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Letters to a Girlfriend

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Lucy could replay the scene as many times as she liked, and she did like.

The day had been dragging by before the door to the Mystery Room all but fell off its hinges, Lucy’s head snapping upwards. The sudden noise startled Alfendi, spilling his tea on his desk.

“Katrielle!”

A girl about her age stood in the doorframe, grinning as she surveyed the room. “Hello, Alfendi. It’s been a while.”

Hair blazing, he stared her down when she approached him. “For a gentlewoman, your manners are sorry! If you won’t use your fists for knocking, I may as well remove your hands!”

“Easy,” Lucy muttered, glancing at the visitor and debating whether to intervene further.

The girl’s blue eyes widened a touch, taking him in. She stabbed her finger towards him. “Then I’ll cut off your nose and feed it like cheese to the mice! Ooh, so scary!” The grin returned. “I’ve missed you, Alfendi. I knew you’d come back.”

Scoffing, the Prof turned away, but Lucy caught the edges of a smile on his lips.

At last their visitor noticed her. “And who is this, Alfendi? You must make the introduction.”

Alfendi gestured vaguely towards her. “DC Baker. She’s been working with me for a few months now.”

“Lucy’s fine, no need t’be formal,” she added, standing. “Katrielle, were it?”

The girl’s eyes lit up. “You’re from Yorkshire? Very nice.” She moved towards her and extended a hand. “Yes, my name is Katrielle Layton. I doubt Alfendi has mentioned his sister before.”

Grasping the hand, a buzz of electricity shot through her, and her heart leapt from her chest. When she glanced at the other woman’s face, she watched something pass through it that she couldn’t put her finger on.

“He hasn’t!” Lucy gasped, regaining her composure and glancing at the Prof. Avoiding her gaze, he was guilty as anything. “He’s not the one for talking about his personal life, is he?”

“Especially not when his personal life is valued by the Yard more than he is,” Katrielle teased, gripping her hand a little tighter before finally letting go.

Placid sighed. “Sore subject, Katrielle.”

“You know I’m joking. They’d never dare shut this place down.”

“Do you work for the Yard as well?” Lucy asked, rubbing her still-tingling hand.

“On a casual basis, you could say. Just when I’m needed.”

“Inspector Hastings has a soft-spot for her.”

“He does. I’ve got plans to open my own business, though.”

“Oh?” Lucy smiled. “What kind of business?”

Katrielle winked. “You’ll have to wait and see. It will be up and running soon, though. I’ve even got an assistant eager to join me, not that I need one.”

“That boy you helped from Gressenheller?” Potty smirked. “Oh yes, I can tell he’d be very happy to spend more time with you.”

“I haven’t a clue what you’re talking about.” She turned her attention to Lucy. “And how are you enjoying the Yard? My brother hasn’t chased you out yet?”

With no cases to otherwise occupy her mind, they spent the rest of the afternoon discussing the recent mysteries they’d tackled. As Katrielle took a seat near her desk, Lucy became all too aware of her large eyes, her wavy hair, her cheeky grin that mirrored Alfendi’s.

“Are you two planning on staying here tonight, or should I leave the key with you?”

The question, asked by Alfendi as he stood by the door, made her jump. Peering out the window, Lucy realised that darkness had fallen. “Oh!”

“It’s true what they say about time then, isn’t it?” Katrielle commented. “It seems to rush past when you’re enjoying yourself. I suppose I should go home.”

“Aye.” She couldn’t help but feel disappointed. “It were nice to meet you, Katrielle. I hope we can see each other soon.”

“I’m certain we will.” Scribbling something on a piece of paper, she slid it across to Lucy. “But in the meantime, I’m quite fond of written correspondence. Here’s my address, if you’d like to send me a letter sometime.”

Taking it, Lucy glanced down at the neat cursive. “Ta! Here, take mine too.”

With one last handshake, the same thrill as the first time running through her, they parted ways. By the time she had gotten home, Lucy already had the first letter formed in her mind.

Chapter Text

She could expect to hear from Katrielle once a week, detailing her progress on her mysterious business venture. Occasionally the letters would contain a small gift: a pressed flower, a menu for a new restaurant, a cut-out newspaper article with notes scrawled over it. Lucy had to wonder which of the Layton siblings had started that practice first.

The letters became part of her routine. She would linger by her door the day one was due, disappointed if the postman didn’t deliver it before she had to go to work. If that was the case, her mind would be on it the entire day, until the moment she arrived home to find it waiting for her.

Away for work, much to the disgust of Placid, she was surprised to receive a letter at their hotel. Tearing it open, her eyes devoured it in seconds.

Dear Lucy,

I’ve opened up a detective agency on one of London’s most happening streets. “Any mystery solved!” That’s the Layton Detective Agency’s motto. I can’t wait to find out what mysteries are waiting for me.

You must come and visit me if you have the time.

Yours faithfully,

Katrielle

A shorter letter than most, but she could feel the excitement behind each word when she slowed down to reread it. Passing the letter to Alfendi, she couldn’t keep the smile from her face.

