A/N: Anyone who has been reading my work for a number of years knows that I've had a bit of an obsession with these two since around 2003. They were my first major pairing and I still adore them. I suppose this story is a chance for me to use my improved writing skills to create an alternate history for them. When Drama began showing the episodes again I recognised I had a unique chance to write a fan fic that runs alongside the episodes. At the beginning it will be very close to the script but it will gradually deviate more and more. Intrepid fans will recognise scenes from the show, though they hopefully won't notice the joins. There's a fair chunk of this written already but I'll upload it slowly and, be warned, future chapters are much longer! The title, incidentally, comes from a song by The Nolans. That felt very fitting under the circumstances. Happy reading.
Jumping into a new station at short notice was something Sheelagh had anticipated, though the speed of all this was a bit beyond her expectations. A sergeant left with a fractured skull in the early hours of the morning and she was drafted in to cover, with today as her induction, and at the troubled Sun Hill station of all places. Of course she knew what she was walking into – she'd watched the press briefing last night with Eva Sharpe pleading for the safe return of her daughter, hopefully along with the rest of London. To find herself driving into the station was a bit surreal but that feeling disappeared the moment she drew to a halt behind a stampede of journalists blocking a car from getting through the gates. No prizes for guessing who was in the car and her ire rose.
Beeping the horn, she muttered, 'I don't believe this.' She unbuckled her seatbelt and got out of the car, intent on pushing some of the journalists aside. 'Animals. Get out of her way.'
Some of them edged away from the car and the gates ahead opened fully. It was enough for the car to move and, really, what did it matter if one of the journalists got clipped at this point? They deserved it.
Bashing on the window, she called, 'Just drive, put your foot down, go.'
The car made it through the gates, albeit it with the press jabbering and running after it. These vultures made her sick.
'I hope you're proud of yourselves,' she said, though she didn't get the impression any of them were listening.
Returning to her car, she drove through the gates, flashing her warrant card at an officer who, regardless of her status, seemed to want to let her through thanks to what she'd just done for Eva. It only took her a minute to park and, as she walked into the station via the rear entrance, she found herself between Eva and another officer. Though it was lucky it had happened that way since she didn't yet know the codes to get in on her own, she couldn't help but watch Eva carefully as they entered the station. She couldn't imagine her pain, especially with people gawping at her left, right and centre. Sheelagh withdrew her eyes and looked for the first uniformed officer along the corridor to ask directions to Inspector Gold's office.
She didn't find Inspector Gina Gold so much as the inspector swept along and picked her up. She looked as immersed in the Joanna Sharpe inquiry as everyone else but managed half a smile as she shook her hand and then gestured for them to keep walking.
'Thanks for coming in at such short notice, Sergeant Murphy,' she said.
'Pleased that I could help,' she replied. 'How is Sergeant Gilmore?'
The inspector grimaced. 'Mostly cuts and bruises.'
'When is he due back?' Sheelagh asked.
'Well, he's decided to opt for a transfer,' Inspector Gold answered, surprising her a little. 'You're here on a temporary basis, aren't you?'
She nodded. 'Three months, yeah.'
'And you're sure you can start tomorrow?'
'Oh, absolutely,' she replied.
A flicker of gratitude crossed the inspector's face before vanishing. 'Right,' she said briskly. 'Well, I'll show you where your locker is and give you the guided tour.'
They were just rounding the corner when a voice interrupted them. One glance and Sheelagh recognised DI Samantha Nixon from the press briefing, as authoritative in the flesh as she had been on the screen.
'Gina,' she said, 'you and I need to catch up as soon as possible.'
'Could you just give me five minutes?' asked Inspector Gold with a nod towards Sheelagh.
DI Nixon looked at her and shot her a courteous half-smile. 'Yeah, sure,' she said before striding off down the corridor.
'It's going to be a bit whistle-stop, I'm afraid,' Inspector Gold muttered.
Sheelagh could see the worries piling up behind her eyes. 'Parking spaces and ladies' changing rooms can wait,' she said firmly. 'It's hardly more important than a missing person's inquiry. I'd be happier mucking in.'
