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DISCLAIMER: I own nothing.

First published August 2011 on FFN.


Permutations

by Joodiff


It is Friday lunchtime on a warm summer afternoon a couple of years after the start of the brand new millennium. In the bowels of a particularly unattractive concrete police station dating back to the early '70s, an extremely vociferous group of attractive, strong-minded and independent women are tightly grouped around the central tables of the Cold Case Unit's basement squad room. There's a lot of gossiping, quite a lot of heckling, and someone – almost certainly Eve Lockhart – has lit a cigarette, the smoke from which is making interesting, swirly patterns up near the low ceiling.

It is Mel Silver who comes rushing in through the double-doors to report loudly, "Coast's clear – they've pissed off to the Red Lion for a pint and a game of darts."

Various ribald comments, many of which are completely specious, are voiced in response. It's quite difficult to find a double entendre in such a plain statement, but somehow the assembled females manage it. The important fact, however, is that neither Detective Superintendent Peter Boyd, nor Detective Sergeant (not-yet-Inspector) Spencer Jordan are anywhere in the building, and since neither likes to be beaten at anything, a friendly game of darts will become a bloodthirsty best of three, best of five, best of seven… ad infinitum. Which should give the assembled crowd plenty of time to achieve the onerous task they have congregated for.

Frankie Wharton is drawing colour-coded and increasingly complicated grids and diagrams on Boyd's beloved Perspex evidence board. The CCU's currently active case has been summarily wiped out of existence using a duster no-one knew existed until it mysteriously appeared on Spencer's desk like a hastily invented plot device. Probably, the twenty-year old gruesome multiple murders in Bethnal Green are nowhere near as important to the cackling females ranged around the room as the actual purpose of this meeting.

Doctor Grace Foley, beloved matriarch and right-hand (wo)man to il duce who is somehow centre-stage and somehow in possession of quite simply the most sturdy and comfortable chair in the room, cuts across the general hubbub with, "I still don't think this is the best approach. After all, we're dealing with a situation that has many complicated psychological factors."

Someone – and no-one can quite identify who – groans loudly. Frankie turns round, hands on hips. "Look, we all agreed on this days ago – the logical, scientific approach is the best one."

"Excusez-moi," a slightly timid, French-accented voice says. "I didn't get the email until this morning…"

"You see?" Grace says, sounding faintly triumphant. "Stella didn't get the email, so technically – "

"Shut up, Grace," Kat Howard says, sidling past to sit on the edge of one of the tables. "We'll be here forever if you start arguing, and I'm supposed to be off shooting… er… arresting someone this afternoon."

"Too late," an Irish-accented voice announces loudly from the double doors as they swing open again to admit a tall, blonde woman. "Just sorted that. Sorry I'm late… did I miss anything?"

"Nope," Felix tells her. "We don't need your input until series nine."

The blonde asks impatiently, "So where are we up to?"

"Well, we haven't actually started, but since we don't need to do the pilot or series one…"

"Fuck, this is going to take hours," Sarah Cavendish – the blonde – says gloomily. "Why do I have to be here anyway? I thought I'd made it quite clear that I don't want to have sex with anyone from the CCU at any point?"

"So what?" Felix asks grumpily. "That won't matter. Some sad, deluded 'shipper somewhere is going to pair you up with someone eventually whether you like it or not. At least this way you get a say in who, what, when and why."

"Hello?" Frankie says loudly. "Can we just get on with this, please? I have decomposing corpses waiting for me."

The noise dies down, and many pairs of piercing eyes settle firmly on Frankie and her poised pen. Mel raises a hand, and in response to Frankie's dark look asks meekly, "Why have I only got one column?"

"You don't want to know," Grace tells her.

Mel's blue eyes widen innocently. "Why not?"

Grace pats the younger woman's hand in a gesture that is probably supposed to be sympathetic. "You just don't. Let's just say that you don't have to stay for the rest of the meeting once we've sorted out everything up to the end of series four."

Someone – and again, no-one's sure quite who – mutters, "Wheeee, bang, splat…"

"Oh," Mel says, not hearing the sotto voce comment. She looks bewildered, but faintly pleased. "Cool. I'll spend the rest of the afternoon on Facebook, then."

