Frankie woke up as soon as she hit the floor.
Unlike the dreams where you were falling, this was not a jerking of her limbs to waken, startled and confused. This was the literal feeling of the parquet floor in Gail's bedroom hitting her bare ass, followed shortly by the pain of her head connecting with the dresser.
"What the fuck, Peck?" Rubbing her head, Frankie looked up to see an unamused Gail pulling a shirt on.
"We're done with this, Frankie," the blonde informed her, tossing Frankie's shirt and pants over.
What the hell? Frankie sat up just in time to catch her bra with her hand and not her face. "Uh, the hell?"
"I have rules about people in my bed, Frankie."
Groaning, Frankie picked herself up. "I told you, I'm don't sleep around." That ground rule was established before the first kiss. While annoying as an assumption, it was fair enough. The other rule about how they weren't actually dating she liked far less. There would be no sleeping around and there would be no actual dating. It had seemed incongruous, but those were Peck's rules. And the sex was worth it, so Frankie had no regrets. But right now she was on the floor with a bruised ass.
Gail snorted. "You have no idea do you?"
"What I know," muttered Frankie, trying to get a better look at her red ass in the mirror. "What I know is that I was sleeping, having a good dream by the way, and then..." She froze. The dream had been really good. Hands and teeth and tongues and ... Not Gail. She turned to look at Gail, surprised and confused.
Smiling, Gail patted her cheek. "There you go. Now go home."
"Oh my god, seriously? You're kicking me out because I had a dream?"
"You were moaning her name."
Frankie felt her face heat up. Oh Jesus. "I... What?"
Stripping the sheets off the bad, Gail repeated herself. "You were moaning her name."
"This is ... Seriously? You're dumping me because of my subconscious?" That was a new one. And Gail was clearly serious as a heart attack. She was done and wanted Frankie out of her bed at ... Jesus, at three in the morning.
Gail shrugged. "I'm not a second choice, Frankie. You may be okay with it, but it's not enough for me." She sighed and pulled out clean sheets.
"I'm not your first choice." Frankie frowned. "Still?"
"I told you from day one, Anderson."
That was true. Gail had never kept it a secret that she was in love with one who got away. And not just love, but world changing. Yeah. Frankie knew she wasn't Gail's first choice, she was the convenient choice. "Mind if I shower before my walk of shame?"
"Knock yourself out."
As soon as Frankie got back from the shower, Gail popped into it. Awesome. Not only was she losing her regular friend with benefits over a stupid dream, Gail couldn't be rid of her fast enough. And worst? The dream was about fucking Chloe Muppet Price.
That idiotic woman had been helping the detectives once she'd gotten cut loose (at last), and ended up hanging around Gail and Traci. A lot. Which meant Frankie had been subjected to her whimsical, bubbly, annoying as hell, nature. It was everything opposite how she lived her life. Chloe practically chirped in the morning.
And all those rules Gail had? Like no hugging and shit like that? Chloe didn't seem to be subject to those. The tiny thing could run up behind Gail and hug her and the blonde would just sigh and wait for it to be over. She was like a wart you got used to. Or a bad haircut. It just grew on you.
Apparently stupid Chloe had grown on Frankie's subconscious, which was currently enraptured with wondering what her skin might taste like. Or what would it feel like to have Chloe's arms around her, and their legs threaded together…
Frankie stopped, realizing she was getting turned on just thinking about the dream.
Crap. Crap. Crap.
She didn't wait for Gail to be done with her shower, the woman could take forever. Frankie just threw her things into her bag and headed to the door.
"Everything okay?" The annoyingly friendly voice of Chris, Gail's roommate, surprised her.
"Peachy," snarled Frankie. How the hell had Peck slept with him? He was boring.
"Oh, I get it. A case." Chris nodded. "There's an iced coffee in the fridge." He went back to his room.
"What a moron," muttered Frankie. But she took the coffee before leaving.
What pissed her off more was that the next day (or later that same day) at work, Gail acted like nothing happened. She was exactly the same as she'd always been with Frankie. Gail just didn't change. She called Frankie names, she teased her, and she harassed her. But at the end of the day, as they got their beers at the Penny, and as Frankie suggested Gail come to her place, the blonde shook her head.
"Nope. I told you, I don't sleep with people who are in love with someone else."
"Oh no, come on. No way."
Gail shook her head. "Yes way. That shit hurts. I'm not doing it again."
"No, no I'm not falling in love with that muppet!"
And Gail just shook her head again. "Love's a bitch, but I'm not."
"You're not helping me at all, here, Peck!"
