Ainsworth whined.

“You do not have to say anything but it may harm your defence if you do not mention, when questioned, something that you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be used in evidence.”

He squeaked like a coward as Ann cuffed him and led him to the car. Anne opened the rear door, clicking her tongue at his worthless pleas to hear him out, to let him go. She slammed the door and squeezed Ann’s arm with a smile before parting to climb into the front. Anne was beaming inside, ridiculously proud of the detective work Ann had done over the last few weeks, not to mention everything she’d done before Anne had even arrived. There was no better feeling than closing a case and Anne’s heart soared for the brilliant woman next to her.

Ainsworth sobbed as Ann booked him with the custody sergeant, whimpering only to confirm his name before he was lead away to his cell. As Ann heard the steel door shut, she sighed in relief. This was almost over.

“I’ve set up interview room 3, boss.” Sam said softly behind her.

“Thank you, Sam.” Ann turned and smiled. “Where’s Anne?”

“She’s making you a coffee.” Sam smiled knowingly before turning on his heels and heading out to the corridor.

Ann’s stomach swirled as she thought about Anne, handsome Anne, making her coffee. It was such a small thing but it felt intimate. Truthfully, Ann was dreading the day that her boisterous, confident, supremely attractive partner returned home. Anne had breathed new life into the place, a fresh pair of eyes, new ways of thinking, incredibly tight trousers… Ann shook her head, trying to get her mind out the gutter as she felt the low simmer of arousal building between her legs.

Now was not the time.

Ann stepped into the interview room, placing her heavy paperwork onto the desk and popping a fresh tape into the recorder. Sam was already settled into the chair next to her, eagerly awaiting the arrival of Ainsworth. This was the final challenge, getting him to confess, and the pair of them knew they had to tread carefully. As the door swung open, they both lifted their heads immediately.

“Thought you might need this.” Anne said softly as she placed two mugs of coffee on the table.

“Thanks Anne.” Sam said, picking up the mug closest to him.

Ann smiled softly, although her eyes betrayed her gentle expression. She was hot for Anne, she had been for days and the way Anne was looking back at her? Maybe she knew. Ann blinked, cradling the steaming mug in her hands. “Thank you. I wish you could be in here too.”

“Ah. Well, it’s not my jurisdiction.” Anne’s impression of Ann’s boss made the three of them chuckle. “I’ll be watching on the monitor though.” Anne half stepped out the door before turning back. “Nail the bastard.”

The way Anne winked as she left made Ann’s pulse race. Had she ever had someone believe in her this much? She supposed Sam did, he was a good egg, but to have someone build her up like this? Make her feel so confident? It was intoxicating. She straightened herself out in her chair and held her head high as Ainsworth shuffled into the room with his lawyer.

Fifteen minutes in and Ann couldn’t listen any longer to his long winded speech about how he intended to sue the police force for wrongful arrest, not to mention personally see to it that Ann’s career ended.

“Enough.” She interrupted. “We know everything.”

“About what?” Ainsworth smirked.

“Right now, as we speak, a team of my officers are on the way to your hunting lodge.”  

The colour slowly drained from Ainsworth’s face as his forehead became sweaty. His brow furrowed as he swallowed hard.

“Now, what you must understand…” He began to speak, his voice thin and wispy.

“No.” Ann interrupted. “We’ve got you, Thomas. We know where she is and we know you’re responsible. This is your chance, your last opportunity to tell the truth. After this point? You’re finished.”

What Ainsworth couldn’t possibly have known was that Eliza was already safe and in protective custody. Tipped off by Rawson, Ann’s team of officers had raided the lodge at the same time as Ainsworth’s arrest. Situated in dense woodland, the hunting lodge was the perfect place to hide someone; miles from the main road, no phone reception, accessible only by a single track that was all too easy to miss unless you knew what you were looking for. Thankfully, Rawson had drawn an exceptionally detailed map of the area, trading the information as part of his plea deal. As the police broke down the door, they found Eliza, blindfolded and tied up in a windowless room, dehydrated and very shaken but alive and willing to talk.

Ainsworth wailed loudly as he broke down, he sniffled and sobbed, stuttering as he tried to get his words out. “Annie, you can’t understand what it’s like for me.”

Ann recoiled at his hollow words, how could someone treat their wife like this? How could someone be so devious and evil?

