Once, Gail had told her it was the sound of wingtips on the floor that haunted her.
She stood with Gail, staring through the glass at the man chained to a table. "I hate trials," Frankie said quietly. Gail didn't look over. Her lips were set in a thin line. Her hands were shoved into her pockets. "He can't see you."
"I know." Gail reached up and adjusted her tie. "I'm good. I can do this."
"Two lies," said Frankie quietly.
"One." The uniformed officer looked over at Frankie. "Just one."
Smiling sadly, Frankie nodded. "Just one." She looked back at the glass. "Come on. Lawyers want to see you."
Nodding, Gail turned and walked with Frankie over to the door and out to quieter room. When the case had come up again, a normal process, a normal kind of case to come back up again, Gail had not asked Frankie or anyone else to go with her. Had Nash not said that she was going to take some time for it, Frankie wouldn't have known at all. When she'd found Gail at the courthouse, the uniformed officer had just shrugged and accepted the coffee and doughnut.
It was a soul sucking case, no matter how Frankie looked at it. The man who tried to kill her. The man who wanted to rape her. The man who wanted her to heal and then suffer. And then die.
The court was, mostly, closed. Certainly Gail didn't have any family who would come to take care of her that day. She was going to have her soul ripped apart on the stand, again, and she was going to be alone. Nash was in another room, talking about Jerry no doubt. Swarek and McNally had been there the day before. And now it was Gail's turn to talk to total strangers about a horrible day.
Frankie didn't want to know the story. She'd seen Gail through a nightmare before, a night in Frankie's apartment when Gail had woken covered in sweat. Even then, even then Frankie hadn't wanted to know the story. But Gail knew hers and it seemed fair. A bottle of tequila later and they'd been on the floor, talking about all the shit their family put them through.
Halfway through Gail's deposition, Nash came in to sit beside Frankie.
"How's she doing?"
"She looks green."
Nash smiled. "Hates public speaking."
With everything the Pecks made her do, Frankie could see it. "She's holding up okay. Just told them the whole story. About getting out of the trunk of the car. They've been nit picking it for a while."
"Where's ..." Nash trailed off.
"He's in another room. Her lawyer won the argument to keep him out."
Nash nodded slowly. "Yeah. Good." She turned to Frankie. "Thanks. For staying here with her."
Frankie shrugged. "She's loyal. Peck is ... She's a friend. I don't have a lot."
"She thinks that too." Nash sighed. "We figured I'm the only one she can't chase off."
What now? Frankie turned and frowned. "We?"
"Andy, Dov, Chris... Me. Oliver. Well. Maybe she wouldn't chase Oliver, but he'd make her cry and she doesn't want that." Frankie eyed Traci and wondered if she'd been wrong about the idiots at Fifteen... And wrong about how they thought about Gail. She'd been wrong in general when they'd all shown up to check on Chloe, even after they figured out she and Chloe were a thing. That was a thought for another day, though. They both watched Gail repeat parts of the case, parts of the day. "If she can stand to look at me after this, I'll take her to my place."
"Doesn't matter if not. She can crash at my place."
Traci Nash looked at her for a long moment. "What's up with you and Chloe?"
Startled, Frankie turned. "What? We're dating, why?"
"Just .. You and Gail."
Frankie snorted. "Fifteen is an incestuous cesspool. I'm just fitting in."
"I don't ... I don't want you to break Gail or Chloe's heart."
Years of court appearances was the only reason she didn't break out laughing. "Jesus, Nash. Peck's in love with Holly. Still." It turned out Gail actually felt bad about sleeping with Frankie while she was in love with Holly. In a way it was sweet.
"I wish Holly was here," said Nash, softly. "She never told her, though."
Surprise surprise. But not really. How hard had it been to tell Chloe? And it wasn't like she'd actually told her everything. No one wanted their pain on display for everyone to see. Frankie was safe, relatively, knowing it had been nothing she'd done wrong. Still even her own mother had wanted her to stay in the closet. Her brothers didn't want to know.
That was something Frankie couldn't not be.
This was something that could have happened to anyone.
Gail was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Frankie was born the way she was. Though, maybe, maybe Gail being born a Peck was why she was where she was when she was. Fate could fuck itself.
