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Let Me Shake Up Your World

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Victoria Asher discovered sometime in high school that she was possibly way too good at lying to people about everything from her opinion of them to her own personality, and by the time she’d gotten through college she’d had half a dozen alter-egos to fit in any given situation and a handful of friends she hadn’t liked all that much but no one else seemed to notice this so she never mentioned it and just let them drift casually out of touch.

Pete says that her skills at lying are what make her so invaluable as an undercover officer. Victoria thinks that they probably make her a sociopath, but she never points this out to him because he’d only send her to their resident psychiatrist even more frequently and she likes Jon and all – it’s kind of hard not to – but there’s such a thing as too much therapy.

For the last three months, she’s been deep undercover with Gabe Saporta and his gang/crew/whatever, who run an illegal underground nightclub that seems to be making way, way too much money for what it actually does. Victoria actually kind of likes Gabe – at least, way more than she’s liked most of the guys she’s been forced to interact with under a range of disguises and pseudonyms – even if he is tiresomely arrogant and has a tendency to jump on anyone with a pulse who comes within twenty metres of him. He’s quick on the uptake though; it only took him three refusals and one well-placed punch to get that that Victoria really isn’t interested in and will never be interested, and now he treats her as one of the guys. Well, one of the guys who looks damn good in a low-cut dress, anyway.

The net is closing in and Victoria thinks she’d feel worse about this, worse about the fact that Saporta is about to have his life and his club and that little drug-dealing side-business ripped out from underneath him, but for the fact that she’s getting bored. There’s only so many nights you can spend in a club avoiding drinking too much and waiting for the right time to ask awkward questions without making them seem awkward before you really start longing for a night on the couch with popcorn and a shitty Lifetime movie.

Gabe’s arm is warmly possessive around her waist, more force of habit than anything else, laughter wriggling on his mouth as he shoots dice with a crowd of increasingly drunken friends. Victoria knows that she knows all of their names, social security numbers and criminal records, but right now they’ve all blurred into one, faces split by strobe lights and amusement grating on the edges of the migraine she’s developing. Looking away from them, Victoria’s eyes drift towards the dancefloor, the crush of grinding, glittering bodies. She catches sight of Brendon almost immediately; it’s hard to miss him, wearing jeans so tight they don’t leave anything to the imagination, moving sultry and dirty to the beat like he has no idea that half the people in here are watching him. Victoria kind of resents him – Brendon’s job is to get to know the people who come here, find out what they know and if they know anything, rather than to try and infiltrate the operation itself – but it’s hard to dislike Brendon and anyway the thought of dancing right now makes her head ache even more.

Victoria blows absently on the dice Gabe raises to her lips, remembering to add a quirk of a smile as an afterthought. He rolls and immediately bursts into a cheer; Victoria finds it kind of ironic that she always, always brings him luck when he’s gambling, considering just how much bad luck she’s dragging his way.

With Gabe’s attention caught by the gaming table, Victoria slips away on the pretext of getting a drink. She knows better than to drink while working, or at least not to have a second drink, because she’s got to be on her guard. She was never a particularly talkative drunk, but it pays to be cautious. She catches Brendon’s eyes on her and makes sure to smile in a realistic way; he nods, smiles back and then returns his attention to the guy he’s dancing with. Victoria can’t see more of him than a pair of skinny jeans and a much more genuine smirk steals across her lips, before she turns away, wending her way between the crowds towards the bar anyway.

Victoria’s halfway there when she sees the woman walking down the stairs, and the sight makes her stop abruptly.

She looks... not nervous, that’s not the word, but a little out of place, not quite confident, and the sparkling white lights glow off the blonde waves tumbling over her bare shoulders. There’s something distracting about her smile, about the expanse of bare legs beneath her silver dress, and when Victoria clears her head long enough to stop staring she turns to see that Gabe hasn’t missed this woman’s entrance either, and his lips are curling into a smile nothing short of predatory.

Suddenly, Victoria does want that extra drink, after all.

