Sam and Fiona go to Austin’s flat first. It’s further from the coffee shop than Finn’s is, but they’ll have to go out there, anyway, and Sam’s not sure she wants to start with Finn’s.
It’s been a little while since she was last there; Austin was the first person killed, and his flatmates haven’t hosted any parties since. She still remembers the way, though, and Fiona stands slightly behind her as she knocks on the door to the flat.
One of Austin’s (former) flatmates opens the door, and she smiles at him.
“Hi, Chris,” she greets.
“Sam,” he returns. “Hey. Come on in.”
He holds the door open for her and she heads inside, followed closely by Fiona.
“How’ve you been?” she asks.
He gives her a slight smile. “Okay. Be better if they caught the piece of shit doing this. How’s Kayla?”
“Not great,” Sam says. “About as okay as you can expect.”
“Yeah, saw her at the thing last night,” Chris says. “She didn’t go home alone, did she?”
“No, we stayed with her,” Sam says. “The others are still with her now.”
“Good,” Chris says with a nod.
Fiona nudges her, ever so lightly, and Sam says, “Listen, Chris, you think I could see Austin’s room?”
He looks confused. “Uh, sure. Why?”
“I don’t know,” she says. “It’s dumb, I guess, but I thought maybe I could say good-bye.” She feels a small twinge of guilt, lying to him like that, but she can’t tell him the truth.
“Oh.” His expression turns sympathetic. “Sure, Sam. You remember the way?”
“Yeah,” she says. “Thanks, Chris.”
She leads Fiona to Austin’s room, and glances around it while Fiona shuts the door.
“Looks almost the same,” Sam says absently. “Except he moved the bed, it used to be under that window.”
“How do you know?” Fiona asks.
Sam winces internally. She hadn’t actually meant to say that, but she refuses to back down now, so she just looks at Fiona and raises an eyebrow.
Fiona gives her the same bored, slightly disdainful look she’d given her back in the lab when a similar subject came up with Finn.
“Sexual experience with two victims,” Fiona says, tone deliberately idle. “Perhaps the connection we’re looking for is you.”
Sam rolls her eyes. “Everyone has sexual experience with Austin, including Kayla. Hell, probably including Finn. If you’re looking for a connection there, you’ll have to check out half the campus.”
Fiona doesn’t respond, and instead begins poking around Austin’s room. Sam joins her, trying not to feel guilty for searching through his things. They’ve kept it the same as Austin had it before he died; Sam remembers Evan, Austin’s other flatmate, saying it’d stay that way until his killer was found.
‘They’ll probably do the same for Finn,’ Sam thinks, then pushes thoughts like that out of her mind and focuses on the task at hand.
But they don’t find anything in Austin’s flat. And when Sam calls Finn’s flatmates, she can hear numerous voices in the background. Eric tells her that of course, she’s welcome any time, and yeah, they do have quite a few people over at the moment.
“Probably gonna stay that way for awhile, luv, so if you’re looking for some quiet time here, might want to wait until they all clear out.” Eric sounds tired, and there’s a rawness to his voice.
“How are you doing, Eric?” she asks gently.
Eric huffs a soft, sad laugh. “Hiding in my room like a wanker. Bit too much for me, all this, you know I don’t like public displays.”
Sympathy stabs her. “I’ll be out most of the day, and Lacey’s at Kayla’s, so if you need someplace to escape the madness, you’re welcome to our flat.”
“Thanks, Sam,” he says, gratitude obvious. “Might take you up on that. In any case, this lot’s talking about hitting the pubs when Cameron gets off work, so they’ll be cleared out after four. I might go with them, so if there’s no one here, just use the spare key.”
“All right,” Sam says. “Take care, Eric.” She hangs up, then looks at Fiona. “If we’re looking to get any kind of searching done, it’ll have to be after four.”
Fiona looks briefly displeased, then shrugs. “Doesn’t matter what order we search them in. Shall we head off to the pub worker’s flat, then?”
Sam frowns. “Why do you keep doing that? Calling them by their occupation, or their sport. They’ve got names, you know. You could use them.”
Fiona looks at her as if she’s being strange. “Why would I do that? They’re dead. I hardly bother to remember the names of people who’re still alive. Much more important things to store in my memory than names I will never have occasion to use again. Do you remember all of their names?”
“Yes,” Sam says. “Austin Collins, rugby player. Kevin Mitchell, the pub worker. Martin Andrews, the professor. Finn Morgan, rugby player.”
“Hmm,” Fiona says. “And I suppose you’ll remember all your patients’ names, too, when you become an overworked doctor?”
“Absolutely,” Sam agrees. “And who their significant other is, what kind of dog they’ve got, what grade their kid’s in.”
“Oh, God,” Fiona mutters. “You would.”
“Is that supposed to be an insult?” Sam asks.
