Chapter 1: IF
"I want you in charge of that body until the coroner comes." Oliver looked right at her.
Gail hedged. "Well, I mean, I can take statements .. and brief the detectives when they get here."
She got that patented Oliver 'I am disappointed' look. The subtle one. "You got a problem babysitting a body?"
"No." Gail didn't say sir. She didn't have to.
Dead bodies are part of the job. She knew that. As Oliver left her, though, Gail sighed and sat down on the stone railing.
"Just you and me, kid," she said to the dead girl. "I wonder what you were thinking." Gail tiled her head. "Was it one of those things that you've thought about forever and then suddenly decided you had to? Suddenly all at once, right?" She exhaled and looked up. "Yeah, I know that one."
"Do you always talk to the dead?"
Gail startled out of her skin. A woman, a few years older than she was, was crossing the tape line. "Hey, Lunchbox. You're not allowed in here."
"Thanks," said the woman, smiling way too much. "Appreciate it."
Shit. Was she drunk? Gail stood up and got between the woman and the body. "No, I said you're not allowed in here." Gail made a circle with her finger.
"Me? No, I am." The woman looked perplexed.
"Who are you?"
"The forensic pathologist? Coroner asked me to get samples?"
Miffed, Gail looked for an ID badge and found one half-hidden by the jacket. She reached over and pulled it out, checking the name and face. Dr. Holly Stewart. "Well, you should have told me that before."
Dr. Stewart fixed the badge a little sheepishly. "Sorry, I thought it was obvious."
"Only to nerds. Can you come back later? I'm supposed to be here until the body's collected."
"You're not up on your medical jurisprudence. We need to determine the cause of death."
"She fell off a roof."
"Was she pushed? Did she slip and fall? Did she jump? The trace evidence around her will help us understand how the vic died. I can check the evidence in the soles of her shoes, the way they're scraped, to determine the likelihood of each possibility. Then I can use the pattern of the breaks to —"
"Why are you saying all these words?"
And the woman laughed. "Alright. May I?"
"Be my guest." Gail stepped aside. "Julia Kennedy," she added, pulling out her phone and texting dispatch to be sure this Dr. Stewart was legit.
"Her name. Julia Kennedy. We ID'd her."
"Call said Ashley." The doctor frowned as she opened her kit.
"Yeah, she took her sister's ID."
Shaking her head, Dr. Stewart muttered how kids never changed. "You're staying?" She looked up at Gail, amused.
Gail shrugged. "Oll- Officer Shaw said to stay till the coroner comes." When Dr. Stewart gestured at herself, Gail smirked. "Forensic Pathologist. You work under the coroner as everything from lab assistant to actual medical examiner. Generally specializing in evidence collection as it pertains to the body."
"Well. I'm impressed. You google all that just now to show off?"
"Don't flatter yourself," sneered Gail and she tapped her name tag.
The doctor was puzzled and looked at Gail's name tag. Then she looked at Gail. "Well I am clearly missing something."
"First day?" When Dr. Stewart nodded, Gail sighed. "Freebie. Anyone named Peck has probably been studying for this their whole life."
Now the eyes widened. "As in Superintendent Peck?"
"That would be my mother," Gail said, resigned.
"Man, that is a hell of a lot to live up to."
Gail blinked. That was new. "Not what most people say," she admitted.
"Oh yeah? They think you get it easy or something?"
Suddenly Gail felt like smiling. "Usually."
"Eh. Well people."
Gail watched the doctor work until Oliver came back out. "So, uh, they're almost done here," she told him.
Oliver nodded. "You can go in and help with the witnesses."
Hesitating, Gail looked down at Dr. Stewart, who was still finishing up. "I should stay with her- um, with the body- Un-until they take it away."
The older officer looked at her for a long moment. "Okay. Fine with me."
"I just think that's it-" Gail started.
But Oliver waved her off. "Yeah, yeah." He paused and pointed at Dr. Stewart. "The coroner's already here."
"Dr. Stewart is the forensic pathologist, and it's her first day. She checks out. Dispatch confirmed."
