Chapter 1: It's Keeping You Awake
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."
Chapter 2: The View From Up Here
As a reminder: As with all my fics, this was fully written before being published. There are five chapters. Nothing gets edited based on comments. Except spalling and grummer.
Updates will be on Fridays.
Frankie woke up to the sound of feet hitting her floor.
It was immediately followed by a squeal and the bed shifted. "Jesus, it's cold," complained Chloe under her breath. She got out of the bed though.
Frankie rolled over onto her back, rubbing her eyes. Had she really just slept with Chloe Price? She knew that she had. It had been unplanned and unexpected and good. Really good. Really fucking good. And now Chloe seemed to be getting ready to leave.
Damn it. She should have made it clear from the start that she didn't just want to be a bang and done. Those were fun, but Frankie did like dating women. She'd not really enjoyed her lack of a relationship with Gail, when she got down to brass tacks. Dating, going out and flaunting the hot chick on your arm was fun. So was getting yourself riled up by knowing what was under the dress, and knowing you couldn't touch it just yet.
She'd looked forward to that, just a little. Chloe wore shirts that tended to ride up and show her stomach which, Frankie now knew firsthand, was soft and toned. That messy red hair? It was practically a pelt. Thick and a little wiry, but Frankie had enjoyed running her hands through it.
They'd gone to drinks at the Penny, then dinner with Nash and Peck, and then Chloe announced she'd wanted to go dancing. Nash started to say she was up for it, but Peck asked her for a lift home. If Traci was suspect, it didn't show.
At Chloe's suggestion, they went to a gay club and danced. They danced apart, with anyone who was around in the crowd, until gravity sucked them in. The dance floor steered them together, Chloe's hands finding their way around Frankie's neck. Their bodies pressed up, moving with the music until the want and fire was too much to bear.
The taxi ride back to Frankie's had been suggestive and promising. Chloe held on to her arm, her breasts pressing up against Frankie's arm. In return, Frankie dared to run her hand up the inside of Chloe's thigh, trailing the seam of her jeans but never quiet reaching where she knew Chloe wanted. Where she wanted.
Inside, Chloe was distracted by the view. Frankie had a better place than Gail's, an apartment in a modern building with floor to ceiling windows and a view of the city. "Can anyone see us in here?"
"Possibly," said Frankie. "They said the windows were tinted to prevent it, but it's a window." She hung up her coat and watched Chloe as she childishly leaned up against the window and looked out. "Like the view?"
"I do." Chloe turned around and smiled.
"It's better in my bedroom. You can see the CN tower."
Chloe's eyes had darkened. Then she took her shirt off. "Do you like the view?" She stepped out of her shoes and then jeans.
Frankie swallowed a dry throat and she crossed the room, pressing Chloe against the window to kiss. "I do. I do like this view," she'd said softly.
The toilet flushed, bringing her back to now. The bathroom opened, still dark, and Chloe whispered 'cold cold cold' and scooted right back in. When Frankie shifted her weight, Chloe swore. "Oh. Crap. Did I wake you up?" She sounded worried.
"Yes." Frankie shifted to her side. "I thought you were leaving."
Chloe shivered and snuggled under the blankets. "Do you want me to?"
"No." She didn't hesitate.
The tiny redhead smiled. "Good. Because I really don't want to go. I mean, first of all, it's freezing in here. Do you turn on the AC at night or something? And your floor? Oh my god, my toes are falling off." To prove the point, she shoved her cold feet on Frankie's warm legs. "But you are nice and warm. Mmmmmm."
"You're crazy," said Frankie, but she smiled. Chloe was different from other women she'd dated. She was, like Gail, totally unapologetic. What you saw was only a small part of what you got with a woman like that.
"I'm cold," Chloe pointed out, almost whinging. "Warm me up."
"And how do you propose I do that?"
Without another word, Chloe snuggled right up into Frankie's personal space, making her instinctively wrap her arms about the smaller woman. Okay. That worked. Chloe exhaled happily. "Nice and warm."
Frankie snorted. "That's not something people say about me a lot."
"They're stupid." Chloe's hands touched her, her arms and hands. "You're warm and soft and really good in bed. But you know that, I think. I mean, you're mindblowingly good." Chloe prattled on quietly, her fingers tracing circles on Frankie's arms. "I've had sex before. Good sex, bad sex... Sex in the bathroom at the Penny. Don't do that, by the way. It feels good in the moment, and then ... No. Don't. It's gross."
"Do you have a point?" Frankie whispered that across Chloe's ear and neck, and she was rewarded with a full body shudder. The good kind.
Chloe pressed her back against Frankie's front. "Point. This was great sex." She shifted and rolled over to face Frankie, her hands slowly moving across her stomach and then up. "I don't think I repaid the favor enough."
Letting Chloe push her onto her back, Frankie closed her eyes as hands and lips covered her skin. Frankie had slept with many women. Only one man, which had not worked out well at all, but many, many, women. There was something different about the way Chloe made love to a woman. A chemical reaction maybe. That's what her ex, the scientist, had said. They'd lived together for eight months before Karen left for Sweden.
But the reaction between two people, two people who clicked properly, who fit properly, was beautiful. It didn't matter how skilled you were or weren't. It mattered that they fit. And God, Chloe fit. Her body moulded against Frankie's, fitting in the curves perfectly. Her hand fit Frankie's hips, her thigh fit between Frankie's like it was meant to be there. Her mouth was warm and soft where it should be, biting when it should, and her fingers... God those fingers.
The lassitude of afterglow washed over her, sinking her into the soft, deep, mattress. Chloe ran her fingers over Frankie's stomach. "You're right," said Chloe, her voice a whisper. "The view in here is great."
Frankie cracked her eyes open and smiled. Chloe was looking at her.
Frankie felt empty as she stared at the floor.
It had ever since the fight, and she knew she was going to keep feeling like that for a long time to come. Even though she knew she was right. Even though she knew it was the right thing to do. She regretted what she'd said and how she'd said it.
"I want to go out with you. For real. On a date. Where people look at us and wish they were use," she'd shouted at Chloe.
The admission seemed to shock the tiny redhead. "Dates?"