Fiona opens her mouth to answer automatically, then pauses and frowns. “No,” she says, like she’s slightly confused by the answer.
Sam is, as well, but doesn’t want to let on to that. So she says, “Good. On to Mitchell’s, then.”
Sam hasn’t a clue as to where Kevin Mitchell lives, but Fiona somehow knows. ‘Probably Googled him or looked him up in the phone book, duh, Sam,’ she thinks to herself as they knock on the door to the flat.
A plain young man answers the door, looks them up and down, and brightens a bit. “Yes?” he asks, most of his attention on Fiona.
‘And why not?’ Sam thinks, part admiration, the tiniest bit envy, but mostly simple observation of fact. ‘She’s bloody super-model gorgeous, isn’t she?’
“Hi, Alan. I’m Amber,” Fiona introduces sweetly. “This is Tiffani. We were here a few weeks ago, at the party you had for Kevin. I don’t know if you remember us, there were a lot of people there-”
“No, yeah, I definitely remember you,” Alan says. “Hullo again Amber. Tiffani.”
“Could we come in?” Fiona asks, and yes, that’s definitely a fluttering of eyelashes there. “It’s just, the party was lovely, but we really didn’t get any time alone. We were hoping maybe we could sit a bit in Kevin’s room, say good-bye, and then – talk with you a little.”
Alan nods. “Oh, yeah, definitely.”
He holds the door open for them, then leads them to Mitchell’s room. “Go right ahead. I’ll be in the living room, when you two are ready to – talk.”
“Thank you,” Fiona tells him, shutting the door as he leaves.
Sam eyes her. “Do that often?”
“Do what?” Fiona asks absently, already beginning her search of the room.
Sam decides it’s not worth pursuing, though she does tuck away Fiona’s apparent transformation ability as a topic of interest later, and looks around the room. Unlike at Austin’s, Mitchell’s room has been stripped of decorations and his things half-packed in boxes.
“No comments to make about the state of his bed, then?” Fiona asks, nodding towards the mattress and bed frame.
“Look, just because I-” Sam looks up from the box she was searching through to find Fiona smirking at her and cuts off. Then sighs. “You do this because you like getting me riled up, don’t you?”
“You make amusing irritated noises,” Fiona agrees.
Sam giggles quietly, then frowns at Fiona. “Quit that. Quit making me giggle; it’s inappropriate.” But then, Sam’s always had a dark sense of humour. Chuckling over cadavers, her professors said that’s what would help her get through medical school.
“You’re the one giggling in the middle of an investigation,” Fiona informs her, fighting a smile. “I find it very immature.”
“Your face is immature,” Sam retorts, mostly because she thinks it’s the last response Fiona’s expecting, and Sam’s discovered she likes surprising Fiona.
Sure enough, Fiona stares at her. “My what? Do people actually make those jokes? Real people, who aren’t idiots, and expect others to find them amusing?”
“Dunno,” Sam replies. “You have the dubious honour of being the first person I’ve made a ‘your face’ joke to. Was it amusing, then?”
Fiona opens her mouth as if to reply, and instead giggles helplessly, and there’s nothing for Sam to do but giggle along with her.
“Now who’s making people giggle inappropriately?” Fiona asks.
“Not my fault,” Sam says. “I’m hoping to go into medicine. I have to have an inappropriate sense of humour.”
“Perhaps I should change my course again, then,” Fiona said. “I am growing bored with biochemistry.”
“Wish you would,” Sam replies. “Then I’d have someone to giggle with. We watched a film of a surgery last week, not even live, pre-recorded, and when it went into close-ups, we had two people scream and one faint. Knew the fainter, this big, tough bloke on the men’s football team, and I giggled so much they kicked me out until I could control myself.”
“You did not,” Fiona says.
“God’s honest truth,” Sam says, though she leaves out the bit where her professor talked to her after class and told her sternly to control her reactions, just like he did, taught her techniques, and then moved her up front so they could shoot each other knowing glances when someone else over-reacted.
Fiona looks at her for a long moment. “If I really did change my course and was in classes with you, you’d like that?”
“Only if it was what you wanted, but yeah, sure,” Sam says. “I’d rather giggle with you than – well, a lot of things, actually, but definitely more than standing in the hallway outside my classroom with the screamers glaring at me like they think I have no soul.”
Fiona tilts her head curiously.
“What?” Sam asks, slightly self-conscious.
“I’ve never-” Fiona starts, then glances away briefly before looking back and wrinkling her nose in distaste. “How can you tell that they were thinking you have no soul just by their glares?”
Sam rolls her eyes. “It was a metaphor.” She pauses. “And also, they told me. Several times.”
There’s another round of quiet giggling, then they return to searching.
After a while, Fiona makes a noise of triumph and turns around from the wardrobe she’d been investigating, holding a plastic baggie. “Cocaine,” she says, sounding somewhat eager. “Looks like he wasn’t as adept at hiding his habit as Collins was.”
