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If Then, Else ...

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"What?" She eyed her phone. The first time her mother had called her in nine months and this was how she chose to start the conversation.

"I said I have arranged a suitable date."

Gail felt sick. "Mother, I'm seeing someone. You know that."

"Winston is a nice young man —"


But Elaine kept talking. "He went to Oxford. He's perfectly suitable—"

"You said that already." Gail sighed, wearily. "Mom. Can you stop a second?"

"Yes?" Elaine sounded confused.

"You kicked me out. You disowned me. And now ... You want to set me up?"

"Well it's Christmas—"

"Seriously?!" The shout caught Traci's attention.

Her mother hesitated. "Gail. We should talk."

"No, we really shouldn't. Especially if you're going to be all about how I need to date someone when I'm already seeing someone!"

"This phase you're going through—"

Gail snarled. "It's not a phase."

To her shock, Elaine sighed. "No. It's not. But are you serious about Holly?"

What the actual fuck? Gail scowled. "Yes! I didn't move in because I was pissed at you. I moved in because she's the only person in my life who's picked me. Who wanted me first. So no, I'm going to tell this Wilbur idiot I'm a big ol' gay. I'm hanging up now." And she stabbed the phone's off button, jamming her finger.

"What was that about?"

Gail groaned and hit her head on her locker. "My mother is setting me up on dates."

Traci looked shocked. "You're talking again?"

"No! We're not!" Her phone rang. "This must be Wilbur ... Winston ... Whatever." Gail tapped it. "Hello?"

A cheery, English accent, greeted her. "Hello, you must be Gail. I'm Winston—"

"Yeah, I'm gonna stop you there, Wilbur. I'm seeing someone, so sorry my idiot mother wasted your time. Thanks though. Gotta go." She hung up and groaned.

Traci laughed. "That was nicer than I expected."

Gail growled. "I'm so fucking tired of this." She pulled her shirt off, thinking of myriad ways in which she could inflict pain on her mother. For now, she was just going to ignore all unknown cell phone calls. "Hey, is it Leo?"

Her friend startled. "What?"

"Is that the reason that you won't date my brother?" Not that there weren't a million reasons to not date a Peck. Sometimes Gail had to wonder why Holly put up with her.

Traci groaned. "I'm exhausted, Gail. Can we talk about this tomorrow? Or never?"

"No, it's just I'm trying to say that I get it." Gail sighed. "I mean, my family is actually insane. Holly is pretty sure it's medically provable." When Traci laughed, Gail went on. "So, things must be a hell of a lot more complicated when you have a kid."

With a deep sigh, Traci leaned on the lockers. "Gail... I like Steve. But I just figured out how to make my life work again. I can't throw dating into the mix."

Gail looked down at her hands. "I'm in love with her," she said softly.


"Holly. I'm in love with her, and... I told her. At the wedding."

"Gail." Traci shook her head. "Everyone deserves to be happy, Gail. Even you."

"Yeah, but so does Holly."

Traci just smiled, mysteriously, and left.

It had to be killing Holly, not to tell people. Gail stared at her phone and then texted, asking Holly's whereabouts. Batting cages. Right.

Catching a ride over from another officer, Gail watched her girlfriend hit balls. "Come on. It's cathartic." She held a bat out to Gail. "Especially after a day like today."

Gail made a face. "Holly, how long have you known me? I don't really, like, do sports."

Her girlfriend smiled. "It's not gonna kill you to try something new."

Ugh. Gail took the bat and mimicked Holly's stance. And shrieked and threw the bat.

And Holly broke up laughing. "Sorry. Actually, it might kill you." She wheezed another laugh. "I'm sorry."

"I feel so humiliated. I told you, I don't like sports! And I'm leaving." She handed the helmet back and stomped out, followed by a laughing Holly.

Gail knew, suddenly, what Holly was thinking. She was thinking it was funny and hilarious and silly. And they'd laugh and go somewhere for a quiet dinner. Instead, she waited for Holly, still laughing, to step outside and caught her hands.

"What—" Holly was smiling and laughing.

And Gail pulled her in to kiss her.

Holly's eyes were wide, but she smiled and her hands rested on Gail's waist. "Hi," said Gail softly.

"Hi." Holly was grinning, stupidly.

"I love you, Holly," she told the brunette.

Smiling still, Holly nodded. "You told me."

"I know. But... Frank is back in two weeks. I'm going to tell him."

Holly sighed and looped her fingers through Gail's belt loops. "Why the rush?"

"My mother called." She felt Holly stiffen. "And she tried to set me up on a date."


"Oh that gets a rise?"

Holly swatted her arm. "Ass. Who the hell is your mother setting you up with?"

"Some idiot named Winston." Gail shrugged. "I told him I was seeing someone. If he calls again, I plan on telling him I'm a dyke."

This time Holly laughed. "Gail ... What am I going to do with you."

"Well. I'm hoping for dinner and then we can go home?"

Holly hummed her agreement to the plan and let go, only to capture Gail's arm. "How about we do that and talk about your coming out plan?"

"God, next you'll tell me there actually is a gay agenda."

Her girlfriend hesitated. "Actually…"

"Being immortal would suck."

Holly glanced up from her book to see the doped face of her girlfriend, peeking out from the blankets on the couch beside her. "Okay."


She smiled and reached over to caress Gail's head. "Honey, go back to sleep."

