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The Floor (Is Another Ceiling)

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She wanted to crawl under the floor and hide, rather than sit there waiting.

But when she'd gotten to the hospital, Chloe had been asleep again. Lisa had made sure Frankie was allowed to stay, shoved her into the chair, and explained to the nurses that if anyone had a problem, they could take it up with her. No one did.

No one bothered her all day, not into the night, and not into the next day. Chloe's parents came and, when Frankie introduced herself as Detective Anderson, both hugged her. It seemed Chloe had told them about the girl she was seeing and how she'd been stupid about keeping it private.

Well private it wasn't anymore. All of them, everyone was looking in on them. Traci and Andy and Oliver. And they all seemed to just know. And they were all okay with it. And ... well it was weird. All those idiots she thought didn't care about Gail or anyone but their own stupid hetero BS was wrong. They did care. They just didn't understand how to talk to Gail, which kind of made sense when Frankie gave it some consideration. Peck was like her. She was a force to be reckoned with and didn't back down. And Chloe was the same way. The muppet drove them insane, but they couldn't imagine life without her. Not even self-absorbed Andy. Though Frankie held on to that one. Andy was incredibly dramatic and a total scene stealer. It was all about her.

Hearing Dov tell her off about that had been kind of funny. He'd pointed out it was about Chloe, and Chloe wanted Frankie there, and that was that.

That was them all knowing.

"God, Muppet, this is a fucking nightmare," she said quietly after Oliver left. It was one thing to want to be out. It was another to out someone. "I swear I didn't do it. It just happened."

Frankie glanced back out and saw no one in the hall now. She took Chloe's hand. Eventually she'd have to go home. Change. Shower. There was still a little blood on her hand, stuck stubbornly under her nails.

Closing her eyes, Frankie settled in the chair and waited for Chloe to wake up. The doctor had said he expected her to sleep at least 24 hours again, and not to worry. So she didn't worry.

When she opened her eyes, the sun had set, her hands had fallen into her lap, and Chloe was smiling at her. "Hey, sleepyhead."

Frankie almost fell out of her chair. "You're awake." She rubbed her eyes. "Sorry. That was dumb. Dumb."

"You just woke up." Chloe's voice was thick and raspy. She looked tired and confused and a little wary. "How've you been?"

What a loaded question. "Well. I nearly punched your ex husband. Had drinks with your ex boyfriend. Got hugged by your parents. And I've been watching you sleep for a couple days. Nothing unusual." Frankie stretched. "Other than being hit with a big ass stick, how're you?"

They both laughed.

It was a relief to laugh. It felt like something was healing. "I'm sorry," Chloe said softly. "That's what I wanted to say today. Tonight... When is it?"

"Day after."

Chloe looked surprised. "Why do I feel so crappy?"

"They roto-rootered your clot."

Blinking a few times, Chloe reached up and touched her neck. "I remember that." She closed her eyes. "My parents were here?"

"Yeah. Your mom's a hugger."

The redhead smiled. "I take after her." Then her eyes widened. "Oh god. I'm so sorry."

Frankie shook her head. "That you told your parents? Please. I told Peck. We're good." She stretched. "Oh and Dov figured it out. I think trying to kill your ex is what tipped him off."

Chloe made a face. "Wes can be such an ass. I don't know how Luck never tazed him."

"She can be quiet about it when she wants to be."

And Chloe laughed. "Ow, ow ... Crap, that hurt." She pressed her hand to her neck. "Ow. Okay, Luck practically spews pheromones screaming 'I'm a lesbian, please fuck me now.' You'd have to be dead not to notice." Frankie smiled. "What?"

"You said fuck. It's cute. I didn't know you knew how to swear."

Chloe stuck her tongue out. "I'm not a prude. I just think ... Sex shouldn't be televised."

"You had sex in a public bathroom. I'm betting with Dov at the Penny." She watched Chloe turn red. Nailed it. "He's okay. Dov. He's covering my shift right now."