"You're the one who fell in love with Chloe."
Frankie hissed, looking around to make sure no one else had heard that, "I'm not in love with Chloe!"
Rolling her eyes, Gail gestured over at Chloe, "Do we need to go over what you said last night in bed?"
"… Fuck." Frankie covered her face. She was losing this argument.
"Look, she's single and frankly, I'm sure you're a better lay than Dov. Why the hell not?"
Eyeing her friend, Frankie scowled. "You're making that sound better for her."
"Eh, she kind of grew on me. She's incredibly Sound of Music, and that's annoying as hell, but she's a good person and she's not afraid to be herself."
"Not selling it," Frankie complained and picked her beer back up. "What's in it for me?"
Gail looked weirdly serious. "You know. Sometimes the thing we need most is the last thing we're looking for."
It hit home. Frankie frowned deeper and, instead of acknowledging Gail's point, snapped. "When did you last talk to San Francisco? Better yet, when did San Francisco call you back?"
The blonde set her jaw. "Fuck you too, Anderson."
That was unfair. It was uncalled for. Holly had been an off-limits topic since they'd met. Hell, Frankie hadn't even know about Holly beyond Gail's passing remark of having fallen in real love and as long as Frankie was okay with not being that, they could work it out… No, it was weeks and months before Dov mentioned that he liked Holly better than Frankie, but at least Gail was less irritable.
Between Chris and Dov, Frankie got the story of how Gail had accidentally fallen for the medical examiner (whom Frankie did recognize once that was mentioned, and yes, she was a total hottie). Gail hadn't even been gay until that moment, they said. That wasn't how it worked, but Frankie didn't bother to educate them.
When Gail found out Frankie knew about Holly, she'd been livid. It was not something Gail wanted to talk about, and certainly not with Frankie. Gail had snapped that while Frankie was good in bed, they were not girlfriends and they were not friends like that. So Frankie could keep her opinions to herself and shut up.
Yeah. Gail was touchy about the Holly situation. And that told Frankie everything she needed to know. Gail was still in love. She knew Gail still reached out to Holly once in a while, and she knew Holly didn't call her back.
Time to add a new reason for a breakup to her list. Not that Gail had been a girlfriend. The woman just was not girlfriend material. Something was off about Gail, though considering the shit storm that her family was under, Frankie was a little impressed Gail got up and went to work every day like nothing happened. She just ignored it. That was them, this was her.
Still. Gail was not the girl you'd come home to and expect a massage after being hunched in a van for ten hours with someone like that fucking muppet, Chloe Price. She wasn't going to draw you a bath. She wasn't going to sit and canoodle in a corner at the Penny.
And yes, Frankie liked those things too. Sure, she liked her women a little uncomplicated, not trapped by the pressings of glossy magazines and frilly bows. But she liked women because they were warm and soft and wonderful. She didn't love women like men who considered themselves players did. She loved women because they were women, and she wanted them to stand up on their own and not be all needy and clingy.
Gail Peck was nothing but a mess of complications. She was prickly and opinionated and pointed and snarky, just like Frankie. Which was why they'd really never work, and Frankie had known it. Too similar in too many ways. Not similar enough in the ways that mattered. Gail, for example, had a massive self-esteem issue. Frankie did not.
People liked to say that Gail didn't have feelings, that she was a bitch or a robot. Frankie could see that, but she also saw the kid who got kicked around a lot. What would that have been like to grow up a Peck? Frankie had a taste of it, the agony of someone she'd trusted and liked betraying her. Steve had been a friend for her entire career. And he was Gail's brother for god's sake.
Everyone seemed to worry more about Andy and Marlo and Sam, though. Stupid heterosexuals. No, stupid white heterosexuals. There was Nash, who had practically been living with Steve, and apparently the only person who'd constantly checked on her was the emotionless, inhuman, Gail Peck.
"Okay, I have a serious question," she said to Gail.
"Oh god," groaned Gail.
"How the hell do you put up with the self-absorbed dipshits at Fifteen?"
Gail blinked and looked at Frankie, a little confused. "What are you talking about?"
Waving a hand at the group, Dov was sitting with Sam and Andy, going over some baby detective bullshit, Frankie explained. "They are so wrapped up in their own little drama, not a single one of 'em seems to give two shits about you."
"Oh," sighed Gail and she sipped her beer. "That's not new."
Frankie arched her eyebrows. "What? Ever?"
"Ever," Gail nodded. "It's not just them either. You get used to it after a while."
"Something is seriously wrong with you, Peck."
"Tell me something new," she muttered and downed her drink.