~

She isn’t drunk, because drunk implies unprofessional, but the world is a little bit shivery around her, the coloured dancefloor lights twisting in her vision. Brendon is still the life and soul of the party out there, and if Victoria wasn’t already well-acquainted with his seemingly endless well of energy she’d wonder how he could keep this up without being on really hard drugs of some kind. She brushes her hand across his shoulders on the way past and he grins back at her, broad and real and sunny. Brendon is good at this undercover shit because you take one look at his face and are immediately convinced that he isn’t lying, he cannot be lying, not with an open expression like that. It occasionally makes Victoria wonder if this makes Brendon even more of a sociopath than her, but she’s never said it aloud because she can picture Brendon’s face if she ever called him that, and it’s not a happy face at all.

The noise of the club is deadened somewhat in the bathroom, reducing the music to a constant thudding beat that’s easily ignored. Victoria sighs and looks at herself in the mirror, tidying her hair, smoothing it down. Her mascara has at least remained tidy, and the silver lightning bolt splashed down her right cheek sparkles under the soft golden glow of the lights in here. Victoria forces a smile at her reflection because she looks good, she always looks good, and they’re so nearly there.

The door opens, and the blonde woman from earlier walks in. Victoria swallows, does not remember that this woman has spent half her night draped across Gabe, because Gabe is charming, she knows that, and anyway she’s not here for herself. She’s here to shut this club down, and that’s what she’s doing.

“Hi,” Blondie says, pulling together a dazzling smile, which doesn’t help any of the resolutions Victoria is hastily forming in her head.

“Hi,” Victoria says, and hates that she feels immediately tongue-tied because she gets along with everyone. That’s basically her job.

Blondie’s smile widens a little and Victoria can see it now, the innocent veneer with the hint of something dirty underneath that guys seem to love. Victoria refuses to admit that maybe she might love it a little too, and she turns back to the sinks, running cold water to splash carefully on her cheeks. No wonder Gabe looks like all his Christmases have come early.

“I like it,” Blondie says, joining her at the mirrors to run a self-conscious hand through her loose golden hair. Victoria doesn’t look.

“Like what?” she asks, careful not to sound as confrontational as she wants to.

“The... glitter,” the woman replies, reaching toward Victoria’s face and then drawing her hand back a little just before she touches the lightning bolt. “It’s pretty.”

Victoria studies her and can’t tell if she’s drunk or not. Then again she’s not even sure how sober she is right now and fuck, but this can never get back to Pete.

“Thanks,” she says, with a smile that feels a little more natural, and she’s not sure if she shifts or Blondie does but those soft fingers are touching her cheek now, light and careful over the silver bolt. Victoria chose the shimmery transfer one night to shake things up a bit, and Gabe liked it and suddenly she found herself applying one every time she came to the club; it defines her, it’s how the regulars recognise her. Vicky-T, Gabe’s friend, no one would ever suspect that she’s working for the authorities.

They stand like that for a moment too long and Victoria quickly pulls away, skin sparkling beneath the surface from just a few ridiculous seconds of contact. The music thuds intrusively against the walls and she fumbles quickly through her clutch bag, finding her lipgloss. Anything not to have to look at Blondie, anything to keep herself from blushing.

Blondie starts going through her clutch as well as Victoria reapplies her lipgloss, refusing to let her hands shake even though they want to. When Victoria risks a glance sideways, she notices the other woman is watching her.

“Um, sorry, I forgot my lipgloss,” she says in a sort of rush, “can I borrow yours?”

Maybe as tipsy as Victoria is then, but that’s ok. Her brain lists all the reasons she shouldn’t share lipgloss with a random stranger but she ignores it and hands the tube over. “Sure.”

She definitely shouldn’t watch Blondie’s reflection as she leans forward, lips opening slightly, giving Victoria a perfect view right down the front of her dress. She shouldn’t, but she does.

Blondie straightens up, catching Victoria watching, but she doesn’t call her on it. Instead, she smiles a little and hands the lipgloss back. “Thank you.”

Victoria cannot stop herself from going: “you’ve got a smudge.”

Blondie frowns, about to turn back to the mirror: “where?”