"Hasn't been invented yet," Eve points out, stubbing her cigarette out on the floor and instantly lighting a new one using a very large brass Zippo lighter.

"Bugger."

"Can we please – "

"Oh, get on with it, Frankie," Felix says impatiently. "You're not the only one who can draw impressively fiddly graphs, you know. Hey, and I really think you should add a couple of Venn diagrams for clarity."

"Clarity?"

Felix shrugs. "Yeah; well, some of us might want to shag more than one of our colleagues."

Frankie blinks. "What, simultaneously?"

Eve snorts. "Only if you want to be responsible for exploding the heads of 'shippers far and wide."

"Oooh, threesome!" Mel squeals, and then looks round defensively. "What? Just because I'm the youngest, I'm not allowed to…? Hey, and while I'm at it, how come you've drawn a line through Boyd's name on my column, Frankie?"

"Because you're the youngest," Frankie says patiently. "You can't shag Boyd, Mel… it just wouldn't be right."

Mel pouts. "But I want my turn! Grace, tell Frankie it's not fair!"

Grace simply says, "Never mind, you can have Spencer."

Sulkily, Mel grumbles, "But I don't want bloody Spencer..."

"Actually, neither does anyone else," Kat points out.

Stella raises a hand. "Er…"

Eve glares at her, and Stella subsides. Blushing slightly. Maybe Felix notices, because she says brightly, "Shouldn't we have a dedicated slash grid somewhere up there, Frankie?"

Frankie sighs heavily. "Fuck's sake, this is already too complicated as it is. I'll just draw connecting lines where needed. In pink."

"Well, that's not very politically correct…"

Many voices at once say, "Oh, fuck off, Sarah."

A distinctly American voice near the back of the room says, "Huh…?"

"Not you," Grace says icily. "You're only here by default. The other one."

Sarah Cavendish says, "What? I was just trying to point out – "

"Oh, God, are you going to be this irritating all the way through series nine?" Eve asks. It's a rhetorical question, of course.

There's a loud bang that successfully interrupts the squabbling. It's a sort of plastic-ring-binder-hitting-table-top-very-sharply sort of bang, and all eyes turn instantly to Grace. Sweetly, she says, "Now that I have your attention… Frankie, series two. I'm shagging Boyd, Mel's shagging Spencer and you… well you can make do with random guest characters."

"Hang on, I thought this was supposed to be a democratic meeting?" Frankie complains.

Mel glowers. "Yeah, and I don't want to shag Spencer. It would be like shagging my brother or something."

"Better than shagging someone old enough to be your father," Felix says snidely. At Mel's look she holds up her hands in a gesture of injured innocence. "What? Hey, if you really want to shag Boyd…"

-oOo-

Meanwhile, in the relative safety of the Red Lion public house, two very grumpy men are throwing darts at a very old and very tatty dartboard. The older, and arguably the grumpier, says, "Well, I just hope it's all sorted out by the time we get back."

His companion simply complains, "I realise we're not supposed to know about it, but I still think the whole thing's totally humiliating and degrading."

Boyd grins. A bit like a complacent shark. But with slightly less teeth and a lot more weak-knee inducing charm. "You only think that because no-one's trying to get their hands on your family jewels, Spence."

"No, I just think in this post-feminist age – "

"Bollocks," Boyd says succinctly.

Sullenly, Spencer sips his second pint of Badger's Todger and says, "What I want to know is how we're actually supposed to find the time to solve any cases…"

Boyd sighs. "No-one's interested in us actually solving cases."

"You mean…?"

The older man nods. "I'm afraid so. We're just man-candy, Spence. Get used to it."

There is a short, slightly melancholy pause. "Boyd?"

"Yeah?"

Plaintively, Spencer asks, "How come they all want to sleep with you when I'm younger, fitter…"

Boyd looks smug. "Because, Spence, my boy, women go for the bad lads every time. And I am a bad lad. I am a shouty, bad-tempered anti-hero with shitloads of carefully orchestrated vulnerability. Additionally, I'm going to grow a damned sexy beard in a couple of series' time."

"I can grow a beard."