Clearly Frankie had hit on yet another idiotic Peck Thing. She'd thought that Steve had been making them up but now, looking at their continuing impact on Gail, Frankie realized he'd downplayed the shit they did. What assholes.
"How's Steve liking the new prison?" The question was probably a little painful, but she wanted to know.
Gail tilted her head. "It's fine. He's fine. As much as a cop in minimum security can be." Last Frankie had heard, Steve had been beat up a lot. He'd been moved to the new prison after being stabbed by some gang member.
While it sucked to be her, the friend and ex-partner of a corrupt cop, it was far, far, worse for Gail. Her family, the ones who somehow managed to be found innocent of all the shit, didn't talk to her anymore. Bill had transferred, quietly, as part of his deal. Elaine, who had been disturbingly silent through everything, was silent still and had not had her job changed in the slightest. Gail admitted she wasn't sure what that meant or how she felt, but it was starting to look like the Pecks had known all along.
Lied to by her entire family.
God that had to suck.
It made Frankie's life simple my comparison. "I'm going back to Thirty-Four next week," she mentioned casually.
"Yeah, so I hear. They're letting Dov take your spot." Gail made a face. "Baby D."
"You should try it. Being a D."
Gail snorted. "Not any time soon, Anderson. Not any time soon."
As Frankie walked to her car, she realized she didn't have it quite that bad. Okay, so she was having sex dreams about a really annoying, probably straight, sparkly unicorn princess, and that had killed off her bennies with Gail. But Peck was never into her. They were too much alike and the blonde was actually in love with someone she couldn't have.
And she had a job she loved. Yeah, she was currently being supervised thanks to Steve, and rumors about her being transferred were making the rounds, but she loved what she did. She loved it. Being a detective was what she wanted to do most of her life.
It could be a lot worse.
Frankie woke up on the floor. Her own floor. Her apartment. And she wasn't alone.
"Someone get the number of that truck." Chloe. That was Chloe Price.
Frankie pressed a hand to her forehead. "I think we drank the worm." She didn't want to sit up. Where was Chloe exactly, though? Why was she there? Was she on the couch?
"For hippies, Celery's friends can party." Something beside her stirred and Chloe sat up. Oh. Good. No one was on the couch.
"Both of you shut it." Oh. That was Peck. She was on the couch. Of course she was.
Now Frankie sat up. "Why are you here?" She was still dressed, which was good. That could have been embarrassing.
"Because Gail wouldn't take a taxi," said Chloe, rubbing her head. "Frankie, you have coffee, right?"
A pillow was slung from the couch and it hit Chloe in the face. "Shut up. And if you start whinging about how you and Dov broke up again, I will hurt you."
Chloe lay back down. "Dov can screw himself," she said, hugging the pillow close.
Right. Dov had broken up with Chloe about ... Okay, frankly she had no idea why they'd broken up, but it involved a screaming match at Oliver's wedding. Frankie had been invited by Traci, again, even though Gail said that they were not hooking up. They didn't. The buffer of Chloe Price made sure of that. And the buffer of Gail Peck made sure Frankie didn't do anything she regretted towards Chloe.
And Gail never took taxis for whatever reason.
"Coffee," said Frankie, firmly. She pushed herself to her feet and waited for the world to stop spinning so much. Then she shuffled to her kitchen and pulled out the beans and a grinder.
"That is way more hipster than I expected," said Chloe. She was chipper, even for a hungover, heartbroken, muppet.
Frankie loaded the beans into her grinder and turned the crank. "I like coffee. Good coffee."
From the couch, Gail groaned. "If it's the monkey poop coffee, I'm going to vomit."
Rolling her eyes, Frankie said, "How about being useful and turning on the kettle?"
It was Chloe who got up for that. "I'm just saying, you hand grind your beans? What hidden depths are there, Crankypants Anderson?"
"I'm a fucking onion," she told Chloe.
And Chloe laughed. It was a bright, happy, sunshine laugh. The kind of laugh that Frankie hated. And yet. She really liked that laugh.
Ugh. Dreams needed to stay dreams. Yes, Price was a tiny, kind of adorable, sassy, sort of thing. And yes, she totally thought Chloe was hot. But she was not into her like that. Dreams were just what they were. It wasn't a case of a psyche unraveling, or maybe her libido being out of whack.
Not that she'd slept with anyone since breaking up whatever she'd had with Gail.