“The Layton Detective Agency?” Awkward, he scratched the back of his neck. “I’m not sure how I feel about the name. I suppose we should have expected that it was going to be detective related.”

“I’d love t’see how she’s doing.”

I’d love to see that she keeps her nose out of trouble.”

When they returned to London, Lucy received detailed accounts of all the going ons in Katrielle’s life. She heard about the eager assistant, her peculiar new pet, and even a retelling of her favourite meal from each case in so much depth that she felt like she had actually been there with her.

“I’d love to have a meal on a boat,” Lucy wrote back. “It must be more exciting than dry land.”

The phone in the Mystery Room rang on Friday afternoon, two days later.

“If it’s work, it better be the best corpse of my career and not some worthless meeting,” Potty muttered, eying the clock.

“Hush, Prof,” Lucy ordered before she answered it. “’Ello, you’ve reached t’ Mystery Room.”

There was a small laugh on the other end. “Is that your assistant voice?”

Her cheeks reddened, though she wasn’t sure why. “Katrielle!”

“Hello, Lucy. How have you been?”

The rushed through the pleasantries, Lucy keenly aware that the Prof was standing a few feet away, observing. She was about to ask whether Katrielle wished to speak with him, when the conversation changed.

“Anyway, I suppose you want to know the reason for my call. I’ve just received your letter and was wondering if you’re free tomorrow morning.”

“Free?”

“My line of work has its perks.” She could feel the pride in Katrielle’s voice. “I’ve become involved with London’s elite, and would be able to get us tickets for a day cruise tomorrow for breakfast. Mr Fullhold’s boats are really something special, and I think you’d enjoy yourself. What do you say?”

Her mind was blank for a second – three seconds? – before she blurted out, “I’d love to. Where and when?”

Chipper, Katrielle talked her through the arrangements – eight o’clock at the pier by the Thames – before wishing Lucy a good evening. When Lucy put down the phone, she looked up to find the Prof still standing by his desk.

“Breakfast with my sister tomorrow morning, is it?”

“Yes.” Lucy gathered her belongings, and when she turned to put on her coat, found that he had made no move. “What? Is that strange?”

“It depends.” Potty stared at her a little longer, head cocked to the side, before he smirked. “Have a lovely weekend, Lucy, and say hello to Katrielle for me. She seemed to have forgotten all about me this call.”

– 

With the wind blowing through her hair, Lucy breathed in and admired the view. While it wasn’t warm, London’s sky was clearer than it had been in weeks, a brilliant blue above her.

It complimented Katrielle’s eyes, which she met every so often as they stood side by side. The other woman was dressed in a black and white dress, a change from the bright outfit she’d seen her in previously, though she now carried with her an air of sophistication.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” Lucy breathed, “’tis.”

A waiter called them to a little table, and five courses later, the two grinned at one another, Lucy’s full stomach unable to weigh down her rising spirits. Their conversation, like the water beneath them, flowed freely.

“Ernest sounds like a keener assistant than I am,” Lucy commented, sipping her milkshake.

“I wouldn’t call you an assistant. You only answer the phone because Alfendi refuses to; nobody bothered to call the Mystery Room before you started working there. But yes, Ernest follows my heel more than Sherl does.”

She couldn’t help but imagine a dog with a boy’s face, and laughed. “Well, it’s obvious he fancies you.”

The moment she said the words, Lucy felt her stomach drop. Fiddling with the straw of her drink, she couldn’t look up.

Out the corner of her eye, she saw Katrielle look out at the open waters. “Yes, I’d say he does,” she murmured.

She ought to keep her mouth shut, but the words tumbled out. “Do you fancy him back?”

Katrielle took longer this time, sipping her drink until it was all finished, and then slurping the sides of her glass loudly.

Lucy figured it was answer enough, until the noise stopped. “I suppose I should, shouldn’t I? He’s a good person.”

“Aye, he is.”

Where’s this disappointment coming from, Lucy?

“I don’t, though.”

She dared to peer over her milkshake.

“I care about him, of course. I’m proud of him for how far he’s come. But…” She frowned, and for the first time Lucy saw her look sad. “A selfish part of me is upset about what he did, and how he lied to me. Sometimes, I don’t want him anywhere near me or my agency, even though he’s been there since the beginning.”

“Oh.”

Katrielle looked back at her. “Hm?”

Lucy worked to stifle her relief, alongside the butterflies that had grown in her stomach.
“Well, I know what you mean ‘bout being upset. Ernest weren’t who you thought. When I found out that Placid Prof weren’t the original, I felt betrayed, and manipulated. Silly, really, but that didn’t change how I felt.”

Katrielle stared back at her, listening.

“But I had to trust him,” she continued. “Potty’s a hot head, and Placid can be distant, but neither of them were a murderer. It didn’t matter what anybody else said. I had to believe in them, and fast. It’s not urgent for you, though. Ernest isn’t being accused of murder, so give yourself time to trust him again. You wouldn’t have let him stay around if you didn’t think it were possible, so you should trust yourself too, Katrielle.”