“Let me see,” Sam says, taking the bag from her.
“We don’t know if it’s the same drug habit as the other three, but there’s definitely a connection,” Fiona says.
“So maybe the killer is targeting staff and students who also use drugs? Maybe that’s how he finds them, he sees them there?” Sam’s trying hard not to think about the fact that Finn is one of those people she’s talking about. She still can’t really believe he had a drug habit.
“Possible,” Fiona agrees. “He’d have to be someone of both worlds as well, then, in order to recognize university members.”
Sam starts to say that if that’s true, at least they’re safe from being targeted next, but then she remembers Fiona’s conversation with Detectives Holmes and Watson, and stops herself.
Fiona reaches to take the bag back, and Sam moves it away.
“I’ll hang onto it,” Sam tells her.
Fiona frowns in confusion, tilts her head, and then gives a small, knowing smirk. “Ah. Of course, you were listening in. Don’t be ridiculous, I’m hardly going to consume evidence.”
“All the same,” Sam says. “Just for now.”
Fiona grabs for it again, and Sam darts away and drops the plastic baggie under her v-neck shirt and into her bra.
“You want it, go and get it,” Sam tells her.
Fiona raises one eyebrow and eyes Sam’s chest speculatively. Then she blinks a few times and pouts. “That was incredibly childish.”
“Yup,” Sam agrees, settling the plastic baggie more comfortably and then buttoning her dark green jumper over it.
Fiona sulks while they search the rest of the room. They find nothing else, so they make their excuses to Alan (well, Sam makes them, Fiona breezes past him like she’s no longer aware of his existence now that she’s gotten what she needed) and head to Professor Andrews’ place.
Once again, Fiona knows exactly where it is.
“His address is on his website,” Fiona tells her on the Tube ride there. “He was one of those that likes to be friends with his students, there whenever you need him. Valued popularity more than intelligence. Idiot.”
“He’s dead, Fiona,” Sam says.
“Doesn’t mean he wasn’t an idiot,” Fiona replies. “In any case, he’d moved recently. No longer lived at the home he shared with his wife, he had a flat closer to the university.”
“Divorced?” Sam asks.
“Likely,” Fiona agrees. “Good news for us, he was living alone.”
Even better for them, they’re only standing outside the building debating how to get buzzed in for a few moments before a man exits and politely holds the door open for them. They thank him and take the lift up to the third floor, where Sam tries not to look suspicious and stands guard while Fiona picks the lock to Professor Andrews’ flat.
It doesn’t really surprise her that Fiona knows how to pick locks (and honestly, part of her thinks it’s pretty cool). She smiles when she hears what sounds like the lock clicking.
“Does that mean we’re in?” she asks quietly.
When she gets no response, she frowns. “Fiona?” She turns, just in time to see the door close. Sam reaches for the handle, but it won’t open.
“You have got to – Fiona!” Sam hisses at the door. “Will you let me in?” She waits, then sighs in irritation when it becomes obvious that Fiona’s not going to open the door. “Oh, lovely,” Sam says, voice a bit louder. “Suppose I’ll just wait out here, then, for the hours it’ll take you to completely search the flat all on your own.”
The door opens and Fiona stands there, one eyebrow raised.
“No need to be dramatic,” Fiona says.
Sam rolls her eyes. “Says the girl who left her partner out in the middle of the hallway and didn’t open the door until I all but shouted.”
Fiona smirks and stands aside so Sam can see into the flat. “You were incorrect. It took me only a few minutes to completely search the flat.”
The flat’s empty.
“What’s happened?” Sam asks, looking around.
“Cleaned out,” Fiona says. “The wife, maybe, or the landlord, it’s been long enough.”
“Not good news for us,” Sam says.
Fiona wrinkles her nose in distaste. “No. Quite inconvenient. But there’s still his office. They haven’t reassigned it to anyone else, perhaps some of his things remain.”
They do. Or at least, some of them do. There’s no pictures, minimal personal decoration, but then, Sam’s never been in there, so she doesn’t know if it was like that before. Still, they don’t find anything, and Sam can tell Fiona’s disappointed.
“You said they’d be good at hiding it,” Sam tells her. “He probably didn’t keep anything at his office.”
“Yes, yes,” Fiona says, waving a hand at her. “There’s still one more flat to check, at least.”
“Not for another hour or so, there isn’t,” Sam tells her. “Trust me, we won’t get any searching done with a bunch of rugby guys there.”
Fiona frowns in irritation, and Sam loops her arm around Fiona’s as they walk across campus.
“Let’s get some lunch,” Sam says.
“Lunch,” Fiona repeats.
“Yeah,” Sam says. “It’s that meal you eat around midday? We missed the standard time for it, but we don’t have to miss the eating itself.”
Fiona gives her a ‘you are an idiot’ look, then suddenly smiles. “Ah. I know just the place.”