Gail was dismissed from the stand and walked away without a second look. "He's next," she said to the detectives. "Hey, Trace."
"Hey, Gail. Need a friend?"
The blonde nodded. "Yeah. Yeah I do."
They found a lawyer bar down the street and spent a few hours drinking. Frankie had heard about the case first from Steve. They'd been undercover together at the time. But it had been harder to hear about it from Gail. It was even worse the second time for some reason. Harder to stomach. Maybe that was why Frankie drank more than was good for her.
After she loaded a loaded Gail into Nash's car, Frankie took a taxi to Chloe's apartment. Nash, sober, had asked if she needed a ride, but the taxi seemed right. Gail probably would have flipped if she'd known. Gail didn't like taxis, which Frankie understood now. Unlike her upscale place, Chloe lived in a Bohemian loft with a futon and not a lot of walls. Her furniture bordered on kitchy, none of it matched and it all somehow went together. She liked Chloe's place. It was homey.
She also hated it for the same reason she'd moved into a high rise. It reminded her of home. It reminded her of the house her mother made for them. It reminded her of what she'd lost.
Staring up at the squat building, Frankie pulled her phone out and called. "Hey, lover," said Chloe, sleepily. "Done with court?"
Lover. Chloe had made a point to call her that since she'd gotten out of the hospital. "Yeah."
After a moment, Chloe asked, "Are you okay?"
"No. I mean, yes, but … I wanted to tell you the truth."
"Truth?" Chloe sounded like she was waking up in a hurry.
A few of her exes knew. Not all. Gail had been the only one who knew beforehand. She was lucky, Frankie knew, that she didn't have any scars. Some parents were more careful than others about marking. There was nothing visible, nothing on her skin that marked her as the survivor she was.
But the women who knew, all found some reason to leave not long after. Great sex, a good person, but not for them. People didn't want the damaged goods. And the more they left, the more jaded she became. It was how it was. And she didn't want to lie about it any more. No, not lie. She never lied. Not talking wasn't lying.
Frankie leaned against the door. The building code was 34789 and then the pound button. Not secure at all. She could let herself in if she wanted.
"Truth. I didn't lie. I just... I left things out."
"Frankie, are you drunk?"
"No. Well. Yes. I was drinking. But I still need to tell you."
Chloe's voice was gentle. "Maybe this should wait till you're sober."
But it couldn't. Frankie had to say it. "Probably." She closed her eyes. "My dad's an abusive asshole."
"My dad beat Theo black and blue when he got caught with a cheerleader out at the bluffs. Lovers lane. The deputy brought him home and Dad..." She swallowed, unable to voice the memory of her father beating Theo. It still hurt. But she kept going. "When I was fourteen. When I was fourteen he found me kissing my best friend. A girl. He didn't take that real well. He knew... Everyone knew I was gay. In that way, y'know, how you know and don't know. Mom just prayed. But Dad. He liked a belt." She could hear it sometimes. On bad nights when her ghosts haunted her closer than normal, the whip of the wind right before it hit her skin. "He got worse that day. He got ... I dunno, eight or ten hits in before Mom screamed at him to stop. She lit out with me and my brothers the next day."
Chloe's breathing was louder than normal on the phone. "Frankie. Where are you?"
"Downstairs. Your building. You know it's not really secure? I could jimmy the code and get in. And I'm kind of drunk, you're right." She sighed. "I was at the courthouse with Gail and Traci. They had to talk about Perik and Gail hasn't told Holly ... And I didn't tell you about my dad. Or why my brothers are mad. Because losing Dad was my fault for being gay. And Mom... I mean, that one is stupid, right? I didn't give her cancer. But it was my fault too."
The front door of the building opened and Frankie almost fell in. "Jesus, you smell like a bar." Chloe was in sweats and a a t-shirt and a pair of crocs.
"Hi." She smiled at Chloe. "Those are ugly shoes."
"You are drunk." Chloe took her phone away and hung it up. "Come on, lush."
Frankie frowned as Chloe steered her up the stairs and down the hall. "Why aren't you running away?"
"Everyone else leaves me when they find out. No one wants the broken girl." She hiccuped. "Peck knew before. Doesn't count."