"Let's not turn this into a pissing contest, Detective Sergeant. My beard will always be sexier. Fact."

"I'm black. I bet I've got a bigger dick than you."

"I bet you bloody haven't. Have you seen the size of my nose?"

"That's an old wives' tale, Boyd."

Boyd smirks. "You carry on believing that if it makes you happy, Spence…"

-oOo-

"…Except on Thursdays," Frankie says, concentrating hard as she links up yet another line on the evidence board. "Unless, of course, Thursday happens to fall on the first of the month, in which case Boyd can get off with a female suspect and Spencer can have an M-S day."

"I'm still not sure about the need for Mary-Sue days," Felix says, sounding dubious, "particularly in Spencer's case."

Frankie sighs. "Oh, come on, there's bound to be someone out there. The current population of the world is – "

Sarah Cavendish pops her head out of Boyd's office. "Series nine…?"

"Are you joking?" Kat says with considerable asperity. "We're still finalising series three out here."

"Oh, for fuck's sake…" Sarah says, and slams Boyd's door closed again.

"I still don't see why we have to give them an entire day off each every bloody week," Eve complains. "Has no-one here ever heard of Viagra?"

Grace looks innocent. Felix sniggers and then asks Eve pointedly, "I thought you weren't interested in having either of them?"

Eve glares coldly at her fellow scientist. "I'm not. Well… only marginally. For purely scientific reasons. But – "

Frankie interrupts with an impatient, "Look, Eve, you're going to bugger everything up completely if you change your mind this late in the day. Can you please just stick with Stella and miscellaneous guest characters of either gender, canonical or otherwise."

Sounding incredibly sulky, Eve says, "I just don't see why I should be denied the opportunity to find out – "

"Fine," Frankie says, displaying a real flash of temper and abruptly stamping her foot. "I'll pencil you in for a possible quick fumble in the interview room with Spencer sometime in series seven, and an optional drunken Christmas shag with Boyd somewhere between seven and eight. Happy now?"

"No," Eve says, standing up. "I've run out of fags. Just popping out, back soon."

"Series four?" Felix says hopefully.

"Wait," Mel's voice calls from the vicinity of the water-cooler. "Can I just make absolutely sure… I definitely get to shag Boyd at some point, right?"

"Yes," the other women all chorus impatiently.

"Cool," Mel says wandering off happily.

"Wheeee, bang, splat…" Felix mutters to Stella. Stella sniggers.

-oOo-

"Trust me, Spence," Boyd says, leaning back in his chair, and putting his feet up on the pub table between them. "It could be a lot worse."

"How?" Spencer asks, managing to sound simultaneously outraged and miserable. "How could it be worse?"

Boyd gazes at him in a very man-to-man manner. "Please don't tell me you've never heard of slash fiction?"

"What, slash as in…?"

"Yeah. As in."

"But… but… but… I don't remotely fancy you."

Boyd gives his subordinate a sideways look. "Don't be bloody stupid, Spence; everyone fancies me. I've seen the graffiti. Or I will in a couple of series' time when I'm in a cubicle with Mel for some incredibly spurious reason. And it doesn't matter, anyway – where there's a willing slash writer, there's a way."

Spencer looks shaken. Though not stirred. He asks, "Have you been smoking the funny stuff from the evidence store again, sir?"

"Look, I don't like it any more than you do, but these people are utterly relentless. Give 'em half a chance and they'll be eulogising your genitalia for years to come. Throbbing manhoods, turgid towers, engorged organs… you name it…" Boyd sighs. "No-one seems to be able to call a cock a cock anymore."

"Okay, I get the message," Spencer says. He stares gloomily into his fourth pint of Badger's Todger and eventually says, "Yeah, all right, you win. It could be worse. But if you get to have even one threesome with Mel and Frankie I'm never speaking to you again. Sir."

"I'm already looking forward to the blissful silence," Boyd says gravely. He pushes his empty glass across the table. "It's your round, Spence. In situations like this, getting totally shitfaced is the only realistic option for any red-blooded male."

-oOo-

"Catfight!" Felix yells excitedly, banging on Boyd's officer door. "Sarah! Catfight!"