"No," mumbled the woman. Her eyes were mostly iris and Gail had struggled to stay awake. "Don't you want to hear why?"

Holly sighed and marked her place. "Why would being immortal suck, honey?"

"You would outlive everyone. Always." Then in a smaller voice, Gail added, "I'd miss you."

Oh. Holly leaned down to kiss her girlfriend's head. "You're not immortal, sweetheart."

"Just a vampire." Gail huffed and hunkered back down.

Holly waited a moment before starting reading again. For the most part, after she got Gail home the woman had wanted to touch her and rest.

She wouldn't take the pain killers, though, and while that bothered Holly, she knew her irascible blonde bombshell was prone to overreact on opiates. Which they'd given her in the ER. Worse than her very amusing reaction when she'd had her wisdom teeth out (a video Holly had carefully saved on a USB drive because holy hell it was hilarious), Gail now not only had no control over her words, but she had a tendency towards nightmares.

That had happened in the car coming home. Gail had screamed herself away, Holly had slammed on the brakes, and Gail threw the door open to puke outside the car. Holly was just glad nothing else had happened, and the driver behind her had become sympathetic when he saw a uniformed officer chucking her cookies right then and there.

Not a good day.

Holly gently played with Gail's hair, letting Netflix drone on with all the children's shows she could find. It kept Gail awake enough that Holly hoped the drugs worked their way out. She wasn't really too hopeful.

The doorbell rang, startling them both. "Get my gun," hissed Gail.

"Stop it." Holly got up.

"Check the peephole!"

Holly rolled her eyes and checked. "It's McNally."

"Oh fuck. Get my gun." When Holly didn't bother to answer that, Gail swore. "I'm asleep." Gail groaned.

Ignoring the protests, Holly opened the door. "Hello, Andy," she said. "Come on in."


Andy blinked. "Uh. Is she mad?"

"She's in pain and won't take the good drugs." Holly smiled and closed the door behind Andy. "I didn't get a chance to thank you."

"Me?" Andy looked surprised.

"Yes, for staying with her in the hospital. Even though she was a brat."

From the couch, Gail complained. "Girl Guide just feeling guilty because she slept with Nick."

Holly glanced at her girlfriend. "So?"

"That's what I said!" Gail pulled the blanket over her head.

"Gail, you are literally five years old..." She shook her head. "Anyway Andy, thank you."

The cop looked from Gail to Holly and back again. "I am so confused."

"Nothing new!" Gail peeked out from her blankets. "Jesus, Andy, I told you I don't care if you screw Nick, I'm screwing Holly."

Holly blinked. "You probably left that part out, honey."

Beside her, Andy shook her head. "That wasn't what she said, but this version makes more sense." Then she scratched her head. "She's serious? I mean... Um."

"Yes," said Holly, and she sighed. "Gail and I are dating."

"Oh." Andy didn't sound like she really got it, but a heartbeat later, her eyes widened. "Oh my god. Wait, why wasn't she ..." Andy stopped and looked at Gail, who was still peeking out from the couch. "When... Why was she at my place?"

The blonde sighed. "We were having a fight. Because I'm five." She threw the blanket back over her head.

Perik. They were talking about the night Perik abducted her. Holly sucked her lower lip. "Gail..."

"Which is why you're not taking the pain killers," said Andy, suddenly astute.

"And why I'm thankful you waited with her, even if she made you cry." Holly waved at the kitchen. "Can I get you a drink?"

Andy looked at Gail, who was still hiding. "I ... I have got to hear how this happened. Oh my god, does Nick know?"

Holly nodded. "He does. He figured it out." She smiled at the lump of blanket that was Gail. "She's been... Um." Holly wondered how to explain it.

"Jesus, her parents." Surprisingly, Andy got it in one. "They are actually insane. You know that?"

"So I learned." Holly sighed. "How'd you meet them?"

"I haven't. My Dad told me about Hugh Peck."

Oh. The brother... Uncle. She looked over at Gail. "Come here." Holly gestured and they went to the kitchen. "She doesn't talk much about Hugh." Pulling out two beers, Holly handed one over.

Andy caught on and replied in a low voice. "Dad said he was murdered."

"By ... Pecks?"

The officer nodded. "Yeah. They were in a raid. Dad was with Hugh and said there was a shot from behind. Told me ... He told me to never put a Peck on my back." But Andy looked at Gail... Well the couch.

It was too bad Holly couldn't tell Andy about the disowning. Though she really didn't want to think about it either. "She's loyal, you know."

Andy nodded. "I know. Gail is ... She's way braver than I am." The woman sighed. "And she doesn't see it."

No. She didn't. Holly sighed as well.

If only Holly could make her see that.

Gail rapped on the office door and Frank looked up. The big man grinned at her. "Hey, Sarge... Got a minute?"

His smile wavered. "Peck! Something wrong?"

Quickly Gail shook her head. "No, nothing's ... Uh. Can I?" She gestured at the door.

Frank looked worried. "Yeah. Sure."

Gail took a deep breath and closed the door. "Um. So part of it isn't wrong. But it might make wrong."

"Peck, you're scaring me."

"My mother might get ... Very Peck."

Frank frowned. "More than she has been? Because I've had a stack of memos that Oliver refused to look at while I was gone. And half are from your father."

Gail winced. "Right. So apparently she got over ... I should start this over." Frank muttered that would be nice. "So I'm gay and when I came out, my parents disowned me. Apparently Mom has decided to ignore that, ten months later, and keeps trying to set me up with men."