Chloe sighed. "Frankie. Sweetie, it's late." She unlocked her door and nudged Frankie in. "Sit down."
Frankie looked up at her as she sat at the kitchen table. "Do I have to sleep out here?"
"No." Chloe went to her fridge and pulled out a water bottle. "Drink this. Okay?"
"Kay." She drank the bottle. The fuzziness of the alcohol was starting to make it hard to concentrate. "I'm drunk, Muppet."
Chloe sighed. "Yes. Yes you are." She tapped on her phone and then plugged in hers and Frankie's. "Come on, finish that." As soon as Frankie had, Chloe refilled it and got another out of the fridge. "Okay. First shower. Then bed."
Letting herself be led again, Frankie was blearily stumbling by the time she was out of the shower. Chloe pressed two pills into her hand and made sure she swallowed them and more water, before tucking her in bed.
"You're nice," said Frankie sleepily. "How come you're so nice?"
"Shh. Go to sleep."
But the unanswered question kept Frankie up a little longer. Not long enough to seriously understand what had been said, but long enough to recognize a truth. Chloe was still there.
The floor bit into her knees as she vomited for the third time.
Chloe sat on the edge of her tub, holding Frankie's hair out of the way, and gently rubbing her back. "God," groaned Frankie. "I'm just gonna sleep here."
"No, you're not." Chloe was so calm and gentle. She ran the tap and put a cool rag on the back of Frankie's neck. "Get it out."
"I don't have..." Frankie paused and felt her gut betray her for the fourth time. But this time it came with an odd feeling of relief and release. Ugh. "Nachos." She didn't remember eating nachos.
Chloe handed her another rag. "Wash your face, okay?" As soon as Frankie leaned away from the toilet, Chloe closed the lid and flushed. She just held the cloth, dumbly. Sighing, Chloe took it and wiped Frankie's face for her. "Come on, sit up here." She helped Frankie to sit on the toilet. "Brush your teeth. You'll feel better."
"Unlikely." But Frankie rinsed her mouth out and brushed her teeth and rinsed it out again because Chloe's hippie fennel toothpaste was nasty in her mouth. It wasn't so bad in Chloe's. "Do you have a bucket?"
"Yeah, yeah I do." Chloe helped her back to the bed, tucking her in and getting the bucket.
When she woke up the next time, Frankie felt the world was a little more solid underneath her. "Fuck," she muttered.
The bed dipped and a warm hand brushed her hair away from her forehead. "Morning, sunshine. I told Oliver you were sick."
Oliver? Frankie eyed the woman sitting on the bed. "And you?"
"I'm taking care of you. Do you think you can handle coffee?"
Frankie actually felt green. "No."
"Okay. How about toast and tea?"
"Can I just sleep?"
"At the very least, you're drinking a bottle of Gatorade."
Frankie sighed. "I hate Gatorade."
"It's not real Gatorade. My ... My mom made it."
It was the hesitation that brought the entire night's drunken conversation back to mind. "Your mom is nice. I like her." She squeezed her eyes shut. "I'm sorry."
"Everyone has really bad nights, Frankie. We do stupid things when we're drunk. Like get married."
"You and Peck have that one in common," said Frankie, sighing.
"Gail didn't actually marry Nick."
"He ran away."
Chloe laughed brightly. "I'm not running away, Frankie. Okay?"
Opening her eyes, Frankie looked up. "Why? I mean... Everyone else did."
"I'm not everyone else." She looked happy and sad at the same time. Kissing Frankie's nose, Chloe got up. "I'm going to make you some tea and toast. I've got bananas and apple sauce."
Lying in Chloe's bed, Frankie watched the woman walk over to the kitchen and wondered how she'd found someone like that. Someone who accepted the dark things and the bad things and cared about you anyway. She wanted to unravel the mystery of why Chloe was always so happy, why she smiled even when she hurt, and why she was able to survive like she did.
Frankie knew how to live through the pain with pain. She knew how to embrace the agony and throw it back on people as a weapon. She knew how to scare them when they got too close and got too invested without really caring. Before they'd beat her. And yet there was Chloe, who knew and seemed to accept it and kept walking a different path. Her own path.
