Janet waves off the last group of guests – a bunch of cops from Gill's Crime Faculty days, pissed as and off to find a club; she'd heard them trying to convince Gill to join them and worried she'd have to go along as well – and closes the door behind them, relieved. She can sense the exhaustion pulling at the edges of her own pleasant, boozey buzz; it's going on midnight and she is definitely feeling her age. Gill's half-serious whingeing about turning forty has Janet – who's been trying to pretend she's not a few months older, thankyouverymuch – feeling a little hard done by.
Still, the size and rowdiness of the party was good, she thinks. The number of people who'd shown up for Gill – not just Crime Faculty blokes and members of her own syndicate, but officers from forces she'd visited and assisted – had been a very public show of solidarity, with Dave's betrayal still fresh. Of course, it had also been a reminder that the Murray split had been the hot goss among half the country's police. Gill swung between manic and morose all evening. She managed to keep the worst of it under control, but Janet saw, and saw too how much Gill was drinking.
There's a clink behind her. Janet turns from where she's been staring at the latch and looks through to the lounge. Julie Dodson is there, gathering up pints and wine glasses; she straightens, arms full, and catches Janet's gaze.
"Where's Gill?" Dodson demands.
"Thought she was with you," Janet says, barely swallowing the 'boss' off the end of her sentence. For all that they've both been friends of Gill's for ages, Janet's always seen Dodson as an officer first, a person second. The terrifying stories out of Syndicate Three haven’t warmed Janet to her any, even if she does suspect they're amplified by Dodson's refusal to hide her sexuality. Unlike too many of Manchester's finest, Janet couldn't give a fig whether Dodson's straight, gay, or dappled with purple spots; what gets her is the way Dodson always seems to hold herself a bit away from Janet, almost snubbing her. It's been worse since Janet joined Gill's syndicate, or maybe just since Gill's divorce.
"Shit, I thought you had her." Dodson looks down at the pile of glassware in her arms, then back up at Janet, panicked. It's more emotion than Janet's ever seen from her. Must be the beer, Janet thinks unkindly.
"I'll just go find her then," Janet says soothingly, before Dodson can dump the washing up on her.
Drunk as she is, Janet knows where Gill will be. This close to the solstice, it's still mild out, the sky soft with twilight even this late. Gill fought to keep the house in the divorce because of the garden and its views, and Janet finds her sat on the back steps, watching the moon over the moor.
"Aren't you cold?" she asks, sitting next to Gill and seeing the goosebumps on her bare arms.
"Hm?" Gill turns her whole torso to look at Janet, squinting with the effort of focusing. Jesus, she's beyond pissed, Janet thinks, seeing the rest of her weekend stretch out before her: sick duty in the loo all night, keeping Gill's head out of the bog, followed by a day of hungover misery for the both of them. This was meant to be a break from cleaning up sick and listening to whining. Wasn't that just bloody brilliant.
"So how's it feel, being forty?" she asks with a little more bite than she'd normally allow herself.
Gill frowns, her nose wrinkling. "'M not," she protests. "Not till morning."
"If you say so." Janet snorts. "Going on forty, then."
Gill makes such a disgusted face, Janet thinks for a moment she'll be sick right there. "I hate it," she says instead, petulant as Elise getting up on school days. "Forty. Ugh."
"Well, thank you ever so," Janet says, needled into offence. "Think I've got it bad as all that, do you?"
Gill looks at her, so obviously stricken that Janet's immediately ashamed of her outburst. At least Gill probably won't remember any of this in the morning.
"Not you," Gill says earnestly, and Janet cringes, suddenly afraid she knows where this is going. "Look at you. You've a gorgeous family, Janet, you have it all, and Ade thinks you're everything, you know he does. But me." Gill slumps, looking even tinier than usual. "Single mum. Lost the best job I'll ever have. Lost Sammy half the hols, off with the prick and his whore."
Oh, Lord. Janet doesn't want the night to end like this, for Gill's sake as much as her own. She digs Gill in the ribs with an elbow, making her sit up straight, and winks exaggeratedly. "Hey, just think, yeah, all Manchester's most eligible bachelors, all yours for the taking."
Gill laughs a little. "Who'd want me, though? Going on forty and all."
"Don't be daft," Janet says, meaning it. "You don't look a day over going on twenty-five."
"Yeah?" Gill stretches her legs out in front of her, peering at them tipsily. She pats her cheeks and runs her fingers down her throat. "You think so?"
"Oh, yeah," Janet says fervently. Behind her, she hears the latch click, Dodson finally come out to see where they are. "Bet Julie thinks so too," Janet says, throwing the other woman under the bus without a second's hesitation.