Smiling, Chloe closed her eyes. "He's a good guy." Then. "I'm glad you're here." They sat in silence, listening only to the sound of the machines.

"You never made me piri-piri," said Frankie.

A heartbeat passed and Chloe opened her eyes again. "What?"

"What? You said you could make me piri-piri. I've never had it."

Chloe's eyes warmed. "It might be a while before I can make it for you." She extended a hand. "Are we ... Are we okay?"

It was a peace offering. Frankie scooted her chair close and took Chloe's hand for a moment. Just one squeeze. "I don't do the closet, Chloe. I like you. I do. You're funny and a little crazy-"

"A lot crazy."

"Okay, you're a lot crazy. But you're the kind of woman I like. You're complex and deep and different. And I like you. A lot." She looked at the hand and sighed. "Contrary to rumors, I don't sleep around. I like relationships. I like having a woman to take out and romance. Just not the bullshit stuff like cookies and microwave popcorn."

Chloe coughed a laugh. "Wes did popcorn?" At Frankie's nod, she sighed. "Dov did the cookie. What'd you bring me?"

"I brought you here," she replied and then looked back at her hands. There was the spot of blood.

"See. That's romantic. I remember you were holding my neck."

"You were bleeding." How was that romantic?

"You stayed with me all the way here." That, maybe, was romantic. "Why?"

Frankie sighed. "I like you, Chloe. A lot."

"You yelled at me."

She had. Frankie looked down. "I don't have a lot of friends, Price. You... You have literally dozens of people who showed up here. For you. To see you. To see you're okay. Your parents came. I don't... Peck and I, we get along because we know how that feels. We can't be anyone else, even if we hate it, because this is who they see us as. But ... See, I learned this and Peck is still figuring it out. I can't lie about who I am. I can't- I won't be a secret."

"Frankie..." Chloe's voice was soft.

"Peck said I should tell you I'm an idiot, and I'm sorry, but I'm not. Sorry. I'm not sorry I want what I want. I like you, Chloe." She looked up sadly. "I like spending time with you. I like your sense of humor. Jesus, I like how you annoy the hell out of me. You snuck in and ... You aren't the kind of woman I date. But I want to date you. All the things that means."

Chloe studied her face. "I didn't ... I didn't know you felt like that."

Almost bitter, Frankie replied, "I noticed."

"You didn't tell me, Frankie," said Chloe softly. "I'm not a mind reader." She extended a hand to Frankie. After a moment, Frankie took it in both of hers. "I thought you just wanted this. Friendship. Sex."

"No... No I actually like dating women, Chloe."

The petite woman laughed and then winced. "Date."

"Yeah, date."

Chloe smiled at her. "So. Can I take you out?"

"Uh, news flash, Muppet. You're stuck in here for a while."

"When I get out. Can I take you out on a date? Some place for a dinner that's romantic. Brazilian. Do you like that? I think it's nice. We could do that. But before then, before then, we should go to the Penny. Together."

Ah. Frankie sighed. "Yeaaah everyone's kinda figured that out."

"Makes it easier." Smiling, Chloe closed her eyes. "I'm not ashamed of being bisexual, Frankie. Or of you. I like you. You're warm and kind."

The laugh from the door startled them both. "Sorry. I was enjoying the romcom but calling Frankie warm and kind means you're on some epic drugs, Price." Gail was dressed in civvies.

"Hi Gail. Did you know Frankie cuddles?"

Gail rolled her eyes. "Oh yeah, you're high. Frankie, kiss the girl goodbye. You need to shower and sleep."

When Chloe arched her eyebrows, Frankie sighed. "You've been here since?" Frankie nodded and Chloe smiled at her. "Go home. Change your sheets. Shower. Sleep. Come back." Sighing again, Frankie got up stiffly. "But you should kiss me."