“If you’re not going to talk, then this interview is done.” Ann sat back, challenging him.

“I…I never meant for any of this to happen, f-for it to get this f-f-far” He was crying in earnest now, stammering over his words as his breathing became erratic.

Ann gripped her pen tightly as he broke down, wailing as he confessed to extorting his wife’s rich family to pay off the gambling debts that he’d racked up. If that wasn’t bad enough, he was being blackmailed by his secretary, resulting in him needing more money to pay her off after she fell pregnant with his child and had threatened to tell Eliza. What kind of man extorts his own wife’s family for money? Ann’s biro snapped in her hand as she reached her breaking point.

“You’re a pathetic excuse for a human being.” Ann shook her head in disgust.

“Grubby little wretch.” Anne muttered under her breath from the observation room.

“We’re done here, Thomas. You’re finished.” Ann closed her folder.

“Now hang on, y-you said if I talked…”

“What? You expected me to let you off?” Ann scoffed in disbelief. “After falsely imprisoning your own wife to extort money from her family to pay off your mistress and secret debts?”

“Annie, you must understand…” Ainsworth’s lip trembled.

“No.” Ann was sick of his attempts to weasel out of taking responsibility for his deplorable behaviour. “You must understand, Thomas, that you’re the lowest of the low. You preyed on your wife’s family, putting her life in danger for your own needs. You’ll be lucky if we don’t throw away the key.”

“Annie!” He wailed.

“Sam, get him out of here.” Ann didn’t even look up as he was dragged away back to his cell. It was finally over.

As the door clicked shut, Ann exhaled in relief. She enjoyed the silence, letting her mind empty for the first time in weeks, months even. She gathered up her paperwork, the chair scraping on the floor as she got up and made her way slowly back to her office.

--

The loud clapping and cheers reverberated through her body as the whole team congratulated her on breaking the case and arresting Ainsworth. She should’ve felt elated but she was too exhausted. It didn’t feel as triumphant as it should. Smiling politely, she thanked everyone before closing her office door and slumping down in her chair.

Ann had no knowledge of how much time had passed when she was interrupted by a knock at the door.

“Hey.” Anne’s voice was soothing and gentle. “Are you okay?”

Ann tried to lie, tried to hide the tears that were threatening to betray her demeanour but she couldn’t. She shook her head silently as she bit her lip. Anne closed the door behind her and pulled up a chair next to Ann’s.

“It’s a lot, isn’t it?” Anne offered.

“Hm?” Ann’s brow furrowed.

“When you’ve spent weeks on a case, not sleeping, forgetting to eat, it consumes you entirely. Then, suddenly, it’s gone. It’s a lot. To get your head around.”

Ann wasn’t sure when she started crying but the tears rolled freely down her cheeks as she nodded. Anne got it, of course she did. This emotion that she couldn’t even put into words, Anne understood it. The warmth that suffused through her entire being as Anne cradled her hand in hers felt wonderful; like a warm blanket or the summer sun on her face. The softness of Anne’s thumb brushing over her palm was comforting beyond measure, Ann immediately felt calm.

“I think you should go home and get some rest, hm?” Anne dipped her head to meet Ann’s gaze. “You’re exhausted.”

“Perhaps you’re right.” Ann mused for a few seconds. Of course Anne was right, she was right about everything.

Anne nodded. “Go home, rest up and we’ll see you tomorrow?”

Ann wished Anne would take her home, tuck her in and just sit with her while she drifted off to sleep. What did that even mean? She didn’t want to be away from this woman but she couldn’t articulate it into words. Before she knew it, she was sat in the passenger seat of her patrol car.

“You’ll need to stay awake long enough to give me directions!” Anne joked as she switched on the ignition and pulled onto the road.

The journey went by all too quickly. Ann's brain was screaming at her to invite Anne in, to tell her how she felt, but she couldn’t. What if Anne said no? It was better to be in her company than to risk losing her. She was going back to London soon anyway and Ann’s life would return to normal. Her heart sank at the realisation. Ann's life was mediocre at best before Anne showed up, how could she ever go back to the way things were?

“I’m under strict orders to make sure you take tomorrow off.” Anne smiled at Ann’s confused expression. “I wouldn’t argue with me, Miss Walker. I can be very persuasive.”

“Hm. I’m not sure what you’re up to but I’m so tired, I can’t even disagree.” Ann chuckled.