"Thinks what?" Dodson asks, wary, as she comes around in front of them. She's got a pint in one hand; brave woman, still drinking, but she must have a better tolerance at her height.
"Thinks Gill's still sexy enough to pull any bloke she wants, going on forty or not," Janet says, grinning. Dodson splutters into her beer and Janet feels a rush of giddiness at rattling her.
"Janet says I look like I could be going on twenty-five," Gill says before Dodson can respond. "What d'ya reckon, slap?" She fluffs her hair and leans forward, elbows on her knees and eyelashes fluttering.
Dodson coughs, then laughs helplessly, and Janet could've told her that's the worst possible response, can see Gill literally deflating next to her. "God," Dodson says, hiccupping from laughing so hard. "Going on twenty-five, why stop there? Going on seventeen, more like. Mental, the both of you."
Gill presses her lips together and throws her head back. "Fuck off," she says, and Dodson stops laughing abruptly. "Fuck off, I've still got it, I do," she says, steamrollering over Dodson's stammered attempts to apologise. She jumps up and strides unsteadily out into the garden. "Them in the clubs'll be lucky if I let them have a dance," she tells them loudly.
"That's the spirit," Janet cheers.
"I could be, like," Gill says, swaying on her feet. "I could be going on seventeen, just need a good man, a good time."
"Gill," Dodson says warningly, but it's Janet's turn to drown her out, yelling "You tell 'em!" and applauding as she watches Gill's smile grow wider and wider.
"They won't know what to do with me!" Gill shouts, yanking her top over her head and jumping up on one of the raised flowerbeds. She strikes a power pose, waving her shirt like a flag. Her red bra stands out against her pale skin in the moonlight.
Janet takes one look and buries her head in her knees, howling with laughter till she can't breathe. Gill's laughing, too, twirling along the edge of the flowerbed in a way she probably couldn't manage sober, and – God, she's actually singing now, that stupid song from Sound of Music, which sets Janet off on another round of giggles. But Dodson... Janet sits up, wiping tears of laughter from her eyes. Dodson's watching Gill, face carefully blank. Oh, Janet thinks suddenly. So that's how it is.
"Hey," Janet says softly, and Dodson startles, looking down abruptly. "Think we can calm her down before the neighbours start complaining?" she asks, tilting her head towards Gill. Dodson looks at her suspiciously, and Janet smiles a little. "We ought to get her inside before she's sick on the flowers, too."
Dodson heaves a long-suffering sigh. "Yeah, you're probably right," she says – a little wistfully, Janet thinks, then wonders if she's imagining things now. "Here, hold this." She shoves her pint into Janet's hands and strides off towards Gill. Janet looks at the glass for a second, then takes a drink.
"Gill," Dodson says, approaching like Gill's a suspect who might bolt if she's not handled softly. "Come on, you daft bint, get inside before you catch your death of cold."
Gill hops back, still laughing, still singing, Jesus, Janet didn't know she even knew all the words to the song. "Timid and shy and scared am I, of things beyond my ken," she warbles, completely off-key.
That startles a laugh out of Dodson, who's moving closer, hands up in case Gill falls. "Timid and shy, my arse," she says. "Come on now." She reaches out to Gill, who looks sly for a minute, then drops her shirt and takes Julie's hands.
"You are seventeen, going on eighteen," Gill chants, quieter now. "I'll depend on you." She steps off the flowerbed like a queen descending a staircase, without paying any actual attention to the height she's at. Dodson catches her, staggering back under her weight and finally setting her down on the grass without either of them tipping over.
That deserves another drink, Janet thinks, and has one. Dodson sees that and gives her a sideways look, but with Gill hanging off her arm there's nothing she can do, so Janet just shrugs and drains the pint.
"I don't suppose you want to make yourself useful," Dodson says sourly, nodding at Gill's shirt where it's dropped in the flowerbed. Janet responds to the tone of command without really thinking about it; she's on her feet before Gill interrupts.
"Hey," Gill says, smacking Dodson on the shoulder. The gesture's pretty ineffective, since she's basically using Dodson to stay upright, but she pauses, re-evaluates, and repeats it. "Janet's my DC, not yours – and my friend. Don't talk to her that way."
Dodson grimaces, startled. "Sorry," she says to Janet, briefly but apparently sincerely. "I didn't mean – "
"It's fine," Janet says, coming to pick up the shirt anyway to show willing. "If she's getting shouty, though, maybe you should take her in nearer the loo," she adds with a nod at Gill, who is looking a bit unfocussed.