“Lucy…” Katrielle blinked – had those been tears? – and nodded, her hand reaching out to touch hers. The electricity ran from her fingers to her core, and she shivered. “Thank you. I think I needed to hear that.”

“I-It’s ‘lright.” The sounds of the water crashing against the boat were drowned out by her hammering heart, and she squeezed Katrielle’s hand in response before letting go. “But you don’t have t’like him, obviously,” she added. “Or anybody. Unless you wanted to.”

Katrielle surveyed her for a second, almost as though she were examining a piece of evidence, before her face broke out into a smile. “Yes, of course.”

Despite the cold winds, Lucy felt warm for the rest of the journey.

Chapter Text

“Can you believe that this is only the third time we’ve seen each other in person?” Legs dangling over the water, Katrielle’s eyes were fixed on the Thames, the sun casting an orange glimmer onto the water.

It was an impromptu meet up. Katrielle had bounded in ten minutes before they usually shut the Mystery Room, to Lucy’s pleasant surprise. With Alfendi ushering them out of the door, she suggested they eat something to celebrate the coming weekend. Placid had agreed, but Potty had quickly taken control and turned them down.

“We’ve had pizza twice this week, you lazy sod!” he’d hissed. “If you think that eating junk food will keep me from getting back onto the field, you’re sorely mistaken!”

“Perhaps you’d like to join us anyway, and jog along the river?” Katrielle teased.

“Thank you for your kind offer, sister, but I’ll decline.” Calming down, he locked the door and slid on his navy coat. “Enjoy yourselves, and stay safe.”

“I’ve got the talented DC Baker with me, and we’re some of the only people who can insult the terrifying Alfendi Layton and get away with it. No criminal would dare come near us.”

When Katrielle had turned towards the exit, Potty threw a stunned Lucy a wink. She pretended not to see it, but it hovered in her mind the rest of the evening.

In the middle of a mouthful of ice-cream, Lucy shook her head in response to Katrielle’s question. “Mhmm, I can’t. Feels like much longer.”

Katrielle laughed, a sound so soft to her ears. “Is that a compliment?”

Lucy pretended to think about it. “Ee, maybe. But I know what you mean. Our letters feel more intimate than that.”

Freezing, she realised what she’d just said. Lord, what a word to choose.

To her relief, Katrielle nodded. “I… I agree. They’ve become quite personal, haven’t they?”

In the past few weeks the letters had shifted from accounts of what both had been doing to discussions. They’d each poured their thoughts onto paper about justice, intellect, dreams, and their last one had touched briefly on love. Lucy had read it more times than she could keep track of. Katrielle had a way with words.

Listening to the babble of activity around them, neither spoke. A few boats sailed past, couples eating dinner and laughing. Was that what she and Katrielle had looked like, when they had breakfast the other week? Glancing around, Lucy noticed that most people around them were couples. Holding hands, embracing one another, even a few getting a bit closer than that. She had to look away.

“You know, there’s something I never spoke to you about,” Katrielle began, breaking her thoughts. “I meant to bring it up in my last letter.”

The few words were enough to send her heart into overdrive. “Eh?”

Katrielle was still gazing at the river, but she finally turned to face her, sincere. “Thank you, for what you did for my brother at Forbodium Castle.”

Stopping herself from looking disappointed was all Lucy was capable of doing in that moment. “Oh, you don’t need t’ thank me for that.”

“I want to.” Katrielle paused, looking down as though she was gathering the courage to say something, her mouth opening and closing. “You know, Hilda wasn’t the only one who investigated Alfendi’s shooting,” she admitted. “I did too, when I was seventeen. One night I went out alone and took the train to Forbodium Castle, without my father knowing. I searched that tower from top to bottom and when I found nothing, I stood on the rooftop and just waited for an inspirational insight. It never came.”

“Katrielle…”

Lucy had felt so alone when she was fighting for Alfendi’s innocence. How must Katrielle have felt, just a teenager, investigating while her brother was fighting for his life in the hospital?

“I was worried that Alfendi’s life would always be shadowed by that incident, that people would always think of him as the disgraced DCI who killed a suspect and then became a shut-in. But things have gotten much easier for him since you came into his life. The old Alfendi, the Alfendi I grew up with, came back, and both sides of him are actually living.” Katrielle turned to her, and somehow, her smile was even wider than Lucy had seen before. “From the bottom of my heart, Lucy, thank you.”

The words touched her more than she thought possible. “Of course, Katrielle. I’d do it again and again if I had to.”

“Let’s hope you don’t,” she laughed, placing her head on her shoulder.

Her mind emptied in an instant, but when she could think again instinct yelled at her to rest her head atop Katrielle’s in return, and she fought the urge with every bit of strength she had. It’s a friendly gesture, nought more. You’ll turn this into something it’s not, Lucy, you know you will.

But a few seconds passed, and she felt silly not reciprocating, so she allowed herself to sink down and place her head on Katrielle’s. Her soft hair cushioned her, but even without it they fit together like two puzzle pieces. She closed her eyes.

