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a disgraceful charm

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The way this goes is the way it always goes: a dame, the leggy type, walks into an office. Only in this case, it’s two dames, admittedly still with a reasonable complement of legs between the two of them. Also, they lock the door behind them, because it’s been a long day.

“What can you do?” Olivia says, shrugging off her coat and tossing it over a filing cabinet.

Esther sighs. “Not that? In fact, almost anything other than that?” She eyes Olivia’s discarded coat, but leaves it where it lies, though she hangs her own neatly on the hook by the door, her hat perched carefully on top of it.

“You’d have me abandon a case? People in need?” Olivia’s hat is still tilted rakishly over her eyes when she sits, swinging her feet up onto her desk, sending a shower of papers drifting to the floor to mingle with the dust bunnies.

“An obvious set up, yes,” Esther mutters, ignoring Olivia’s grin, teeth white against the dark red of her lips, in favour of the spreading stain on her arm, brown in the dim light of the lamp, but unmistakeable.

Olivia bats at her hands as she approaches, and winces when Esther, undeterred, takes a firm grip on her elbow. “It’s only a graze,” she says. “From when I fell in the alley.”

The sleeve looks undamaged, except for the stain; Olivia’s probably not lying. Except that fell is such an inadequate way to put being knocked over by a thug with a gun. Esther squeezes harder as she reaches for the first aid kit with her free hand.

“Have a heart,” Olivia says with a crooked smile, but she doesn’t tug her arm away.

“You have too much of one,” Esther sniffs, rolling Olivia’s sleeve up to get at the graze, which is as shallow as Olivia promised, though bigger than she let on, a swathe of scraped skin all the way down her arm.

“You want me to leave pretty ladies in the lurch? You’re a cruel woman, Miss Figglesworth.”

“Maybe I just want you to stop falling for every sob story you get told,” Esther says. She dabs the iodine more gently than she speaks and it doesn’t mar the soft curve of Olivia’s smile.

“But why would I do that, when it always turns out so well?” She grins at Esther's disapproving look and slugs her playfully on the arm. "A daring rescue by a clever dame seems like things turning out well."

The next swipe of the iodine is less gentle.

Olivia winces. "It was very dashing," she assures Esther huskily.

"You called for backup," Esther says, dry as a bone.

“And you came.”

“Just try to get shot less.”

"As you can see, I live to serve," Olivia says, attempting to gesture at her admittedly temporarily unpierced self, though the full motion is stymied by the firmness of Esther's grip.

It wasn't dashing at all. The thugs must have been even less competent than Olivia's usual if they could be deterred by Esther's appearance in her decidedly unimpressive old car. Even if she'd had Olivia's gun, that car's sightlines would have kept her from taking the shot. Something to bear in mind, when her beater finally dies, she thinks absently.

In any case, Olivia had had the gun, and much use it had been to her from where she'd been knocked behind the trash cans, though she'd certainly had it in hand when Esther came to find her.

"Surely that's enough iodine?" Olivia wheedles.

"I don't know, are you going to rip it open again tomorrow?"

"Not if you ask me not to," Olivia says, slow and syrupy, looking far too pleased for what they're actually doing here. "Anything for a pretty lady."

Esther snorts. "As if you could stop yourself playing the hero."

"I wouldn't call myself a hero," Olivia says, eyes glinting up at Esther. Esther sniffs, and reaches for the gauze.

Olivia's docile while she wraps the scrape, eyes on Esther's hands as they pad and tie, more gently than really fits her mood, but exactly the way she was taught to do it, which takes less thought. "Thanks," Olivia says roughly when Esther pats her finished work. "And for earlier." - her voice getting smoother - "It was good of you to come. Beautiful entrance."

"As if you could see anything from where you were lying." Olivia's hand brushes along the length of Esther's arm as she pulls away from her completed work

"You saved me, must have been beautiful," Olivia says, her hand closing on Esther's wrist. Esther perches on the edge of the desk, and Olivia releases her, her hand falling to hook onto a drawer pull, her thumb resting softly on Esther's anklebone.

“Right,” Esther says. “Well, try not to let it happen again.” She doesn’t move her leg, heel still hooked onto a drawer, Olivia’s hand warm through her stockings.

“But how can you expect me not to when you make it so pleasant for me?” Olivia grins. “If I’m a sucker, what must you be, to follow me around like this?”

“Ill-paid for my troubles,” Esther snaps, going to stand.

“Don’t–” Olivia reaches for her. “I mean, I’m sure I could give you a better incentive to follow me around.” Her voice returns to its former smoothness.

“I’m sure you could give me a better line than that as well.”

Olivia’s smile is rueful, self-deprecating. She’s still lovely like that, Esther thinks and doesn’t quite kick herself. “I could,” Olivia says, “but would it be as much fun?”

Esther doesn’t dignify that with a response. She does allow Olivia to lift her hand and kiss it. “I’d do a full twirl and dip, but I don’t know if my arm’s up to it,” Olivia says, fingers warm on Esther’s wrist, and it’s not an objectively better line, but the tilt of her head invites the laugh and Esther gives in, pulling Olivia upright and dipping her into a long, slow, laughing kiss.