"Yes, dates. Look, I like you, and I like going out, and I don't see what the hell the problem is with people knowing we're dating."
Chloe's face tightened a little. "I'm ... I don't what what we have to get messed up by them."
"Then it won't!"
"You can't know that, Frankie. I've dated other cops before. It always is messed up."
Frankie had stared at her. "You know. You know, I spent years figuring out why I was miserable, why I was angry. Why I was uncomfortable. Then. Then I caught on that I was gay, and I had to fight, Chloe. I had to fight for every fucking inch just to be able to be me." She put her hands on her hips and shook her head. "I know that this is hard, but I'm not going back in the damn closet just because you're scared of your idiot friends."
Chloe had looked hurt and sad and a little guilty all at once. "That isn't was this is, Frankie."
"Then tell me, Chloe. Tell me what the hell this is about."
"I'm ... I'm not ready to tell them."
And that was a place Frankie had been before. It always ended in heartache and pain. "Well. Well when you are ready, you tell me."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means bennies with Frankie is not happening. Because I'm not having my bed used as a springboard for whatever the hell it is you're doing."
And Chloe, crying, had left.
And Frankie realized in that second why Gail had kicked her out of bed. Because knowing you weren't the first choice, knowing you were second to something, hurt like hell. Knowing Chloe wasn't going pick her made her feel agony. It was red hot and painful.
Calling in sick, Frankie proceeded to get drunk. It seemed appropriate. After Karen left, she'd eaten her way through the entire Ben & Jerry's collection. When Noreen broke up with her, Frankie had learned the joy of deep dish pizza and, subsequently, kick boxing. Which was how she met Linda, who left her for someone less complicated and dangerous. That time Frankie had thrown herself into work, which lasted until Steve Peck suggested she ask out his kid sister.
But drunk was something she hadn't tried, and it was worth a shot, since nothing else had ever worked.
She was halfway through her last bottle of vodka (which she didn't even like) when the door opened. "Jesus, Frankie, what the hell?" Gail. Her only actual friend. Not that Gail would agree. Gail hated the term 'friends' and said it was just a way for people to excuse their behavior.
"Heeeeeey," she drawled, sitting on her kitchen floor. "S'up, Peck?"
"So, this is happening," said Gail slowly. She closed and locked the door. "Do I need to hide the scissors?"
Frankie looked up, confused. "Why?"
"Never mind. Come on, gimme the bottle."
"Nooooooo." Frankie hugged her bottle close, but Gail just pulled it free. "My vodka!"
"You hate vodka, Francine." Gail poured it out and checked the cabinet. "Where's the rest?"
Frankie slid to lie on her floor. "Filtering through my kidneys," she said, slurring her words.
Sighing loudly, Gail left her there and cleaned up the apartment, collecting all the bottles and taking them out, probably to the recycling. Then she came back and hauled Frankie to her feet. "You, Frankie, are going to drink a bottle of water. Shower. Take some pain killers, and sleep."
"You, Gail, are a killjoy." But she let Gail walk her through the motions, showering and getting tucked in bed. "Why're you being nice?"
"Because," Gail said as she pulled the blanket up over Frankie. "Because someone was nice to me when I needed it."
When Frankie woke up in the morning, Gail was sleeping on the couch. Even hungover, Frankie was an earlier riser than Peck. If Gail could avoid mornings, she would. But she'd also cleaned the apartment and picked up food, so she could live.
As Frankie made coffee, Gail stirred. "Good. You're alive."
Frankie grunted. "Did you pour out all my booze?"
"Yeah," yawned Gail. "I did." She sat up. "So. Why is Chloe all depressed about things and why are you becoming an alcoholic? I thought you two were getting it on alright."
Frankie sighed and poured the water through her chemex. "We were." She put the first mug over on the edge of the counter for Gail, pouring a second for herself. "She doesn't want to be out."
Making a surprised sound, Gail got off the couch and walked over. "That bothered you?"
"Were you ever in the closet, Gail?" The blonde added cream and sugar to a cup and shook her head. "Right. You didn't figure that out till last year. Me... I was scared to death to come out when I realized I was gay. Shit, I slept with a guy. But you know. You know I can't be anyone but who I am, Gail. And I don't want to lie about it to anyone."
Gail sipped her coffee. "Yeah. I can see that."
"Do you? Cause you, you lucked the hell out, Peck. You know that, right?" Frankie let the anger bubble up. "You have friends who could care less who you fuck, and you found yourself and you, it made you do the right things, even when it cost you. But growing up being tortured for that? You... You have no idea how soul sucking that is. I knew who I was and I lied for years." She'd had to lie. The pain of what not lying brought her still lingered on her skin.
Her friend sighed softly and nodded. "I get it," she said quietly. "Can't go back."
"No. No I can't."
Gail sighed. "Well hell. I didn't see that coming."
"Me neither." Frankie stared at her coffee. "I'm really damn sorry about giving you shit about Holly, Gail. Karma's being a bitch, and you're right it hurts like fuck."
Looking up, Gail shook her head. "I wouldn't wish that on anyone, Anderson. Not even you."
She woke up when her heart was on the floor.
In the end, it had been a stupid accident. She hadn't even been working on the case. It was just shared with her old division, so Swarek asked her to check into it. Frankie didn't like thinking of them as her 'old' home, but she was a member of Fifteen now.
Still, off she went, not expecting to see Chloe Price as the uniform of record from Fifteen, pulling up with Peck's rookie, Fox, just as she did. The woman gave Frankie a long look and then said she wanted to talk. Later. Frankie made a vague agreement of that suggestion, but she didn't expect to follow through.
She sure as hell hadn't expected to see the dead man's killer still on site and slam a two-by-four into Chloe's neck and collarbone.
"God dammit, clear the scene means you fucking clear the scene," screamed Frankie at the unis from her old division. They, and Fox, had the killer face down in the dirt, cuffing him as Frankie checked on Chloe.
It wasn't good. She was gasping, trying to breath. "Ow."
"Ow? Ow? You just got wailed on, Price, and you say ow?" Frankie was relieved that she was awake at least, but Chloe's reaction was worse than she'd expect for a hit like that. The woman was having a panic attack. And then she saw the blood. "Someone call me a bus! Fox!"