In truth, it's not a very spectacular catfight. Either Frankie or Mel has given Grace a mild Chinese burn, Grace has kicked Mel sharply in the shins and in return Mel is still robustly pulling Frankie's hair when Sarah looks out hopefully.

"Begorrah," she says, falling accidentally into an Irish stereotype. "Jesus, Mary and all the Saints…"

"What the hell are you blathering on about?" Eve, recently returned to the squad room with an ample supply of tobacco and a bottle of Jack Daniel's, asks. "God, you are just so annoying, you pointless Irish bint."

Frankie is shrieking loudly and trying to punch Mel in the head.

Sarah steps right out into the squad room and looks at the other Sarah. "What happened?"

American Sarah drawls, "Oh, they're not fighting over who's screwing Boyd in series four anymore; they're fighting over who has to get up and make him breakfast in bed."

"Oh, God… we're talking threesomes now?"

"Get with it, girlfriend," American Sarah says sardonically to Irish Sarah. "We're well into foursome territory here. Apparently Grace is exempt from breakfast in bed duties on account of being the unit's beloved matriarch."

"Merde," a voice in the background says.

Everyone – including the combatants – pauses to look at Stella in bemusement. She shrugs, "Sorry. Just reminding you all that I'm still here. And that I’m French.”

"And me," Kat Howard says quickly, raising a hand. "I'm still here, too. Though I’m not French."

The squad room doors fly open yet again. A woman no-one even slightly recognises appears. She looks round, says, "Detective Sergeant Andrea Stephenson, Kent CID. I got an email…?"

-oOo-

"And 'nother thing," Boyd slurs, waving his glass vaguely in Spencer's direction. "Is jus' not funny when they keep forcing you to get your kit off for no readily apparent reason… You listenin' to me, Spence? Spence...?"

"Meurgh," Spencer says. It's a Badger's Todger-influenced version of 'yes, of course, do go on, old chap'.

"I mean… you ever read any of the bloody awful stuff? 'Boyd rescues pretty damsel in distress and has to take shirt off to do so'. 'Boyd comforts Grace…' – as bloody if – '…and has to take shirt off to do so'. And don't get me started on – "

"Meurgh," Spencer says again, raising his head slightly from the table. "Meurgh meurgh meurgh, meurgh…?"

"How's that my fault, eh?" Boyd asks his extremely inebriated junior colleague, apparently understanding the incomprehensible mutterings completely. "Is jus' the way 'tis… Obsessed I tell you… Fucking obsessed. And shallow? Don't talk to me about shallow…"

"Meurgh," Spencer says helpfully.

"Oh, s'all right for you," Boyd says resentfully. "No-one's asking you to flash your pecs every five minutes. And sali… saliv… drooling about it. Bloody women…"

-oOo-

"It's not really very fair, though, is it?" Eve – suddenly the voice of reason – asks. "Come on, Grace, you really can't have exclusive rights to Boyd through all of series five and half of series six."

Grace holds up a hand. "Talk to the hand."

"That's so not a cool phrase anymore," Kat says disdainfully, but very, very quietly.

"Frankie?" Felix says, looking round, as if seeking arbitration.

Frankie is sitting in Spencer's chair with her feet up, playing with her mobile phone. It seems she is having trouble choosing between I Shot the Sheriff and Shaft! as an appropriate ringtone for someone working for a police unit. She shrugs without looking up. "Nothing to do with me. As of the end of series four I'm strictly outta all of this. In a canonical sense, at any rate."

Stella hisses at Eve, "Why does everyone keep talking about cannons?"

"Canon, not cannon, you stupid French tart," Irish Sarah chips in.

"Look," Felix says, raising her voice. "I have one series, just one. And I don't see why I should sacrifice my chance of getting laid just because – "

"There's always Spencer," Mel says helpfully.

Felix glares at her. "Fuck off, Mel – no-one wants to shag Spencer, not even you."

"Er…" Stella says, just before Eve kicks her hard under the table. "Ow… Nothing."

"Oh, all right," Grace says with a distinctly grudging sigh. Magnanimously, she continues, "Felix, you may have him on alternate Tuesdays… if I'm not speaking to him at the time. And I want him back in full working order."