Fiona’s “place” is a slightly seedy-looking pub that Sam’s never been to before. Sam eyes it speculatively as they walk up to it.
“You look surprised,” Fiona says.
“Just – didn’t figure you for the pub type, I suppose,” Sam replies.
Fiona scowls. “I don’t have to be a boisterous, drunken idiot to enjoy-”
Sam grins at her, and she cuts off.
“You’re right,” Sam says. “This is fun. And you make entertaining irritated noises, too.”
Fiona scowls, and stalks off into the pub, muttering about immaturity. Sam follows after her, and Fiona leads them to a booth in the back left corner of the pub.
They’re there only a few minutes before a grinning young man comes out of the back room and heads over to them.
“Fiona, luv, what can I-” he stops when he sees Sam sitting across from her and shoots Fiona a questioning look.
“It’s all right, Darryl, she’s with me,” Fiona comments easily.
The grin is back. “Ah, lovely. Your old usual, then, or-”
“No, I’m not here for me today.” Fiona nods at Sam. “We’re here to eat.”
“Oh?” Darryl asks, before his smile turns sly. “Oh.” He looks at Sam. “This girl’s a godsend, you know. Without her, I would’ve failed my chemistry exam.”
“You did fail it,” Fiona points out.
“Yeah, but I would’ve failed it worse,” Darryl says. “I got what I needed to pass the class, that’s good enough in my book.” He leans closer to Sam to whisper conspiratorially, “You ever have a chance to get her as a lab partner, jump on it. She’s amazing, and I’m not just saying that because she was one of my best cu-”
“Yes, all right, thank you,” Fiona interrupts. “Can we have some time to decide what we’ll be eating?”
“Right, of course. You two girls take as long as you need.” He winks suggestively at them. “Flag me down when you’re ready.”
Sam stares at Fiona after he leaves, trying to decide what, exactly, to say. She decides not to touch most of that conversation, and goes with, “I think he got the wrong idea about us.”
Fiona shrugs, unconcerned, and eyes the pub menu with something like distaste. “What do you want, since you’re the one who wanted to eat?”
Sam rolls her eyes. “You’re the one who picked the place. What do you recommend?”
Fiona shrugs again. “I picked it because I’m hoping to get some information out of Darryl. If we must stop for lunch, at least something will be accomplished.”
Sam blinks at her. “Did you even have breakfast, aside from that coffee? Do you just – never eat?”
“Sometimes there are more important things to do,” Fiona says. “Right now, those happen to be the murders you were so keen on solving.”
“No wonder you can stay so skinny,” Sam says, then grimaces at herself when she hears a note of jealousy. “That can’t be healthy. You’re going to have to wait for me to eat, anyway, won’t take any more time for you to eat, too.” She waves Darryl over. “Two burgers and a side of chips, please.”
“Ah, yes,” Fiona mutters. “Burgers and chips from a pub, very healthy.”
Sam rolls her eyes again and calls at Darryl’s retreating form, “Extra lettuce and tomato for Fiona’s, please!” Then she turns back to Fiona. “There. Now it’s healthier.”
Fiona frowns at her. “That is incredibly faulty logic.”
“So’s not eating until you starve ‘cause you’re too busy,” Sam tells her.
Fiona sulks. “I don’t like tomatoes.”
Sam grins. “I’ll eat yours, then. I love them.”
Fiona wrinkles her nose at her. Sam tries not to find it cute, fails, and gives up. It’s very cute.
After a bit of silence, Sam asks, “What kind of information are you hoping to get out of Darryl?”
“As you may or may not have noticed, Darryl may be able to provide us with some clue as to their ‘connection,’” Fiona says.
“Lovely,” Sam says. “You take me to the nicest places, Fiona.”
Fiona smiles. “I’m glad you like it.”
Sam considers explaining sarcasm to her, but as Fiona’s so far shown an excellent mastery of sarcasm, she figures Fiona’s being deliberately obtuse. “The chips better be good,” she grumbles.
“You’ll find out soon,” Fiona says, nodding towards somewhere behind Sam.
Sam turns to see Darryl coming up to them with their food. He sets it down in front of them with a grin.
“Anything else, ladies?” he asks.
“Actually, yes.” Fiona pulls her iPhone out and pulls up a photo. “Do you recognize any of these men?” she asks, showing it to Darryl and flipping slowly through photos of the four victims.
“Hold on,” Darryl says, taking the phone and going back a picture. “Yeah, that’s definitely them. I don’t know the middle two, but I recognize the first and the last. First guy used to be something of a regular, but the last time I saw him was a while ago. His friend there-” Darryl points at the picture of Finn. “Used to come get him sometimes, always gave him a real hard time about it.”
“But he never actually – participated?” Sam asks eagerly, leaning forward.
Darryl shrugs. “Not that I know of.” He frowns. “These are all those guys that got killed. What’s up, Fiona?”