After a moment, Inspector Gold managed the same sort of smile DI Nixon had. 'Well, that's great,' she said. 'Come on.'
For now she was tasked with photocopying. As long as she kept busy, she felt that in some way she was contributing to the effort of finding Joanna Sharpe. That's why Eva was in after all, trying to take some pressure off the investigation team – as well as trying to occupy her mind, of course.
'Hey, listen,' a voice said suddenly, 'thanks for before.'
Turning, she shook her head at Eva. 'It was nothing.'
'Well, anyway, thanks.' She gestured to the photocopier. 'They've got you playing office admin as well, have they? I don't even know who you are,' she added.
Smiling, she replied, 'Sergeant Sheelagh Murphy, Sergeant Gilmore's replacement. I'm supposed to be starting tomorrow but nothing like getting stuck in. After this, I'm on tea duty.'
'You'll be popular,' Eva commented, though Sheelagh could see her attention drifting. With one last smile, she collected her photocopying and went to deliver it back to Inspector Gold.
At least she was finding her way around the station easily enough, though she hadn't yet stayed in one place for very long. Going to the canteen, she collected a tray full of teas for the officers involved in the investigation and balanced them on her way back up the stairs. When she came through the door at the top she found Eva with her eyes fixed on the briefing blaring through the television in the incident room with another officer. Though Eva didn't take a tea, he did and then disappeared. Sheelagh lingered, watching Eva watching DI Nixon's statement to the press. Feeling like a voyeur, she moved on, easily finding recipients for her first batch of teas.
The press briefing seemed to follow her around the station. When she returned to the canteen with an empty tray, it was still going on – or a key portion of it was being replayed – and she listened to Samantha Nixon's measured tones without being fooled for a second. No one in this station was unaffected by Joanna Sharpe's disappearance, especially not the calm and collected DI Nixon.
After refilling her tray, she delivered a cup to an officer she'd seen in the incident room earlier. Then she heard a Scouse voice call out, 'Here you are, love, I'll have a cup of tea, two sugars.'
She looked up and found a bald man grinning at her from the counter. Instinctively, she knew he was a PC, despite not being in uniform. He just had that look about him. 'You'll find the sugar's on the counter,' she replied. 'Sir.'
There was some sort of retort from him but she didn't hear it – she was already on her rounds again. After she'd done another batch of tea deliveries, she was back upstairs printing some more posters for the teams to take out with them on the search. That's where she was when she felt two hands on her shoulders and she was turned around by Inspector Gold to face DI Nixon.
'Sheelagh,' said Inspector Gold. 'More work for you.'
She smiled as the inspector hurried off and DI Nixon edged them out of the thoroughfare. 'You picked a fine day to wander into the station, Sheelagh,' she said. 'You'll never get away.'
'Right now, that's fine by me,' she replied, shrewdly examining the woman in front of her. She hadn't been mistaken – this investigation was certainly having an effect on her; though she was striving not to show it, the anxiety burned in her green eyes. 'What can I do?' she asked.
Inhaling deeply, it took a second for DI Nixon to gather herself. 'DC Glaze – have you met him?'
'Possibly,' she said, 'but I can track him down easily enough anyway. Go on.'
'He's got a number of actions outstanding,' DI Nixon continued. 'Anything you could take off his hands would be brilliant. Oh and...' She paused and pressed her lips together for a moment. 'We're doing a reconstruction and we need a replica of that coat Joanna was wearing. Do you think you can do that?'
'Of course,' she answered, pleased to see the pressure on Samantha Nixon's brow ease ever-so-slightly. 'If there anything else you need, let me know.'
DI Nixon chuckled. 'You'll regret that, Sheelagh,' she said, patting her arm as she moved off, utterly focused on whatever her next task was.
Finding someone to ask about the coat proved trickier than it should've done with everyone on the move. Finally, just as she was beginning to get a little desperate, she caught sight of the one person who would definitely know and grimaced. Still, the reconstruction was important and she had told the DI she'd get it sorted.
'Eva,' she said hesitantly, 'can I check something with you?'
She struggled with the words under Eva's curious gaze. 'Joanna's coat,' she murmured, 'for the reconstruction.'