The words, as nice as they were, worried her. Did Katrielle feel indebted? Did she feel that she owed it to Lucy to be as kind as she was, as a thank you for saving her brother’s freedom?

She hoped it wasn’t the truth, but either way she pushed the thought from her mind for the moment and simply enjoyed the feeling of being so close to Katrielle, of feeling her stomach rise and fall rhythmically next to her. Even when they both sat up, they maintained their closeness and watched as the sky darkened, the stars beginning to reveal themselves.

No matter the other woman’s intentions, Lucy knew that one fact in the case was certain: she was falling for her.

Chapter Text

Sniffling, Lucy picked up another tissue and saturated it with mucus before throwing it into the overflowing waste-paper basket.

She wouldn’t trade her job for anything, but she sometimes wished that Placid Prof was more willing to leave the comfort of his office. It had been up to her alone to chase down a suspect who had fled into the streets of London, pouring with rain. She’d returned ten minutes later, dragging the man by the collar and drenched.

Not knowing how cold she was until she tried to report back to the Prof, her teeth chattered and her words came out jumbled. His eyes had widened and he immediately told her to take a seat. As soon as he’d completed the official arrest, he ran for the resident nurse, Florence.

The stress of the case, stretching out over a week, had weakened her immune system Florence claimed. Not an hour later, she was sneezing and coughing, and a guilty Placid Prof sent her home.

Too sick to work the following day, she stayed at home on her sofa, buried under a blanket and flicking through the channels for something that wouldn’t make her head throb. She’d settled on a program about meerkats when she heard a knock on the door.

Groaning, she pulled her blanket around her and shuffled towards it, bracing herself for the bright lights that were coming.

“Good afternoon, Lucy.”

“Katrielle!” She punctuated the word with a cough. Suddenly self-conscious about just how terrible she looked, Lucy pulled her blanket round her more tightly, but realised it was futile as her coughing fit continued. Nothing could disguise that.

Katrielle looked at her sympathetically, holding something large in her hands. “May I come in?”

Finally able to breathe, Lucy nodded. “O’ course, I’m so sorry about t’mess.”

Nudging the door open wider, Katrielle stepped inside, her eyes scanning the small flat. “It’s charming, Lucy. Besides, you haven’t seen messy until you’ve seen Alfendi’s home, or mine.”

“If it’s anything like he keeps his desk, I can imagine.”

Katrielle found her way to the kitchen, placing the item on the table. “I made you some chicken soup. That’s what people need when they’re sick.”

Lucy trailed behind, her slow mind struggling to keep up with the unfolding events. “That’s mighty kind of you. I hope it weren’t too much trouble.”

“Making the soup is easy. Getting the ingredients is the tricky part, but I sent Ernest on an errand.”

She laughed, but it turned into a cough. Sitting, her head spun a little.

“How are you feeling?” Katrielle took the seat next to her.

Her hand was so close. “As terrible as I look.”

“You must be fine, then.”

She knew it was a joke, but she couldn’t meet Katrielle’s eyes afterwards. “Such a gentlewoman.”

Placing her chin in her hand, Katrielle frowned. “You work too much; you should make my brother do something for once. I can’t believe he made you go off on your own! I gave him an earful when I heard about it this morning. That’s not gentlemanly behaviour at all.”

“He didn’t make me go, but given Placid were in control, I didn’t have much of a choice.” She coughed again, despite trying to contain it. “Potty would have jumped at the chance for a real criminal chase.”

“He’s bitter about it today.” Katrielle sighed. “But both of them are sorry. They wanted me to let you know.”

“I’ll just have t’make him feel guilty when I get back to work. He might be nice and make me tea, for a change.” She cast a suspicious glance at Katrielle. “Speaking of work, aren’t you supposed t’be at your agency today? It’s Thursday.”

Katrielle rose her chin a little. “I’ve made the executive decision to take the day off. Sherl and Ernest need to practice their inspirational insights.”

Lucy wasn’t sure that was something that could be practiced. “You trust them t’hold the fort?”

“They don’t have a choice, because I’m busy today. My brother may not be holding up the Layton name, but I, Katrielle Layton, shall be the perfect example of a gentlewoman!”

She was too surprised to cough. “Y-You took the day off just to help me?”

Rising, Katrielle nodded. “Where are your bowls? I’ll serve you some soup.”

Calm down, Lucy. “I-I think I’d just throw it all up, at the moment. I’d love some later, if you haven’t finished it off. But thank you.”

“I would never eat the food meant for the sick.”

Lucy grinned. “The sick insists you do. Bowls are in the cupboard to the left.”

Hesitating for another moment, Katrielle served herself.

The thought of spending the whole afternoon with Katrielle was alluring, but it also caused anxiety to settle in her stomach. Despite being in contact for months, her heart still leapt when she got a letter, and any reminder of their breakfast together would send her grinning like an idiot. She was enough of a mess when Katrielle wasn’t there. Having her so close, because she had wanted to come and help her? That was going to send her mad.