Maybe that was why Frankie liked her so much. Maybe that was why it had hurt so much when they'd had that fight. Because Chloe knew who she was. She knew what she was. And she didn't let things change that. Chloe lived her life the way she wanted. Seemingly innocent and childlike, but with a deep, caring heart.
Smiling, Frankie closed her eyes. Maybe they could work. Maybe whatever they had was going to be okay.
Sometime later, the bed dipped. She'd never really fallen back asleep, but she felt a little more rested. "Frankie, are you awake?" Chloe's voice was soft.
"Yeah," she said tiredly.
"Gail's calling your phone. A lot." Chloe handed the phone over and a cup of the not-Gatorade.
"Thanks," said Frankie, sitting up. "Hey, Peck? I have a fucking massive hangover, okay?"
"Yeah, me too. Where the hell are you?" Peck sounded panicked and a little sick.
"Turn on the TV." Her voice shook. Peck was scared. What the hell?
Frankie frowned and struggled to get up. "What channel?"
That did not sound good. "Hey, Chloe? Turn on the news. Local." Her girlfriend looked confused but flipped on the local news.
"Oh my god," whispered Chloe.
"Jesus, Mary, and Joseph," said Frankie, and she leaned against the frame of the sleeping area.
The headline was plain as day. It was clear and impossible to read wrong. Ross Perik. Freed. "They said... Time served for kidnapping me. They can't prove Jerry was mens rea." Gail sounded a second from tears. "He's out... What the... What the hell am I supposed to do now?"
"Where are you, Gail?"
"Your place. I ... I can't look at Traci."
"Stay there. I'm coming back. Okay?"
"Okay." Gail sounded small. Terrified.
"Do you need me to stay on the phone?"
"No. Just ... No." A pause. "Maybe? I don't know."
"Okay. I need a shower, but I will be right there." She turned and saw Chloe already out of the shower and pulling on clothes. A clean outfit was waiting for her on the bed. "We... We will be right there, Gail."
She let Gail hang up, chugged the disgusting drink, and stomached the queasiness. "I'm making you coffee, Frankie," said Chloe as she rushed past. "If you can keep the toast down, you can have it."
"Thank you." As Chloe started to brush it off, Frankie caught her arm. "No. Really. Thank you."
Chloe smiled softly. "For you? For my friends? Anything."
By the time they got to Frankie's apartment, it was all over the city. Chloe's phone had blown up, ringing off the hook until Frankie started answering and saying they knew, and they were with Gail, stop calling. At Chloe's suggestion, Frankie called Oliver who promised to handle it, and told them to take as much time as needed.
The news was on at Frankie's with Gail sitting on the couch staring at it, almost dumbly. It was as if she couldn't believe her world could shatter anymore. Chloe immediately went to the couch and wrapped her arms around Gail. As a measure of how horrid Peck was feeling, she didn't even attempt to get away. "Chloe, stop that. You know Gail hates it."
"I know," she said, but she didn't let go. "Put the food in your fridge."
"Oh, good. Please tell me today can be an eat my feelings day," said Gail, groaning.
"As long as your feelings are bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast, sure." Frankie unloaded the bag.
Gail looked over. "Told you not to eat the nachos."
"Thank you so much," said Frankie, snarling. "How'd you ditch Traci?"
"She was still asleep when I left- God, Chloe, let go of me." There was a momentary scuffle and then Chloe let go. "I ... I'm ignoring her calls."
Chloe groaned. "You two take so much looking after." She walked over to the window and tapped her phone. "Hi, Dov. I've got Gail. She's fine. Can you make sure someone's got Traci- oh, she's at McSwarek's? Is that smart? You think? Okay. You know them better." She paused and looked over at Gail. "No, I don't think Gail wants to talk to you or Chris. I think... Someone who isn't that close is easier. Yeah... Yeah, okay. I told Oliver. Well. Frankie did, anyway. We're okay. She's okay. Thanks." The tiny woman beamed. "Handled."
Begrudgingly, Gail said thank you. "I don't... I don't have a lot of friends."
"You do," said Chloe firmly. "You have a whole mess of friends who are worried sick about you. I bet Chris is trying to think of ways to get ... Get ..." She faltered.
"Perik," said Gail flatly. "Get him out of town? Kill him? He won't. I mean, Chris won't. He's too good a person. Steve would think of ways to kill him." Gail sighed and sat down. "Why did I have to piss off all my family who'd break the law for me?"