Before she’s really aware of what she’s doing, Victoria reaches forward, swiping the slight overspill of gloss from Blondie’s lower lip with her thumb. She feels the other woman’s sharp intake of breath but she doesn’t pull away. There’s a long moment where Victoria can’t even hear the thumping beat shaking the door, and she shouldn’t do this, she shouldn’t, but fuck, she’s been doing this for three months and none of it’s been for her, none of it, and something should be. She leans in, slow and deliberate, giving the other woman plenty of time to move away.

She doesn’t.

Blondie’s lips are soft and slick with Victoria’s own make-up but they open under hers almost immediately, Victoria swallowing the soft moan that escapes the woman’s mouth. She pushes her back against the sinks, hands coming to rest against those slender hips, while one of Blondie’s hands clenches in the back of her hair. This is stupid, so stupid, but Victoria can’t stop and doesn’t stop, kissing the other woman hungrily, desperately, and Blondie kisses back with just as much pure want. Victoria slides her hand up that silky-smooth dress, fabric soft under her palm, but just as her thumb touches the underside of Blondie’s left breast, her phone goes off, obnoxiously loud. She jerks back, suddenly aware of what she’s been doing when she should have been working.

By the time she’s found her phone in her clutch, she’s missed the call. It’s from Gabe; he probably just wants her to come back and blow on his dice again, found a losing streak or something, but it’s enough to jerk her back into reality.

“I’ve gotta go,” she says, quick, trying to sound apologetic and not almost relieved.

“Ok,” Blondie says, and smiles. She hesitates, like she’s going to say something else, but in the end she just adds: “bye.”

As Victoria leaves, fighting not to look back, she belatedly recalled that they never exchanged names. She’s not sure why that should be important but, just for a moment, it seems it.

~

The morning sunlight splits raggedly across her vision the moment Victoria pulls her sunglasses off. She hasn’t been to bed yet – Gabe and Ryland dragged her into an all-night poker game; she won most of it until she recalled that she couldn’t really keep the money, and started losing instead – and she’s still in last night’s clothes, impractical heels and tiny slinky black dress. She hasn’t even had time to take a shower yet; she’s uncomfortably aware that she smells of sweat and alcohol and cigarettes and Gabe’s cologne, dirty and exhausted. But Pete insisted that he wanted to see her this morning, something about meeting another undercover agent he’s about to introduce into the club, and Victoria always likes to appear professional.

Brendon looks far too awake and put-together for a guy who spent most of last night dancing his ridiculously well-shaped ass off on the dancefloor of an illegal club, but Victoria doesn’t hold it against him.

“Morning, Vicky-T,” he chirps from his desk, and she musters up a tired smile for him as she heads towards Pete’s office.

“Morning, Bren.”

Victoria runs a hand through her hair and then knocks on Pete’s office door, trying to look awake. The glitter is peeling off her cheek and her hair is a lost cause, but it’s the effort that counts.

“Come in,” Pete calls, and greets her with a cheerful smile. Victoria barely notices it, though, because she’s too busy staring at the woman sitting in front of Pete’s desk, blonde hair neatly pinned back behind her head, the very image of well-dressed and organised. But she’s horribly familiar, and Victoria can’t stop staring as Pete says, “Vicky-T, this is Greta Salpeter. She’ll be working with you. Greta, this is Vicky-T Asher.”

Fucking fuck. Victoria swallows and tries to think of a way to make getting tipsy and making out with your future colleague in a bathroom sound professional and fails miserably. Fucking fuck.

Greta offers her a hesitant smile but there’s no trace of shock on her features at all, which either means she’s even more of a sociopathic liar than Victoria and Brendon put together, or it means she already knew. It means that she walked into that bathroom, recognised Victoria, and still let what happened happen.

Victoria forces a smile from somewhere deep and broken inside her, and something about Greta flinches.

“I think I saw you last night,” she says, careful to keep her tone light, so light that Pete looks worriedly at her. Victoria ignores him; something warm and angry is spreading through her and, worse than that, embarrassment. “You were hanging around with Saporta, right?”