“Nothing,” Fiona replies, taking her phone back. “Coincidence, don’t worry. Thanks for your help.”
She sounds sincere, convincing, and Darryl smiles.
“No problem,” he says. “Enjoy your food.”
“I knew Finn couldn’t have been doing that,” Sam says, feeling guilty for having even considered it.
“No, of course not,” Fiona mutters, and there’s a trace of something not quite bitter, but close, in her voice.
Sam – doesn’t really know how to respond to that. So she says hesitantly, “If Finn wasn’t doing anything, it’s probably not the specific drug that matters.”
“No,” Fiona agrees. “It’s only that they were seen.” She considers, then says, “Suppose there’s no need to search your friend’s room, then.”
Sam can’t help but feel relieved. Going through Finn’s things – she’s not quite sure she could handle that. “So what do we do next?”
“Eat,” Fiona says, snatching a few chips. “That is what you made us stop to do, isn’t it? And after that: the crime scene. I’ve never really seen it.”
“You haven’t?” Sam asks, surprised.
“No,” Fiona says, like it’s obvious. “I passed by, of course, I had to on my way to the lab, but I was hardly going to hang about. The entire school thinks I’m the one doing these; why should I give them more ammunition? Not to mention another chance to tell me about their opinions.”
The deliberately casual tone of Fiona’s voice, paired with her talking about how she’s trying to avoid the entire school because they think she’s capable of doing something like – like that and aren’t afraid to shove that in her face, makes Sam’s heart clench a bit. She reaches across the table until her fingertips are resting lightly against Fiona’s. “Not the entire school,” she says quietly.
Fiona blinks slowly, staring down at their hands. “No. Not the entire school.”
Sam smiles at her, then steals the tomatoes off Fiona’s burger and bites into one.
Fiona grimaces. “That is disgusting.”
Sam licks her lips. “Delicious.”
Fiona shakes her head. “Misguided. Do hurry up; we have a crime scene to see.”
There hadn’t been much at the crime scene. The body had been removed yesterday, and though the police tape was still up, there’d been no police presence. Which had been good for Fiona and Sam, but it also meant they had no idea who else had ducked under the tape to take a closer look.
But they’d found something, at least. A clump of mud that was visibly different from the type found at the crime scene – probably left by one of those other lookers, but Fiona’d taken a sample, anyway. She’d had a few geology classes at a time when she’d been looking to change her course again – she’d gone with microbiology, her geology professors had been dull, but then, microbiology hadn’t turned out much better – and with her own, supplemental research, she was reasonably sure of her ability to discern where the soil was from.
They’d also potentially hit on something with the spray paint. It had an odd consistency, colour, and, surprisingly, Sam had said she recognized it, though she couldn’t place where. Fiona’d taken some of that as well. Finding its chemical makeup would be relatively easy.
They’re at the lab now, and Fiona is once again reminded of just how tedious having to share it with other students and researchers is. Despite it being late – only a few hours before the lab would close, in fact – there had been several other students there when they first arrived. Fortunately, most of them had cleared out within half an hour.
All except one: a graduate student named Matt. Under normal circumstances, Fiona doesn’t mind Matt’s presence in the lab. He’s quiet, will assist her without being invasive or irritating, and even brings her coffee on occasion.
But now is not normal circumstances. Matt isn’t even working on whatever he’d been doing any more; he’s just hovering around the lab, every so often trying to engage her in conversation. There are only so many ways Fiona can politely tell him to let her work. (It’s one, actually, and it’d been: “If you insist on hanging about mindlessly, please remain at least three metres away from me at all times. Not you, Sam, you’re fine where you are.”)
That had been five minutes ago, and at least he’s listened to her.
“Did you finish what you were doing before, then, if you’re working on something new?” Matt asks.
Fiona spares a brief thought for her unfinished project, then disregards it. This – this is so much more interesting. “No.”
There’s silence for another few minutes, then Matt says, “I was thinking about running for some coffee, would you like some?”
“No. What I would like is to be able to work without interruptions,” Fiona says without looking up.
“How did you meet Fiona?” Sam asks gently.
“What?” Matt asks, like he’s surprised she’s talking to him. “Oh. Well, I’m at the lab all the time, and so is she. We practically live together, seems like.” He gives a light, nervous laugh. “Two of a kind, we are, always working.”
“Like I am trying to do now,” Fiona snaps. “I see no evidence to support you always working, however, so either do something or get out. Either way, stop being a distraction.”
There’s wonderful silence after that, and, even more lovely, it’s not long before Matt packs up his things and leaves, muttering a “good night.”
After a few moments, Sam says, “That wasn’t very nice.”
“I did try to be polite,” Fiona replies. “He insisted on being intolerably irritating.”
“He just wanted you to notice him,” Sam says.