Realisation dawned on the detective's face. 'You need to know where I bought it.'
'Sorry to have to ask you,' she said.
Eva waved that away and proceeded to give her the details, though Sheelagh noted she rushed off with fresh tears in her eyes afterwards. Mindful that the reconstruction rested on this coat, she pulled out all the stops to track it down, arriving back at the station with very little time to spare. First, though, she had to check she'd made the right purchase and, for that, she located Eva in CID.
Pulling it out of the bag, she asked, 'Is this the right one?'
The look on Eva's face said it all. 'Yeah, it's an exact match.'
'Right,' she replied, though it didn't feel like a sufficient response.
'And are they doing the reconstruction now?' Eva questioned.
She nodded. 'As soon as I get this to them.'
It was natural for Eva to want to be there, she supposed, although it was going to be the latest in a long line of difficult moments for her. After a few disruptions, they made it to the newsagents where DI Nixon gave her preamble to the assembled press. At least at this point in the day the vultures could prove useful, though Sheelagh hadn't quite forgiven them for torturing Eva earlier.
Finally, Samantha Nixon said, 'One other thing – Joanna Sharp's mother is here today to help the police with the reconstruction. She will not be talking to the press.'
With that, she came to stand them. Sheelagh glanced over, met her eye and received a pained half-smile in return. Then everybody's attention was on the little girl pretending to be Joanna. Sheelagh could see the pain in Eva's frame as she watched this child, so like her daughter and yet not, act out Joanna's motions from the day before.
'Please, let this jog someone's memory,' Eva muttered.
Before Sheelagh glanced back to the street, she noticed Samantha take Eva's hand and the simple action confirmed all her thoughts about DI Nixon throughout the day. Then she focused, like the rest of them on the little girl disappearing out of sight.
The reconstruction went as well as it could then Sheelagh found herself swept back into the station by Danny Glaze to take on some more of his work. That kept her busy and, by the time Inspector Gold collared her in the corridor to tell her to go home, she was genuinely surprised how late it was. Her satisfaction at doing a good day's work, though, was naturally tempered by the fact that Joanna Sharpe was still missing and Eva was facing a second night without her daughter where she should be. That thought was enough to make her want to get home and give her three a hug, whether they liked it or not.
As she left the station, someone trotted up behind her. It was the bald man she'd encountered earlier, though she was more prepared for him now.
'Hey,' he said, 'you're putting the hours in, aren't you, love?'
She carried on walking. 'There's a lot of work to be done.'
'One of the most important jobs at the station, that, getting the breakfasts ready,' he replied.
Barely refraining from rolling her eyes, she replied, 'Happily, it's not mine.'
'You just on the old bevs then, are you?' he asked.
'No, PC Taviner, I'm not,' she said, turning to him with a challenge.
'Hey, listen,' he went on, oblivious, 'do you fancy...' Trailing off, he frowned. 'How do you know my name?'
'I make a point of learning all the PCs names on my first day,' she answered, enjoying the confusion on his face. 'I'm your new sergeant, Des.'
With that, she left him standing there, delighted to have rendered him speechless. From what she'd heard around the station, that was practically worthy of a commendation.
That night she did indeed make a point of grabbing a few minutes with the kids, in between washing, ironing and trying to coordinate her forthcoming shifts with Patrick's. At least he had a certain amount of choice in his job and was completely supportive of her career, even when he had to pick up the slack at home.
Like everyone, she harboured the hope that Joanna had been found safe overnight but it wasn't to be. The station was still swarming with activity and, though it was her first real day, she was eager to pitch in again. Stood in the Sergeants' Office reading through some of Craig Gilmore's notes, she heard Inspector Gold and DI Nixon walking down the corridor discussing what case they could give Eva to deal with. After some deliberation, they'd come up with a burglary and moped theft.
'Who's dealing?' DI Nixon asked.
'Well, no one yet,' Inspector Gold answered. 'All my spare officers are working for you.'
Wandering to the door, Sheelagh edged out in front of them. 'I could take it,' she suggested.