“I’ll text you tomorrow, Ann. Sleep well.”

The look that Anne gave her as she left melted her heart entirely. Cheeky but soft. Confident but gentle. Ann’s brain whirred as she headed upstairs and flopped, fully clothed, into bed before succumbing to sleep immediately.

--

Anne parked up in Ann’s space and shut off the engine. She sighed, remembering how tired Ann looked as she left the car. Truthfully, Anne wanted to make sure she got in alright, had milk in the fridge for a cuppa, ate a decent meal but she couldn’t ask to come in. How could she? It would’ve crossed a boundary line and the last thing she wanted to do was make Ann feel uncomfortable after everything she’d been through. She locked the car and walked back towards the office, agreeing with herself to let Ann rest and maybe text her in a few hours.

“Washington!” Anne patted Sam on the back as she strode back into the office. “Nice work, mate.”

“Thanks Anne.” He smiled back knowingly at her.

“What?”

“Nothing.” He shrugged mischievously.

Anne stopped walking and crossed her arms. “What?”

“Did Ann get back home alright?”

“Yes, why?” Anne said curtly.

“Oh, nothing. Just wondered, since you two went home together if, uh, well, I mean...”

“How old are you, Sam? Grow up.” Anne faked annoyance and turned before the pink tinge of her cheeks gave her away.

“Alright, alright.” Sam put his hands up in surrender. “Look, I’ve got an idea, come back here.”

Anne turned and raised her eyebrows in question.

“Let’s have an office party? We need to celebrate nailing this case, Ann could do with a night off. We can twin it with your leaving drinks. What do you say?”

Anne’s stomach twisted at the reminder she was going to be leaving soon but she nodded with a soft smile. “It’s a good idea. Let’s finish up here and go and get supplies after work?”

“Yes, boss.” Sam smiled as he settled back at his desk and resumed his paperwork.

Anne smiled, she loved working here, truth be told. She might have had a bumpy start but she’d been welcomed into the team and treated as one of their own. She’d miss this run down old place. Life was simpler up here, the pace slower, the air cleaner. It would be hard to say goodbye, hard to return to the life she had before this happened. Anne made her way to her makeshift desk and pulled out her phone.

Office wrap party. Tomorrow, 7PM. Let’s dress up.

Anne locked her phone and tossed it onto the table. Her mind briefly wandered to Ann fast asleep, tucked up in bed, her hair wild across her pillows as she slumbered. A warmth spread through Anne’s body. One thing was for certain, she couldn’t wait for tomorrow night.

--

Since her hotel was just down the road from the station, Anne arrived a little early. She’d put on her favourite white shirt, sleeves rolled up to her elbows and her top three buttons undone, leaving her neck and collarbones exposed.

“Lister! Over here.” Sam beckoned. “Have a beer, mate. You’ve earned it.”

The can was cold in her palm as she twisted the ring pull and took a generous sip. She leaned back against the desk and chatted with Sam, asking about his wife and kids, what he planned to do after retirement, the usual. It wasn’t until the door opened and Ann Walker stepped into the room that Anne lost all power of speech.

After receiving Anne’s text the previous night, Ann had wanted to make an effort, let loose a little. She knew she’d been working way too hard and so an office party was the perfect excuse to dress up. In a figure hugging black dress, her blonde curls loose, bare legs and black heels, Ann’s eyes soon found Anne’s. For a moment, all the women could do was gaze at each other.

Anne felt a pointy elbow in her ribs as Sam leaned in. “Careful, Lister. Your boner is showing.”

Anne’s eyes went wide, her mouth hung open as she looked sheepishly at Sam’s grinning face.

“Oh relax!” Sam laughed. “But if you don’t kiss her soon, I think she’s going to explode.”

“Wait, what?” Anne was dazed.

“Have a good evening, ladies.” Sam nodded as Ann approached before he disappeared.

“Hi.” Anne said shyly.

“Hi.” Ann replied.

“Drink?” Anne rummaged around in the cool-box before pulling out a can of cider. “You look like a cider girl.”

“Very good.” Ann blushed as she took the can from Anne’s cold hand.

“You look nice.” They both said at the exact same time before laughing.

Anne took a sip of her drink, her cheeks burning as she tried to keep her resolve. All she wanted to do was drag Ann into her office and kiss her until they were both breathless. Stupid glass walls.