Frankie snorted. "Please. When did they do anything for you about this?"
"Good point." Gail sighed again and toppled to the side. "Fuck my life. Right?"
Chloe hesitated and then asked. "Why don't you call Holly?"
Gail sat up and looked panicked even more than before. "No! Jesus, no way in hell, Price!"
Rolling her eyes, Chloe went on. "Gail. I know it's complicated with you two, but she'd want to be here for you-"
"No, God... I never told her, Chloe." Gail got up and stormed over to Frankie's kitchen area, staring out the window.
Chloe was surprised at looked at Frankie. "Never ... She didn't tell her anything?"
"It's hard," said Frankie softly. "It's really hard to tell people, even the ones you ... Even ... It's hard."
"Oh." She looked back at Gail. "Sorry. I just... I thought since you have me, maybe she'd want her me."
"Want, probably. But it would hurt just as much to tell her, Muppet. She can't. It makes things more real."
"More real than knowing he's out there, walking the street?"
"Terror is a funny thing when it's a person." Frankie put bread in her toaster. "Come on, Peck. Eat something. Did you sleep?"
"No." Gail leaned her head against the window. "Can't."
Chloe got up to help make food. "Not at all?"
"Not for three days," said Gail. "I hear..." She waved a hand by her ear. "Couple hours here and there."
"How about you eat something, Gail," Chloe said gently.
Gail didn't argue and Chloe made her something warm that didn't smell disgusting to Frankie, which was a miracle right then, frankly. To her surprise, Gail fell asleep on the couch not long after.
"How did that happen?"
"Food makes you feel safe and warm. Safe and warm lets you sleep," explained Chloe, brightly. "Which means you sleep too, lover."
Frankie sighed. "Why do you call me that?"
"Lover? If you don't like it, I can stop."
"No. No, I like it. It's just... You confuse me sometimes."
"Then I'm doing it right." Chloe beamed and kissed her cheek. "Sleep. I'll clean up and keep an eye on Gail so she doesn't freak out."
Too tired to argue, Frankie curled up on top of her comforter and fell asleep. It was late afternoon when she woke up, the smell of good food making its way into her brain. Chloe liked to wake her up with food smells when she was depressed or sad. It was something Frankie's mother had done.
She washed her face, freshened up, and shuffled into the living room. "Peck still out?"
"Three days not sleeping has its epic payoff. Feel better?"
Before she could answer, her stomach gurgled. "I'm hungry."
"Then I will feed you. Come here, though." Frankie tilted her head and walked over. Immediately Chloe's arms were around her neck, pulling her in to hug close. "Later. When we get a break, we are going to talk about me not bailing on you for having a shitty childhood. Because I'm not. Okay?"
That, somehow, felt warmer than the idea of food. "Okay," she replied. And her stomach growled again.
"Okay. Let's feed you."
They ate, pretty bland food that still tasted phenomenally good, and Gail woke up and joined them. It was quiet. Even Chloe didn't dare broach the subject of what to do now that Gail's worst nightmare was out on the street. She did, however, make popcorn and set them up on the couch to watch a stupid movie. When the buzzer from downstairs went off at nine PM, only Chloe was prepared. She bounced up and, checking the video, pressed the button to let someone in.
"What's going on?" Gail looked tense.
"I have no idea. Muppet, did you order take out?"
"Not exactly. Gail, don't be mad at me."
Uh oh. Frankie got up. She'd been asleep for four hours, give or take. The flight was four hours. "You didn't."
"Surprise?" Chloe looked shyly nervous and opened the door.
A jet lagged and travel rumpled Holly Stewart stood with her hand raised. "Oh. Hello."
"Holly." Gail sounded empty. Shocked. Small.
"I'm sorry. I didn't... Chloe just said..." Holly didn't step inside. "She said something bad happened and you needed- you didn't have anyone. And I just... I couldn't- I couldn't let you be alone, Gail. You- You have me. And I know, I know I'm the one who said it was to complicated. Too hard. But I was wrong. Not really wrong, it is complicated. But it's not too hard. Not if you need me. Because ..."