"Yes ma'am, I'm on it!"
"And keep that asshat. We're taking the damn case." Their uni went down. It was their case now.
Chloe was still gasping, reaching for her neck. "Clot," she said, wheezing.
Clot? "You're bleeding, Muppet." Maybe she'd hit her head. Frankie pressed her hand to Chloe's neck, holding things in place. "Nothing's clotting yet."
Two hours later, Frankie learned what Chloe meant. Gail came to the hospital with Fox, telling him that since Price had been his partner that day, he had to be there now. That was his duty. She was surprised to see Frankie there.
"Hey, Anderson. Your killer still here?"
"Yeah, yeah. Thought I'd stick around and see how the Princess was." She sipped her coffee. "Still in surgery."
Gail studied her face for a moment. "Fox. Sit here and wait for a nurse to tell you how Chloe is. You text me asafp if they have anything. Got it?" The rookie nodded. "Come on, Anderson. We gotta talk."
As soon as they were around the corner, Frankie spoke. "Do not start with me and that idiot theory you have about relationships."
"Its not that. What did they... How long has she been in surgery, and what kind?"
Frankie blinked. "About an hour and ... Thoracic?"
"Shit." The blonde winced and hit the wall with a fist. "Where did she get hit? Fox just said the neck."
"Um, well it was the neck." Frankie made a chop at the right side of her neck. And Gail did not look happy. "What the hell, Peck? You're freaking me out!"
"You never noticed the scar on her neck?"
"Sure I have. Why?"
"Couple years ago, Chloe took a bullet there. Ended up with a clot there. Her asshat ex husband left it in."
Frankie felt dizzy. "What? She has... She has a blood clot?" The word finally made sense.
"Yeah, they said it wasn't likely it'd ever get dislodged but..."
"But a hit like that... Jesus." Frankie sat down. "How... She came back to work with that?"
Gail sat beside her. "Yeah she did. She's a bad ass."
It felt like her heart was on the floor. Frankie could tell what was going on, but she knew she hurt. "She could die."
"Yeah, she could."
"It was a fucking two-by-four, Peck! No one dies from that! She should have a- a broken collar bone! A headache!" Frankie's fists were clenched tight, her hands shaking. She didn't realize she was leaning forward, hunching over, until she felt a hand on her back. "Fuck," muttered Frankie and she covered her face.
"Yeah, I know." Gail sounded at once tired and sympathetic and understanding. "Let me… Let me make a couple calls. Okay? I know some doctors here."
"Pecks?" Frankie couldn't keep the bitterness out of her voice.
There was an odd pause before Gail sighed. "No. Not Pecks. A stupid ass plastic surgeon and a CF researcher."
And that was how Frankie found herself in the strangest situation ever. She sat between Dov and some idiot named Wes (whom Gail identified as the ex-husband), the three of them waiting for any news about Chloe. The boys had a giant cookie (Dov) and a bag of microwave popcorn (Wes). Frankie had hands that still had a little blood on them.
Gail came and went, checking in with Oliver and the doctors. She would give the trio updates before leaving again. Other people came by, from Fifteen, all wanting to know how Chloe was, and all asking how Frankie and Dov were. They cared. And not just about Chloe, whom they all called annoying. They cared about each other. Which was weird and Frankie wasn't sure what it meant.
Finally, after a few hours, Wes spoke. "So. Dov. I thought you two broke up."
"We did." Dov eyed Wes, unfriendly. "I thought you divorced."
"We did." They both looked at Frankie who said nothing.
What was she supposed to say here? That she and Chloe had been clandestinely banging each other? That she'd had a crush on the idiotic muppet for longer than she wanted to admit, and finding out Chloe was bi and into her was weird and awesome and wonderful? Hell no. First of all, if Peck heard that, she'd be laughing at Frankie every day of the week and twice on Sundays. Secondly, they were just having sex. Had. Past tense.
Still. Here sat Frankie. Waiting to see if they girl they all had feelings for was going to live. Because she wasn't just having sex with Chloe. And that was the real problem. She didn't want to just have sex. She wanted the whole thing. The waking up, the romance, the flaunting, the known.
Finally Gail came in with a doctor, the two talking louder than was appropriate. "Damn it, Lisa, I didn't ask you for your advice on my fucking love life. You're a boob doc."
"It's sweet you think all I do is fondle breasts all day."
"Hey, I know what you do in your free time."
"Plastics is a hell of a lot more than the perfect breast. Like yours."
"Look shut it about your life goal, mine are fine. I want to know if you can help Price or not."
"You're so sweet. Are you hitting on me?"
"Not in your wildest dreams," Gail said with a snarl. But they walked into Chloe's room and closed the door.
As Frankie watched Lisa pick up Chloe's chart, Wes sat up. "Who the hell was that?"
"A friend of …" Dov stopped. "A friend of Gail's ex."
The door opened again and Gail pointed at Wes. "That one with the stupid hat."
Lisa glared at him. "Wes? You're a fucking idiot." The door was closed again.
Both Dov and Frankie burst out laughing. "I told you she'd want the clot removed," Dov said, looking triumphant.
"Oh that really was your fault?" Frankie turned to look at Wes. "That was fucking stupid."
"She could have died!"
"Yeah, well thanks to you, she could die now." Frankie felt her face getting hot. The humor of having Lisa (whom she recalled Gail called a 'botched boob job') call him out was fading into the somewhat irrational anger of the reality. They were three people all sitting and waiting to know if a woman they cared about was dying.
"Who the hell are you anyway?"
"I'm not the moron who did what he thought was best instead of what Chloe wanted." She was angry. She was snapping. She was also the woman who had been sleeping with Chloe and this was her ex husband, and all the ways this could go wrong were probably about to happen.
"I know you," Wes said abruptly. "You're that dyke from ThirtyFour. Hah! I bet you're crushing on Chloe. Got news for ya, she doesn't swing that way—"
Frankie grabbed Wes' shirt and managed to propel him up and into the wall. Anger gave you a lot of strength it seemed. "You don't know what the hell you're talking about, you asshole," she shouted.