Dodson's obviously spent enough drunken nights out with Gill to remember the inevitable progression; she frowns down at Gill, then starts moving them purposefully towards the house. "Thanks," she says over her shoulder.
Janet grabs Gill's shirt and stands for a moment, twisting the fabric absently, thinking. She's pretty pissed, if she's honest with herself, but she doesn't think she's imagining it, the way Dodson looks at Gill. Now that she really thinks about it, so much makes sense: Dodson's attack-dog protectiveness after Gill's divorce, her dislike of Dave, even the lack of competition between her and Gill.
Does Gill know? Janet starts inside slowly, pausing to grab the pint glass off the stoop. Probably not – Janet's heard enough about Dodson over the years, but never anything that suggested Gill was aware of Dodson's feelings. Of course, for most of that time she was with Dave and frantically trying to pretend he wasn't tomcatting about. With that sort of reinforcement, she probably wouldn't've noticed had the entire Chippendales calendar dropped on their knees to worship her. And now... Janet winces, thinking of Dodson's misstep earlier. Well, that'll probably keep Gill in the dark, yeah.
Poor Julie, though. Janet stops, trying to remember the last time Julie brought a partner to dinner with them. It doesn't mean much – they didn't socialize as couples nearly as often as they did in groups – but it's been a while, she thinks. Surely Julie's not been pining all that time.
Inside, Janet drops the pint glass with the others by the sink and folds Gill's shirt over a chair. Julie moved most of the mess into the kitchen, but Janet's still not looking forward to dealing with it tomorrow.
Suddenly she hears stumbling footsteps and a heavy thud overhead. She wrinkles her nose at the telltale noise. That'll be Gill in the loo, then, and that's a sign to get up there and hope she hasn't been sick everywhere. Janet probably shouldn't've left her with Julie, just in case.
Upstairs, though, Janet is surprised to see Julie on the floor with Gill, one broad hand cupping her forehead, the other rubbing her bare back. She looks up and sees Janet, but doesn't stop talking soothingly to Gill; Janet can't hear what she says, but it makes Gill laugh weakly in between bouts of retching.
There's a pause as Gill sighs and leans into Julie, and Janet turns on her heel, almost running into Gill's bedroom. The scene seemed somehow intimate, like Janet was eavesdropping on something she shouldn't have been. She doesn’t think too hard about why. Instead she busies herself digging in the wardrobe, looking for Gill's favourite old ratty pyjamas – and then reconsiders and pulls out a newer pair. She putters about, folding down the duvet and fluffing the pillows, and eventually she hears the toilet flush and the water running in the sink.
Gill comes in under her own power, at least, though with Julie following close behind. She flops down on the bed and smiles vaguely in Janet's direction. "Think I'm going to have to call it a night..."
"I should think," Janet says, amused. She glances at Gill's pyjamas, then up to where Julie is still standing near the door. "Could you grab some water?" she asks, careful to keep her face neutral. "And maybe some paracetamol? She should take some before she falls asleep."
Julie stiffens a bit, but nods awkwardly and ducks out the door. Janet grabs the opportunity to help Gill fumble her way out of her clothes and into the pyjamas. Gill's fingers are slow and clumsy, but Janet buttons her up quickly and competently.
"Comes in handy, being a mum, hey?" Gill says.
"Always." Janet tugs Gill's shirt straight and musses her hair, making her duck away with a yelp just as Julie comes through the door. Janet takes the glass and the pills from her and holds them out to Gill. "Now, be a good girl and take your medicine, and I'll tuck you in after," she says.
Gill laughs, but once she's got the pills down she almost needs Janet's help sliding under the duvet. Janet pulls it up under her chin with a pang. Beneath the covers, Gill seems hardly bigger than Taisie. "Get some rest," she says too loudly, covering her anxiety. "You need it now you're forty."
"Not," Gill mumbles, her protest dwindling into incoherence, and Janet smiles, reassured.
"Think she'll be all right?" she asks Julie as they slip out of Gill's room. Julie startles a bit at being addressed, and Janet tries to sound calm. "She's not going to be sick again?"
"I don't think she has enough left in her stomach," Julie says, looking slightly ill herself.
Janet decides not to pursue that line of thought. Instead she nods her head at the stairs. Julie follows her down quietly, and Janet settles on the couch with a sigh. From nights with Gill listening for Sammy, she knows that any noise from upstairs will be audible here – she'll hear if Gill needs her.
And she'll be able to have a conversation with Julie.
She smiles up, trying to look non-threatening, and Julie lowers herself gingerly onto the couch, sitting stiffly as far into the other corner as possible. The silence stretches – but you can use silence, Janet knows, use it to shake people up, put them on the defensive. Janet's comfortable with silence.
