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Be Here, By Me

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They've slipped apart in sleep, but no sooner has Gill stirred enough to turn the alarm off than a warm arm slides around her middle, and Julie's sleepy voice makes an incoherent noise into her hair. Gill's awake immediately, as always - like a bird with the dawn, Julie says, while she is more of a bear, all soft but growly until she gets her morning hit of caffeine. Even so, Gill arches back into the touch, enjoying the warmth and the remembered but still not quite familiar sensation of waking up with someone.

"Big day," she whispers. "We shouldn't linger."

"Mmf," comes Julie's response, as she tugs Gill closer. "Too warm. Not moving." Julie's hand splays across Gill's middle, fingers curling, a clumsy sort of caress, but one that still makes a curl of heat shimmer through Gill's body. She enjoys this sort of unfamiliar, too - touch new enough to send desire sparking through her at any time, regardless of how well satiated she was the night before. She wants to kiss Julie against the wall, the bed, the kitchen counter. Wants to take her, be taken, in all of those places and maybe the shower as well, and who knew she had this in her? That they had it in them? Not for the first time, Gill is full of the contradiction of wishing they could have had this years ago, could have avoided all the times when things were hard, and being grateful, glad, that things have worked out exactly as they are, both of them a little more self-aware, a little less volatile, than they were when they were younger.

Gill's hand stretches back, curls around Julie's hip and pulls her close, but really, she didn't set the alarm early enough for all that (something to remember in future, perhaps), and also she needs the loo.

"Better move," she murmurs, rolling and half dislodging Julie's arms, "mustn't be late. Don't want to get bollocked by the boss; she's scary."

Julie's eyes are half-closed, her face crinkled with sleep, but her lips twitch into a crooked smile at Gill's words. "She's forgiving, but only if you kiss her good and proper."

"Oh, is that how it is?" Gill murmurs, smoothing a strand of mussed hair away from Julie's face and raking her fingers back through it. "Bought with a kiss. You sell yourself short, I think."

Gill does, though, leans down and kisses her, long and lazy. Julie's hand curls around her shoulder, and by god Gill wants to stay in bed, but the world won't wait. "Going for a shower," she whispers when she breaks away.

By the time she gets out, Julie's properly awake, robe-wrapped and cup of tea in hand, under the covers with her iPad on her knee. "Made you a brew," she says, nodding toward the mug sitting on the dresser. There's a saucer resting on top to keep the warmth in.

"When do you move in?" Gill asks, smiling as she picks it up.

"Oh, I'm only domestic when it helps me get in your pants," Julie responds, draining her own mug before sliding out of the bed and heading for the shower herself.

When Gill opens the wardrobe to select her clothes for the day, she can't help but smile to see the other side full of Julie's pant-suits and shirts, the two pairs of pointy heels parked beneath them. She knows this isn't permanent - truth be told she's not sure she's ready for it to be permanent, not yet - but she does like the sight of their things casually occupying shared space. This isn't the first time they've shared Gill's home - she remembers three weeks after she first kicked Dave out, Julie bringing a bag and setting up camp in the spare room, being there where Dave wasn't to make sure Sammy got off to school okay and Gill remembered to eat. This isn't even the first time they've shared a bed. Gill remembers a hotel in Portsmouth, finding out she was pregnant again six months after joining the Crime Faculty; remembers losing it on the job and crying over the phone to Dave, who was useless, then Julie, who got straight in her car and drove clear across the country to be with Gill for the night. She bundled Gill into bed, stroked her hair and held her while she shook, while all the irrational demons of did I not want this enough, was I too concerned about what it meant for my job threatened to eat her alive. There was a desperate, needy sort of intimacy in all that, but this - shirts and skirts hanging next to each other and discarded on the floor after they've peeled them off each other - this is not something they've had before, and Gill rather likes it.

She chooses her outfit, dresses, and is in front of the bedroom mirror doing her makeup when Julie emerges from the shower. The task takes Gill considerably longer than usual with Julie moving back and forth semi-clothed through her field of vision, here buttoning her crisp business shirt over silky black bra, there sitting on the bed to slip a short, sheer stocking over her toes in preparation for shoes, all rather pleasantly distracting.

"Do you want breakfast?" Gill asks as she finishes, right in time for Julie to need the mirror. Julie doesn't always eat breakfast, but today she flashes Gill a grin.

"Definitely. I'm ravenous after last night."

A quirk of the eyebrow and a curl of the lips. "Glad to know I'm good for your appetite. Any requests?"

Julie is unzipping her makeup bag, glances up. "Full fry-up? Eggs Benedict?" She smiles. "Whatever you're having is fine."