Ann clocked the way Anne was looking at her, like she wanted to devour her whole. It was turning her on beyond comprehension, how was she going to survive making polite conversation all night?

“So, do you have many plans for when you go home?” Ann didn’t want to think about Anne leaving but she literally couldn’t think of anything else to say.

“Oh.” Anne’s face fell slightly. “Not really. I thought I might take some annual leave, stay up in Yorkshire for a bit longer.”

“Really?” Ann’s relief and excitement washed over her face instantly.

Anne chuckled. “Yes, if that would be alright?”

“More than alright.” Ann breathed, the thought of seeing Anne outside of work made her heart race.

“Is that so, Miss Walker?” Anne’s eyebrow quirked as her confidence returned tenfold. “Interesting.”

That cocky smirk, those dexterous, long fingers wrapped around her beer, the tanned skin of her neck contrasting against the white collar of her shirt, the way Anne was leaning back against the desk. It was all too much. In a moment of boldness, Ann reached forward, tugging Anne’s wrist until Anne’s feet were moving through the office and out into the corridor.

“Where are you taking me?” Anne said lowly as she followed Ann down another corridor.

Ann stopped round the next corner and slowly backed up until her shoulders pressed into the wall behind. She pulled Anne towards her, a silent plea for Anne to take the hint. Their bodies were so close, heat spreading between them like wildfire as Anne’s pulse began to race.  

“Are you sure?” Anne said into the small space between them.

Ann couldn’t take the anticipation any longer, her body was screaming out for Anne to touch her, to kiss her, to consume her. She felt lightheaded at their proximity, at the possibilities of this moment, of Anne’s fit body pressing against her.

“Shut up and kiss me.” Ann breathed.

They were out of view from the office in a mostly secluded part of the floor. It wasn’t quite where Ann had envisioned their first kiss but she was beyond rational thinking, she needed Anne and she needed her now. Anne hummed before cupping Ann’s face with her palm, tilting her head up before stalling. She looked into Ann’s eyes, licked her lips and just enjoyed the moment before their world changed forever.

“I’ve wanted to do this since the first day I saw you.”

“Do it then.” Ann goaded.

“Impatient.” Anne tutted before tucking Ann’s hair behind her ears.

Ann closed her eyes as she felt Anne lean in. The second Anne’s lips brushed her own, her whole body ignited. Anne kissed her hard, pressing their bodies together, gripping Ann’s waist with one hand, the other still holding Ann’s face as they moved in perfect unison. As soon as Ann was able to use her limbs, she looped her arms around Anne’s neck, pulling her in as she tilted her head. As their kiss began to turn desperate, Anne groaned as Ann’s hips rolled upwards.

“Ahem.” A teasing voice snapped them back into reality. “I’m so sorry to interrupt but the boss is about to make a toast and he’s been looking everywhere for you both.” Sam chuckled.

Ann’s face was bright red as she smoothed her dress down and attempted to tame her wild hair. Anne wasn’t fairing much better, she had Ann’s lipstick on her mouth and was breathing heavily.

“Thank you, Sam.” Ann managed to say before he winked at the pair of them and headed back to the party.

Ann and Anne stood looking at each other in silence for a moment before Anne interlaced their hands and walked them back to the office. Just before they rounded the corner, Anne brought Ann’s hand to her lips, kissing it softly before letting Ann go in first. Ann squeezed Anne’s arm in a silent thanks before a round of applause greeted her.  

For a lot of the speech, Ann couldn’t recall a single word as she felt Anne’s gaze on her. Her boss was muttering congratulations but really, his words were hollow. Every decision she’d made on this case had been second guessed by the man, his words didn’t mean an awful lot now. Instead, Ann licked her lips at the woman across the room. Anne was leaning against the wall, right at the back of the huddle. Her hands were in her trouser pockets, a teasing smile on her lips. Ann blinked before interrupting her boss mid sentence.

“Actually, I couldn’t have done this without Anne’s help. Get up here.” Ann heckled.

Anne rolled her eyes playfully and came to to the front.

“Could you all raise your glasses to the wonderfully talented, if not a bit moody, Anne Lister.”

The rest of the office chuckled as they sipped their drinks and went back to the party.

“Moody?” Anne tugged Ann’s elbow, gently guiding her away from everyone else.