Julie, on the other hand, is restless. Her leg jitters; she bites at her thumbnail.
Janet waits till Julie's looking the other way, then breaks the silence. "Looks like we make a good team."
"Huh?" Julie's head snaps around and she looks wide-eyed at Janet.
Janet tries to hide her smirk. "We make a good team, I said." Off Julie's still-blank look, she elaborates. "Gill in bed before two in the morning, nothing broken, no drunken phone calls. I've certainly spent worse nights with her."
Julie makes an undignified noise somewhere between a snort and a laugh. "Yeah, it's good to know she's safe," she says absently.
Janet can see the moment Julie realizes what she's said and the way her lips tighten in suppressed panic. She raises an eyebrow, making sure Julie's watching. "I guess you worry about that a lot, don't you?" she asks boldly. "About Gill, and whether she's all right."
"I – " Julie blinks, mouth working as she tries to come up with an innocuous answer. The alcohol and the weight of Janet's gaze eventually conspire to best her and she slumps against the back of the couch, a wry smile twisting her lips. What surprises Janet, though, is just how relaxed she suddenly looks.
"Gill talks about you all the time, you know," Julie says, seemingly apropos of nothing.
It's Janet's turn to stare blankly. "Sorry?" she offers after a moment.
Julie shakes her head. "Ever since you joined her team, it's been 'Janet, the natural interviewer,' or 'Janet, who figures out what the bastards are hiding before they know themselves,' or..." Julie trails off. "Bloody prodigy, you. Knew you'd find me out, one way or another. So." She stops and looks at Janet levelly. "You going to dob me in or what?"
Janet's first thought is to deny everything now and make a real decision later. It's Gill who deserves her loyalty, after all, Gill who's her friend, not Julie. But Gill always tells her that her instincts are her best tools in the interrogation room – "Especially yours, Janet, they're good, you listen to what your gut tells you." It's her instincts that got her here, sitting on the couch at half one, pissed, with Julie Dodson; maybe on the surface it's not that great a place to be, but it's the right place, she's sure of it. So she lets the silence stretch and she thinks about what her instincts are saying.
Julie... she hasn't tried to deny anything, is the thing. She's just put herself out there – no excuses, no apologies – and Janet knows that's not easy. She can see the cost, even now: Julie's doing her best to stay calm, but her teeth are clenched and there's a tic jumping in her jaw. After an evening surrounded by reminders of Dave... Janet's not sure if she's drunk or just emotional, but it's unexpectedly heartwarming, how much Julie cares about Gill.
"You're sure she doesn't know?" Janet asks. Maybe Gill would've said something, but then, she knows Janet and Julie have mostly rubbed along for her sake; maybe she wouldn't.
Julie starts to shake her head, then stops and shrugs instead. "She's a detective," she says flatly. "If she wanted to know, she would."
Janet's not convinced. For all Gill's razor-sharp when she's on a case, she's not been the most perceptive about her personal life for a long time. But it's not Janet's place to say that, not really, and so she settles for shifting closer to Julie and putting a hand on her shoulder. "You're a good friend," she says earnestly, meaning it even through the alcohol that gives her the courage to say it. "Gill's lucky to have you."
"And vice versa," Julie says sharply, as if Janet's accused her of being ungrateful. "Don't think I'm just – just pining, or wishing, like some teenager. We're all right, me and Gill, as friends. We're grand. It's just sometimes..." Julie trails off, tipping her head back against the couch cushions.
"Yeah," Janet say sympathetically, leaving her hand right where it is. They sit for a moment in silence before Julie turns to Janet.
"So you won't say anything, then?" she asks, eyes locked on Janet's.
"Look, I – " Janet pauses. It's not right to say she doesn't care, or that it's not her business. Gill's one of her best friends, and normally Janet would be keen to help sort things out, if only to keep them from blowing up in everyone's faces. This time, though...
What it comes down to, she thinks, is Julie half-carrying Gill into the house, Julie rubbing Gill's back in the loo, the way Julie's face looks, unguarded, when she talks about Gill. What it comes down to is the way Janet's instincts tell her to trust Julie. She's not surprised to find that she does.
"I won't," she says at last, watching Julie's shoulders slump in relief. "But I think – you shouldn't assume too much about what Gill does or doesn't want to know, is all."
"Yeah, well." Julie sighs at the ceiling. "It'd help if she'd keep her sodding clothes on." She freezes as soon as the words are out of her mouth, her eyes wide with shock at her own candour.