From her other side, Dov surged to his feet, letting go of the cookie. Peripherally, Frankie was aware that it shattered on the floor as Dov wedged himself in between them. "Hey, whoa, Frankie, let go. Wes, shut the hell up."
Wes grabbed at the front of Frankie's shirt with one hand and shoved at Dov with the other. Frankie swatted his hand, using her forearm to keep Wes stuck to the wall. There was a bit of a scuffle before Gail appeared out of nowhere and actually managed to force her way in and break it up.
"What the hell is going on?" She pushed Frankie back, giving her a confused and frustrated look.
"This fucking lezbo is perving on Chloe." That was Wes, pointing at Frankie, and Frankie would have lunged at him again had Gail not done it first.
It was the move of a practiced beat cop. Gail had the pointing arm turned and spun Wes around, slamming his face into the wall and tweaking the arm. Hard. "That is a detective and your fellow officer and you are way the hell outta line, Wes," said Gail, her voice low and deadly.
Frankie had never heard Gail like that before. It was actually a little impressive. "It's fine," Frankie said, lying and trying to calm herself down.
"No, it's not." Dov rubbed at his face.
Wisely, Wes stopped struggling. Unwisely he muttered something that sounded like he was making a comment about how all the queers stuck together, and Gail snarled. "Okay, you're leaving. All three of you." Both Dov and Frankie opened their mouths to argue. "No. You're all going to sit your asses somewhere else, away from here. Doctors are trying to work. Wes, we're gonna have a long talk about what's not coming out of your mouth, ever again."
Gail frog marched Wes down the hall, leaving Dov and Frankie standing amongst the shattered cookie.
Frankie looked down. "Sorry about the cookie," she said quietly.
"Sorry he's suck a prick," Dov replied. "Fuck. Coffee?"
She shook her head. "I don't think I need an upper."
And Dov grinned. "There's a place across the street. We can split an Irish Milkshake."
An Irish Milkshake turned out to be the best thing. "Holy crap!" Frankie took a second long pull. "That shit's good."
"Yeah. Frank— Best, our old sergeant. He turned me on to 'em last time Chloe was in there." Dov looked sadly over at the hospital. "Wes had power of attorney then."
"Gail told me." Frankie dipped a fry into her shake and ate it.
Dov nodded. "I don't … do you know what she's got now?"
Slowly, Frankie nodded back. She didn't want to look up at Dov. Now that the anger at Wes had bled out, she was tired. And more to the point, she did not want to get into a discussion about her relationship with Chloe with any of the woman's ex boyfriends. It was bad enough Gail knew, and she didn't tell anyone. "She wrote up a whole big medical thing. She wants it removed."
Apparently Gail had known that too, pushing it at the doctors for the hour before the idiot boys showed up. It was legal. It was what Chloe wanted. If the clot was putting her life at risk, she wanted the damn thing out.
The baby detective was quiet for a while. "How long?" When Frankie looked up, startled, he added. "How long have you two been… whatever."
She didn't blush. She wouldn't. There was nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. Except for the fact that Chloe was … well. She was Chloe. And it drove Frankie nuts half the time. "Few months. Kind of. I screwed it up."
"Can't be worse than me or Wes. And Wes is such an idiot," Dov said. "I mean, jesus, it's not like it was a secret she was bi or anything."
Frankie quirked a smirk. "She's got layers."
"Crazy ass layers." Dov nodded, agreeing with her. "I love her like I love Gail, though. Y'know?"
"No," said Frankie slowly. "You lost me on that one."
The man grunted and leaned back. "So. I love Gail. She's … amazing. And wonderful, and crazy, and she can be mean as hell. But she's awesome. And she's family. Like Chris. And Chloe. I don't care that we're never gonna date. I'm still going to love her."
Frankie frowned. "That is actually insane, Epstein. I mean, I've slept with Peck and I don't love her. She's a sociopath." She picked up her burger. "Anyway, Price and I aren't actually dating right now."
Weirdly, Dov seemed to understand. "Is she doing that weird thing where she doesn't want people to know?" It caught Frankie by surprise mid-bite. "Yeah, she did it to me too, and Wes apparently. I don't know what the hell its really about. She said it was Frank, her godfather, Sgt. Best. And then I got spooked and didn't want to tell people... It's all messed up, but that's Chloe for you."
She ate some of her burger in silence, mulling that over. Then. "I told her off for it."
"Yeah. She does that to you too." He shook his head. "But you're here."
"So are you, Skippy. And so is that asshat."
"We are. Because she gets under your skin, doesn't she?"
Frankie nodded. "She does." With a sigh she pushed the burger away a bit. "I want to apologize. Don't know what to say."
A tired voice cut in. "Move over, and start with saying 'I'm sorry I was an idiot.' Also is there a tomato on your burger?"
Dov scooted in, making room for Gail. "Not on mine, have at."
Gail took a huge bite and sighed around it. "Thank you," she mumbled. "Hospital food is gross." Dov and Frankie watched her plow through the burger. "Okay. Wes is sitting with Luck, who's been reading him the riot act about homophobia for the last half hour. She promised to keep him out of your hair. But. Traci needs a D back on to help with the kitchen thefts."
"I'll do it," said Dov. "I mean... It makes sense right?" He looked at Frankie a little confused.
"Oh? He knows?" Gail was surprised. "Shit I was trying to figure out how to tell you that Chloe was asking for dumb ass Anderson without spilling the beans."
They both stared. "She's awake?" Frankie's mind boggled.
"Nah, she's mumbling under anesthetic. I got it on video to bribe her with later."
"But the surgery-"
"Laparoscopic. It was actually kinda cool, Dr. Boobs let me watch." Gail polished off the burger and reached for Dov's shake. "They used a tiny metal snake thing, shot it down her vein, ripped apart the clot, and done. Also she said the first doctor was a moron and tore him a new asshole. That was cooler than the surgery."
The roommate pulled the shake away. "It's spiked."
Gail blinked and leaned over to sniff. "Shit. You sure you're okay for work?" At Dov's nod, she slid back out of the booth. "I paid for you, come on. I'll drop you off at Fifteen." When Frankie hesitated, Gail tilted her head. "Seriously, Frankie. Come on."