Before she knew what was happening, a cup of tea was placed in front of her. “Soup may be out of the question, but Dad always said tea can help anything. This brew was in one of his tea making kits, and there was a note about it returning strength.”

Waiting for it to cool, Lucy sipped it cautiously. It was bitter, but after a few minutes she felt the throbbing in her head weaken. She closed her eyes, breathing in. “Thank you, Katrielle, it’s lovely.”

After finishing the soup and clearing the table, Katrielle put her hands behind her back and glanced around her. “What is today’s plan, then?”

“I weren’t expecting a guest, so I’ve just been watching telly.”

“Aha! I thought that might be the case, which is why I brought a copy of one of Mr Rector’s old films. Apparently, this one is soothing to watch, which I thought you might need.”

It wasn’t just the tea that warmed her stomach, she was certain.

– 

Katrielle stayed the rest of the afternoon, and then into the evening. Lucy didn’t feel much better physically, but the company made her sickness more bearable as she was distracted from it, and didn’t have to move around as much.

“Your turn, Lucy.”

“Have you ever had to do anything dangerous for a case?”

“Aside from riding my bike away from a mysterious ball trying to crush me?” Katrielle considered it for a moment, before her face lit up. “When I was little, I would wander about town trying to find a mystery to solve. One time, I spotted a strange little shack, and it was a steep climb downwards to reach it. I fell and scraped my knees, and it turned out that the shack was empty, with nothing but a cat!” Placing her chin on her hand, she sighed. “It certainly was mysterious, but I never solved it. Sometimes, I swear I see that cat, though.”

“I wonder if you were more of a handful than Alfendi growing up, sometimes.”

“I did enjoy running off on my own. It worried Dad to no end. My turn!”

“Fire away.”

“How do you feel about my brother?”

Any peace that Lucy had cultivated in the past few hours shattered.

“What?”

“How do you feel about Alfendi?” Katrielle repeated. While her face was relaxed, Lucy felt that Katrielle was trying very hard to make it appear that way. Fiddling with something in her hands, it reminded her of what some suspects did.

“Why do you-”

“Uh uh, it’s not your turn to ask a question. But I’ll be nice this time.” Katrielle pointed towards her, just like the Prof would do when cornering a suspect. “It’s obvious that you care a lot for him. You went out of your way to help him at Forbodium Castle, when nobody else would, not even Hilda. Such dedication has to come from somewhere.”

“Does that mean I should fancy him?”

Katrielle gave a non-committed shrug.

She considered the words. “I do care about him, and believe in him, you’re right. I’d trust the Prof with my life.”

He was handsome, there was no denying it. She closed her eyes and tried to picture it. Long embraces, gentle touches, sweet words. But in every scenario, his face was blurry, and when she tried to bring it into focus, her mind would turn to another Layton.

Her face grew warm. Katrielle’s hand on hers, Katrielle’s face inches from her own, Katrielle’s lips-

Lucy shut down the idea and opened her eyes, unable to look at her. “No. I don’t feel that way about him at all.” She couldn’t help but slip into her DC persona, though with her runny nose she doubted she looked very intimidating. “If we’re going for the hard questions, what about you, Katrielle? Not Ernest, but is there somebody else?”

The question seemed to take her by surprise, and now it was Katrielle who was looking away. Lucy couldn’t help but feel satisfied, but it lasted a second. She didn’t know what answer to expect, or even what answer she wanted her to give. Too many thoughts tried to form in her mind, and it hit her how tired she was.

“The honest truth is that I don’t know,” Katrielle replied, quicker than Lucy expected. “I don’t believe that love can be one-sided. It should involve both people, otherwise it’s more like… infatuation.”

The delirium of her illness made her brave enough to ask. “So you might be infatuated with somebody, then?”

“I hope I’m not,” she tried to tease, but Lucy caught some sadness in her voice.

The situation was too much for her to make sense of, and as her head started to throb again, Lucy closed her eyes.

Coughing into her blanket, the alarm clock glowing red nearby told her it was just past two in the morning.

“Lucy?”

Something next to her shifted, and with the dim light from a lamppost outside peeking through the curtain, Lucy blinked and realised that she’d been leaning on Katrielle. How long had she been asleep for? More to the point, how long had Katrielle?

The other woman blinked, her eyes still bleary. “How are you feeling?”

Closing her eyes, Lucy took a moment to test her body, stretching out her limbs. “M’ throat hurts, but I don’t feel as sick. Just tired.”

“And hungry,” Katrielle teased. “I can hear your stomach. I’ll get you some soup.” She stood up and moved into the kitchen, and Lucy, despite being starving, could only feel the empty space on the sofa which had seconds ago been full of so much warmth. She longed for it to return.

With two piping hot bowls and some bread in hand, Katrielle strode back into the room. Lucy was cautious at first, but the moment the soup touched her lips she realised how ravenous she was, and finished it in minutes.

“That were delicious, Katrielle, thank you.”

“A gentlewoman always takes care of the sick. I promised you that.”

“You did,” she murmured.