"Good," Gill responds, heading for the door. "Can tell you've never lived with a teenage boy. Bacon has a shelf life of about two hours." She takes both their empty mugs with her to the kitchen.

Gill's usual is yoghurt with muesli and fresh fruit. She sets two bowls, two spoons on the bench and flicks the kettle on again as she prepares the meal. Julie appears as she's rinsing the fruit - a mix of blue and blackberries, today - and slips past her to where the kettle is starting to boil. She smells like a forest, piney and woodsy and green, and her fingers trail across Gill's back as she moves.

"What is it?" she asks, glancing at what Gill's concocting as she drops teabags into mugs.

"The Gill Murray workday special. Tasty, but entirely uninteresting to young PCSOs up at midday after their night shift."

Julie smiles. "Like espionage, that is. Disguise delicious as healthy, sneak in under cover of dark. Remain undetected by the enemy."

Gill laughs. "You've got it exactly, and that's not even getting into the hidden caches of chocolate and crisps." She spreads the muesli over the yoghurt, tops it off with the fruit and takes the bowls to the table as Julie finishes off the tea. "We'll probably have to go shopping at some point, by the way."

Julie pours milk into the mugs, stirs, speaks over the chime of spoon against crockery. "If this case cracks open like we think it will, and I bring my lads in, I can get one of them to do it, if you like. They're well-trained."

Julie carries the mugs to the table, sets them down and takes the chair opposite Gill, who can feel the amusement on her face. "What, bickering over spiral versus shell pasta is too domestic for you?"

"Prefer animal shapes, myself," Julie replies.



Gill sips her tea, picks up her spoon. "Think there's a way of asking a lad to do shopping for both of us without it being a huge flashing roadside billboard advertising our new status? Given that we ostensibly work with detectives, after all."

Julie takes a mouthful of breakfast, nods in approval as she chews. "I think you're underestimating the power of your presumed heterosexuality, but I suppose it would be better to avoid being the gossip."

"Sammy can do it, if we don't have time. Minus the secret stash, obviously." They don't want to be the gossip of the station, but Gill had the necessary conversation with Sammy shortly after all this began, and he took it in his stride, barely batting an eyelid. As long as you don't talk to me about the sex bits, I'm glad you're happy, Mum. You always made each other laugh, and I've always liked her, so. He shrugged his shoulders, went back to his Xbox, and that was that. Gill remembers blinking, nodding, leaving the room slightly dazed, but Sammy's been as good as his word. There's been no awkwardness, no sullen silence or whispering to his father; he even joined them for drinks and a stand-up show one night. Gill tries not to be constantly surprised by how proud she is of the man she's managed to raise, but sometimes she really can't help it.

They descend into companionable silence, then, eating their breakfast, and it's not until the plates are rinsed and the teacups drained, until they've both collected their work gear and their separate sets of car keys, that the day really looms large and long in front of them.

"Faces on, then?" Gill asks, standing by the door.

"Just a moment," Julie says, and moves forward. Her arm curls around Gill's waist, tugs her close, kisses her soundly. The thrill arcs through Gill, a surge of heat that warms her to her fingertips, and as their breath mingles for a moment afterward, it seems they're both clinging to it, willing it to sustain them through a difficult day.

"All right," Julie says, releasing Gill, "faces on."

They both take a breath, square their shoulders, and head out the door.


It's a day for faces. Julie spends her morning in a press conference with Karen Zalinski, and midday sees them squatting over a third open grave with Mary Jackson, staring at the remains of their seventh victim.

"Just from the size of the pelvis you can see there, I'm willing to say this is another male, and he was probably about the same age as the others."

Gill and Julie sigh simultaneously. Seven bodies, and still no Sheila. Gill stands up and moves away, or as away as she can get within this horrible little hole of a place. A moment later, Julie follows, touches her elbow. "You all right?" she asks.

Gill glances across the room, at the graves and the remains laid out alongside them, shakes her head. "Yeah," she says, aware that that's a contradiction, but it's an apt one. There is nothing all right about this, but she's not about to keel over or anything. "Yeah, I'm all right. Just, they're Sammy's age, aren't they? All of them. And I'm glad they're like this, really - the horror's removed when they're just bones - but I keep thinking about all those parents who lost their sons and never knew what happened. Thirty years, Jesus."