"You said some real stupid smart stuff to her, I know. You're getting a second chance. Don't fuck it up." Gail grabbed Frankie's arm and hauled her up. "Shit like this doesn't happen every day."
Chapter 3: You're On To Me
Things take a bit of a darker turn in this chapter. But also Holly comes by for a bit.
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?"
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."
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.
"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?"
"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?"
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."
"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.
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."
That really took a turn to the disturbing, didn't it? Do you think the Pecks knew?
Chapter 5: When It's Darkest
You have friends who will have your back, no matter what, no matter when.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The sound of prison shoes, shuffling on a cement floor, were hard to mistake.
She hadn't seen Steve in months. She hadn't wanted to. They'd been close friends until he'd betrayed her and everyone else. Frankie thought he'd trusted her. But when the time came, when he confessed to everything, he explained how he'd used her desperate longing for a connection with people, the need to find what her family hadn't given her, and he'd made sure she unwittingly did what he needed.
When Frankie had snapped at Gail the first time, throwing her knowledge of her brother in the blonde's face, she hadn't expected Gail to understand why. And yet... Gail did. She knew the feeling, she knew the gaping maw of agony. The beaten child and the pale fail.
"Anderson. Epstein." Steve was surprised.
"Hello, Steve." She pushed over a small box. A Boston Creme doughnut.
On the drive over, Dov told Frankie how Steve had been enlisted to keep Traci out of the way when they went over the Perik case. If she'd needed another nail in the coffin about it, about the involvement of the corruption in this case, she had it. The only call Frankie made was to Sgt. Williams, Fifteen's own friend in IA, to explain what she was doing and why.
Wheels were greased, and Steve was made available by the hour.
"I gotta say, did not expect to see you again, Franks."
"Oh, don't get excited. I don't give two shits about you."
Steve shrugged and looked at Dov, arching his eyebrows. "This is my replacement?"
"No. Your ex is your replacement. This is hers. I'm Callaghan's." The grouchy Luke Callaghan had been transferred to her old stomping grounds. An even swap. Of course, Callaghan's involvement in the case meant Noelle was going over his life carefully. Frankie doubted he was guilty at all. Luke wore the face of someone who'd seen abuse first hand, same as she did.
"Frankie at Fifteen. I always thought you'd have been there from the start."
She shook her head. "That honor went to ... What was his name? Bobby?"
"Bibby," said Steve softly. Bibby had lasted three days behind bars before a con shanked him in the laundry. He bled out before anyone could save him. Steve had been luckier and only got cut on the arm. "You here to talk about old times? Teach the rookie how you handle crooked cops?"
Again, she shook her head. "I want to talk about evidence."
Steve tilted his head. "The evidence I blew up?"
"No. Evidence you never touched." She took out a price of paper and pushed it over.
"A taxi?" He stared at her, his pale face actually whitening even more. "Jesus, Franks. We were undercover."
That was what she'd always loved about him. Steve was a smart cookie. A great brain. A sneaky as fuck bastard. "They shoulda pulled you." They'd been undercover together. She knew.
He shoved the paper away, wincing. "Yeah well they didn't. You know that." He was bitter. Angry.
The day they'd been brought in from the cold was weeks after the kidnapping. Gail was back at work already. And she saw the anguish on Steve's face, learning his baby sister could have died. The agony mirrored the look her mother gave her once. Just the once. The one time her father beat her so hard, she thought she'd die. Eight, maybe ten cracks of his wide belt on her back. Frankie couldn't remember the number.
She shoved the memory aside. "I know. And I know Santana authorized the taxi go up for auction in under a year."
Steve's eyes widened. Any affectation he had washed away. His lies were gone. "I will tell you everything I know." No hesitation. No guile in those gentle, simple, blue eyes.
And he sang like a canary. He told them what he knew that would help. Steve had not been involved in that cover up. But Perik had been working with the knowledge of the police for years. Only after he was caught, only after his copy cat was brought to heel by his sister, had Steve been told the truth.
Which meant the reason Perik walked free today was because he had dirt on some of the cops who were still out there.
Frankie swallowed her fear and pride. There was only one person, maybe two people, who could had done this. And one person who would be totally, irrevocably vile if she had a damn thing to do with it. This time Frankie went alone. She didn't tell Noelle or Dov. She didn't make an appointment. She went into the big building and up to the top floor.
"Do you have an appointment?"
"No. But I need to speak to Superintendent Peck."
And she waited. She waited through her shift and into the next. She waited until the secretary left. She texted Chloe, canceling a date, and waited. The sun set.
Finally the door opened.
"Superintendent Peck." Frankie got to her feet stiffly.
"Come in." Elaine Peck held the door open and, once Frankie was in, closed and locked it behind her. "I apologize for the wait. My secretary is suspicious."
Frankie blinked. "And this won't look weird how?"
"I altered the logs. You left without seeing me and I've put a complaint on your file about behavior."
"Oh don't panic. It'll be removed as a misunderstanding." Elaine opened her cupboard and pulled out glasses. "Coffee or something stronger? Well. I supposed that would matter if you're here about my son or my daughter?"
Sometimes these things went ways one could never expect. "Both."
"Coffee then. You take it strong and black. Is espresso alright?"
"Yes.. Yes ma'am." She sat down. "I'm sorry... I'm not sure what's going on."
"To be honest, dear, neither am I." Elaine put a cup down and sat beside Frankie. "What did you find?"
She stared at the matron of the Pecks she knew. "I need to know... I need to know the truth." Elaine tilted her head. "Did you know Steve and Santana and the others were dirty?"
"Yes." Elaine leaned back. "I've known for years. I knew when they flipped Steven. The best I could do was keep Gail away from it." When Frankie stared at her, Elaine sipped her coffee and sighed. "Noelle doesn't know you're here?"
"No." Frankie eyed the coffee and sipped it. That seemed to be what she was supposed to do.
Elaine nodded. "You know that Noelle was point on that?" When Frankie nodded, Elaine went on. "Good. And you're wondering why I'm still here? Am I guilty and hiding?"