Janet can't help herself; she bursts out laughing. The surprise on Julie's face and the memory of Gill half-naked in the garden bend her double until she's gasping for breath.
It takes Julie a second, but she joins in the laughter until they're both slumped against the back of the chair, exhausted, giggling weakly. "God," Janet manages eventually, "just, no more talking about Gill topless, yeah?"
Julie snorts. "Deal. And..." She hesitates, then plunges ahead. "Thanks, Janet."
Janet leans over, knocking their shoulders together companionably. "Don't mention it," she mumbles, suddenly exhausted.
The last thing she remembers is Julie saying, drily, "Don't worry, I won't," before everything fades away.
The morning comes too suddenly. One moment Janet's floating through wine-soaked dreams of endless train rides; the next she’s awake and wishing she'd turned the lounge light off the night before. Even with her eyes still shut it's too bright. She groans and turns to bury her head in the couch cushions.
The couch squawks and jumps away.
Janet jerks back, her eyes flying open. The light stabs at her and she slams them shut again, clutching her head, but not before she sees Julie in a similar position at the other end of the couch.
Julie! Dodson! Janet grimaces as memories of the night before begin to filter past her hangover. She cracks her eyes open and ventures a glance at Julie. Julie looks back at her, equally wary. Well, there's only one thing to be done. "Want a cuppa?" Janet asks, and Julie nods slowly but fervently.
The jumble of glasses in the kitchen and the stale smell of alcohol makes Janet's stomach turn over. She puts almost too much sugar in her tea, letting it steep strong and black and using the time to gather her thoughts. When she comes back out to the lounge, Julie looks a bit more put together too.
"Thanks," she says awkwardly, taking the tea from Janet.
They sit and sip in silence, not looking at each other, until Janet's struck by a thought. She giggles, nearly spitting out her tea.
"What?" Julie demands, rattled.
"Oh, wait till Ade hears," Janet says, still snickering a little. "Wait'll I tell him I spent the night sleeping with a lesbian. He'll be gutted he missed it."
That startles Julie into a laugh, which sets Janet off again; she has to put her mug down before she spills it. When they catch their breath, the morning-after uncertainty is gone, the rest of the silence comfortable.
Eventually, Julie drains her cup and stands. "I better go," she says apologetically.
"Already?" Janet stands too instead of craning her neck. "But Gill's not even up yet."
"I know." Julie grimaces. "But I didn't mean to stay, and I've things to do. I – " She hesitates, then holds out a hand. "I'll see you soon, I hope?"
Janet takes Julie's hand and pulls her into a hug. It's awkward and stiff and all elbows, but Janet feels better for having done it, even if Julie never quite relaxes into her embrace. "Soon," she says, meaning it and hoping Julie does too.
The door closes behind Julie; Janet looks briefly and despairingly at the wreck of the lounge and the kitchen before deciding that a few hours' kip on the couch did not qualify her to deal with the mess. She plods upstairs, checking on Gill – spark out and snoring lightly – before crawling into the guest room bed, still fully clothed. Even as she falls back asleep, she knows she's only delaying the inevitable.
This time, the scent of tea brings her up slowly from dreams to waking. "Heya, lazybones." The mattress bounces as Gill settles next to her, wafting a fresh brew under her nose. "Wake up and tell me what the hell happened in my kitchen, it's a bloody disaster."
Janet pushes herself to sitting and takes the mug, looking at Gill closely. She seems steady enough, time and tea having worked their restorative miracles. One look, though, and Janet knows she's not going to say anything about Julie. Underneath the steely set of her jaw, Gill's still the same woman driven to drink by her own sadness. Janet's won't say anything to disrupt one of the pillars she knows Gill steadies herself on.
"The kitchen was your Crime Faculty blokes," she says instead. "Got some wild ones there, Gill, I think they might still be making a night of it." The light slanting in the window says it's nearly noon, but Janet's only half-joking.
"That explains the dishes." Gill wiggles under the covers, propping herself up on the headboard next to Janet. "But why the hell's my shirt down there?" She sounds genuinely confused.
Janet can't stop the evil grin she feels spread across her face. "You don't remember?" she asks innocently.
Gill pauses with her mug halfway to her lips. "Shit," she mutters.
"Mm," Janet agrees, sipping her tea with all the pleasure of one who stayed fully clothed the night before. She ignores, for the moment, Gill's increasingly frantic demands for information, thinking instead of Julie's face in her unguarded moments. They could both do worse, Gill and Julie; they both deserve to be happy.
"Now," she says reprovingly as Gill starts swearing at her, "is that any way for a forty-year-old woman to act? Tsk," and she ducks out of Gill's reach, still laughing.