Fiona frowns. “Why should I notice him when there’s something much more important going on?” she asks as she looks up, turning to face Sam.
And then stops. Sam’s sitting on the empty table next to the one Fiona’s working on – has been for awhile, but Fiona hasn’t looked over at her since she moved there – leaning forward slightly, fingers curled around the lip of the table, legs dangling over the edge. The table’s close – Fiona’d known that, she spends enough time in here – but she hadn’t realized how close until faced with Sam’s proximity.
“I moved it,” Sam says.
Fiona blinks, thrown. “What?”
“You were staring at my chest,” Sam clarifies. “The bag’s not in there anymore.”
Fiona frowns. She hadn’t been staring. Not that there’s anything wrong with Sam’s chest – it’s very nice, actually, and Sam’s shirt does a lovely job of showcasing it without revealing too much – but Fiona absolutely hadn’t been staring.
“I wasn’t staring at anything,” Fiona replies. “I was thinking.” She had been thinking about how close Sam was, but that’s not the point. The point is that she hadn’t been staring.
“Oh.” Sam considers that. “All right, carry on, then.”
“So glad to have your permission,” Fiona mutters, returning to work. “At least without Matt around, things will progress quicker.”
“You do realize that he has a crush on you, right?” Sam asks.
Fiona stills. “He doesn’t.” Sam must be wrong, or Fiona would have noticed something. Then she shrugs, relaxing. It doesn’t matter either way; it changes nothing.
“He does,” Sam counters. “He’s cute. And he seems – sweet. You could go for it.”
Fiona turns back towards her, eyes narrowed. “Why?”
Sam shrugs. “Chem lab romance. Could be fun. Why not?”
“I meant ‘why do you care?’ I already know why not,” Fiona says.
“I dunno. Just – talk, I guess. Didn’t mean to upset you,” Sam replies.
“You didn’t ‘upset’ me,” Fiona says, possibly too quickly.
“Good,” Sam says, then looks at her speculatively. “Why not, then?”
“Because he is a him. I’ve no interest in a relationship in general, but if I did, it wouldn’t be with a man,” Fiona says.
Then she waits for it. She’s not expecting Sam to really hold that against her, of course, Fiona likes to think that she’s figured out enough about Sam to know that, but she is expecting a slight flinch of surprise, perhaps a subtle inching away.
Sam does neither. Instead she says, “Oh. Yeah, good reason.”
Fiona looks at her, vaguely disconcerted.
“What?” Sam asks.
“Your lack of reaction is surprising,” Fiona admits. “Most straight women, no matter how open-minded, have some form of reaction, even just a small one, when they find out the woman in such close proximity to them is attracted to them. Their gender,” she corrects, an almost seamless addition.
Sam smiles, equal parts shy and sly, which Fiona hasn’t seen before.
“Yeah,” Sam agrees. “Most straight women do.”
The implication is so unexpected, it takes a moment for it to sink in. “You’ve slept with men,” Fiona says without thinking, and somehow manages not to wince after she hears herself.
“There’s such a thing as bisexuality,” Sam says.
“Yes, I know,” Fiona snaps, then softens her tone. “I wasn’t expecting it of you.”
“It’s fine,” Sam says, apparently taking Fiona’s gentler tone for an apology.
Fiona lets her.
“I like it when I do something you don’t expect,” Sam says, like she isn’t quite sure she wants to admit that.
Fiona knows how she feels. But if Sam is admitting things, the least Fiona can do is return the favour. “I think I do as well.”
Sam smiles at her, and Fiona smiles back.
Then Fiona clears her throat. “Yes, well. We better get back to work if we want to make any kind of progress before the lab closes.”
Despite no further interruptions, Fiona doesn’t finish. But then, given how late she’d started, she hadn’t planned on finishing; she’d planned on getting to a good stopping point. And that, she makes.
“We can return tomorrow to finish,” Fiona tells Sam as they walk from the campus to the closest Underground station.
They’re walking arm in arm again. Sam has no problem with touching, Fiona’s noticed. She does it absently, like she’s almost not aware she’s doing it. Fiona thinks it’s likely instinctual, the way Sam is with her friends – and then stops thinking about that, because it reminds her that Sam lives in a different world than she does, one filled with friends and casual touches, and Fiona doesn’t know why that bothers her.
Fiona generally dislikes touching.
No, that’s not true. She dislikes touching unless she is the one initiating it, and then she can be quite fond of it. There just haven’t been many people she wanted to initiate it with.
But when she walks close enough to Sam that their shoulders almost touch, with both hands in her pockets, and Sam hooks her arm around Fiona’s before shoving her own hands into her pockets as well, Fiona finds she doesn’t mind. Sam is warm against her side, and it’s – nice.
Sam doesn’t let go, even when they board the train. They both stand, and Sam holds on to Fiona instead of a pole, so that Fiona’s the only thing keeping Sam from falling.