Frankie turned the cup in her hand. "Are you? Are you a ... a dirty cop?"
"No." The answer was so simple and direct, the honesty washed over them both. Elaine claimed she was not. "I was the inside man, as it were. I've been working against the Pecks for years."
Frankie felt suddenly sick. "But..."
"But I married a Peck? But I have two children who are Pecks? But my husband tried to get one of them to lie on the stand about the other?" She shook her head. "Let me help you feel a little more comfortable here." Elaine stood up and picked a burner cellphone off her desk. "Poor Gail was forever wondering why I always lost my phones, why I was such a technophobic scattered brain. They were always bugging me. Still do. I have to check every day." She tapped the phone. "Hello, dear. Would you mind coming upstairs?"
The phone was then taken apart carefully, skillfully, and deposited in a paper bag, shoved into her purse.
Frankie knew enough to stay silent. She waited, finishing the coffee and turning off her cellphone. The move made Elaine smile. When the door knocked, Elaine opened it and let Noelle in, who greeted Frankie with a curse. "Damn it, Anderson."
"Now now, she's working the taxi angle, you said. She waited here for five hours."
"So you're just going to tell her everything? Why not bring in Gail?"
Elaine made another cup of coffee, calm as anything. "Because the case concerns Ross Perik, and I'm not subjecting my daughter to that until I have to, Noelle."
Frankie looked between them. "S'cuse me... Are you telling me the Super's been in IA all this time?"
"Yes," said Elaine with a smile. A sad smile. A smile of resignation.
"Okay." Frankie ran her hands through her hair. "Say I believe it. Say I buy that you were working against the Pecks for, what, thirty-two years?"
"Thirty five. They drafted me in the Academy."
"Right. So let's say I believe that over half your life, you've lived a lie. A double life. And you went so far as ... You have children with someone who's ... " Frankie stopped. She didn't know what Bill was.
"Evil," said Elaine. "My husband does rather look that way, doesn't he? I was less than amused at his little test."
Frankie stared at Noelle. "Test."
"Test," said Noelle, nodding. "Disgusting and horrific and we didn't have another way to be absolutely sure Gail was clean."
Frankie looked between the two older officers. "Because Steve... Because Steve was corrupted so you had to dangle the carrot for Gail? Are you people actually insane?"
Now Elaine looked really sad. "I'm afraid, by many definitions and interpretations, yes."
Frankie swore and stood up, pacing the room. "Okay. So ... Why not tell her now?" She came to an abrupt stop. "You're trying to weed out whoever it is that was paying off Perik? Why the hell not just let him tell everyone!?"
"He would stay out of jail if that were the case, Francine-"
"Don't." She held up a warning finger at Elaine.
"Frankie. My apologies. He would stay out of jail and that would be no good for anyone." Elaine sat on her desk.
It made her head hurt. "Well. Santana had the taxi sold at auction. So whatever trace evidence was in there is what'd tie the cases he got off scot free on."
Noelle sighed. "So you came to see if Elaine was dirty and if not...?"
"If not ask her to help me. For Gail. Because there's gotta be more samples."
The woman in the white shirt sighed. "There is. But I am currently lacking a forensics expert I trust. We had one, but we had to get her out of town before all this went down."
Frankie stared. Could they mean? Could they actually not know? She asked the obvious question. "Didn't help that she was in love with Gail, did it?"
Elaine's gaze sharpened. "It posed a small problem. She's here?"
"Week ago. She's ... You tell her, you're gonna have to tell Gail."
Elaine and Noelle exchanged a look. "Can you arrange that?"
"Take a day or two," said Noelle. "But yeah, I can. What about Price?"
Before Frankie could say that she was perfectly capable of keeping this secret from her girlfriend, Elaine shook her head. "Price and Epstein. We may as well keep this in house at Fifteen. Jarvis cleaned it nicely for us. But Gail first. Then the others."
"Then it better be tomorrow. Come on, Anderson. You and I have a long night ahead of us."
She would have fallen to the floor when Chloe tackled her, if she hadn't hit the wall instead.
"Ow! Jesus Christ, Muppet."
But Chloe was squeezing her close and then slapping her shoulders. "Where the hell have you been?! You didn't answer your phone, which is off! I had to ask Dov to track it and he said the GPS was turned off because the phone was off. And you weren't home and you didn't show up at the hotel, and Gail was gone and Dov said you had a case he couldn't tell me and I thought -"
Frankie finally caught her hands. "Hey! Hey, calm down." She held Chloe's hands firmly for a second and then tugged her close. "I'm fine. I'm gonna explain. I promise. Just calm down a minute."
Chloe pressed her face into Frankie's shoulder and sniffled. "I thought you were dead or worse. Maybe you went undercover with Gail and couldn't tell me."
"How is undercover worse?" Frankie almost laughed.
"Because... Shut up. It just is right now. Okay?"
"Okay." She sighed. "Can I please have coffee, though? And then we're all meeting in there to talk about all of this."
"Yeah, Gail too."
Chloe nodded. "You wore that yesterday."
"Yeah, I did. I also haven't slept, Chloe."
Her girlfriend frowned. "Go sit. I'll bring you coffee."
Frankie couldn't help but smile. The morning was going better than last night. After collecting Gail, she'd pulled up to the Peck house and let them drop a bomb. Gail did not take it well at all. There had been raging and screaming and name calling. And then. Then finally Gail calmed down enough to listen to her parents explain that they'd been the spies.
That lead to more cursing and swearing (which according to Elaine was different) and a punch was swung at Bill. No one stopped it. With an eye pack on his eye and on her hand, Gail and her father sat together and talked, seriously, about what had happened and why and how and what was next. How were they going to change its the better?
Which brought them here.
Gail kicked Frankie's chair. "Hey asshole."
"Hey bitch." Frankie looked up. "How's the hand?"
"Didn't break anything." Gail sat down and put a pink box in front of herself. Her knuckles were black and blue, not that it took much to color her. "Doughnut?"
"God yes." They were both chowing on the donuts when Chloe and Holly walked in with coffee. Good coffee. "You're the best, Chloe."
Her girlfriend looked creeped out. "Not me."