They were never going to last anyway, and that really wasn't a big deal to her. They were better friends anyway. And going without sex wasn't uncommon for Frankie either. Sure, she loved to brag about it, but she'd always been a serial monogamist. One woman at a time, one woman to blow her mind with great sex, one woman to love. One woman that maybe, just maybe could fill that void in her heart. And then they left. They always left.
Of all her exes, Peck was the only one who stuck around after. "Anderson. I want doughnuts." Of course, Peck was pretty demanding as a friend.
"That shop you like is around the corner."
Gail grunted. "Do they deliver?"
"Gail, they're a doughnut shop." Chloe was laughing. "They do not deliver." She paused and looked at Frankie. "Do they?"
"I've never tried," said Frankie, finding it amusing. From the couch, Gail groaned and complained she was too hungover to go get doughnuts and someone needed to feed her. "Lazy ass."
"Fuck you," Gail said, grumbling.
Chloe smiled. "A box of donuts. I know what grumpier likes. What about you, Det. Grumpy?"
It took a moment for Frankie to realize Chloe was offering to go get donuts for all of them. She couldn't form the words of an answer. Gail spoke up from the couch. "She likes hipster bullshit. The Lemon Chiffon crueller doughnut."
Frankie rolled her eyes. "You liked it too."
"I like the food that is unapologetically bad for you," said Gail.
"That means the doughnut with bacon." Frankie shook her head. "You don't have to. Peck can get off her ass and get them herself."
But Chloe had her shoes back on. "No, no way. This sounds great. Address?" Gail rattled it off and Chloe bounced out the door.
"You liiiiike her," sang Gail.
"Shut up, Peck."
Gail sat up. "Come on, seriously. You kept lip looking her all fucking night. Give up, Anderson. You have a crush on a muppet."
She realized she was in deep when she was sitting on the floor.
They were talking, which was weird because Frankie didn't like talking to people. Especially not about herself. But here she was, sitting on her living room floor with a pizza, a six-pack of some pretty awesome micro-brew crap, and Chloe fucking Price.
It was the culmination of the first month of Frankie's life at Fifteen. After Traci was promoted to guns and gangs, there were holes in the homicide squad and Swarek needed an experienced detective who knew Fifteen and could help him train up the puppy, Epstein. For whatever reason, they'd played the detective shuffle and dropped Luke at ThirtyFour and Frankie at Fifteen.
At first that had been awkward. She had a crush on Chloe and here she was training her ex-boyfriend. Not that Frankie brought it up ever, but it was on her mind. This was someone who sleep with the woman she was dreaming about, and some days (most days) she wanted to punch him. And worse, it meant that she spent a lot of time with Chloe, because the concept of boundaries around her ex seemed to not exist.
"Ooooh, what kind of case is this? Looks messy?"
"It's a triple homicide with a chainsaw, Price."
"Messy messy. I wouldn't use a chainsaw."
"You have noodle arms, Price."
"Hah! That's funny!"
Conversations like that happened every day. She'd come by, see what they were working on, hang around until, inevitably, Frankie snapped and told her to get her ass back on patrol. Then she'd smile and bounce back out.
It started to change one day when Dov was out with Swarek. Chloe bounded in with two cups of coffee. "Hi!"
"Your boy isn't here, Price."
The woman sat down in Dov's chair and held out a coffee cup. "I know. Gail said you like it black."
Frankie looked at the cup, confused, but took it. "Thanks." She frowned, unsure where this was going. And being unsure, she looked back at her files.
Chloe waited in silence for a while and then asked the inevitable. "Whatcha got? Murder most foul?"
"Well, it's homicide," said Frankie, snarling.
"True!" She spun the chair around. "True true. Hey, do you like piri-piri? I do. I mean, obviously I do, I make it. But I made a whole chicken and I have leftovers for days. Gail, she doesn't like it. I offered but she told me to try making it with cheese puffs. Have you tried that?"
Frankie slowly looked at Chloe. "Why are you here?"
The petite redhead tilted her head. "To keep you company. You looked lonely."
"I what?" Frankie could have laughed.
"Lonely. And a little sad. I was when I moved here from TwentySeven. Us transfers have to stick together."
Before Frankie could answer, they were interrupted. From outside the bullpen, Andy shouted. "Chloe! Come on, let's go!"
Chloe hopped to her feet. "Gotta bounce! See you, Crankypants."
"It's Detective," snapped Frankie. But then found herself adding on. "I've never had piri-piri."
"Detective Crankypants." Chloe grinned broadly. "I'll have to make you some."
And that had led to Chloe hanging out with her. A lot. A lot more than was expected or comfortable for Frankie, considering her muddled feelings. They had drinks at the Penny, which turned into going to a restaurant as friends (often with Gail s a buffer), which turned into a movie here and there, which turned into micro brews and a kick ass pizza at Frankie's.