All right, admittedly, Sam seems to have excellent balance, and so far hasn’t been in danger of falling. But Fiona disregards that, because she likes the idea that she’s keeping Sam steady. The literal idea, of course, not any sort of metaphorical idea that may go along with it.
“Shall we meet at the same place as this morning?” Fiona asks.
A strange look crosses Sam’s face. “You could-” she cuts off.
Fiona waits a few seconds for Sam to continue, then says, “I could what?”
Sam bites her lip, then smiles. “We could just meet at my flat. I’ve got coffee, and it’ll save me from having to buy a few cups if we meet at the shop.”
There’d been something else, but Fiona can’t figure out what it is. She’s not going to let it go, of course, but then – “You want me to come over to your flat?”
Sam frowns. “Uh, sure? Why not?”
Because people don’t invite Fiona to their flats. Not even to work on group projects. A few fires and explosions, – most of which hadn’t been Fiona’s fault – a bathtub filled with cement, – all right, that one was – and a few dead animals on kitchen and living room tables, – really, they were working on a presentation where they’d have to point out and name the muscles and bones directly from the specimen, the others should have expected that Fiona would bring along the necessary items for practicing – and any group Fiona was assigned to met in a lab or classroom on campus.
Of course, Fiona’s quickly learning that Sam’s not like other people. And Fiona doesn’t mention any of that, because she doesn’t want to admit it to her. Which is ridiculous – Fiona doesn’t care what people think of her – but it’s true all the same.
“All right. Your flat, then. Seven again?” Fiona asks.
Sam nods, and digs around in her purse with her free hand. She pulls out a pen, tugs Fiona’s hand out of her pocket, and scribbles an address on the back of her hand, then adds a phone number as well. “There you go. Text me if you get lost, or something.”
“Thank you,” Fiona says absently, staring at the ink on her skin.
She doesn’t tell Sam that she’d already known both of them.
“We’ve been going about this the wrong way,” Fiona announces the next morning, the second Sam opens the door to her flat.
Sam blinks sleepily at her. “Have we?” She stands aside, holding the door open for her.
“Yes,” Fiona replies, stepping inside to pace. “I was focused on the things we had and could easily get. The drug connection, the crime scene, the tests, they’re all well and good, but we don’t have a complete picture. The message, it’s clearly important, but we’re missing something, what’s-” Fiona cuts off when her pacing brings her close to Sam, and she finally takes a good look at her.
Sam, who’s holding a University of Westminster Women’s Football Club mug and is wearing an oversized tee-shirt that reads “Med student by day, deadly ninja by night,” and nothing else.
“You’re not dressed,” Fiona says.
“You’re fifteen minutes early,” Sam tells her. “You’re lucky I’ve got the coffee on. Grab a cup, I’ll be right back.”
Fiona frowns. She doesn’t want coffee, she wants to continue explaining her conclusions without any interruptions from half-dressed investigation partners or the distracting thoughts they cause. This is clearly all Sam’s fault. Sam had been early to the coffee shop, it was perfectly logical to think that she’d be ready early this morning as well. Ready as in fully dressed and therefore not currently occupying Fiona’s mind with thoughts of toned, lightly tanned legs – and is Sam wearing anything at all under that shirt, it’d been too loose and long to tell, and –
And there are the distracting thoughts again. Inconvenient, though perhaps not entirely unwelcome.
No. They have to be unwelcome, because nothing will come of them. That’s why Fiona doesn’t allow herself to indulge in things like that. So, irritating, inconvenient, and entirely Sam’s fault.
“Are you finished yet?” Fiona calls through the door that Sam had disappeared through. Her bedroom, most likely, and Fiona has to admit that she’s curious to see what it looks like.
“Just about,” Sam replies.
Ah, Sam can hear her. Good enough. “As I was saying, we should have all of the information before we continue. We need to find out what the other writing is.”
“And how do you propose we do that?” Sam asks.
“They’ll have it down at Scotland Yard, won’t they?” Fiona says.
There’s a pause, then the door opens and Sam’s there – dressed much more sensibly in jeans and a button-up jumper – staring at her. “You want to break into a police station and steal evidence?”
“No, I thought we’d ask them nicely if we could go in and have a look. Honestly, you’re the one who told me about the writing, how did you think we’d figure out what it was?” Fiona asks.
Sam hesitates, worries at her bottom lip with her teeth for a moment – which doesn’t draw Fiona’s attention, not at all – and sighs. “Those two detectives who spoke to us, they said they’re not technically with the police, but they’re investigating. They probably have all of the evidence.”
Fiona smiles. “Yes, and since they’re not with the police, they’ll likely have it at their own flat. Are you suggesting a bit of house breaking?”
Sam flushes slightly. “It’s easier – better than breaking into the Met, isn’t it?” she asks defensively. “And it’s not like we haven’t done it already. Well, you have, technically I never entered, since someone left me in the hallway. But what’s one more?”