"Yeah," Julie answers, but Gill can tell from her eyes, voice, that she isn't feeling this at all. She's disassociated, like Gill usually is at a crime scene, thinking about how to push this forward, what the next steps are, how to win this one. Gill envies her the focus, but wants her to understand, too. They're standing where the mattress was, before the crime scene technicians took it away. Behind Julie's shoulder, iron rings are fastened to the wall. It's where they think Joe Bevan tethered them, either while he assaulted them or while he killed them - they won't know likely cause of death until Mary's got the remains back to her lab.

"I just," Gill says, gesturing at the wall, at the graves. "Who's going to be held responsible for this? Joe Bevan's already away, he's going to spend the rest of his life inside for killing Eunice. How…?" Her hands ball into fists, press against each other. "How do we make up for all the years they got to spend watching telly and collecting their bloody pensions while seven people rotted in the floor?"

"We can't," Julie says, but her eyes show more of an understanding now. She doesn't let it sound in her voice, though. "Think you're a bit claustrophobic, love. Come on, it's about time we went upstairs and called the troops. Mary, is there anything more you need us for, down here?"

It takes Mary a moment to even register that the question was directed at her. "No," she says, looking up at them. "I'll be here a while. I'm sure you've more pressing things to do than watch me pick bones out of the dirt." She reaches into the grave to retrieve one, and that's all the attention they get.

"Come on, then," Julie says, and leads the way back upstairs.


When they get back to the station, Janet and Rob are in watching Rachel's interview with Joe Bevan, so they pop into the observation suite for an update.

"It's slow going," Rob says. "He's got no idea how any of those bodies got there, it must have been Eunice and the girls, that sort of thing."

"Telling, though," Janet adds. "Eunice and Helen and Julie, but not Sheila. Either he had a favourite daughter, or he left her off because in his head she's already dead when all this happens."

Rob nods, glancing at Janet. He looks impressed, like someone who's just learned something, and Gill is pleased. He'll go far if he's willing to learn from those more experienced than him rather than throwing his weight around, and so far there are no signs of that.

"If she was," Julie says, pulling Gill away from the thought, "she wasn't in the cellar. Where've you put her?" She peers at the screen, lips pursed.

"If she's in the house, we'll know soon enough," Gill says.

Rob glances at the notes he's made in the book in front of him. "We've got Gerry McGonagall coming in in a few hours. Who should sit in on that one?"

"I will," Julie says, not missing a beat, and Gill feels her head turn, eyebrow arch.

"Gerry McGonagall? Why?" She asks before it even occurs to her not to. It's not a very important interview, in the scheme of things, but it's not up to Gill to question the SIO's motivations, and she regrets it instantly, trying to fill the following beat of silence with the right kind of apologetic expression, not wanting to draw any more attention to the moment than she already has. Rob's oblivious, noting Julie's answer down, but Gill sees Janet's head come up, watching.

Julie's face tightens, but when her eyes meet Gill's it seems she sees the apology in her eyes, because she looks away again, flips her hands, slips them under her arms as she folds them.

"I'd like to know as much about Helen Bartlett as possible," she says, "since I've recommended she not be charged." Her voice is confident but her body language is out of sync with it, and Gill feels even more awkward knowing that if anyone else had asked that question, they'd have got a terse response at best.

"Right," Gill says, attempting a smooth recovery. "Of course. Is there anywhere I need to be, Rob?"

"Not specifically," he answers, consulting his notes again.

"I'll be upstairs making a dent in our mountain of paperwork, then."

"Right," all three of them answer. Rob and Julie are watching the screen, where Joe Bevan fumbles to answer another of Rachel's probing questions, but Janet's eyes meet hers for a moment before she steps out of the room, and her face has curious interest written all over it.


That's how they'll get away with it, that failure of your imagination.

Gill has to get out of her office. Moments after Julie departs, Gill pushes her chair back as well, slips out her door and down the corridor, as fast as she can without running.

It's cool in the stairwell, cool and quiet and empty. Gill wraps her hands around the bannister, lets it earth her. She feels hot in the cheeks - anger, something else - takes a few deep breaths to calm down.

She'll forgive Julie, Gill decides that right then. She was probably fresh off the phone with someone giving her a bollocking, asking questions that neither of them could answer. Gill can forgive her those hastily spoken words, quickly retracted, but it doesn't solve the larger problem, that there is someone on Gill's team she can't trust, someone she should have spotted long before now.

Who? Gill doesn't make mistakes, not at work. Doesn't misjudge people, and yet here is the evidence that she has. Her first thought is Rob, the unknown quantity, but that's not fair, and that tidbit about the prostitute is from months ago. When would he have had time to dig up the minor detail of an alibi from a months-old case? No, this is someone who's been with her syndicate the whole time.