Still exhausted, when Katrielle sat back down after cleaning up, Lucy instinctively put her head against her. A moment later, she felt the blanket drawn around her again, returning to soft thoughts.

And then guilt pierced her, and she pushed herself into a sitting position.

Katrielle had already been so patient and kind with her, and here she was using her as a pillow. She ought to go home and rest properly.

“I’m sorry for keeping you here,” she blurted out. “You’ve been wonderful, and I do feel better. You can go now if-”

“Do you want me to leave?”

She could only make out bits of Katrielle’s face as the other woman stared back at her, her eyes full of curiosity and something else. Worry?

So close.

“I will go, if you want me to,” she continued. “You’d probably like the privacy, and I did come here uninvited. Anyway, you look stronger than you were bef-”

“No.” Lucy’s voice was weak, but the word was certain. “No, I want you to stay.”

“Then I’m here.” Katrielle turned to pull the blanket back over them, but Lucy managed to catch the smile on her lips. After a second’s hesitation, she rested against her again and felt Katrielle move closer, gentle fingers running through her hair.

Going out of your way to help.

Chapter Text

As the light streamed through the curtain, Lucy rose her hand and blinked. It felt too early to be awake, but she couldn’t fall back asleep. There were too many thoughts running through her mind, all to do with the sleeping Katrielle next to her, her wavy hair strewn across her face.

Or at least, that’s what she imagined. When she looked next to her there was nobody, but a note had been placed on the sofa’s armrest.

Lucy,

Ernest just dropped by on his way to the agency to tell me that somebody requested my services yesterday. There’s a mystery calling, and the Layton Detective Agency is still trying to make a name for itself, so I need to make it history. I should also see what the damage is from yesterday, as Ernest looked very guilty.

I’m sorry I have to leave without saying goodbye. I don’t wish to wake you. I hope you feel better today.

Yours,

Katrielle

It was a perfectly good reason to leave, and yet she was disappointed, growing more selfish than she could handle. Rising, her limbs stiff from being sofa-ridden, she dragged the blanket outside. On her balcony, she watched the golden sunlight through the trees, the only source of warmth on an otherwise cold morning.

Lucy was stronger now, strong enough to think about everything that she’d been putting off.

The hardest part was admitting her desires. Like it or not, Katrielle Layton had been seared in Lucy’s mind, becoming the cornerstone from which every thought was formed. There was not one day that she didn’t wish she was with her, not one hour that something didn’t remind her of her. Being so close to her last night had only consolidated that.

God, how she wanted to be closer to her.

Plaguing her all day long, the thought prevented her from doing anything productive. She reread Katrielle’s letters before she found herself at her desk, trying to write a new one. Not knowing was driving her mad: she needed to ask. She pressed her pen against the paper, waiting, but nothing came.

You already know the answer.

No, she didn’t, she couldn’t dare to hope, but her mind ran through the evidence.

Katrielle had kept in touch since their first meeting. Katrielle had invited her to breakfast. Katrielle had come to see her when nobody else had. Katrielle had stayed longer than she needed to, because she wanted to. Katrielle had asked her questions about love. Katrielle had held her close as she fell asleep.

It had always been Katrielle, hadn’t it?

If she were a criminal, she’d be guilty as anything. She’s made her feelings clear enough, and what have you done to return them?

Nothing at all.

Gripping the pen until it hurt, she tried to start a different letter, one of confession, but no words were good enough to commit to. She ended up scrunching the paper up and tossing it across the room, leaning back in her chair and sighing.

Don’t be a coward, Lucy Baker.

Minutes later, she was by the door, dressed and shivering, but determined.

Katrielle was in the habit of closing the agency early on a Friday, believing in hard work, but also in taking time to enjoy life. Lucy had decided that even if Katrielle did have a case that caused her to be late, she would wait outside her flat as long as she had to.

She could face criminals with very little hesitation these days, starting to venture out to real crime scenes with Potty Prof. She’d been exposed to violent cases that she couldn’t have imagined at the beginning of her career. Yet, standing outside that flat was the scariest thing she’d done. Trying to form her words was impossible, and she almost wished there was a culprit nearby to chase down instead. Almost.

Fidgeting, her eyes never left the stairs. How much longer now? Did Katrielle have much work to catch up on from the day before? Perhaps that was for the best. She could sneak away now, leave and think it through a little mor-

Footsteps sounded from the stairs and Katrielle’s head come into view. Her hair was covered by a beanie, and she wore a thick scarf to fight off the cold weather. Looking up, her footsteps faltered. “Lucy?”

Lucy tried to speak, but couldn’t. She could only stare; she looked so warm, so Katrielle. Inquisitive eyes scanned her face.

Thoughts disappearing, there was only movement. The other woman had gotten to the top step, her mouth opening to say something, but no words got out before Lucy pressed her lips against hers.

In that instant, she had her answers. The feeling of kissing Katrielle was like a sigh of relief she didn’t know she’d been holding in, and then continuing to kiss her was to have warmth fill her body. It only took a second for Katrielle to respond, lips moving against hers gently, so gently, but eager, too.