Fiona considers that, then offers, “I won’t leave you outside next time.”
“You better not,” Sam says. “Or I’ll have to break the door in and follow you anyway.”
Interesting. “You shouldn’t have said that,” Fiona tells her. “Now I might, to see if you’d actually do that.”
“Lovely,” Sam mutters. “Forget I said that, then. And anyway, I wasn’t thinking of house breaking. Wouldn’t that kind of stuff most likely be at their office?”
“They don’t have an office. They work out of their flat,” Fiona says.
“How do you know that?” Sam asks.
Fiona smiles, slowly, and not really consciously. “Watson gave me his card.”
Sam frowns. “I didn’t get a card.”
“Perhaps he liked me better,” Fiona says. Teases, really, and she should probably not be smiling this widely just because she’s teasing someone, someone who she knows won’t take it the wrong way and become upset. But it’s rare enough that she enjoys it.
“Of course he did,” Sam replies, her tone light as well. “And why wouldn’t he? Look at you, you’re bloody gorgeous.”
Fiona tries hard not to feel a bit pleased and slightly flustered. “There are more important things than looks,” she says haughtily.
Sam chuckles. “Oh, right. Brilliant, funny, exciting, I’m sure those helped a bit.”
This time Fiona fails at not feeling pleased, and she can feel the tips of her ears warming, knows they’re turning slightly red. She hopes Sam doesn’t notice. “Yes, well. I believe we have our plan of action, shall we get a move on?”
They take the Tube as close as they can get to Holmes and Watson’s flat, and walk the rest of the way. It only takes one walk by the place to tell that both of them are home. Luckily, there’s a sandwich shop close by, so they buy some food and settle in to watch.
It’s – nice. Sam is making content noises about the fact that she gets to eat breakfast today, they’re sitting so close together that their knees touch, and the conversation Sam insists they have – “The object is to not look suspicious, Fiona, and us sitting here in complete silence while you think isn’t going to help” – is somehow natural, and keeps making both of them grin at each other.
It doesn’t seem like very long before the door to the flat opens, and both Watson and Holmes come out. They lock the door behind them, then take off in the opposite direction of the sandwich shop. Fiona watches them walk away – Holmes in his dark great coat, strides long and quick, but not as much as they could have been; Watson with his back straight and shoulders squared, determination set in his stride as he keeps up with Holmes; both of them walking so close their shoulders almost touch. She thinks – she almost thinks – there’s something longing about that handful of centimetres, as if they wish they weren’t there – and then Holmes and Watson disappear from sight.
Fiona shakes her head. Centimetres can’t wish anything, they are merely a form of measurement. This is Sam’s fault, her and her use of metaphors is rubbing off.
“Come on, then,” Fiona says, heading towards the alley behind the flat.
“You’re not just going to pick the lock like last time?” Sam asks.
“On a busy street like this, in broad daylight?” Fiona says. “I thought you didn’t want to be suspicious. No, there’ll be a fire escape-” Ah, there it is, and Fiona points it out. “We can get in that way. Odds are the window won’t even be locked.”
It is. Fiona should have realized that these two would be unlike the many who don’t consider a window as high up a possible entrance. She mutters a few curse words as she works at the window. Fortunately, it’s old, and while she doesn’t manage to get the lock open, she does manage to break it.
“What was that?” Sam asks.
“Nothing,” Fiona replies. “We’re in.”
“Did you-” Sam cuts off and leans over to look at the window. “Fiona!” she hisses. “You broke their window.”
“I only broke it a little. And I got us in,” Fiona mutters, in a tone that is very much not sulky. She liked it much better yesterday, when Sam was clearly impressed that she’d gotten them in the flat.
She opens the window and climbs through, Sam following her.
“How much do you think that’ll cost to fix?” Sam whispers. “Do you have any cash?”
Fiona turns around. Sam’s got a handful of notes, and is counting them. Fiona stares at her. “I think you’re the only person on the planet who breaks into someone’s flat and leaves them money.”
Sam flushes. “We broke their window, and they’re detectives, we can’t just-”
But Fiona isn’t listening to her anymore, because even though it’s dark, she can see the array of excellent equipment in the kitchen, and she’s moving towards the table before she’s even aware of it.
“Look at all of this,” Fiona breaths.
Fiona hears Sam sigh softly, but she doesn’t reply, and Fiona takes that to mean Sam won’t mind waiting a few minutes while she examines everything. Her fingers ghost reverently over the microscope and test tubes, exceedingly careful not to disturb what looks like an experiment in progress.
She’s lost in a world of science – stupid, stupid, she’ll scold herself later- and the voice, therefore, is completely unexpected.
“You picked the wrong flat,” it says, low and dangerous.
Fiona freezes, looks up, and feels a strange mix of excitement and fear when she realizes she’s staring into the barrel of a gun.