“Oh, very.” Ann smirked. “Grumpy too.”

Anne covered her heart in mock horror, she was just about to say something witty when Ann made her brain short circuit.

“Want to get out of here?” Ann suggested in a sultry tone.

Anne nodded frantically, placing both their drinks on a nearby desk and ushering Ann out the room quickly. Ann giggled as they raced down the corridor and out onto the street. The fresh air hit them both, sobering their flushed faces and racing hearts.

“Are you sure about this?” Anne pulled Ann aside.

Ann looked at the woman in front of her with confusion. Did Anne have no idea how ruggedly handsome she was? Or how wet she made Ann with just one look? Surely Anne knew? With a playful smirk on her face, Ann stood on her tiptoes, pulling Anne down to crash their lips together. Anne moaned as Ann’s tongue slipped into her mouth.

“Take me home.” Ann whispered, her breath hot in Anne’s ear.  

As Anne fumbled with her hotel room key, she suddenly felt embarrassed.

“Ann, the thing is.” Anne turned to face her. “This isn’t, I mean, if we were in London I could take you to my real home but this isn’t how I normally live.”

“I don’t care.” Ann covered Anne’s hand on the door handle and pressed down, causing the pair of them to crash through the door in an instant.  

Anne’s hotel room was small; a wooden desk in the corner housed an old kettle and a few mugs, there was a faded sofa on one side of the room and the joining bathroom door on the other. The bed, thankfully, was at least a double. Ann briefly thought about taking Anne back to hers instead, have Anne shag her in every room in the house, of which there were many, but she was too impatient. There wasn’t time, she needed Anne’s hands on her. Now.

Anne smirked playfully as Ann pulled her by the collar towards the bed. She was delighted that Ann was taking the lead, something that she wouldn’t normally let her past conquests do, but Ann was different.

“Are you alright?” Ann whispered as she threaded her fingers through Anne’s dark hair.

Anne blinked. How long had she let her mind run wild with thoughts of their future? Focus.

“Yes.” Anne breathed as she felt Ann’s hands tug at her belt buckle.

The way Ann held eye contact as she slowly slipped Anne’s black leather belt through the loops on her trousers drove Anne wild. Anne’s breathing quickened as she felt herself getting turned on beyond comprehension at the feeling Ann’s warm fingertips brushing the skin of her hard stomach under her shirt. Ann ghosted her lips over Anne’s mouth as she slowly undid her button and dragged the zipper down. Ann pinged the elastic waistband of her boxers teasingly, causing a shiver of anticipation to run through Anne’s body.  

“Fuck, I’m so wet.” Anne didn’t mean to say it out loud but the words left her mouth before her brain could stop them.

Ann hummed as she began unbuttoning Anne’s shirt slowly, placing soft kisses under her jaw, delighting in the ruined state of the woman she’d been fantasising about for weeks. Her shirt hung loose, her belt and trousers discarded on the floor, eyes half closed and her jaw slack. In fact, Anne’s brain was so scrambled, it took all of her energy to capture Ann’s hands and pull them away from her bare torso.

“Now, Miss Walker. Why should you have all the fun?” Anne drawled with devilish smirk.

She placed her warm hands on Ann’s shoulders, gently turning her around to tug at the zip of her dress. Slowly she undid the fabric, kissing each bump of Ann’s spine, her mouth dipping lower until the dress floated to the floor. Anne swallowed as Ann spun back round in her dark red lacy bra and matching knickers. Anne was sure she’d never seen anyone more beautiful; the curves of Ann’s body, the soft swell of her breasts, the treasure trail of freckles criss-crossing all over her pale skin. It was all too much.

Ann giggled brightly as Anne scooped her up, bridal style and softly deposited on the crisp white sheets. Ann shuffled herself upwards, resting her head on the pillows, her breathing deepening in anticipation.

“You’re so fucking hot.” Anne growled as she crawled over Ann’s body, holding herself up with her right elbow as her left hand wandered down to squeeze Ann’s hip.

The breathy moan that escaped Ann’s lips sent her arousal into overdrive, she traced her hand lower, effortlessly dipping into Ann’s underwear. The second Anne’s fingers met Ann’s warm, sticky arousal she wondered if it was possible to come from the sensation alone. Her clit pulsed with desire as she felt Ann’s hands tighten around her back, urging her closer as she moaned into Anne’s ear. Anne kept her pace slow even though her brain was screaming at her to take Ann hard and fast. She trailed her fingers down towards her entrance, lightly teasing before bringing them upwards, just below her clit. Anne continued this slow, infuriating circuit over and over until Ann honestly thought she was going to die.