"Muppet, both our breath is rank."

"Kiss her forehead, you moron," said Gail. "Hey, Chloe. It's not the same at Fifteen without you."

"Aw. Are you wishing me well?"

"I don't wish people things." Gail scoffed at the notion.

"You like me." Chloe was grinning.

"Depends on how much I've had to drink." Gail flashed her teeth in a feral snarl. "Everyone else wished you well."

Smiling more, Chloe said "Thank you." As Frankie leaned in and kissed her forehead, she added, "Get some rest, Frankie."

Promising to do so, Frankie fell asleep in her own car as Gail drove her home. She was feeling better than she had in a long time.


The floor was clean.

The apartment was clean. She'd hired cleaners while she'd been busy with a stakeout for the last week. Actually, all Frankie had done to be ready for the evening was shopping. The ingredients were in the fridge ready for cooking. Frankie had everything on the list, even the things that didn't quite make sense. But she'd followed the list methodically and precisely.

It wasn't the first time she'd seen Chloe since she'd gotten out of the hospital, but it was the first time they'd be alone together and, to be honest, she was torn on what excited her more. Was she excited about getting to sleep with Chloe again, or was it the idea of finally eating that damn piri-piri?

Hard to say.

The dinner at Chloe's parents place had been weird and a little awkward. Frankie had done those dinners before and they rarely went well. But the Prices were like Chloe. They were unique and individual and funny and smart. She couldn't help but like them. And their food was crazy good.

It was a whole month of being cooped up at her parents before Chloe had gotten home and gotten back to work. They'd had a party at the Penny, celebrating her first day back, and while Frankie had managed to sneak in some kisses and a little making out when Chloe's parents hadn't been around, it was not time to make time. Then she'd had her stupid stake out with fucking Callaghan.

But now, finally, they had a night where nothing was going on. No party, no celebrations, no family. Just them. It had to be the sex. She was practically vibrating with the idea of getting to touch Chloe again.

So Gail showing up, flustered and confused, was not on her radar.

"What the hell happened to you, Peck?"

"Uh. Here." She shoved her phone at Frankie and started pacing. "I mean. That means what I think it means, in a good way. Right? So she wants... Oh just read it." Gail was freaking out.

Frankie read the message. Holly. It was a short message.

I miss you. Can we talk?

"Have you still been texting her?"

"Do random science facts count?"

Frankie looked up. "What?"

"Jesus, she's a scientist, okay?"

Scrolling through Gail's backlog, she found multiple messages about some random science things. Like 'I just learned frogs can change sexes via parthenogenesis. That's creepy.' Some were things from cases, others were from watching some weird crap with Neil DeGrasse Tyson, no doubt. "Fuck, Gail. You were texting her every week for ... A year?"

Gail sat on Frankie's couch. "Yes. I know. I'm a fucking creepy stalker."

"Well. It worked." Frankie tossed the phone onto Gail's lap. "Did you call her?"

"Haven't replied to the text. What the hell do I say?" She turned her phone over in her hands. "I haven't told her anything," Gail said, her voice a whisper.

"Really? You told her a hell of a lot-"

"Not about Steve. Or Sophie. Or ... Anything." Gail gnawed her lower lip.

And that was when the door opened again. "Hello lover!" Chloe was heartbreaking in just jeans and a cute top. "Oh..." She paused and stared at Gail.

The blonde looked surprised. "Shit. I'm sorry." She started to stand up.

For a moment, Frankie was willing it let her go. But she looked at Chloe and saw that soft heart who cared. "Holly texted her, wants to talk. Peck's freaking out."

Chloe's heart visibly caved. She closed and locked the door. "Sit down, Gail. Tell me everything."

They spent the night talking to Gail about what had happened with Holly, how they hadn't talked about anything or any importance for half a year. And they formulated a plan. A simple, plain, text. Yes, she wanted to talk. But she had to keep it simple and cool. By the time they finished, it was two in the morning and Gail sent five words. Two sentences.