Felix raises her eyebrows. "What are you implying, Doctor Foley?"

And – predictably – the double doors open.

"Former DI Jess Worrall," one of the identical women who appear says, "and some prison officer who's going to turn out to be a complete psycho bitch from hell, who rather strangely also just happens to look just like me. Weird, eh? We had emails…?"

"For fuck's bloody sake," Frankie yells, phone forgotten as she jumps angrily to her feet. "There's no more room on the bastard sodding board…"

"Anyone for a nice game of chess?" Linda Cummings asks mildly. She smiles artlessly at Stella.

A new voice from a little way behind the two identical women says, "Hello? Is this the Cold Case Unit…? Doctor Greta Simpson – I got an email…?"

Frankie looks as if she's either going to scream or sob. Irish Sarah starts to laugh. In a slightly hysterical sort of way.

-oOo-

Through the bedlam, an extremely strange noise is detected. It sounds vaguely like singing. Actually, it sounds more like two angry tomcats having a fierce altercation in a metal dustbin (or trash can if you’re American). It's quite loud, though, and it's definitely getting louder. And as the approaching noise gets even louder, so the hubbub in the CCU's squad room begins to die down. All the women look at each other.

Eve is blowing smoke rings. Languidly, she says, "Bohemian Rhapsody."

Irish Sarah looks deeply sceptical. "Are you sure?"

"Oh, yeah."

"Pissed out of their heads, then," Mel says.

"Totally paralytic, I'd say," Eve agrees.

One of the tomcats is bawling, "Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango…"

The other tomcat's response is a roar of, "Meurgh meurgh meurgh, meurgh, meurgh meurgh meurgh…"

"Galileo…" Stella starts, and stops abruptly as everyone glares at her. "Sorry."

Squad room doors. Open. Dramatically.

Boyd steps in with his arms flung wide, his long black coat adding a touch of high melodrama to his silhouette. "I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me…"

Spencer falls past his superior, crashing headlong onto the squad room floor. "Meurgh…"

"Doctors, police officers, and miscellaneous ladies," Boyd announces at considerable volume, staggering forward. "Detective Sergeant Jordan and I have returned from luncheon."

Dryly, Frankie says, "No shit."

-oOo-

Once the almost completely unconscious Spencer has been dragged into Grace's office and unsympathetically abandoned there – on the floor – the beady-eyed attention of the female throng turns inevitably to Boyd. He is no longer singing. Nor is he still in possession of either his coat or his jacket – although, despite being extremely inebriated, he has somehow so far managed to hang onto his shirt. Possibly, this peculiar fact has more to do with Grace and her truly terrifyingly territorial glares than to his current ability to defend himself. He's looking distinctly glazed as he sits facing the evidence board.

"Pay attention, Boyd," Frankie instructs him for the third time. "It's really very simple. A child could understand it."

He points at the board, says querulously, "Wassis?"

"'What's this'," Grace translates helpfully.

Frankie gives her a look. "Yeah, I got that. Right. The grid on the left represents…"

The explanation is very long and very complicated.

When Frankie finally reaches the triumphant end of her soliloquy, Boyd looks at Grace. "Wassis…?"

"Not terribly bright, is he?" Irish Sarah mutters to American Sarah.

American Sarah shrugs. "Doesn't need to be, does he? Just as long as he's pretty and hung like a horse."

"For God's sake," Eve says. She jumps to her feet and joins Frankie by the board. "Just how stupid are you, Boyd? It's perfectly easy…"

Eve's explanation is also very long and very complicated. Boyd's expression remains blank. Mel puts her hand in the air. When no-one immediately acknowledges her, she starts fidgeting like the classroom swot until she's virtually bouncing on her chair.

Frankie says, "Yes, Mel, you may be excused."

"Huh? Oh… No, no, I don't need a pee. I think I can explain it to him."

Frankie and Eve exchange glances. Challengingly, the latter says, "Go on then."

So Mel does. By the time she's finished, Boyd has gone very pale. He has also sobered up. A lot.

"But," he says. "But… but…"

"Problem?" Grace asks him in a deceptively mild tone.