“Anne.” Ann was out of breath, unable to stand Anne’s maddening teasing for a second longer. “Please.”

Ann’s eyes slipped closed as Anne’s lips gently sucked at her pulse point, her back arching off the bed as Anne’s fingers moved higher. The first circle of her clit caused a loud cry to rip from Ann’s throat, surely she was going to come within seconds. The build up, the teasing, the anticipation? It was all too much. Ann wrapped her legs around Anne’s torso, her feet digging into the small of her back as she used her thighs to pull Anne closer. Anne tried to ignore the low fire in her belly, the divine feeling of Ann squeezing her, the seam of her boxers rubbing deliciously against her clit as her hips began to roll, but it was too hard.

“Ann.” It wasn’t more than a whisper.

“Oh fuck.” Ann breathed as she immediately understood what Anne was asking for.

Trailing her hand between their sweaty bodies, Ann slipped her fingers under the waistband of Anne’s black boxers. The second they made contact with Anne’s clit, the pair of them moaned in unison as they settled into a fast and rough rhythm.

“You’re gonna make me come.” Anne panted, her eyes closing. “I can’t hold it off.”

Ann’s lips parted as she began climbing her peak alongside the woman above her. She couldn’t even be sure how long they’d been shagging, couldn’t have been more than ten minutes, surely, and already they were both climaxing. Together. This beat all of Ann’s fantasies hands down.

“I’m…” Ann cried out as she bucked her hips in time with Anne’s hand, feeling the first warm wave of her release on the horizon. “Fuck, I’m coming.”

Anne groaned above her, closing her eyes as her own release threatened to overwhelm her. “Me too.” She managed to choke out as her body shuddered, every nerve buzzing as her climax spread throughout her body.

Ann cried out loudly as her fingers gripped tighter around Anne’s shoulder, holding on for life as her body arched at the intense pleasure racing through her veins.

For a few seconds, the only noise in the room was their heavy breathing. Anne had collapsed onto Ann, their bodies slick with sweat, their two hearts hammering in unison. As they returned to their senses, Ann lightly scratched Anne’s scalp, rousing her from where she’d settled against her chest. She lifted herself up with her arms, a grin spreading across her face as they gazed at each other.

“Fuck.” Ann sighed before laughing.

“Hm.” Anne agreed.

The way Ann licked her lips, the soft creep of pink across her cheeks, the almost imperceptible twitch of her eyebrow made Anne’s head swim. Her evident arousal was intoxicating. They’d barely finished and Ann was ready for more.

“Ann, I…” Anne bit the inside of her cheek and dropped her head low.

“Hey.” Ann’s tone was soft as she tried to catch Anne’s lowered gaze.

Anne was embarrassed, surely the last thing a woman wanted after sex was to have a discussion about feelings. Anne shook her thoughts away swiftly, pushing them down again, she didn’t need to ruin the moment.

“Nothing.” Anne smiled and lifted herself up to capture Ann’s lips.

Ann immediately turned her head, pulled back and crooked an eyebrow.

Anne sighed. She’d fucked this moment up entirely, why did she always have to get so full on? Why did she have to feel everything so intensely? Why couldn’t she just be happy with a good shag and leave? That’s all Ann wanted, surely?

“What’s going on in that big brain of yours?” Ann brushed her thumb over Anne’s cheek, the gesture only served to melt Anne’s heart further.

“The thing is…” Anne took a deep breath. “I like you, Ann.”

Ann smiled. “I like you too.”

“No, I mean, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you. You entirely unhinge me every time I show up to work. You’re clever and funny and interesting and…” Anne sighed, she was aware she was messing this up. “I guess what I’m trying to say is that I really like you.”

Ann could feel the tears welling in her eyes as she wondered if the impenetrable and stoic Anne Lister could get any cuter? There was nothing else for it, she had no choice. She launched forward and took Anne’s face in her hands, pulling her upwards into a deep kiss. Anne squeaked in surprise before settling into Ann, it felt like coming home as they moved together.