Lucy would try to speak, try to explain herself, but every time Katrielle closed the small distances left between them, her hands reaching up to hold her face. Time, it felt like they’d missed out on so much time, and yet here they were suspended in a moment that may as well have been forever.

But they had to stop, eventually. They remained close, Katrielle’s thumbs brushing against her face, Lucy’s arms keeping their bodies pressed together. Her mind went blank as she stared into Katrielle’s eyes before she closed her own, their foreheads touching.

“Lord, Kat, I’m g-going to get you sick,” was all she could stutter, a blush rising to her cheeks.

Katrielle giggled, leaning in again. “Will you take care of me?” she murmured, her lips ghosting over Lucy’s.

“O’ course.”

Katrielle kissed her chastely. “Then I don’t mind.”

That was all Lucy needed to hear, her lips finding Katrielle’s for just a moment before they both started laughing. Their hands entwined, and the electricity between them had morphed into the absolute love she held in her heart.

And then, she started to sneeze.

Shaking her head, Katrielle’s hands dropped from her face. Unwrapping the scarf from her neck, she placed it around Lucy’s, moving her hair out of the way carefully. “Even with this you’ll catch your death out here, Lucy. Please, come inside.”

Touching the new addition to her outfit lightly, Lucy shook her head. “You don’t have t-”

“I want to.” As the door opened, Katrielle leaned in to take her arm. “Now that we both seem to be on the same page about a few things,” she began, “would you like to watch another of Mr Rector’s movies? This one’s a crime drama, so we can try to solve it now that you’re not as sick as you were yesterday.”

Would being this close ever stop feeling amazing? She hoped not. “Don’t you have work any work t’catch up on?”

“Oh, I solved the mystery within ten minutes of getting to the agency, it was rather straightforward. Ernest and Sherl just need more practice. Besides-”

“A gentlewoman always tends to the sick?”

“Exactly.”

Well, it would be rude to reject the offer.

“It’ll be the maid,” Lucy said, her hand in Katrielle’s. “It’s always the maid in these movies.”

“Mm.” Katrielle’s head rested against Lucy’s body. “The brother’s been suspiciously absent, though.”

“True.”

Katrielle’s home was filled to the brim with comfort, though messy as expected. The sofa felt nicer than her own, but perhaps it was because they were a little closer this time. Lucy had been flattered to see the letters she’d sent stacked high on the desk, her most recent one still open while the paperwork had been shoved aside.

The movie had reached an intense interrogation scene, each word captivating her, but Lucy didn’t mind when Katrielle broke the spell.

“Why now?” she murmured, her voice smothered by Lucy’s neck.

“I think I just… really needed t’know, Kat. And I needed you t’know how I felt, too. Kissing you were the best way to find out.”

In agreement, Katrielle reached up and kissed her cheek. “A good excuse, as well. But you weren’t sure?”

“Not quite The Prof would’ve been unhappy with the five percent uncertainty.”

Curious eyes studied her face. “What weren’t you sure about?”

“I mean, there were evidence.” Giggling, she shook her head. “Thinking back on it, there were a lot of it, Kat. But I were worried that you were only being so nice because of what I did for the Prof, and that you felt like you owed it to me.”

“I love what the act says about you, Lucy,” Katrielle replied, sitting up. “It shows you’re determined, and loyal, and clever, and those are qualities I value very highly.” Her eyes gleamed. “And let me assure you, whether you’ve saved my brother or not, I am one-hundred per cent attracted to you. I felt it on the very first day we met.”

If she hadn’t still been sick, her face would have been red, she was sure. “So did I.”

“And now that we both know that, I have a very important question to ask you, Lucy Baker.”

It was her turn to sit up. “Eh?”

“Will you be my girlfriend?”

After the shock wore off – and after studying Katrielle’s face to check that she was serious – Lucy threw her head back, nearly choking on her laughter. “Oh, Kat, w-what type of question is that?!”

“One that I want answered!”

“Aye, but we’ve missed a few steps, haven’t we? I mean, we’ve already been on dates, really, and we’re kiss-”

“A-And?”

“You’re blushing! T’great Katrielle Layton is blushing!”

“Lucy!”

Forcing herself to stop, Lucy took Katrielle’s hands in her own. “Kat, I showed up on your doorstep uninvited t’kiss you. O’ course I want to be your girlfriend.”

It was Katrielle who kissed her this time. They missed the end of the film, but Lucy didn’t mind.

Chapter Text

Rubbing her hands together, she suddenly clasped them as she sneezed.

“Oh dear, Miss, has the tea not helped?”

Sniffing, she shook her head. “The tea was nice. Don’t worry about me, Ernest, I’ll have to wait a few days for it to pass.”

“Such a sudden cold, too!” He cleared the teacup, shaking his head. “The weather has gotten a bit warmer since last week, so you must be terribly unlucky, Miss Layton.”

“Y-Yes, I can’t imagine what’s brought it on.” Coughing, Katrielle smiled at him from her desk. “Anyway, you’re not just an assistant today, remember? I want you and Sherl to do some detective work.”