Gail arched her eyebrows. "Ah." She pulled a chair out for Holly, taking her hand. "All set?"
"A little nervous. Never done this before."
Smiling softly, Gail leaned in. "You'll be fine." Their conversation became much quieter.
Chloe sat next to Frankie and took a doughnut. "Gail's mom is creepy," she said in a whisper.
"A bit. Yeah. Terrifying, right?" Frankie downed half of her coffee. "God. After this, I want to sleep for a week."
Elaine Peck breezed in, Jarvis and Oliver in her wake. "Everyone accounted for?"
Oliver checked. "Yep. Yep. Me, Jarvis. Nash, McNally, Diaz, Peck, Epstein. Anderson, Price, and hello again, Dr. Stewart."
"Hi, Oliver," said Holly, smiling.
Gail frowned. "Aren't we missing-"
The door opened and in walked Swarek and Noelle. "Sorry, we were getting things covered. We're good to go, Super," said Swarek with his usual drawl. "Marlo's with Inspector Peck. They got our backs."
"Well then." Gail looked around at the assembled. "Let's take down an empire, lock a serial killer away for good, and throw some more cops in jail."
For a plan thrown together in a night, it went pretty well. Oh everyone lost their minds when the reveal of how they hadn't fixed everything. Finding out that the Pecks were not all evil didn't help at all. Especially not when Elaine told them all that yes, she'd known Steve was corrupt.
The thing was... Once they knew, once they had proof, it all came together like dominoes. Or fell together. Something. She was tired. Too tired to give a shit. That was what happened after she stayed up a day to hunt down things on her own, tackled the Superintendent of Police, accidentally tumbled into a massive hidden agenda of the whole damn police force, and got to watch Gail cuff Ross Perik.
That was the best part. They just walked in and Gail slapped the cuffs on him, reading off the counts of murder, assault, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and it just went on and on. Perik took that less well than Fifteen had taken things the day before. Marching him through Fifteen had been the cause for applause and cheers. That was something Gail didn't generally see, and Frankie knew it.
All told, though, Frankie didn't see her own bed for four days. Every day Chloe, who was able to go home, would bring her clothes and coffee and ask if she couldn't get home and sleep. She couldn't. Even after day four, even after the arrests and the cheers, it took them another day to wrap things up.
Then, finally, by early evening on the fifth day, a Sunday, she was done.
Gail and Holly had gone to the Peck house, for a real talk of the family business and a job offer for Holly, though Frankie wasn't really supposed to know that. She'd gotten it from Noelle, who admitted there were very few clean scientists in forensics. The medical examiner and the top tier were alright, but the head of forensics was dirty as the day was long. Holly's transfer had been to get her out before things went down. Not that Holly had known. Gail had not been at all happy to hear it either. That had been when she punched her father.
But she was done, finally. She had a good-job from Jarvis and Oliver and the Superintendent. Frankie chugged a last coffee, enough to get her home, but her feet and her car seemed to steer themselves to another address. It wasn't late. Not really late, at least. The lights were still on. And she had a key.
Opening the door to Chloe's apartment, she found her girlfriend humming and cleaning the kitchen. "What is it about kitchens," asked Frankie, closing and locking the door.
"Frankie!" Chloe looked relieved and worried.
"Hey." She smiled and walked over. Frankie was bone tired. It had been years since she'd worked that many hours, worked that hard for that long. She was exhausted. She was beyond exhaustion. All she wanted, all she needed was to sleep for a couple days.
But she looked at Chloe and the tired fell away. The need was different. Frankie took Chloe's face in her hands and kissed her. "Hey, hey." Chloe pulled back. "You've got to be beat."
"I am. I am, Chloe." Frankie kissed her again, eager and hungry.
"You need to sleep." But Chloe was pressing up against her.
"I do," she said quietly, between kisses. "But please. Just ... Just this. I need this. I need this right now."
Chloe looked at her seriously. She studied Frankie's face carefully. Then she nodded. It was, perhaps, her least romantic moment. Frankie had wined and dined women. She'd gotten drunk and messy with them. She'd used and been used by the moment and the passion and the feelings and the need to escape, just for a little while, the reality.
This was none of that.
This was remembering she was alive. This was feeling Chloe was alive. This was feeling success and fear and hope and a chance... This was more than all of those and none of them. It was a craving that crawled under her skin and demanded she touch Chloe. Take Chloe. Which is what it was. It was inelegant. Raw.
It was Chloe's fingers digging into her back, burying her face in the crook of Chloe's neck, breathing the scent of Chloe in. Memorizing that smell and feeling her body shudder around Frankie. Hearing her own name.
Hearing her own name.
"Baby." Chloe's breath was shaky and light. "Baby. Let me..."
But Frankie was barely awake. "Later." She closed her eyes and whispered. "Later. I needed that." She was asleep in moments.
It was over 24 hours before she really woke up. Curled up in Chloe's soft bed, she stirred a few times and went to the bathroom. The second time she found a note from Chloe, saying she'd gone to shift. Frankie raided the fridge, showered, and went back to sleep without thinking much. She woke up again well into the night, Chloe snuggled up into her arms, warm and soft.
As she drifted back to sleep, breathing in the smell of Chloe's shampoo, her soap and her sheets, Frankie finally pegged the feeling that had been nagging at her for months on end. Finally she felt the way her mother always said she would. Finally she felt the way everyone claimed to want.
The dance floor was crowded as everyone joined Jarvis and his new wife for their first dance at their wedding.
Chloe cheered, hanging on Frankie's arm. "Come on, lover, let's dance."
Smiling, Frankie let herself be dragged out onto the floor. "Alright." She spun Chloe around, getting a good hold on her waist to bring her close. "So you like weddings?"
"I like dancing. I like happy people. I like you." Chloe looped her arms around Frankie's neck.
That was alright. Frankie danced with her girlfriend, on a dance floor with dozens of people they both knew. Everyone knew they were a couple. And everyone was just okay with it. "I like you too," she told Chloe.
"What're you thinking?"
Frankie hesitated. "If I tell you I was wrong about your friends, are you going to give me shit?"
Pursing her lips, Chloe shook her head. "No. Maybe Gail, but not you." She kissed Frankie's lips lightly. "What were you wrong about?"