The void of friendship that Frankie had filled with Gail was now jostling for space with Chloe, and in a very different way. After all, she was still having awesome sex dreams about Chloe. The kind that left you feeling hot and bothered all day, even after some personal time with a vibrator and a cold shower. It just wasn't the same as another woman's touch and Frankie knew that intimately, even if she didn't know Chloe specifically.
But the beer and the pizza warmed her in a way that she was loathe to admit had been lonely. Few people wanted to be friends with anyone painted by the Peck brush. Tainted, as Gail called it. None of her coworkers from ThirtyFour were friends anymore. They didn't talk to her. Few people at Fifteen befriended her. Just Peck and Nash, sharing the bond of people who'd been fucked over by Steve Peck.
And then Chloe.
Chloe who dragged her to the Penny and made her play trivia. Chloe who wanted to see her smile and they went dancing. Chloe who pointed out cute girls. Chloe who, every time Frankie asked, dismissed the idea of Dov with a comment about how the ship had sailed and that was okay.
It was also Chloe who leaned in first, gently kissing Frankie over the pizza box. It was slow and lingering and nothing like she was used to. Frankie's eyes were wide open. "What was that for?"
"You know you're not my breakup buddy, right?" Chloe smiled and picked her beer up.
"That wasn't an answer."
"I know." She finished the beer and stood up. "You know what Gail loves and hates about me?"
Frankie frowned. "The fact that you're chirpy all the damn time?"
The tiny woman smiled. "I know who I am, and I don't make excuses or apologies for it." Putting away her dishes, Chloe went on. "I've seen how you look at me."
"I don't know what talking about."
Chloe laughed. "You look at my lips. Like you're wondering what they feel like. What they taste like."
Frankie didn't blush. She wasn't about to for something like that. "You weren't hanging out with Dov at all."
"No. I wasn't."
"Why?" She shook her head. Why her? People generally didn't pick her.
"Well, Gail and I get along, but she's in love with Holly." Chloe was flippant and smiled ear to ear. "And you... You make me smile." She picked up her purse. "Thanks for the pizza, it was great. We should do this again. With more kissing."
Having no other girl friends to rely on, Frankie ended up asking Gail what the hell was going on. Her friend blinked and put her tequila shot back down. "You what?"
"Kissed. And it's weird, right?"
"Well, you're the one who has sex dreams about her," said Gail, shaking her head. "I see why you didn't want to talk about this at the Penny, though."
"Seriously, you're not helping."
Gail screwed up her face. "I don't do girl talk, Anderson. You know that."
"Yeah, which is why I'm asking you... Is Price bi?"
The blonde looked thoughtful. "Huh."
"That's not an answer."
"I don't know," said Gail, still thoughtful. "I never talked to her about it. But I can see it."
There it was. A possibility. Frankie groaned and covered her face. "It was bad enough when I was just dreaming. Now I gotta think it's a maybe? Fuck."
Gail shrugged. "She sounds like she'd be a pocket rocket. She was always ... Well. I could hear her through the walls."
Because Chloe had dated Dov, and Dov lived with Gail. Awesome negative vibe there. Bitterly, Frankie asked, "Yeah? What'd they say about Holly?"
Her friend looked angry for a moment and then shook her head. "Never brought her over."
Frankie felt abashed. "Sorry." She looked away. "Heard from her?"
"Nope." Gail sipped her beer. Apparently she'd tried a few times to be friends afar, but the distance and the adoption had been too much. It hurt them too much. And since then, they'd sporadically texted until Holly told her she that was too painful. Silence reigned afterwards. Sometimes Gail would email or text her about her day, but no replies had come.
It had to kill Gail, eat at her to know that the woman she loved didn't want to talk. Frankie had been there too. Stupid Karen. Their relationship, Frankie and Gail's, was solace for the blonde and nothing more. A way to stop thinking about her life, her family, her loss. And Frankie and her stupid libido had ruined that for her too.
"Sorry," she said again.
"Not your fault, Anderson. Not mine either." Gail shrugged and downed her beer. "Just because I'm pathologically incapable of having any sorts of success in my personal life doesn't meant I'm not going to help you with yours."
"I dunno," said Frankie, frowning. "You're not the best reference for this kind of shit."
Gail smirked that evil smirk. "You want me to tell her the truth about you? I can do that."
Frankie smirked back. "Thanks, Peck."
"Hey, not like I have anything else going on in my life."