The man's eyes widened. "Well you don't do anything by halves."

"Ollie knows." She looked down at her lap. "I was ... I was trying to keep it. You. The Division ... I didn't want you messed up in it."

"But your father knows."

"Yeah." She wrung her hands for a moment.

"He's not talking to you?"

Gail shook her head, no.

"Oliver knows."

Gail nodded.

"How long?"

"Um." She looked up at Frank. "Which part?"

Unexpectedly, Frank gave her a smile. A soft, friendly, Dad smile. It wasn't a smile she was familiar with. "The disowning. I'm gonna guess you and your friend from forensics are more than just roommates."

A blush ran up Gail's face. "I told Ollie at your wedding. But ... It happened before summer." When Frank gave her a solemn look, she added. "Holly and I have kinda been dating since before the whole Perik thing."

His eyes went wide. "Damn it... Gail. If we'd known."

If they'd known, they would have protected Holly and cared for her like family. "I know, sir. I... I didn't want my parents to know."

"Yeah. Yeah, I get it." He exhaled loudly. "Who else knows?"

"Um. Traci. Ollie. Andy... Nick."

"You told Andy McNally before me? Gail, you don't even like her!"

Gail smiled. "She was being an idiot about banging Nick and thinking I cared." She paused. "Also I was high as a kite."

"Yeah. And it sounds like you have not told your brother." When Gail shook her head he sighed. "Well if you told McNally, you know Steve will hear about it."

That was true most of the time. "I don't think so. I mean... Not about this."


She nodded. "She kinda owes me one."

Frank sighed. "Okay. Well. This works out kinda alright. I need to send a couple uniforms on a sting op. Operation Driftnet needs warm bodies to do surveillance. It'll be long hours, so check with your girl before you just sign up."

Gail sat up straight. Surveillance. Her? "Me?"

"Yeah, you. You're my best hooker, Epstein's my best drug guy. Between the two of you, I think you'll see what needs seeing."

Hours in a car with Dov. That … Okay actually that would suck, but the job. "I'm in."

"Gail. You've been dating women for, what, a year and a bit?" When she nodded, he shook his head. "You're penciled in. Trust me. Talk to her first, unless you want to have a fight. Okay?"

She narrowed her eyes, but nodded at the sergeant. "Why… Why are you being nice?" In her world, with the sole exception of Holly, people weren't nice to her. Well, Holly and Oliver.

"Your parents absolutely, on no uncertain terms, wants you the hell away from this case. And you telling me why they're doing all this, it makes sense. You won't do what they wants at home, so they're blackmailing your career." Frank looked grimly serious. "You've given Fifteen everything, Peck. It's about damned time we give it back. This… This can be a jump to UC ops or drugs or guns and gangs. Any flavor of D you and Epstein want, this is the door in. So."

She swallowed. "So don't Peck it up?"


By the time Gail got home, she felt buoyantly melancholy. Holly wasn't back, she wasn't supposed to be for a little while. Out of habit, Gail tidied up the house, showered, and lay on the bed, staring at the ceiling.

"Uh oh," said Holly as she sauntered in, over an hour later.

"Frank wants me to be part of a sting op. Means night work for a week or so." She looked up at Holly.

"That sounds like a good thing," Holly remarked, and she sat by Gail's head. "What's goin' on?"

"Well. It's a lot of work, and off hours, so I'll be up weird hours and not sleeping, and kinda a crappy girlfriend. And Frank said I should talk to you before I accept, since he's dated more women than I have." Gail sighed. "Which is stupid, since he's been divorced three times. That's stupid, right? Right—"

Holly put her hand over Gail's mouth. "Shh."

Gail swallowed, silenced herself, and nodded.

"You told Frank about us?" Gail nodded. "This is a big deal?" Again, Gail nodded. "Then I think you should do it," said Holly firmly.

Gail arched an eyebrow and Holly removed her hand. "This isn't because you did the whole San Francisco thing?"

"No, though they did call me about a job today."

Oh. Gail frowned. "I don't like that."

Holly just smiled, though. "I told them I'd think about it." Before Gail could complain, she added, "I plan to use it to get a raise."

Right there. That was the weird woman Gail fell in love with. She snickered. "You are insane, Holly Stewart."

"I know." She patted Gail's head and got up. "Come on, get up and tell me all about this undercover op. Do you get to wear a disguise? Oh and how did Frank take the whole Gail's gay thing?"

Gail sat up, watching Holly wave her hands as she talked. "Well. He's mad I told Andy first."

To that, Holly laughed. It was a simple laugh that eased the pain and doubts in her heart. Everything was going to be okay.

It was definitely not how she had expected Gail to come out. But there, at the hospital, Gail tugged Holly over to where Steve and Chris stood. "Steve, this is Holly. Chris… this is Holly."

"I've met your housemate, Garbage Pail."

Chris though, his eyes widened and he stared at Holly. "Oh." When Holly nodded, the big man looked at once relieved and terrified. Gail had mentioned he'd met the Pecks. Apparently they called him Craig.

Gail's eyes never left her brother. "She's my girlfriend," said Gail, her voice wet and a whisper. She wiped her nose.

Holly swallowed and looked at Steve's dumbfounded expression. "Hi," she mumbled.

"Uh. Hi..." Steve's eyes widened. "Jesus, do Mom and Dad know?"

Gail nodded. "They, um. They disowned me. Which is why... Y'know."