I miss you too. Yes.

Everyone was mentally exhausted, and Gail was worn and drained. Frankie made her up a bed on the couch, barely needed since Gail was out in moments, curled around the pillow. Tossing the blanket over Peck, Frankie looked apologetically at Chloe.

"Sorry. This wasn't the evening I was planning."

Chloe smiled and kissed her long and slow, lighting a fire in her. "You did the right thing for a friend."

Sighing, Frankie let herself melt against Chloe and feel her warmth. "I don't have a lot of those."

The smaller woman led her into her own bedroom, quietly closing the door. The apartment was not soundproof enough to consider having sex with Gail right there in the living room. Besides, it would be incredibly rude to rub it in the face of someone struggling with her own romance situation. But they did definitely enjoy some heavier petting than public places had allowed.

In the morning, Gail was gone with the blanket folded up on the sofa and a flat of donuts on the counter. Four of the twelve donuts were gone. Of course. "Why did you give her a key," asked Chloe, wearing nothing more than a long shirt of Frankie's.

"I didn't. She just magically lets herself in and out as she pleases. She's like a cat."

Chloe looked thoughtful and turned on the kettle. "She is, isn't she? Is she cuddly?"

Frankie blinked as she started to hand grind the beans for coffee. "Peck? Cuddly? You've hugged her."

"I mean in bed. You guys did go out for ages."

Oh. Frankie shook her head. "No. That was... That was less dating and more mutually beneficial. We were never going to work out anyway. Too much alike, and she's in love with Holly."

Chloe smiled. "She is, isn't she?" Stretching, Chloe yawned. "I hope she works that out. I liked Holly. No offense, but she's nicer than you are."

"Most people are." She dumped the grounds into her pour over filter. The chemex was an upgraded, multi cup model. Before, when she'd dated, when she'd lived with other women, they'd deride her coffee methods. Chloe took it in stride and tried something new. So Frankie got a bigger pot. She didn't often use it. "That weird almond cream you like is in the fridge."

Breezing by, Chloe kissed Frankie's cheek as she put cream and sugar in her cup. "You're secretly thoughtful."

"I'm a detective. I pay attention."

She waited until Chloe put her cup down and then pulled her close for a kiss. It was more wanting than Frankie had planned, her libido getting the best of her. But Chloe was hungry for her touch as well, it seemed, pressing into her right away until Frankie's back met the edge of her counter. They pushed against each other, thighs between thighs. Chloe had no underwear on and when her bare leg found that out, Frankie groaned.

God she felt so good. There was the vibe that was just Chloe, humming through the air, promising everything. They rocked against each other, threatening to make breakfast more carnal, when the water boiled. Frankie might have just slapped the kettle off, but it was Chloe who breathlessly backed away. "I have the day off, detective," she explained, her voice almost a purr.

Frankie wanted to cry. "I don't. We had that stupid surveillance gig. I have to review Epstein's notes."

Kissing her one more time, Chloe stepped around to pour the water. "How late do you think you'll be?"

"Uh. Maybe four, if I'm lucky. Why?"

"Because I have tomorrow off too, and I saw what you have in the fridge. I could stay here. Cook for you." Chloe smiled over her shoulder. "And then..."

And then. Frankie liked the 'and then.' "You're going to stay here, alone, all day? Cooking for me?"

"What? I'd offer to clean but you seem to have made your apartment cry with that already. Something wrong with that?" Chloe looked adorable, stubborn, and sexy all at once.

Frankie smiled. It had been a long time since she'd dated a woman who thought about those things. Certainly not Gail. And Linda... No. She wasn't the homemaker kind of girl. Karen was, for all she was a scientist. She'd thought Karen was the one back then, back when she felt like she finally had a person who would be there for her, love her for who she was. Frankie shook her head. "It's not wrong. It's just... Been a while since someone stuck around."