He shakes his head both meekly and vigorously. Which is quite an achievement. "No. No problem, Grace."

"Good."

"It's just…"

"Yes?"

"I'm getting the whole rota system, but…" he looks slightly bemused as he asks, "who the bloody fuck are all those women waiting out in the car park?"

"Mary-Sue," Felix says patiently.

Boyd frowns. "What, all of them?"

"Technically, yes," Felix tells him. "But don't worry, I'm sure most of them are fairly harmless."

"There's a few Gary-Stus out there, too," Eve adds helpfully. "But I expect they're mostly harmless, too."

The frown is rapidly becoming alarm. "And I have to… you know… with all of them?"

"Well, yeah. That is rather the point of the Mary-Sue."

"What, all of them? Even the obviously barking mad ones who own eight cats and write in green crayon?"

"Well, yeah, Boyd, but to be honest they probably won't expect too much in the way of – "

And it is at that point that Detective Superintendent Peter Boyd flees the squad room at truly remarkable speed. When they find him, he is cowering in the corner of one of the interview rooms, and he is gently rocking backwards and forwards, hugging his own knees.

-oOo-

"Doctor Foley," the Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police says, several weeks later. "You are a highly experienced and much-lauded psychologist, and I realise that it isn't up to me to question your professional judgement, but…"

"But?" Grace asks in a tone that sounds sweet, but actually isn't. Not at all.

"But I'm not altogether convinced that DSI Boyd isn't, in fact… how shall I put this…" the DAC pauses for a moment, and then continues, "as mad as a box of frogs."

"Interesting terminology," Grace says. She smiles, and the DAC edges backwards slightly in his chair. "He's stopped bursting into tears every five minutes, hasn't he?"

"Well, yes…"

"And he's stopped drawing obscene pictures on the padded walls of his… room?"

"I believe so, yes."

"Then – in my professional opinion – he's quite sane enough and stable enough to return to the CCU."

"But, Doctor, if anyone mentions the… 'M-S'… word, he starts screaming."

"That's completely natural. I can assure you that we're going to keep him well away from Mary-Sues. And Gary-Stus."

"Oh, I believe you, Doctor Foley… But keeping him away from them is one thing. Keeping them away from him is quite another. These people are ruthless, relentless…"

"I know that. But quite frankly…" Grace pauses, and smiles again. "He's going to be far too… busy. If you care to look at these plans devised by Doctor Wharton…"

The DAC takes the thick sheaf of papers from Grace and leafs through them. The blood visibly drains from his face. "But this is – "

"Yes," Grace agrees. "Every possible combination any 'shipper could ever come up with. Doctor Gibson is particularly proud of the Venn diagrams."

"Dear God," the DAC says with a shudder, handing the papers back. "All right, Doctor Foley. I believe you – he's going to be far too busy for any unfortunate Mary-Sue incidents. But I can't help feeling sorry for the poor bastard… Lacing his coffee with Viagra on a daily basis may not be entirely ethical, you know."

"That's okay, we're going to do the same thing to DS Jordan, too."

"But according to Doctor Wharton's annotations, no-one wants to have… relations… with DS Jordan."

"Hey ho," Grace says with a shrug. "A least he'll be… up for it… if anyone changes their mind."

-oOo-

Six days later, in the darkness, a little way beneath the ground floor gentlemen's toilets in the ugly '70s police station, a male voice says, "Boss?"

Close by, a slightly deeper voice replies grumpily, "What?"

"This may not be the best idea you've ever had."

"Do you want to get out of here, or not? Just shut up and keep bloody digging, Spence," the deeper voice says. There's a very long pause. Then, "Why not?"

"'Cos," the first voice says, "if we dig straight down from here…"

A chink of light suddenly appears beneath them.

"Fuck."

Spencer sighs. "Like I said…"

Two grime-streaked faces peer downwards through the small hole that has appeared in the floor of their tunnel. All they can really see is the big, Perspex evidence board.

The CCU is, after all, housed in the building's basement. Strategically, it is not DSI Boyd's finest hour.

But given that he is digging in a small, hot and claustrophobic tunnel… he has got his shirt off.

- the end -