"No dinners. Wow. Yeah."

The siblings stared at each other for a while, curious and (in the case of Gail) nervous. Chris cleared his throat. "I'm… I'm going to go sit with Traci, Gail." He hesitated and then hugged her quickly before vanishing.

But brother and sister were silent. Holly would have bolted if Gail didn't have a death grip on her hand, so she rubbed her thumb on the back of Gail's hand instead.

Finally Steve sighed. "Jesus. Gail."

"I know," replied the blonde, her voice still so soft and quiet.

"So that's it? You're gay?"

"Guess so."

Steve ran his hands through his hair. "I thought you were avoiding us."

"Well. Kinda, yeah."

"They know? All of it?"

Gail nodded. "Yes."

It was very rare that Holly saw this Gail, to the point that she'd started to forget scared, emotionally abused Gail was a person, a thing. Instead, she saw the shy and brave Gail every day. The girl who laughed so hard at Holly's jokes, she snorted her milk out her nose. The karaoke singer who loved the blues. The cop who never told anyone she knew sign language and who would hold a crying child for hours. The woman who held her at night and whispered she loved her.

And here she was, that damaged, terrified girl. Gail stood in front of her brother, waiting for the shoe to drop or the hand to fall. She expected pain and agony and to be told, again and again, that she was the disappointment. The worthless. The useless.

Holly squeezed Gail's hand back.

Steve looked at Gail, then his eyes drifted to their hands and he shook his head. "I can't."

Never before had Holly felt rejection so viscerally before. But those two words sliced her open and laid her heart on the floor. Beside her, Gail didn't flinch. Her hand was still.

"I know." Gail nodded at him.

The siblings shared a last look and, as one, turned away.

Holly wasn't sure what, exactly, had just happened except Steve had picked family over family. And Gail wasn't saying anything, just sitting and watching everything else. Only Chris dared ask if she was okay, and Gail simply shook her head. Silent. Mute.

They waited, in the oppressive silence, until the doctor let Andy go back to see Sam and Nick vanished. Then, only then did Gail speak and suggest they leave.

How could she broach the topic of someone's entire family casting her out? Holly spent the car ride to the station and then home in terrified quiet. She couldn't think of a single thing to say to Gail that would make her feel any better. There wasn't anything to say. This was just a fact.

When Gail had first said no one ever had her back before, Holly thought she was exaggerating. But now… Now she knew this was a truth. Her family, her own damned family didn't.

The second they walked in the house, Gail went for the booze. "Holly, where did we put the alcohol?"

"Bourbon's over by the stove now. But… Gail, maybe you should eat something."

"Only if it's got alcohol in it."

Holly bit her lip. "You okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. It's not like I'm the one who got shot."

"Gail." Holly sighed and walked into the kitchen, opening the fridge to see what they had. Maybe takeout. "Maybe we shouldn't have left the hospital."

"Holly, there are 30 other cops waiting around. There's really no point in me being there. No one's looking for my shoulder to cry on."


"Mm." Gail took a swing of the Jim Bean, from a glass at least. "You know what, though? We could go back as the big gay distraction. Yeah, let's let's give people something to talk about. I mean, now that I've come out to my brother, that juicy bit of news is just gonna spread like herpes." Still dressed in her coat and boots, Gail stomped up the stairs. "There's no going back now, girlfriend. There ain't no going back."

Holly grimaced. Picking up her phone, she checked messages. Traci had texted asking if Steve had really shunned Gail and should she come over. Then a second text that she had Leo and couldn't, but call if Holly needed them. Ugh. Holly called the hospital instead and asked how Oliver was doing. It was the small things. Finally she ordered Thai food and went upstairs to figure out what Gail was doing.

The jacket was abandoned in the hallway. And music was coming from the bathroom.

Not a good sign. Holly leaned against the door. "Gail? How much longer you gonna be in there?" She waited. No answer. "Hey, please confirm existence." Nope. Nothing. "I'm coming in."

She opened the door to loud music and a Gail with short hair and the scissors. "It's only hair," said Gail, morosely.

"So, this is happening." Holly reached over and turned the music down while Gail spun the scissors around.

"Yeah. I mean, I saw your scissors, and I just thought, oh, yay. Here's something I can just rewind, you know?" Gail sipped the bourbon, straight from the bottle and sat down, brandishing her pony tail. "'Cause see this inch? This inch is from the academy. You know? This inch is from the first sixth months on the job. This inch is from when I was dating Chris." Then Gail's voice cracked. "That part's when Jerry died."

She stopped and Holly sat on the edge of the tup. "But those last inches are us," said Holly, very quietly.

"Also being disowned," said Gail, fiercely. "There's literally no bad inches, 'cause I'm just gonna go back to the beginning, and I'm rewinding everything, and I — Oh, my God." Reality struck Gail at last and she looked up at Holly. "What did I what did I do?"

"You cut off all your hair." Holly tried not to smile.

"Oh, I'm— I'm freaking out a little bit, aren't I?"

"Yeah. Yeah you are, honey." Holly reached over and took the bottle of booze. "Come here."

"Why?" Gail covered her face. "I'm just a fucking mess and my own family doesn't want me."

"Well. I want you," said Holly gently. "And if you'll let me, I'd like to fix your hair."

Gail peeked up. "Yeah?"

"Yeah. Come on. Get in the tub." Holly shucked her sweater and picked up the scissors. She could probably fix it. Maybe.