Greta pauses for a telling second before she says: “yeah.”

Pete looks kind of concerned and Victoria can’t have that, can’t have him guessing anything. This is her career, and Victoria’s not going to slip up, not once, even if she can still feel Greta’s lips against hers if she thinks about it. Which she’s not. At all.

“Sorry,” she says, directing the remark at Pete, “I guess I’m just tired, you know?”

Pete is studying her, eyes narrowed, but he smiles a little. “You should go shower,” he tells her, “we can go through this later.”

Victoria nods and tries to smile and leaves as fast as she can without making it look like she’s actually fleeing.

Brendon holds his own paper cup of coffee out to her. “Thanks,” she says gratefully, taking a sip. It’s way too sweet and she’s sure that Brendon’s not even supposed to be drinking coffee this week, but what the hell, she’s tired, she’ll take it.

“Did you meet Greta?” Brendon asks brightly, and Victoria stiffens immediately. He doesn’t seem to notice. “She’s lovely, isn’t she?”

Victoria takes another mouthful while she contemplates her answer. “She seems kind of like a bitch to me,” she responds calmly, and leaves without saying goodbye.

~

An hour later, Victoria’s showered in the lockerroom downstairs and put clean, slightly more modest, clothes on. The sheer humiliation has had time to sink in and she forces a calm facade on, trying not to remember what it felt like, picking the silver lightning bolt off in the mirror and wondering just what the fuck Greta even thought she was doing. At least the shower and Brendon’s coffee have woken her up a little, and she returns to her desk feeling a little more capable of facing the day.

Greta is sitting in her chair, looking a little pensive. Good.

“Look,” she begins quickly the minute Victoria is standing in front of her, voice kept low so as not to draw too much attention to them. She’s a little grateful for it; Brendon might be a friend but he’s also the worst gossip there is, and Victoria’s ashamed enough as it is. “I-I think we got off on the wrong foot.”

Got off makes something uncomfortable clench in Victoria’s stomach, but whatever, it could’ve been a lot worse, she reminds herself. It could have been much worse.

“You knew who I was,” she says instead.

Greta grimaces and Victoria doesn’t look at her mouth. At all. “I did,” she agrees, and then seems to run out of things to say.

Victoria sits on the edge of her desk, crossing her legs and folding her arms. Defensive, she hears Jon’s voice say in her head, and she tells him to shut up. “You could’ve told me,” she says softly.

Greta looks down at her folded hands. “You wouldn’t have believed me,” she points out. “And the walls have ears, I couldn’t break cover.”

This is true, and Victoria accepts it for what it is. Still. “You could’ve stopped me,” she points out. “Someone who looks like you must know all kinds of ways to turn people down.”

Greta’s cheeks tinge pink at the backhanded compliment, but Victoria’s still angry and it must show on her face because when Greta glances up at her, hope shimmering in her eyes, it extinguishes quickly.

“I’m sorry,” is all Greta says; no explanation, no excuses. Just an apology.

Victoria exhales but they’ve got to work together from hereon out; she’s gotten all the evidence they need on Saporta and his friends, but they need Greta to be the honeytrap, to catch Gabe in the act to give them the grounds they need for an arrest. She nods curtly, switching to professionalism as fast as she can, reaching for a stack of files. She pretends that Greta isn’t watching her intently.

~

Watching Greta and Gabe flirting outrageously for the third night this week is doing nothing to improve Vicky’s mood. She brushes her fingers across Gabe’s wrist, saying she’s going to dance, and he smiles absently, attention caught by Greta. Victoria can’t blame him; she looks gorgeous, loose curls falling around her shoulders, hips swaying in time to the music, laughter singing across her mouth. The right mixture of innocence and debauchery and Victoria turns away with a slightly sour taste in her mouth.

Brendon is leaning against the wall talking to a guy; Victoria squints and tries to recall if she saw his photograph attached to one of Brendon’s reports last week. Possibly? She can’t remember his name, in any case, but she walks over anyway. The guy has a friend with him who looks bored out of his mind; he’s wearing a ridiculous number of scarves and has birds painted down his cheek. Victoria thinks up a dozen bitchy comments she could make before recalling that she still has a glittering lightning bolt on her face and therefore is in no position to judge.