"I thought they were ... stupid straight people."
Chloe blinked and screwed her face up into a near laugh. "They are, silly. But they're good friends." Shaking her head, Chloe asked, "What made you think that?"
"How they handle Peck. And Nash, after Steve..." Looking over, Nash was dancing with some guy from ETF. And Peck... "I wonder where Peck and Stewart are slipping off to." The duo were holding hands and two bottles of booze.
"Coat closet," said Chloe. "And you have to give everyone a break. That was a very bad time for everyone. Sam was being an idiot about Marlo and Andy, Ollie was suspended... We lost our heart."
The heart of Fifteen being Oliver Shaw... Yes. Frankie could get behind that. "I was wrong. That's all." As they turned around the dance floor, Frankie watched Gail steer Holly into the coat closet. "Okay, how the hell did you know?"
Chloe laughed. "It's a little known secret. You see." She moulded herself against Frankie, turning their dancing into little more than swaying. "Gail hates happy things and weddings."
"Everyone knows that." Frankie scoffed. "She likes the open bar, though."
"Hush." Chloe nipped her ear. "The secret is that Holly also hates weddings and happy people being all fake."
Oh. Alright. That was an interesting secret. "Wouldn't have picked that."
"Yeah. I like the roof. Quiet. Private."
Chloe slowed and looked at Frankie thoughtfully. "The roof?"
"I like the views."
"Ah, explaining the classy apartment."
Frankie smiled. "It's different. It's nothing I grew up with. And yes, I like the view."
As always, even brief mentions of her past made Chloe frown. "Come on." Chloe kissed her and then dragged her off the floor. She scooped up a bottle from a table and they took an elevator up to the roof. The view was nice. "There's your building," said Chloe, bouncing to the edge.
Slowly, Frankie followed. "You are very strange, Chloe. I can't predict you."
The woman turned and smiled at her. "I drove you crazy when we met."
"You did. You're all energy and bounce. You are. But you know that."
"I do. I do." Chloe grinned and leaned on the edge of the building. "You're not actually cranky all the time."
"Oh?" Frankie walked up and leaned along side her girlfriend. "Tell that to everyone else."
Chloe looped an arm through Frankie's and squeezed it. "You get angry and frustrated and you lash out. Just like Gail." Her voice was soft. "And I get why. Even if I don't really get it."
Frankie blinked. "Chloe, you don't-"
"I do, Frankie. Because we've been dating almost eight months, and you still think I'm going to push you away."
Frankie opened her mouth to try and point out the truth. Everyone did, everyone always pushed her away. Even Gail, though that was that, and different and the right choice for both of them. But as she looked into Chloe's warm eyes, she softened. "Okay."
"Do I scare you?"
"No." Frankie shook her head. "Not at all."
"Are you afraid I might hurt you?"
That... She sighed. "Yeah. Yeah I am. I am, because I'm always going that to myself, Chloe..." Frankie looked away, finding the familiar CN tower. "When I was a kid, I wanted to see Toronto. See that, the tower. Never Paris, or Europe. Just that." She pointed over at the tower.
"It was far enough away but still home?"
"It wasn't home. It was far enough away. Home... I hated home. I hated our two bedroom apartment. The boys had one room. Mom and I had the other. She gave them the big one. But all our furniture... Everything we had those first couple years they were hand me downs. Gifts. We'd get up early and look for things people left on the sidewalk. Take 'em. Clean 'em. Make 'em ours. And I hated it, I hated every minute of it because it was my fault."
Chloe leaned close, her warmth pressing into Frankie's arm. "It wasn't your fault."
"I know. But it was."
"Your mother never said that."
"Oh." Frankie laughed darkly. "She did. She did when she was dying." Her girlfriend stiffened. "I mean, shit, I was the only one who sat with her. Every day. I was supposed to be on this deep cover assignment, and I hadda tell Boyd the day of. I had to back out. Because my mom, my mom who's been fighting cancer for years, she's in end stage. And the doctors gave her weeks."
"Frankie, she didn't mean-"
"No, she did. She said, see I remember this one. She said that maybe it would've been different if I hadn't been gay. Maybe, maybe Dad wouldn't've lost his mind."
For a long time, Chloe said nothing. The music below changed from a fun song to a slow one and then another fast song. "Is this when they leave?"
"Usually. Sometimes they kiss me goodnight and then have every excuse to cancel dates after. Karen took a job in Sweden. Linda just stopped talking to me."
Chloe made a thoughtful sound. "If I go to Sweden, I'd want you to come with me." When Frankie laughed a 'what?' she went on. "I'd want you with me when I go anywhere. It's more fun with you."
"I don't know if I'd move to Sweden for you."
"Then I wouldn't go." It was said so matter-of-factly, it shocked Frankie. "What?"
"You're one of a kind."
Chloe smiled at her. "I try. I try." She reached up to turn Frankie's face and kiss her. "It's going to take a long time to convince you I'm not running off."
Frankie sighed. "Probably yeah."
"We can work on that." There was another kiss, this one long and slow. It was the way Chloe had kissed her that first time over the pizza. "Sweden? Seriously someone left you for a job in Sweden?"
She laughed. "It was a good job. But she didn't really ... You know. It was the excuse. I liked her more than she liked me."
That seemed to connect a dot for Chloe. "You're putting yourself out there, looking for love?"
"And getting my heart stomped on." She frowned as she realized she'd never had this conversation with anyone before. Not even Gail who'd figured it out after they'd been sleeping together for a while and called her an idiot. And then Peck ... Peck had said she didn't want to Godzilla over Frankie.
"I won't," said Chloe firmly.
There was something in her tone, in her conviction that made Frankie believe it.
It was probably why, later that night, she found the words she'd never found before. They'd gone back to Frankie's and made love in the soft glow of the city's neon lights. The light shining enough to keep the ghosts at bay, colored in a way small towns never saw. The light that told Frankie she was here and not there.
As she found solace and peace in Chloe's arms again, she sighed. "I think... I think I could love you."
Chloe smiled at her. "I think I could too."
And maybe they would.
The End. And maybe they would.