Screwing up her face, Chloe looked confused for a long moment and then, sadly, enlightenment dawned. "Oh." She put down her coffee and stepped back into Frankie's personal space, arms wrapping around her back.

"Hey hey, it's fine."

"I don't have to. Stay. I can go home and give you space and-" She stopped when Frankie touched a finger to her lips. "Not it?"

"No." Frankie kissed her carefully, deeply. "No. But... It's been a while. That's all." She didn't know how to say that it had been a while since anyone cared about her like that. Since a girlfriend had stayed around to make life better outside of the bedroom. In fact, it had been so long, she'd forgotten it was something she'd craved as a younger woman. Craved all her life. "Stay. You have a key."

"I do." Chloe let go and tilted her head. "I meant to ask. Why do I have a key?"

"Because. I like you. Having a key ... Not that not having one stopped Gail. But it means you can come. Or not. When you want." She handed Chloe her coffee back. "I like you here."

Chloe pursed her lips. "Okay." She sipped her coffee. "No wall of our map of love, huh?"

Frankie scowled. "That is way too twee, Muppet."

The nickname made Chloe grin, but it was guarded.

When Frankie made it home, closer to two than four thanks to sheer luck, the apartment was empty. "Damn it," she muttered. She'd pushed the wrong way again. Not for the first time, Frankie wished to be straight. It would be so much easier. She'd have established, we'll know, paths to navigate. And men, if her outsider view was accurate at all, were easy and stupid.

Dumping her clothes in the hamper and locking away her gun and badge, Frankie took a long shower. The grime of the day washed away and the stress of trying to figure out what she'd fucked up this time took backseat to the pleasure of hot water and soothing soap. Screw everyone who said lesbians had to be butch. Noreen had turned her on to aromatherapy and it was damn useful.

Frankie didn't abide by anyone's definitions. She was the kind of woman she wanted to be. Cranky, yes, but anyone who'd fought tooth and nail for every ounce of respect in a man's world would be. A lesbian had to fight everyone. Men hated you for being a woman. Women hated you for being a different kind of woman. Feminism barely held space for the intersectional slide that was a lesbian. It always sucked.

So yes. She was pushy and cranky and attacked first some times. And then when she tried to let people in, they didn't get her.

And she'd probably just chased Chloe off.

Drying off, Frankie fell onto her bed and sighed. Nap. Sleep sounded like a better idea than trying to think just then. Of course she dreamed about Chloe. But not sex. She dreamed about what she'd hoped to come home to. An apartment smelling of food. Chloe caring about her. Something few girlfriends seemed to do. They always wanted to do the big, fancy, shit. Frankie just wanted the little things.

She stirred when the sun was lower and peeking in through the open blinds. They hit her bed. She'd forgotten to close them. But as she started to move, she felt a warm breath cross her skin. "Hello, lover."

Frankie's eyes snapped open and she looked up into Chloe's warm, smiling, brown eyes. "Hey," she replied, confused.

The soft hand smoothed across her bare skin. "You were asleep when I got in." Chloe kissed her bare shoulder. "You feeling okay? Or just tired?"

"Uh. I was tired." Frankie stared to turn when Chloe's hand's path because obvious. Apparently for as long as she'd been missing this, this touch and caress and the magnetic pull that was them in bed, so had Chloe. There was no mistaking her intent as Chloe kissed her neck.

"Too tired?"

"No." She barely dared breathe. She'd not scared or chased Chloe off. She hadn't done something idiotic or pushed her the wrong way. "I thought you'd ... I thought you'd left."

Chloe paused. "I have a key," she said softly.

"I know." But doubts were doubts. Past pain and hurts were scars on the soul. You never got rid of them. If you'd been burned before, you were burned. Now all that burned was her skin as Chloe's fingers followed familiar paths. Her heart pounded and she forgot everything except that there was someone in her bed who chose her. Who stayed. Who left and came back and stayed.