“Hey,” she says, fingers catching Brendon’s waist. He grins at her, bright and real and just a little more enthusiastic than usual. Interesting.

“Hey,” he shouts back, fighting to be heard over the music. “Vicky-T, this is Ryan, and Spencer.”

There’s something about the way he says Spencer and Victoria remembers that actually, Spencer Smith was on a report Brendon did last week. He doesn’t know anything at all about Gabe’s operation, which means Brendon isn’t working right now. He knows she’s figured it out but, what the hell, Spencer looks damn good in a pair of skinny jeans, eyes framed by just the right amount of black eyeliner, and when he smiles at her she learns that his smile is very pretty too. Well, good for Brendon, even if he’s going by a false surname and this whole place is going to be shut down within the next couple of weeks.

She looks to Ryan, who lifts one shoulder in greeting, clearly feeling like a third wheel in this situation.

“Ryan, want to dance?” she asks, taking him by the wrist and pulling him towards the dancefloor before he can reply. She glances back and Brendon is giving her a look that’s a strange mixture of thanks, guilt and pleasure. She turns back to Ryan, who seems to be deciding whether he wants to smile or not.

“You know I’m not interested, right?” he asks, hands closing over her waist.

“You have birds on your face,” Victoria responds, and his lips twitch. “For the record, I’m not interested either.”

He’s a good dancer, though, and when she glances back Brendon and Spencer are dancing, pressed close together, grins mirrored on each other’s faces. It’s sweet and she looks away, trying not to think too hard about shit like consequences.

“You ok?” Ryan asks and she nods.

Twisting against Ryan, she manages to get a clear view to where Gabe is lost in a dancing crowd of girls near the gaming tables, clearly loving the attention. Greta’s laughing with him, but her eyes are on Victoria.

~

Victoria plays with her necklace, avoiding Jon’s eyes. He’s a nice guy and important to have around as someone to talk to when she’s undercover, living two different lives. She hung out with the guys after the club closed in the early hours of the morning, playing pool, eating giant sandwiches from the cover operation deli upstairs. It’s tough, remembering just how far faking friendship really goes sometimes, and you can get lost in another identity altogether. Not in the fun way that got her through college and a couple of indifferent girlfriends either, but the scary kind of lost where you can’t remember who you are anymore.

So: psychiatrist.

Jon’s pretty relaxed, his hair grown a little too long and curling prettily at the ends; nothing too formal and Victoria likes him more than most psychiatrists she’s ever had. But he’s not afraid to ask the difficult questions, the ones she doesn’t want him to ask and she definitely doesn’t want to answer. The ones that make her pick absently at her nails and sort of wish her life was as simple as she claims it is to Gabe Saporta.

“Pete says you’re not getting along with Greta,” Jon says, no inflection in his voice at all.

Victoria says nothing, not looking at him. Jon waits, and doesn’t push her, but he will want a response of some kind. “If you’re about to tell me how damn nice she is, I don’t want to hear it,” she manages at last.

Jon looks faintly surprised, which is never a good thing. “You’ve never had this kind of problem with a co-worker before,” he observes smoothly, and although he doesn’t sound like he is, he’s pushing. Victoria wants to tell him to stop.

She winds up telling him everything instead.

Jon manages not to look completely shell-shocked, which is good, and there’s some kind of confidentiality thing which means he can’t go and tell Pete, so he’s probably the best choice of person to spill things out to.

“Have you spoken to Greta about this?” he asks eventually.

No, of course not. Victoria is avoiding talking to Greta as much as is humanly possible, nothing unless it’s purely professional and directly related to their sting. She doesn’t want to discuss it, doesn’t want to talk about how sorry Greta is when Victoria’s dressing up every single night for her and her alone.

“There’s nothing to say,” she responds a little too sharply.

Jon contemplates her silently until she gets uncomfortable and turns her attention to her hands.