It's so far from what she needs, to be worrying about this on top of everything else, that she nearly laughs. She feels it bubbling in her, a ridiculous hysterical cackle, but the urge cuts off sharply when the stairwell door opens behind her and Janet bustles through.

"Boss," Janet says, stopping short. "Everything all right?"

Gill turns to face her, although one hand stays anchored around the stair rail. "Yeah," she says, "just needed some air, is all."

"What was all that about, just now?" Janet jerks her head in the general direction of the office, which tells Gill that the entire team heard at least part of her exchange with Julie. Wonderful.

"You look like you were in a hurry somewhere," Gill says, not wanting to keep Janet from work.

"Heading downstairs," she says. "There's a bloke down there who says he lodged with the Bevans back in the 70s. He's been here two hours, though, and he's drunk, apparently, so he'll keep for another thirty seconds. What's up?"

Gill hesitates. It's not something she should be sharing with the team, but the day she can't trust Janet Scott is the day the world comes to an end. "We've got a leak," she says. "Someone's been talking to the press."

Janet's eyes widen. "Jesus. One of ours?"

"Has to be," Gill answers. "Helen Bartlett's prostitute? Who else would know?"

Janet shakes her head. "I can't... Who would...?"

"Asking myself the same question," Gill says, with a sigh. She draws herself up in the next moment, though. "It's all right, we'll get to the bottom of it. It's just the last thing I need, on top of..." She trails off.

"On top of taking orders from your friend?" Janet asks, with that knowing little half-smile of hers. "Or..." She searches Gill's face. "Is there something else, there? You seem different with each other lately."

Gill cants her head back, eyes her friend with a slightly narrowed gaze. "You don't miss much, do you, Miss Marple?"

"Well, I was a bit surprised when she didn't have a sarcastic rejoinder for you earlier."

"Oh," Gill says, "she's well and truly made up for that, believe me. She'll be hearing about that, don't you worry."

Janet smiles. "I bet. Don't envy you, though. It can be complicated, working together."

Yes, Janet would know all about that, wouldn't she? "It's fine. Temporary. We'll get through it."

Janet doesn't respond, watches Gill, an amused sort of light in her eyes. "So does that mean you're playing for the other team now? Should we expect to see you wearing plaid in future?"

Gill laughs. "God, I don't know what it means. Start talking about that and I'll keep you here for half an hour." She takes her hand off the banister, thoroughly grounded by Janet now, waves toward the stairs. "Go on, off with you. Go forth and bring me something I can use to convince our fearless leader that Helen Bartlett isn't a puppy in need of rescue."

Janet's started to move, but she stops at Gill's words, turning back. The amusement is gone from her eyes, replaced by another expression entirely. "You're really not happy with this calling her a witness bit, are you?"

Gill sighs. "Thirty years, those bodies were down there. Imagine all the parents who would be sleeping easier now, if she'd just said something. They've only skeletons to bury. Someone has to answer for that pain."

Janet looks at Gill the way she looks at people in interviews, like she can see into their soul. "Should it be Helen, though?" she asks, and vanishes down the stairs.


Gill feels vindicated after the information Janet presents at the briefing - Helen Bartlett maybe not so innocent after all - but Julie is sombre as they retreat back into the office. Preoccupied. She sinks down into the chair behind the desk they've set up for her - today outfitted with a computer and a phone of her own - but doesn't turn toward it, instead pressing the tips of her fingers together and staring at nothing.

"Hey," Gill says, slipping into her own chair, "it's not too late to change your recommendation, if it turns out Helen had more to do with what went on in that house than we thought."

Julie looks up, shakes her head just slightly. "I'm not sure I want to. Not sure I buy it. Eleven, twelve years old they must have been, at best, if we're presuming Michael was killed last. Even if they did participate in some way, we can't call that willing." Julie shudders.

"Maybe not in the assault," Gill says, "but if they had a part in the murders..."

Julie's eyes are hard when they meet Gill's. "You keep thinking about these girls you've got in court. They acted of their own volition, robbing that woman and killing her. It was entirely contained, no outside influence, their responsibility. But if you're eleven and your mother or father hands you a knife and says cut this person, that's not the same thing. If you've been abused, mentally, physically, sexually, for years, how can you have any sense of what's right in that situation? You'd be entirely focused on survival."

Gill sighs, feels her lips tighten. It's complicated, yes, she knows that, but she can't get behind this idea of innocence Julie has. "Why wouldn't you tell someone? A teacher, a friend's parent, anyone? I can't understand that."

"Be glad you're lucky enough not to," Julie says.