Kicking off her boots, Gail sat in the tub and just looked sad while Holly carefully evened out her locks. She absently noticed the phone hadn't rung yet. Well. The Thai place said it would be 90 minutes.

By the time Holly got around to Gail's bangs, the blonde had sobered a little. "Life."

Dealing with this Gail was easy. She just wanted someone to sympathize about how shitty things were. "I know, right? Who needs it?"

"I mean, you can plan, plan, and prepare it doesn't really matter, 'cause things just go where they want to go."

"Yep. Sort of like this cowlick."

"I'm sitting in a bathtub waiting to hear if my friends are still alive … disowned. Drinking bourbon with the coolest chick ever. And I have no hair."

"Not exactly a fairy tale."


"Hmm." Holly put down the scissors and cupped Gail's face. "Still kinda beautiful, though."

Gail snorted. "Oh, really?" She was trying for the sarcasm she loved and missed it entirely.

"Yeah." The sarcasm faded into the achingly sweet expression Holly loved. She brushed her thumb over Gail's lips and and leaned in to kiss her. Holly couldn't fix everything. She couldn't fix the idiocy of the Pecks. She couldn't make Oliver heal faster. But she could remind Gail that there was someone right there who did want her. Someone who picked her. They broke apart and Gail sighed. "Let's wash this mess down the drain," said Holly, and she urged Gail up.

But Gail had a different idea and reached for Holly's head, pulling her in for another kiss. Oh they weren't going anywhere… Holly sighed and stopped, reaching around Gail to turn on the water. "What are you doing? — Oh my god! It's freezing!" Gail laughed and squirmed, but Holly held her still and kissed her again and again until the water warmed up and the doorbell rang.

"That's dinner," said Holly, breathlessly.

"I'm soaking wet, Holly." Gail laughed again.

"I know. Get that mess out of your hair and come down and eat." She kissed Gail's nose and, sopping wet, answered the door. The delivery man stared at her. "Don't ask," said Holly firmly, signing for the food and locking the door back up.

Gail came down, moments later, wrapped in a robe and looking a little better. A little more stable.

This time, when they didn't talk, Holly knew it was because they didn't need to. They ate on the couch (after Holly changed into something dryer) and just were. Touching each other as a reassurance of existence. That Holly was here for Gail, Gail was here for Holly, and they could make it through.

"How could six weeks suck so much?" Gail swirled her drink and sipped it. She gagged and spat it back into the cup. "Oliver, what is this?"

"Kosher Wine. Where's your girl?"

"No." Gail shook her head at Oliver. He meant well, of course, but right now ... Technically the fight was Lisa's fault. Though technically Gail could have been nicer about the whole thing. But also technically Holly could have backed her up. Gail grimaced.

Oliver frowned at her. "Remember what we talked about in the car?"

She nodded. "Holly won't want to be with a jerk."

"You're not a jerk. Tell her you're sorry." He paused. "If you're sorry."

"I'm ... I am sorry. And mad."

"Well that's allowed. But talk. To her." He sighed. "I gotta go sit over there now. With those boring guys."

Gail looked past him. "Hey, at least my old man isn't there."

Oliver shook his head. "You gotta smile a little for me, Peckling." When Gail forced a creepy smile on her face, he sighed. "Okay. We're gonna talk later, you and me."

Maybe she could avoid him. Still, Gail watched him join the other senior officers before she walked over towards the non-white shirts. Coming here was a mistake. She should have gone home. As she reached for her phone, she heard an unwelcome voice.

"Hey, it's the chicken police."

"Luck," she said, dully. And then inspiration struck. "Here." Gail held out her drink. The one she'd spit into.

And Jen Luck took it.

The little things made her smile.

It made up for spending the next half hour being flirted with, badly. Luck seemed to hardly care that Gail told her she was seeing someone. Repeatedly.

"So you still haven't said yes."

"On ... What?"

"On a date," said Luck with a rackish grin.

"I believe she said she was seeing someone," said Holly, cutting in.


Gail pivoted and stared. "I am," she said to Holly, feeling a smile cross her face. "Hey. I didn't think you were coming."

"You forgot to give me the address." Holly's smile was a little wary. "Who's this?"

Rolling her eyes, Gail gestured. "Luck.

Holly startled. "You're ... Luck?"

For a second, Jen had a brain. "That didn't sound like a good recognition."

"Oh it's not. Jen, this is my girlfriend, Holly. Holly, this is the idiot who calls me the chicken police."

Enlightenment dawned on Jen's face. Amusement grew on Holly's. "Nice to meet you, Jen." She extended a hand to the other officer while simultaneously resting her other hand on Gail's lower back.

"Um. Yes. Yeah. Nice to meet you. I'm gonna... Wes owes me a drink."

While Jen Luck beat a hasty (and surprisingly intelligent) retreat, Holly snorted, not approving at all. "Chicken Police my ass. She needs to stop hitting on you."

Gail sighed. "I kept telling her I was seeing someone."

"I heard." Holly was clearly unhappy about it.

"Hey... Holls?" Gail turned to look at her girlfriend. "I'm sorry I stomped off."

"I'm sorry I didn't tell Lisa to shove it sooner."

That sounded promising. Like they were okay. "Are we... Okay?"

Holly tilted her head and made a noise that was part sigh and part laugh. "Sometimes, Gail... Sometimes you are incredibly confusing." She kissed her though, softly and warmly. "Lisa's an entitled asshole," whispered Holly, resting her forehead against Gail's.