“You’re ridiculous.” Ann laughed against Anne’s lips teasingly before kissing her again. “I really like you too. Don’t go back to London.” Ann kissed Anne quickly before she could react. She’d wanted to ask her to stay for days but hadn’t been able to pluck up the courage. Ann immediately felt vulnerable, her heart was exposed, what if Anne said no? Squeezing her eyes shut, she tilted her head to deepen the kiss, hiding from the chance of rejection for as long as she could.

Anne finally broke off before she began grinning. “Oh we are a pair aren’t we?”

“How do you mean?” Ann frowned.

“Well, we shagged once and I immediately professed my feelings for you and you’ve just asked me to move hundreds of miles. You’ve got to admit, it’s pretty lesbian of us.” Anne chuckled.

“Oh.” As the realisation occurred to Ann, they both broke into a fit of laughter. Anne was right, they were both ridiculous.  

For a long while, they stayed in the warmth of knowing they both felt the same, nestled in each other’s arms. Anne couldn’t recall a time where she’d felt this calm. Ann had entwined their hands, swaying them softly above their heads as she followed their movement with a smile.

“What are you thinking about?” Anne broke the silence.

“Well.” Ann took in a breath.

Anne licked her lips, had she imagined it or had Ann’s nipples hardened? The pink flush was back on her cheeks, her breathing had quickened.

“Hm?” Anne said, remaining coy.

“Can we go back to mine?”

Anne laughed, the question catching her off guard. “Why, does cramped budget-hotel chic not do it for you?”

Anne’s laughter died the second she saw the way Ann was looking at her. Arousal coursed through her body anew as Ann licked her lips, her chest rising and falling deeply, her eyes black with desire. Anne groaned as she crawled upwards, rolling her hips into the perfect woman beneath her. For a few seconds, Anne was entirely lost to the divine press of Ann’s lips, her fingers tangling in her hair, the brush of Ann’s tongue against her own. It wasn’t until Ann cradled her face in her hands and pulled away that Anne was able to focus again.

“Take me home.” Ann whispered.

As Anne scrambled to collect their clothes from the floor with that devilish smirk on her face, Ann’s heart bloomed. She couldn’t honestly remember the last time she was excited to go home. After weeks of living in the office, she’d entirely distanced herself from the cold and lonely house she once loved. With Anne, everything felt different. The world made sense. There was so much to discuss, so many things to iron out but what Ann Walker was certain of was that she wanted Anne by her side. For all of it.

“Do you know, before this case, I was planning on taking a couple of weeks off.” Ann was half talking to herself as she patiently waited for Anne to zip her dress back up.

“Oh?” Anne muttered as she searched for her other shoe.

“Two weeks in the sun, great food, good wine…” Ann trailed off, was this too soon?

Anne stifled her laughter as she walked over to where Ann was standing.

“Miss Walker, are you asking me to go on a mini break with you?” Anne’s eyes danced as she grinned wildly. “Because, I mean, that would be very on-brand for us.”

Ann swatted Anne’s stomach playfully as she tutted. “Perhaps I’ve changed my mind. Why would I want to go away with a brute like you anyway?”

“A brute!” Anne roared with laughter before she backed Ann towards the bed again.

“You are a brute.” Ann looped her arms around Anne’s neck, leaning in to press a kiss to her lips. “But what do you say? Two weeks in Sardinia.” Ann kissed her again. “No work.” And again. “No interruptions.” Once more.

“Yes.” Anne breathed as she gently pressed Ann onto her back and kissed her deeply.

Ann moaned as Anne trailed her mouth down her neck, nipping at her collarbone before moving further down and settling between Ann’s legs. Anne’s hot breath against the inside of her left thigh made Ann writhe on the sheets in anticipation. She cried out as Anne grazed her teeth over the sensitive skin before she felt the sudden, unexpected rush of cool air.

“Come on.” Anne stood up, holding her hand out.

“You don’t play fair.” Ann muttered as she did her best to get her limbs to work.

“This was your request, my love.”

Ann’s heart soared at Anne’s choice of words as she slipped on her shoes and grabbed her bag from the table. Maybe this was all moving a little fast but Ann found she didn’t care. She was happy to see where this adventure would lead and she had a feeling Anne felt the same. Life was short, what was the point in waiting? As she watched Anne button up her jacket, she knew, in that very moment, that her world would never be the same again.