Gail stood up and walked to the door. It happened in a heartbeat. One moment they were standing there, staring at each other. Then they were hugging, saying things quietly and holding each other close. It sounded like they were apologizing. Holly was apologizing. Gail was whispering that she was glad Holly was there.
"Okay, you two, come inside." Frankie gestured. "Muppet, get her bag."
Grabbing the suitcase, Chloe grinned ear to ear as the reunited couple sat on the couch, holding hands and talking quietly. "See?"
"That could have really blown up," said Frankie quietly. "Badly."
"You need to have a little more faith about love." Chloe kissed her cheek. "You know what it's like to hurt. I know what it takes to heal."
The hotel room was on the 15th floor.
Gail had holed up there with Holly after spending the first night on Frankie's fold out couch. Twisting Chloe's metaphorical arm, Frankie made sure she didn't press the point about Gail telling Holly about Perik. It was Gail's story to tell, Gail's pain to share however she chose.
Meanwhile, Frankie found herself helping Fifteen, where they were all protesting the release and threatening to come down with a case of the Blue Flu if they ended up tasked with protecting him. Frankie called up every debt and friend she had in every division, making it clear that Perik was a cop killer. Perik should be left for dead.
The Mounties ended up taking him. They had to. No cop in Toronto would touch him. As far as Frankie could tell, none of the Mounties wanted him either, but they were obligated. They had to help protect him. No one wanted to.
It took a week to sort that out. A week where Gail came nowhere near Fifteen.
"I don't think I can do this," she said, hunched over and looking terribly vulnerable.
Holly sat beside her, a hand resting on Gail's back. "You don't have to," she said gently.
Both Gail and Frankie gave Holly a look. "I do. I have to go back out there, Holly." Gail rubbed her face. "Because if I don't, he'll do it again, or someone else will. And I'm a cop. I have to do my job."
Looking between the cops, Holly sighed. "I hate that." She squeezed Gail's hand.
"I hate it too, Holly. I hate feeling scared and hurt all the time. But... I can't let my friends down."
Gail had told Holly about Perik that first night. When Chloe and Frankie had gone to bed, they'd stayed up whispering about things. Frankie, well used to listening in on quiet conversations in the next room (usually so she could figure out if her father was going to hit her or her mother), heard Gail explain about the case, the kidnapping, and the retrial. The soft 'oh, Gail,' from the living room was heartbreaking.
The depth they cared for each other, needed each other, was obvious.
Frankie understood that now.
"What do you need me to do?" Holly was quiet, earnest, and supportive.
"I don't know."
But Gail came back to work on Monday. Nothing was said by anyone. Oliver had made sure of that. Gail went out on patrol, same as always. Rookie D, Epstein, was the only one who asked Frankie if Gail was really okay. He explained they all thought it would be easier if he asked her for them. They were weird, Gail's friends, but they meant well. When she told him Holly was in town, he relaxed. Somewhat.
"I wish we could do something." He slouched in his seat.
"We can. Ever run a cold case, rookie?" Frankie dropped the files on his lap.
They were all the Perik files. "You serious?"
"Keep it on the qt from Peck." She pulled up the ones on her computer and started actually studying the case, front to back. "Forget everything you know about the case, Epstein. You know nothing. You know only what you read here. Any time you think you know something better because you were there, throw it out. You get me?"
He bobbed his head. "Yes, ma'am."
Hours passed. Days passed. They learned everything about the cases, they read every note. They put up a visual wall on butcher paper, taking it down every night or any time Gail was in the station. But they worked on it every day without letting the new cases, the ones who needed closure now, suffer.
"You know," he said as he went through the Perik files again. "This is the part that's weird. Why did we sell the cab?"
Frankie blinked. "What?"
"The cab... I know, throw out what I know. But ... Look." He pulled up the copycat case. "This guy, this guy Perik talked to and told him shit, and he went and bought the taxi. It wasn't even a year."
They stared at each other. "Even with a confession, that should have stayed in evidence. Who signed to release to the police auction?"
Dov started typing. "You would not believe me if I told you."
She stared at him. Frankie knew who it couldn't possibly be. She knew who it absolutely had to be. "Alonzo Santana?" Her rookie nodded. "Call the South Detention Centre. Tell them we need to talk to Steve Peck about a case."