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Sillage

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Sillage
noun
1. the degree to which a perfume's fragrance lingers in the air when worn.

People always knew when Hilda Pertinax had been in a room by the smell of that overwhelming perfume that wafted around on her coat and filled rooms with its flowery scent. It hung around the lower floors of Scotland Yard, occasionally gracing the upper levels when she had something important to say to the Commissioner. Dustin had said - on more than one occasion - that it was stronger than the air freshener he used when he was cleaning the toilets. None present were ever sure if this was a compliment or not.

More recently, that smell could be found in Lucy Baker's office, the one she shared with Alfendi, and at her modest, cosy flat. It lingered on the soft armchairs, and even sometimes on the multitude of comfortable cotton cushions that decorated the detective constable's bed. Even on mornings when the Interpol detective had left on some important international case before Lucy had even dragged herself out of her deep doze, the scent was there to remind her that their relationship wasn't some intricate, convoluted daydream. That thought often stayed with her all day, giving her a smile that was softer, more sincere than the bright, all-is-well ones she graced her friends with. This smile was one that she caught herself off guard with, and that Alfendi recognised as an obvious sign she was daydreaming. It was full of love, safety, and peace.

In the time they'd been together, Hilda's perfume had become like a safety blanket to Lucy. When her girlfriend had offered to buy her a bottle of her own for Christmas, however, she had refused instantly.

“It en't the smell that's what I like about it, Hilda; it's the fact that it's so... You…” She had explained at the time, her face hidden shyly in her knees as they half watched some rom-com that had come highly recommended by Sniffer, “If I smell that, I know that you're around, and it jus'... Soothes me, I suppose…”

Hilda was thinking about that now, as the couple boarded the train that would carry them to a station in the exact centre of nowhere, to a castle that linked together most everything she'd experienced in the past few years. When they settled in a quiet compartment, she looked over at Lucy, whose eyebrows were knitted tightly together. She kept tugging down at the brim of her rain-soaked hat and biting her nails to stubs, but the most telling sign of her anxiety was her silence. The one thing she adored most about the other lady had been lost to worry for her friend.

“Lucy, dear... Come here, will you?” She said gently, beckoning from the other side of the compartment. Lucy blinked sharply, her crimson eyes (that had previously been half-focused on the stormy scenery outside) snapping over to regard the blonde. Hilda repeated her motion, then calmly patted the seat next to her.

“Aye, yeah…” Lucy said absentmindedly, shifting sides and leaning into Hilda's chest. Instantly, the sweetness of her fragrance settled around her, and she stopped biting her lip, feeling herself give a small smile. Hilda pursed her lips slightly, then took off the other woman’s hat.

“Let this dry whilst we're on the train, and I'll see if I can sort out this terrible case of hat hair as we go…” She tutted, as if it were any other day, when she'd tease Lucy about the tufts of hair that sprung haphazardly from her head. With a small nod of assent from her girlfriend, Hilda gently started running her fingers through that soft auburn hair, her usually strict posture relaxing to let Lucy nuzzle in closer.

“Tha's nice, Hilda... Feels calmin'...” She mumbled softly, her voice muffled by the fabric of Hilda's blouse.

“That's the intention, sweetheart,” A pause to move a strand of long, blonde hair off of her meticulously perfect lipstick, and then, “Lucy... Al isn't stupid - don’t tell him I said that. He may be reckless, wild, insensitive - one million other things - but he would not take kindly to anyone doubting his intelligence, and for good reason. He won't make the same mistakes as he did back then.”

“... Can y'be sure...?” Lucy mumbled, her words searching for comfort as she closed her eyes and sighed softly. All she wanted to focus on was the comforting smell of Hilda's shirt. It smelt like the pillows, and the office on a good day, and home ... “This en't like then, and he en't like then…”

“Trust me, Lucy. I'm often right.” The quiet confidence grew in Hilda's gentle, yet firm voice, “You can trust me, yes…? I promise this will all be fine… We’ll catch up to Al, and we’ll arrest Makepeace the second we catch sight of her.”

Lucy looked up. Hilda’s floral blue eyes met her dark red, and then she smiled, as if nothing was different to a usual day just cuddling in bed. The younger of the two smiled back - how did Hilda always manage to elicit that special smile from her…?

“Aye… I trust y’, Hilda. You’re less reckless than t’Prof, after all.”

“Hm, I didn’t think that needed clarification.” Hilda chuckled, pressing her lips to Lucy’s forehead, then blushing as she tried to clean away the lipstick mark. Lucy gently batted her hand away, returning the kiss, then curling into her hold.

“How long ‘til our stop?”

“You’ve plenty of time for a nap, darling. Oh, and Lucy?”

“... Aye?”

“I’m proud of you. You’ve made so much progress since your first cases, and… I feel like this case is going to be made or broken by you. I trust you’ll work through everything and anything we encounter in that godforsaken castle.”

Lucy’s eyes shone, but she didn’t have the energy to respond any more. She’d been fretting the entire time since Alfendi had disappeared, so she took this time, surrounded by Hilda’s warmth and the soothing aroma of her perfume, to gaze out at the inky black sky and rest her tired eyes. Just for a while.