It really had been a long time since Frankie was anyone's first choice. She always felt like she was the one they settled for. The one they passed time with while waiting for the one. At least Gail had been honest about it from the start, and that might be why they were still friends.

Figuring out that she was Chloe's first choice was turning out to be a game changer. Chloe hadn't been hiding for fear of people knowing she was dating a woman, or dating Frankie. She just was like that. She liked her life the way she liked it. And yet she changed for Frankie, moving at a speed not her own.

Frankie exhaled shakily as Chloe slowly made her way back up to lie along side her. "Wow," she whispered.

"I missed that." Chloe kissed her jaw, curling up close.

"Uh huh." Sentences were not yet possible. But they didn't need to be just then. Frankie turned her head to find Chloe's lips, kissing her, holding her close.

Chloe smiled. "Still tired?"

She wanted to tell Chloe to shut up. She wanted to tell Chloe what she was feeling, what she wanted, and how she wanted things. And none of those words came out of her mouth. She couldn't even say 'No' (which would be a lie, by the way, she was fucking drained in the best way). Frankie kissed her again, hungrily and eagerly. She wanted more. She needed more. She needed to touch and remind herself that Chloe was there and real and alive.

Pressing a thigh between Chloe's, Frankie had to show her. It was beyond words and that was okay. Chloe seemed to understand the need and desire, letting Frankie consume her just then. Letting the fire that had swallowed Frankie whole subsume her, Chloe gave in to passion until they both lay on the tangled sheets, satiated, whole, and smiling.

"Missed that too," Frankie finally said, gently running her fingertips over the scar on Chloe's neck.

It didn't seem to bother Chloe, the scar nor that Frankie wanted to touch it. "I should get stuck in the hospital more often," said Chloe, teasingly.

Frankie swatted her arm. "Not even funny." Then she leaned in to kiss her again. To her surprise, Chloe returned the kiss perfunctorily and slid out of bed. "Hey... Where are you going?"

"To take the chicken out of the oven."

Blinking, Frankie watched Chloe pull on a long shirt. "The... What?" She inhaled and, over the smell of sex, there was something spicy and fiery. Something that smelled like Chloe, but not. Something just as spicy and tantalizing and probably as addictive as Chloe. "Piri-piri?"

"Mom said I was a brat for not make it fresh." She leaned over to kiss Frankie's forehead. "And you bought everything except the right yogurt."

It all clicked. "Which you went out to get because you wanted to surprise me."

"I did. Though where did you get the recipe?"

"Internet."

"It showed. They don't understand anything." Chloe smiled. "It's a nice thought though. Were you going to make it for me?"

"I was going to try, and hope you'd bail me out." Frankie sat up.

"It worked. Go shower. It has to cool before we can eat it."

Frankie watched Chloe saunter out of the bedroom and grinned. Things were going right for once.


Frankie's jaw hit the floor when she met Holly.

The woman was stunning. She'd seen photos of course, but seeing her for real, in person, was a different matter. And besides being sexy as hell, Holly was an honestly nice person. Not Chloe levels of nice, which on their best days still annoyed Frankie a little, but a good person. A smiling person.

And a person who clearly had not gotten over Gail any more than Gail had gotten over her.

"It's horrifying," she told Chloe, who returned with drinks. Gail and Holly were sitting and talking, incredibly quietly. They were barely touching. But there they were. "They should just kiss and get it over with."

"They were making out in interrogation," said Chloe and she sat down. "Andy and I walked in on them."

Frankie arched her eyebrows. "In interrogation?"

"The viewing room. Holly had her pinned against the table. It was kinda hot." Chloe smirked. "Gail's been all flustered all day."

She was flustered now. "Did you find out why Holly's back?"

"One of her cases is up for re-trial." Chloe was good and finding things out. "Speaking of cases, are you stuck in court all week?"

"Probably."