"I'm kind of an impetuous idiot," Gail pointed out.

"You are. But you're my idiot." That was Holly's fond voice. Gail liked that voice. "Next time text me where you're going? If you can't deal with Lisa or people or anyone." Holly sounded almost fierce, like she was trying to shield Gail from something. "I worried."

"God, I was trying to, and Luck was being an asshat." But... That reminded her. Gail leaned back to eye Holly. "Holls, how the hell did you find me?"

Holly looked sheepish. "Find your Friends. The app?"

"That... That was smart." Gail sighed. "Come on, let's watch Nick get his ass kicked."

"I thought Gerald was boxing?" Holly frowned and took Gail's hand as they walked over to the other cops.

"Oh. Turns out his name is Duncan, and he's a coward."

As it happened, the stupid Fite Nite was the highlight of her month. Chris was doing drugs again, or so Dov said. Having worked a case with Chris, she was inclined to believe Dov just then. That case, too, was the hardest she'd ever dealt with, save the Perik ones. Poor Sophie.

And it only got worse. Because Holly was not at all in approval of the (as she put it) half baked plan to adopt. They fought and railed and argued and slept without looking at each other. Though they never were so bad as to sleep in the guest room, it was two weeks of agonizing arguments and angry sleeping. But then, finally, Oliver sat Gail down and gave her a talking to. That everything was going to hurt a little more. But she needed to tell Holly why she was hurting and not be so damn Peck.

Then, knowing she and Holly were still fighting, he sent her and his daughter, Izzy, to the lab.

Because Oliver was an asshole.

Gail's attempt to get Rodney to rehydrate the thumb failed, and he went to get Holly instead. Awesome. Her day couldn't get better.

And Izzy opened the door to a corpse. "Hey! He's really dead," announced the girl. Gail snarled and slammed the door closed. "What?"

"This is a human being." She snapped at the girl. How could Oliver, of all people, have a kid this much of an asshole. "Show some respect."

"Correction he was a human being," said Izzy, in a tone of teenaged superiority and omniscience.

"Actually, the term "human" refers to our species in general, so, dead or alive, he's still human." Holly. God. Gail couldn't help the smile as she looked at her girlfriend. Fighting or not, they were still dating after all. But Holly was looking at Izzy, not Gail. "Who are you?" She asked,

Gail cleared her throat and introduced, "Uh, Izzy Shaw, teenage delinquent."

Holly made a thoughtful noise. Of course she knew Shaw. "No food or drink in the lab."

Damn it. Holly was being very Dr. Stewart. "It's, um, so good to see you." Of course, she saw Holly every night. Damn it. She was screwing this up.

Gesturing, Holly pointed out the obvious. "So, you've got a thumb."

They both looked at the thumb. "Yep. That is a thumb."

The doctor looked at Gail for a moment. Pained. It was a painful moment. Then, all business, she replied, "I'll rehydrate the tissue. Any luck, there's enough left to give us that print."

As soon as Holly left the room to get supplies, Izzy turned to Gail. "You two used to bone?"

"Please don't use that expression," Gail replied, offended.

"What, did it offend you?"

"No," she snapped. "It's just inaccurate."

Izzy did not appear to believe her. Not that Gail could blame her. And she could blame the kid's boredom when Holly was in full on science mode. Normally that could be fun. Holly loved teaching when she worked. But right now she was being distant.

It was killing Gail, and was probably why she was a little more snippy than normal to Izzy, and short with Traci. But damn it. Holly was mad and she should be.

"Izzy, just wait here, okay. I need to talk to Holly."

"Oh, she's Holly now?"

"She's always Holly. Shut up, wait here. I'll be right back." Steeling herself up, Gail walked into Holly's office. "So. Um. Can we talk?"

Holly blinked as she looked up. "Wow. Really? At work?"

Because Gail didn't really like PDA. "I think... I want to go out. You, me. Get a drink. And talk about all this."

Her girlfriend sighed. "Gail."

"I know. But we get home and we don't talk and we're like the shittiest roommates. And I want to apologize for being so weird for the last couple weeks."

With a faint smile, Holly picked up her phone. "Is this related to why Oliver texted me?"

"He what?"

"Ah." Holly held out her phone. "Gail, I really do love you. But..."

"I know. Holly. I'm a brat, I'm impetuous. I'm self-destructive and god knows I don't know how to cope. But you, you're the best thing that ever happened to me. And I'm sorry that sometimes all the shit in my head trips me up. But I never forget that."

After what felt like a forever moment, Holly exhaled. "Oliver says, and I quote, 'Gail is like a kicked dog sometimes. She wants to trust, but everyone kicks her.' End quote." Gail had nothing to say to that. She wanted to say that Holly never kicked her. "I do get it. But you make it hard, Gail."

Gail swallowed. "I know." And then. "I love you."

"I know," said Holly softly. Then she sighed explosively. "Drinks? Really?"

Hesitantly, Gail smiled. "Yeah. I don't... I've never had a fight and still, y'know, been friends. Let alone, um, girlfriends."

Holly nodded. "Well. We are." She smiled at Gail. It was an indulgent, lazy smile. "Can we be done fighting?"

"God, yes, please."

Her girlfriend stood up and took hold of Gail's jacket lapels, tugging her close for a moment. "I'm sorry."

"Me too," said Gail quietly. And then she leaned in to kiss Holly, briefly.