Her superior looked a little apprehensive. 'But it's your first shift,' she said. 'Wouldn't you be better off sticking round the station?'
Sheelagh shook her head. 'I'd rather be out there, Ma'am. And I'd be happy to keep an eye on Eva for you,' she added, aiming that at DI Nixon. For her trouble, she received something close to a smile and a grateful nod.
'Your luck's in,' Inspector Gold commented as she disappeared.
'Thank you, Sheelagh,' DI Nixon said before striding off along the corridor.
A few minutes later she returned with Eva in tow. It was doubtful she'd slept but Sheelagh was determined not to draw attention to it. Eva had her sympathy, of course, but the last thing she wanted was to be mollycoddled. She was fairly sure Samantha Nixon would agree with that analysis as she walked them to the yard, trying to reassure Eva, yes, but reassure her firmly.
'Call if anything happens, yeah?' Eva said.
'Don't worry, I will,' DI Nixon replied.
'Anything,' pressed Eva.
'I promise, Eva.'
As the DC reluctantly got into the car, Sheelagh hesitated, looking over when Eva's door slammed and meeting Samantha's eye over the roof. The DI nodded, trusting her, and she nodded back. She only hoped, as she slipped into the driver's seat, that she could keep Eva partially occupied, at least for an hour or so.
The case might've been routine, a moped stolen from a delivery driver who'd now lost his job over it, but it could never be completely detached from Joanna. For a start, when they walked into the pizza shop, they were greeted with a poster of the missing girl and a comment from the owner that was probably meant as sympathetic but came across as the tiniest bit accusatory. Sheelagh steered the conversation back towards the stolen moped but the damage was done in Eva's head. When they left the shop, her mind was already back at the station, and seeing another poster of her daughter didn't help.
'This is going nowhere, Sarge,' Eva said, eyes fixed on Joanna's picture.
Sheelagh wrapped an arm around her shoulders and turned her away from the window. 'Might be worth having a drive round,' she said. 'See if that moped shows up.'
Eva sighed. 'Look, let's just go back to the nick.'
'Eva,' Sheelagh said after a moment, 'you can't do anything more than you're doing. Let them get on with it. You've an arrangement with DI Nixon, haven't you?'
'Yeah,' retorted Eva, 'and is that why she chose not to tell me about the paedophile ring they're investigating?'
She exhaled, a renewed sense of sympathy tugging at her stomach. However, she could completely understand Samantha being reluctant to tell Eva something like that, whether it was relevant to Joanna's case or not. 'Okay, sorry, I had no idea,' she said.
'Well, why should you, Sarge?' Eva asked. 'You know, you picked a pretty lousy day to start, didn't you?
'There's such a thing as a good day?' Sheelagh returned, lightening the mood a touch.
Though she managed to persuade Eva to continue with the investigation, she wanted to do it back at the station and Sheelagh couldn't deny her that. So she went to get them both a drink and returned to her office while Eva checked in upstairs.
The next thing she knew, there was Eva steaming past the office. When she called her name she didn't get a response and it was plain she needed to follow her from the way her shoulders and jaw were set. She ran out into the yard just in time to see Eva jump into her car and drive off. Sheelagh rushed to the car she'd been driving all morning and set off through the gates to follow her.
It wasn't the best time to be trying to find her way around the borough. Not that local knowledge would've helped her right now since she didn't have a clue where Eva was headed. What had she heard or seen to put her in that mood so suddenly? Part of Sheelagh didn't want to think about it, but she suspected her phone would've rung had there been any real news and Eva had run off like this.
Still, each time she lost sight of the car, she panicked a little. Then a flash of blue caught her eye and she swerved left or right, focused on at least keeping on Eva's trail. At one junction she couldn't get through in time and Eva hared right down a residential street. Sheelagh didn't want to use the sirens if she could help it – drawing more attention to Eva that way would be cruel – so she waited as patiently as she could until the lights changed and she was able to follow her into the quiet housing estate.
Glancing down every side street, she couldn't see the car. At the end of the road she looked left and right and finally saw the blue vehicle parked up on the kerb. Her relief at tracking Eva down was short-lived as she saw the desperation on the detective's face. Turning and searching the ground, Eva found a large rock and Sheelagh leapt from the car, reaching the step just in time to grab her hand.