Chloe pouted. "That sucks. I missed you last week." The last week, Chloe had been on a stakeout. Before that, Frankie had a case that kept her, and Epstein, busy all hours of the day. Triple homicides did that.

Leaning in, Frankie kissed her. "Come over tonight."

"Just to sleep."

"Just to sleep," confirmed Frankie.

"God, you two make me sick," grimaced Gail.

Frankie looked over and saw only Gail. "Where's the doc?"

"She went back to her hotel." Gail grunted and picked up a shot glass, sniffing it before downing.

"And you are here because..."

"Reasons, Anderson. Reasons. It's not simple."

Glancing at Chloe, Frankie understood that one. "It's worth it."

Gail squinted. "Excluding princess here, how many times have you had your heart broken, Anderson?"

With a shrug, Frankie finished her beer. She'd lost track. No she hadn't. Four times. "Not the point. You're in love with a woman you can't get, but now that you can, you don't want to? You're insane."

There was a chill to Gail's blue eyes. A dangerous look. "I'm not the one trying to fill the hole of my family with women and claim it's love." She pushed back from the table and left, tossing some bills on the way.

Frankie sighed and rubbed her forehead. There was only so far you could push Gail before she lashed out at you like the Peck she was. Sometimes you could push her further. Clearly whatever she was talking about with Holly was making her unhappy. Silent, Chloe settled their tab and took Frankie's arm, walking with her to the parking lot.

"Are they dead? Your family?" Chloe finally just blurted it out as she stood by Frankie's car.

Blinking, Frankie froze with her keys in hand. "Dead? No. No, most are very much alive last I checked." Which had been a while. "We just don't talk."

"Oh." Chloe frowned. "They aren't okay with ..." She gestured between them.

"Dad tried to pray the gay away." Years of catholic school, of nuns, of rulers on hands, of praying on her knees to take away the thing that made her different. It came crashing back. "Made me stronger," she said, shrugging and unlocked the car.

She didn't really believe that lie. And based on the look on Chloe's face, she didn't buy the lie either. But she didn't push. They got back to Frankie's apartment and curled up in bed, watching the colors of the buildings change. Frankie dozed off, wondering how long until the bubble burst and Chloe wanted to know the rest.

Chloe waited longer than any other girlfriend. Gail didn't count. She'd known from Steve, whom she apparently continued to visit in prison. Gail liked to subject herself to a lot of pain. That included whatever was going on with Holly.

"Am I allowed to ask?" They were eating dinner out a few weeks later. "About your family?"

Frankie nodded. "Yeah. Sure."

"Because you never talk about them. And ... I don't want to bring up a bunch of bad memories."

She looked at her plate. "We lived south. Hamilton. Dad owns a mess of storage facilities. My brothers worked there too."

"Brothers?"

"Two. Older. Theo and Devon. They're okay. Living up in Barrie now. Theo still calls me now and then." She sighed. "Dad's hardcore catholic. Didn't really take me being a lesbian too well. Mom... Mom left him. Not divorced, just left with me and the boys when I was fourteen." There was more to be said. More about why they left, but it wasn't something she could voice now. Her brain filled in the sound that still haunted her. She ignored it. "She died a few years ago. Cancer. The last time I saw my old man was at her funeral."

"I'm sorry," Chloe said softly.

"It happened," said Frankie, quietly. "Theo and Devon, they kinda never forgave me. Not for the first few years. They were real rough."

"What... What do they do now?"

"Landscaping. Anderson Brothers. They do pretty good. Theo has a wife, kids. Devon keeps his nose clean, had a few girls but nothing major." She looked at Chloe. "Now you know."

They didn't talk any more about it. But at the same time, Chloe didn't try to distance herself. She stayed the night, holding Frankie close. It was as if she was trying to fill that void, that empty hole her father had beaten open and her mother left ragged, just by staying.

And in a way... In a way it helped.