“You spend your life pushing people away,” he says, and it’s not the first time he’s pointed this out to her but it is the first time he’s said it with accusation in his tone. “You like your lies and your undercover operations because it keeps you from actually getting close to people, from having honest conversations, from discussing all those things you never want to discuss.”

Victoria knows this, but she doesn’t like him pointing it out.

“Last time I checked, you were my work-approved psychiatrist, not my life coach,” she mutters.

Jon’s lips quirk, just a little. “In order to sort out your professional life, you’re going to have to sort out your personal one,” he replies. “Think about it.”

Victoria scowls, because it’s not like she isn’t thinking about it enough already.

~

Brendon is way too excited about getting Spencer’s phone number.

“You do realise he’s going to find out you’ve been lying to him?” Victoria asks on their coffee break. Brendon’s drinking hot chocolate that seems to be more marshmallow than drink, but, what the hell, if it makes him happy.

Brendon shrugs. “I’ll explain when it’s all over,” he replies. “I’m sure Spencer will understand. I mean, I’m still me, you know, I just have a different last name and job to the ones he thinks I have.” He fixes Victoria with a look. “Besides, I know you got Ryan’s number, though I’m not sure what either of you are going to do with that.”

It’s fine, Victoria’s never going to call it. She just forgot for a moment that she wasn’t there to make friends. She glares at Brendon and he sticks his tongue out at her in retaliation and she’s just starting to laugh when she looks up and finds Greta is hovering near them, looking uncomfortable.

“Hey, Greta,” Brendon says brightly and she returns his grin with a sunny one of her own that makes Victoria’s stomach flip over.

“Hey, Bren,” she responds. “Can I talk to Victoria for a minute?”

Not Vicky-T. She might be Vicky-T to everyone else at work, but Greta tried that once and Victoria shot her down damn fast. They’re not friends, they’re not doing this. Victoria’s not sure she can admit, even to herself, why she’s still so damn angry, but anyway. She is. Brendon looks uncertainly between the two of them and then swiftly makes himself scarce, leaving Victoria uncomfortably cupping her hands around her coffee and waiting for Greta to speak.

“Can I sit down?” Greta asks, and Victoria responds with a shrug. Greta sits down, folding her skirt neatly around her, and everything about her is shiny and clean and perfect and it makes Victoria feel awkward and fucked-up in comparison. She might not be dressed like a slut and stinking of last night’s alcohol this time around, but Greta still makes her feel that way.

“Look,” Greta begins awkwardly, playing with the hem of her skirt and not quite looking at Victoria, “it’s all going down in a couple of days and we’ve got to be able to trust each other.”

“I trust you,” Victoria says, on automatic.

Greta shakes her head. “No, you don’t. You have every right not to, and I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you the truth, that I didn’t stop things from going too far. I wish... I’m just sorry, ok, and I should never have kissed you.”

This is good, this is what Victoria needs to hear. She knows this. It doesn’t explain why her stomach twists though, or why she suddenly really, really doesn’t want to look at Greta. Of course Greta regrets it, she should do. They both should do.

“Ok,” she says, and manages to smile. “Apology accepted.”

Greta meets her gaze and Victoria finds herself momentarily just a little breathless. “So we’re ok?”

“We’re ok,” Victoria agrees.

Greta gets up, smoothing her palms across her skirt. “Good. I’ll see you later.”

Victoria watches her walk away and tells herself that this is exactly what needed to happen. That this is progress. Except that her chest is too tight and her stomach is in knots because Greta regrets it and Victoria doesn’t, not at all, not even for one moment.

~

After exchanging a variety of inappropriate and unprofessional texts with Ryan Ross, Victoria winds up taking ten minutes out of her carefully scheduled night to meet him in the men’s bathroom of the club to carefully apply a glittering lightning bolt to his cheek, while he paints birds down hers.

She’ll never see him again after tonight, after all. She’ll never see any of them again, and when Gabe wraps an arm around her waist and begs her to blow on his dice for luck, she almost wants to back out. But these men aren’t her friends, and there’s more going on here than just her, and she cannot fuck this up. She will not fuck this up.