'Drop it, Eva,' she ordered. As the rock fell to the ground, Eva seemed to remember a little bit of who she was, though anger still blazed in her eyes. 'Is this something to do with the DCI's investigation?' Sheelagh questioned.
'I don't see anyone investigating anything,' Eva retorted.
'So you thought you'd do it yourself, is that it?'
'My daughter might be in there,' said Eva.
Sheelagh shook her head. 'Hang on a minute, you've got no evidence of that.'
'Evidence of what? Sergeant?' The word was tagged on as an angry afterthought. 'What, a shoe, a hair? Yeah. Evidence means she's dead. But she might be alive right now in there. And in five minutes she might not be and that is all I care about.'
Of course Sheelagh understood that, but she'd need more than Eva's grief to permit her to break into a stranger's house. 'Okay,' she said, calling her bluff, 'let's do it properly. I'll inform DI Nixon.'
Dismay flickered across Eva's face. 'She doesn't need to know, Sarge.'
'No,' Sheelagh replied, 'because you don't trust her anymore, do you? And that's why you're here, about to blow a huge hole in two separate investigations and get yourself suspended.'
'I don't care,' Eva said through clenched teeth.
'Yes, you do,' she said firmly. 'You're a police officer as well as a parent and you know the way things should be done. And you know Joanna's not in there, don't you?' To her relief, Eva nodded and she slotted an arm around her shoulders, turning her away from the house. 'Come here,' she said as they began walking. 'I'll get a uniform to pick up your car.'
Eva was silent for much of the journey, aside from giving her directions when she got a little lost on the estate. Then, when they were driving through the gates, she cleared her throat.
Sheelagh pulled into a parking space before glancing over. 'You okay?'
'I'm sorry,' said Eva finally.
'I understand,' Sheelagh replied. 'No harm done in the end.'
'It was... It was like a fog,' Eva murmured. 'I couldn't think.'
Hesitating, Sheelagh said, 'Maybe you need to be at home.' When Eva looked up sharply, she added, 'I'm not saying this to get you out of my hair, I promise. If you really want to be at work, I'll stay with you all day and I'm not about to tell the DI what just happened. But is it helping? Right now, is it helping you?'
After a moment, Eva shook her head. 'No.'
'Go get your stuff and I'll grab someone to take you home who won't ask any questions.'
Eva unbuckled her seatbelt. 'Not Reg Hollis then.'
Sheelagh smiled. 'Definitely not Reg,' she answered.
Depositing Eva inside, she went to follow up on the pizza shop owner. On her way, she bumped into Inspector Gold.
'Eva gone home?' asked the inspector.
'I think it was all proving a bit much for her, Ma'am,' Sheelagh replied. 'Told her it was the best thing.'
'Well, I don't know what you did to persuade her but it's more than anyone else was able to do. Good work, Sheelagh,' Gina concluded.
'Thank you, Ma'am,' Sheelagh said with a smile.
Throwing herself into the case worked to take her mind off the fact that a young girl was still missing. It turned out the moped driver had refused to supply cannabis along with pizzas and a beating had followed the burglary. After a little bit of persuasion, Inspector Gold offered up a few officers for a sting and they managed to arrest the pizza shop owner. It was only a small result, but one made more enjoyable by the fact the man went flying as they tried to arrest him and that they got free pizza out of it. Food was always a good morale booster – at least, it worked with her boys and her new team wasn't too far removed from them as far as she could see.
Her good mood lasted until they got back to the station. They were doling out the pizza to the relief when she saw Inspector Gold sweeping past the office looking very grim. Hurrying out, Sheelagh caught up with her around the corner.
'What is it, Ma'am?' she asked. 'Is it Joanna?'
'Yeah,' Gina answered, steadying herself on the wall. 'They've found a body. Might not be her but... Well, it might be.'
Speechless, Sheelagh just nodded and let the inspector move on. All she could think about was Eva and that haunted look in her eyes earlier. She couldn't imagine what she'd be going through tonight.