“If you think we’re up to the task, then we will!” Standing a little straighter, he looked just shy of saluting.

“I don’t see why I’m involved,” Sherl grumbled from his basket. “Throw me a bone and start investigating my case, will you?”

“What’s that, Sherl? You want to sleep on the streets?”

“That’s ruff!”

Passing Ernest her notes, she stifled another cough. “The thief seems to strike in London’s West End, and at different theatres. If you can find the link between each location, we can stop the next theft before it happens.”

“O-Okay.”

“You can do this, Ernest. I believe in you.”

Determined, he nodded. “I won’t let you down, Miss Layton! I wonder if there’s a connection between the plays at each theatre?”

She beamed. “See? That’s what I would have started with! Now, off with you both!”

“Are you expecting company?”

“Nothing of the sort, Sherl.”

“I may not be a sniffer dog, but I can tell when somebody else has been here,” he said, trailing Ernest outside.”

“Oh? A visitor?”

“Keep walking, pinstripes.”

Laughing to herself, Katrielle rose to make another pot of tea, her eye on the clock as she lay out two cups and saucers. It should be another ten minutes.

At fifteen past twelve, right on schedule, the door swung open.

“Kat?”

“In here,” she said, voice raspy.

Lucy’s head poked into view, and though she was concerned, she was as bright as ever. “Still no better?”

Katrielle shook her head. “The second day is the hardest.”

“I’m sorry, love.”

Love.

“Don’t be. You didn’t ask me to come to your flat when you were sick.”

“And you didn’t ask me to go to your flat t’kiss you while I were sick.”

“Small details, small details.”

Lucy reached the desk, pulling something out of her bag. “I wanted to return this, it looks like you could use it.”

It was her scarf, freshly washed and soft to the touch. Her fingers rested on it a second before Katrielle shook her head. “Lucy, I can’t accept that. It was a gift to you.”

The detective constable didn’t bother arguing; instead, she thought hard until her face lit up. “Ah, what about this, then?” With one hand she unwound her own scarf from her neck, and kneeling down, she wrapped it around Katrielle. “It suits you.”

It only took a few seconds for her to feel warmer, and when she breathed in, it smelled of Lucy. “Thank you. This is lovely.”

The other leaned down to kiss her. Allowing herself to enjoy it for a moment, Katrielle forced herself to move away. “I’ll just get you sick again,” she said.

“Then you can take care of me again.”

That didn’t sound so bad.

Lucy took a seat next to her, unwrapping the sandwiches she’d picked up on her way over. Hand in hand, they spoke about Katrielle’s latest case, and then Lucy’s. She hoped that the labs would have analysed some evidence by the time she’d returned from her break. Katrielle knew precious little about her own case, having been unable to visit the scenes of the crime personally. Still, she had to trust Ernest and Sherl to solve it, and give them a nudge in the right direction if need be.

The best part was just being with Lucy. No grand gestures of love, no time taken to plan exactly how she would see her again, not worrying about the small details. She was just there, holding her hand, talking about day to day life.

The noise stopped. “Kat?”

“Hm?”

“Is everything alright?”

What a question. “Everything is absolutely perfect. Except for this illness.”

Sharing a smile, she watched as Lucy cast her eyes upwards to the clock. “I’ve got t’head back. The Prof’s already making comments, even Placid.”

“Tell him to mind his own business. It’s what he always told me, when I questioned him about Hilda.”

“I think he’s happy, more than anything else.” Putting her coat back on, Lucy’s face changed when her hand patted her pocket. “Oh! I wanted to give you this, before I left.” Placing an envelope on the desk, she slid it towards Katrielle.

Curious, she picked it up, her fingers rubbing the thin paper. “You’re not going to send it the usual way?”

“This is a special letter, actually.” Lucy cleared her throat. “It’s… it’s the one I tried to write, before I decided t’come and see you instead.”

“Oh?”

“I don’t want you to read it while I’m here, though. There’s a reason I never actually used it.” The awkward side of Lucy had emerged, as she couldn’t quite meet Katrielle’s eyes.

Katrielle stood up to embrace her. “I’m sure it’s beautiful, Lucy,” she murmured. “I’ll talk to you soon.”

One more kiss, and she was alone.

She gave herself a few moments of peace, eying the letter for as long as she could bear before she had no choice but to pick it up. Sliding the paper out, she smoothed the wrinkles and took in the words, scrawled all across the page.

Katrielle,

I can’t stop thinking about you.

You’re beautiful. You’re the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen.

I love that we write to each other. We don’t need to, with phones and because we live so close, but it’s the best part of my week.

Every time I see you I have so many more good memories.

I’m so lucky to have met you.

You are a good person. You didn’t have to come here to help me, but you did. I hope I can repay you for that, one day.

Yours,

(and I mean it, if you want)

Lucy

And in the corner, the writing so small she might have missed it.

I love you.

She had to read it another few times, the smile stretching out on her lips more than she’d known was possible. Putting aside her paperwork for the moment, she picked up a new piece of paper and a pen.

It was time for her to send another letter.