A text message from Greta arrives just in time, telling her she’s on her way downstairs. She’s visible a minute later, pretty in a short dress and heels, and Victoria reminds herself not to get caught up in that. She looks away, catching Brendon’s eye. He’s with Spencer but his expression is sharp and serious, careful. They can’t screw this up, after all.

Gabe leans into her, sliding a package from his coat and pushing it into her hands, asking her to take it to their DJ. Victoria’s not sure what’s in the package but it’s enough and she knows who it’s for. She nods, smiling, and Gabe presses a kiss to her unpainted cheek in thanks. She pulls away, swallowing down the guilt, knowing that’s the last time he’ll ever touch her and she shouldn’t regret it. Victoria crosses the club, weaving between dancing couples, aware that Brendon is watching her all the while. She hands the package over the glass wall of the booth with a wink, and moves far enough away to text Greta.

Things get much too fast after that; Greta collects her package and soon the sound of sirens manages to permeate a moment of rare hush between songs. She sees the word fuck form on Gabe’s lips and suddenly people are running, panicking, trying to cram their way up the stairs. She loses sight of Brendon and Spencer and Ryan in the crowd and tells herself it’s best this way, fighting through the crush to track down Greta.

“They’re upstairs,” Greta says breathlessly, and Victoria knows that because she got the text message too, but the idea that this is really all about to be over leaves her breathless. Officers are beginning to make their way down the stairs, all over Gabe and Ryland and the others before they even know what’s happening, and Victoria feels strangely breathless watching it happen. Greta’s fingers curl tight around her wrist and Victoria doesn’t pull away, doesn’t tell her let go.

Patrick came downstairs at some point, offering them both bright grins and handing over vests and their badges. Victoria feels better slipping into hers, VICE emblazoned on the back, more solid and confident. It gives her the strength to walk back upstairs, heels clicking weirdly loudly on the stairs. The guys are lined up outside where it’s just starting to drizzle, sirens flashing too brightly, and Victoria catches Gabe’s eye without even meaning to. He looks grudgingly respectful and flashes her a hint of a smile that she can’t help but return. She thinks they might be ok, which is just... weird.

The street is swarming with uniform so Victoria steps back and lets them do her job. She’s suddenly tired, bone-deep weariness spreading through her. There are a lot of confused bystanders huddled against the rain; she catches sight of Ryan, who raises an amused-looking eyebrow at her outfit. She shrugs, and he grins. Brendon is talking to Spencer, huddled under the awning of a nearby shop; Spencer looks way too impressed by the uniform and Victoria decides that Brendon might have had a point. She smiles, soft, because someone deserves to get something good out of this.

Greta walks out into the street, walking effortlessly on her stupidly high heels. Before she even knows what she’s doing, Victoria walks over to join her.

“Good job in there,” she says, because what else is there to say in this situation?

“Thanks,” Greta replies, “you too.” She hesitates, catching her lower lip between her teeth. “Can I talk to you?”

Victoria elects not to point out you already are because she knows what Greta means. She takes her hand and they weave through the crowds, losing the guys behind a barrier of squad cars. It’ll be private around here for a little while, anyway.

“I like the birds, by the way,” Greta says, managing to smile, and Victoria is about to smile back when she recalls it’s too much like their first meeting. Greta must realise this too, because she sighs. “I screwed up,” she says bluntly. “I screwed up because you were even prettier than you were in your file photographs and I wanted you to kiss me and I didn’t want to find a reason to stop you. And I’m not sorry even though I probably should be.”

Victoria processes this slowly, little dribbles of rainwater smudging the paint on her cheeks, catching on Greta’s hair.

“We’re not working together anymore,” she replies eventually, instead of any of the sensible things she should probably be saying instead. They should talk sometime, but not yet, not now.

“Victoria...” Greta begins.

“Vicky-T,” she corrects her, soft, and leans in to press her lips to Greta’s behind the safety of the car where no one will see them for a few minutes, eyes fluttering closed. She swallows Greta’s delighted laugh whole.