Holly's eyes widened at the PDA, but she just smiled her surprise. Then, however, "You get how we can't adopt her, right?"

Glumly, she nodded. "I know."

"I really love that you care," Holly said softly. "I love how much you care."

Gail carefully gripped the edge of Holly's lab coat. "But?"

"Nothing." Quietly, Holly leaned in until she was close enough to kiss Gail again. Her lips parted, and she looked past Gail and frowned. "Hey, where's Izzy?"

Shit! Gail swiveled. No teenaged brat. She had lost Oliver's daughter. "Oh fuck. I am so dead."

Playing with Gail's hair was calming. They lay on the couch, mostly dressed, with Gail's jacket draped over the arm. "Not that I'm complaining, but why aren't we at the ball?"

"It was canceled." Gail yawned and nestled down into Holly. "You know, the bomb."

Holly rolled her eyes. "You weren't planning on going, even if there hadn't been a bomb."

"True." With a happy sigh, Gail lapsed into silence until Holly poked her cheek. "Ow! What?"

"How's Andy?"

Gail made a grumble noise. "She's fine." As Gail fell silent again, Holly tried to decide if she needed to question Gail again when the blonde spoke. "I saw Steve," Gail said very softly. "He was doing something in evidence before the explosion."

"What?" Holly stiffed and looked down at the head on her chest. "You don't... He didn't have ..."

"I don't know," said the other woman, glumly. "But ... I checked. Before you picked me up. I know I saw Steve go into evidence. Except he used Ollie's ID."

Holly winced. "Why would he do that?"

"I don't know," repeated Gail. "I don't."

"Maybe he was doing something undercover?"

Gail sighed. "Maybe. I don't know." She pressed her face against Holly. "Who could I even ask?"

That was true. Who could she ask?

Holly was still thinking about that two days later, and she had come to a very unhappy answer. At lunch, she walked over to the main offices, took herself up to the top floor, and cleared her throat at the secretary.

"Can I help you?"

"Yes. I'm Dr. Stewart, from the forensics lab. I need to speak with Superintendent Peck, please."

The secretary looked at her, unimpressed and dismissive. "Do you have an appointment?"

She sighed. "I don't, but as I said, I'm from the forensics lab."

"What is this concerning?"

Holly hesitated. "I can't tell you."

"I'm sorry, but without an appointment—"

"Look, I'm from the lab. I need to speak with the Super about ... About something important, and I can't tell you."

The door to the office opened. "Zack, please stop haranguing Dr. Stewart and clear my afternoon."

The secretary looked terrified. "Ma'am, I'm sorry—"

"When a member of the force or the lab says they need to speak with me and cannot tell you, please assume it's an emergency and allow me to handle this." Elaine Peck's glare was frosty. "Dr. Stewart, please come in."

Holly met Elaine's eyes and blinked. The look given her was polite, almost kind. "Thank you," she mumbled, and ducked in before she could chicken out.

The door closed. "Is this about my daughter or a case?"

"Um. Possibly both... And Steve."

Of all things, Elaine swore. "Dr. Stewart... May I call you Holly? You're dating my daughter after all."

"Oh. Holly. Yes. Holly's fine." And right now, Holly felt like a fucking moron.

"Thank you. Holly." Elaine sat down on the chair on the guest side of her desk. "Why don't you start at the beginning."

Holly bit her lip. "Is Steve undercover?"

The question startled Elaine. "Technically I'm not supposed to speak about those subjects with anyone not directly involved, however no. Steven is not working undercover."

Her heart dropped. "Super— Elaine." Holly took a chance on the name and was relieved to see a slight nod from the women. "Gail told me, a long time ago, that her parents were homophobic and not supportive of 'alternative lifestyles.' So ... I need to know if you're going to listen to me fairly here."

Elaine Peck sighed just like Gail did when broaching an uncomfortable subject. "It's interesting... It's one thing to believe what you're raised to think. What you hear every day. And it's another to hear someone say it about a child you carried in your womb for 9 months."

Holly stared. Was Elaine saying what she thought she was hearing? "So ... The date?"

"Oh. Winston. I knew Gail would hate him," said Elaine dismissively. "I wanted her to say more than just she was gay, Holly. I needed to know... Well. It was perhaps the wrong way to present it." The mother sighed again. "No. It definitely was the wrong way."

The conversation had taken such an odd turn. "So... What? You're actually okay with it?"

"I'm trying," said Elaine. Her voice was soft. "Because I have a choice to have no daughter, or a gay daughter."

She wanted to be angry at Elaine. She wanted to shout at her, tell her that the years of casual abuse had left their scars on a beautiful woman. Oh how Holly wanted to scream. But today... No. Holly had a mission. "Gail saw Steve go into the evidence room before the bomb went off. And she knew he used Oliver's ID. Oliver Shaw."

Elaine looked slapped. Her head jerked back. "Just a moment." The superintendent went to her computer and tapped on it. Hadn't Gail once said Elaine was a technophobe? Was that a lie? "Damn it... Holly are you good at these?" She waved a hand at the computer.

"Yes..." Holly walked over and sat at the desk, following Elaine's directions to open up records. When she balked at entering Elaine's passwords, the older woman smiled and tapped it in, one finger at a time. "Okay, so here's the log... And the time was—"

"Start at four PM."

Scrolling down, Holly saw evidence was checked in, and then as Gail said, Oliver Shaw's card was used to place evidence from a case about a missing autistic boy.