Gill peers at Julie for a few moments, doesn't reply because she's in danger of saying something insensitive and personal. No, Gill doesn't know about being scared to go home every night, but she knows more than Julie does about growing up with not enough, or only just enough, and living in the kind of domestic situation that creates. She knows about working hard, not giving up, dragging herself up out of it until she'd created the life she wanted. She knows that was a difficult thing to do. She'd done it, though, and people did every day. Having a rough life was not an excuse for violent crime.

Julie's thoughts seem to have gone off in a different direction, though, a change of subject that Gill is grateful for. "I wish they'd stop saying 'Julie and Helen' in the same breath like that, by the way. Does my head in, every time." She fingers the gold rings on her left hand.

"You think that's strange?" Gill asks, with a smile. "You should try working with Dave."

Julie snorts. "I'll pass on that, thanks." Seemingly on the subject of partners and work, though, she looks at Gill again. "I'm sorry about before, too. Again."

Gill remembers Julie's Helen, the first girlfriend she ever met. It had been a serious relationship, the kind you have in your early twenties when you've emerged from school and found a job and started to realise how paired-up the world is, and eagerly sought out your own experience of that for the first time. It had ended around the same time as Gill's own very similar relationship with a man called Jack (probably a good thing that one had gone, a few years of people making nursery rhyme jokes were enough for a lifetime). Going out drinking together when they were both newly, not entirely happily single had been some of the most formative months of Gill and Julie's enduring friendship.

'Fuck it, though,' Gill remembers slurring one night, one or two (or five) too many pints under her belt. 'We've got the job, the career, going to make it to the top, who the hell needs anything else?'

'Cheers to that!' Julie responded, lifting her glass in salute. 'Marry the job! Mrs Detective Chief Superintendent, that's how it should be.'

Gill laughed, raised her glass. She wasn't really serious, though at the time the idea was appealing. Later that night, though, once the booze wore off enough to make them tired but not quite enough to make them sane, Julie let her head fall onto Gill's shoulder and said 'We should, you know, marry the job. I've got the rings and everything. My mother left me hers in her will, and I'm never going to find a bloke like she hoped. I should do something with them before my sister Kate asks to have them, greedy bitch. There's two. You want to marry the job with me?'

'All right, yeah,' Gill answered, though really she expected the conversation to be forgotten. A few months later, though, they returned to Julie's after a retirement party for one of the senior officers at their nick, and after they'd spilled onto the settee for a while, Julie rose and retrieved a small box from a drawer, told Gill to sit up. When she did, Julie crawled back on, opened the box to show Gill two gold rings, one smaller than the other.

'I had it resized for you,' she said, taking the larger ring and extending her hand so Gill could take the second. It was a sudden change in mood, the lightness of the evening turned serious, but it was an appropriate night for it, since they'd just watched one of their mentors farewell a fulfilling career.

'They were your Mum's?' Gill asked as she picked up the smaller one, laying it in her palm and feeling strange about it, like it should have felt heavier for that weight, like this wasn't hers to take.

'Yeah,' Julie said, smiling in an earnest, hopeful way. 'I want you to have it, though. We'll be in it together, married to our work.' She slipped the ring onto her left hand, held it up to the light. 'Mrs Detective. Well, eventually, anyway. I'll get there.'

'Should you kiss your warrant card? Say some vows?' Gill asked, smiling.

'After you,' Julie said, nodding at Gill's hand.

The mirth went out of Gill, then. She took a breath, looked down at the gold band in her palm, and suddenly the air in the room seemed thicker, warmer than before. Perhaps part of her knew that it meant more to Julie than marrying the job, that if she took it they'd be making a pledge to each other as well. Certainly she knew that things were changing, that two weeks earlier she'd gone on a date with Dave Murray and she sort of, maybe, really liked him. Whatever it was she knew for sure, she definitely couldn't do it, and when she looked up at Julie again her hands were shaking, and all of it was written in her eyes.

'Slap, I…' she whispered, a sentence she couldn't finish.

Julie smiled, though, a little sad but still warm. 'It’s all right,' she said. 'Put it on me. It'll fit on my pinkie.' She held out her hand, and Gill, still trembling a bit, slid the ring onto her little finger, where it fit snugly.

'Mrs Detective,' Gill said, and Julie's fingers curled around her hand.

'For my Mum,' Julie whispered, 'who died before she knew that her eldest daughter was a great big dyke. I hope I can be as dedicated to police work as she was to family.'

Gill remembers hugging her, then, all awkwardness forgotten. Julie has worn the rings ever since.

"It's all right," Gill says, smiling at her now. "You've forgiven me for more."