Except the video clearly showed Steve.

And the item in Steve's hand didn't match.

"Why... He's a cop," said Holly, dumbfounded. "Wouldn't he know we'd look?"

Grim, Elaine shook her head. "He'd assume we'd look for oddities. Not records that, separately, sound sensible. He's playing on the inherent laziness of inventory checks. It's not a popular job."

It wasn't at the lab either. And they rarely checked and compared two lists against each other. The chain of evidence was trusted. Jesus. "Now what?" She looked up at Elaine, dumbfounded.

"Now. Now we build up a case against my son," said Elaine grimly.

Working with her mother had been weird. It had just been an incredibly weird few months. Andy had stumbled on a conspiracy that nearly took down Oliver in the middle before they had Santana in cuffs. And Steve.

And her own father.

When Gail told her mother that Bill asked her to lie on the stand, Elaine had done the unthinkable and hugged her.

It was the first real hug in her adult life from her mother, and it felt weird. Painful and weird. But at the same time, something raw started to heal inside her. Elaine didn't say she was sorry, she didn't make an excuse or an explanation, she just hugged Gail tightly, briefly, and then let her go. Elaine didn't need to say her hands weren't clean either. It was obvious. Gail was going to lose her parents and her brother, and God knew who else to this mess. Just because she'd seen something.

Elaine had struck on the idea to have Noelle dig into it, turning herself in for whatever it was she'd done (Gail opted not to ask). The deal had so far kept Elaine out of prison, but as they found themselves sitting in court again, Gail had her doubts. This time, Gail was in her dress uniform and holding Holly's hand while they watched.

"Superintendent. Were you aware of your son's actions, prior to Dr. Stewart and Constable Peck's information?"

Elaine, prim and proper, shook her head. "I was not."

"But Detective Peck, Steven Peck, is your son."

"My son moved out while he was in university," Elaine said calmly. "Rumors to the contrary, I don't monitor my children's behavior."

There was a rumble of laughter in the room. The prosecutor scowled. "Is that a joke?"

Elaine smiled a little. "No more than assuming I have nothing better to do than to spy on my son."

That won another rumble of amusement. It left Gail feeling unsettled. Her mother always gave the impression of spying on Gail and Steve. But the more she thought about it, the more she realized it was not true. Elaine let her be a ghost, let her rebel and stay at Holly's that time, and only dragged her home when she tried to cash in on the Peck name.

All this time, Elaine had been protecting her.

Unlike Steve.

Or maybe Elaine learned from her mistakes. Maybe Elaine was, as Holly said, sorry. Holly told her that Elaine had decided that having a gay daughter was better than no daughter. Not that Elaine had said those things to Gail, nor would she. The Superintendent was going to take her fall and take them all down with her.

Holly squeezed her hand. "You okay?" Her voice was soft, so quiet, it wouldn't be heard by Oliver on Holly's other side.

Gail nodded and squeezed the hand back. She didn't say anything. There was nothing to say. She was watching the last act of her mother. Maybe it wasn't Elaine's last day as a cop. It was her last day as the force of nature that was Superintendent Peck. It might be her last day as a Peck.

Unlike her father's trial, where he was charged with bribery, corruption, and perjury, Gail only watched here. At Bill's trial, Gail spoke on the stand, explaining how her father had asked her to perjure herself for Steve. She told the court she had hoped it was only because he didn't think it was safe for a cop in prison, but knowing what she did of the Peck family, including the death of her own uncle, she had doubts.

Everything had come out. Years of corruption. Years of murder. Years of bribery. Her great uncle confessed to killing Uncle Hugh, and said it was at the behest of then Chief Peck. And Santana? He was one of the Peck minions.

So was Elaine.

And Gail? Well. She and a handful of others stood in the rubble. But she didn't stand alone anymore.

Three years ago, five years ago, before she met Holly, she had no idea what she was or who she was. Gail was a cop because she was a Peck, and a Peck because of birth, and there was no question about what to be. But she'd never enjoyed it, and she'd never had a passion or a desire of what she was going to be beyond a cop.

It was different now. She'd made a friend, a lover, and a partner. She had someone who inspired her to be better than she was, who gave her a possibility of a future. That Gail could be more than just a beat cop. More than just a Peck.

The road started after McNally's stupid wedding the next week. After the trial, after saying goodbye to Steve, after shaking that idiot Frankie off her ass, Gail knew what her next step was. First, she was taking the TO spot. Oliver had asked her, nicely, if she'd consider it. Then Jarvis said, since the courts found her innocent, that he'd had his eye on her for lead TO.

While McNally would be the road sergeant and walk the line to a white shirt (maybe), Gail ... Gail would do something else. She'd make people's lives better. She'd make them better cops. She'd make them better people.

As Elaine stepped off the stand, Gail watched her mother sit down by the lawyers and nod at something. Elaine looked at Gail, briefly, and inclined her head ever so slightly. Yes. This was the end of something and the beginning of another.

Bill went to jail. Steve went to jail. Elaine would be asked to hand in her badge and trade it for an anklet and house arrest. The Pecks were stripped and salted and burned into nothing.

Gail glanced at her girlfriend. The one person who picked her, who stood by her, and who was there for her. The person who gave her shit when she was an ass, and who helped her up when she fell. Gail smiled. "I'm going to be okay," she told Holly, quietly.

And for the first time in her life, she felt like that was true.