Oliver looked at Dr. Stewart, then Gail, and then he shook his head. "No. No, you're right there. Right." And he went back inside.
The doctor smirked. "You checked with dispatch?"
"You could be trying to destroy evidence." Gail shook her head.
This seemed to please the other woman. "How did you know it's my first day, anyway?"
Gail shrugged. "You're too new. It shows." Shoving her hands in her pockets, Gail added, "Gail. I'm... I'm Constable Gail Peck."
The doctor grinned a lopsided smile that was the friendliest Gail had ever seen in her life. "Dr. Holly Stewart. Why don't they put your first names or initials on your name tags?"
"They used to do initials." Gail found herself half smiling back. There was just something about the woman that she liked.
"How's Chris?" Holly eased into a chair.
"Better." The blonde sipped her coffee. "I don't know if it was a good idea to stay with him."
"Dov is still..."
Gail snorted. "Dov is still being Dov. He doesn't like me there all the time. Complained I don't pay rent."
"Gail," sighed Holly.
Her friend rolled her eyes. "Stop it. He's going back to work next week and then I'll go home. He doesn't need babysitting." It was nice that Gail had taken care of Chris. Of course, every time Gail had worried something wasn't right, she'd called Holly, which had been amusing and annoying all at once.
"I suppose that's good."
"Eh. It's okay. I don't think Dov gets it." She shook her head. "So hey, date tonight?"
Holly winced. "This is a terrible idea. Why did I let you and Lisa talk me into this?"
"Because you've been single for three years! You need get laid, Stewart."
"Please, say that louder." Holly groaned and hunched her shoulders. "And you know what, maybe I'm totally happy with being single? I have great friends-"
Gail interrupted. "Present company excluded, your friends are petty and dull compared to you."
Ugh. Why did Gail have to start on that again. "I have an awesome job-"
"Which your, self proclaimed, best friends on the planet don't get."
"You are not helping."
Gail tossed her hands up. "You're being stubborn and dense! I actually checked this one out. She's smart, she's an artist, and she's kinda hot. Not as hot as I am, but hey, who is?"
Holly felt an unwelcome blush creep up her neck. It was true she'd noticed the attractiveness of Gail a few times. The woman was drop dead gorgeous. And she was also dating the sort of dim and buff Chris Diaz. Holly liked him, and Dov. They were nice people. But she couldn't see why Gail was slumming it with Diaz.
No. She could. Holly had met Gail's parents. Not in the 'hey I'm your daughter's friend!' way, but in the more acceptable way that people who worked together in the same building might meet. Chris was simple and unoffensive and probably good in bed. And Gail needed something in her life that wasn't pressuring her into the career she didn't want but had no choice in.
Gail was a Peck. Pecks were cops. No matter what Gail wanted out of life, she had to be a cop. She had to be at least as good as her brother, the youngest detective in his class. Already Gail had 'failed' by not having as good an arrest record as her mother (though she had a better one than her father). Holly had seen, first hand, the pressure her family put on the blonde. Just one night, at the Penny, Gail was approached by three Pecks and reminded in varying degrees of 'subtle' that she should support her family, following a suspicious arrest.
Later on, Gail explained what had happened with her brother's partner a few months prior, and how it was still something they were touchy on. Months later. Holly could only imagine how strangely stressful it would be to have every police moment thrown at you like that. Constantly.
So in that sense, Chris made perfect sense. Chris was unlikely to be offensive, he wasn't pliable in that he didn't actually seem to care how dating Gail affected his career, and he was easily discarded. That was what Gail had said, actually. He was easily discardable. And she hadn't said it with any ounce of enjoyment. It was just acceptance in what her life was.
And even if Gail wasn't dating Chris Diaz, there was absolutely no indication that she was into women, let alone Holly. Whom Gail knew was a lesbian. It didn't really help that Gail had the most blasé reaction to Holly being a lesbian. They'd been talking in the lab one day and Gail had mentioned she was shitty at relationships. Holly, without thinking, said she had been as well, but then she'd figured out she was a lesbian. Without turning a hair, Gail said she just hated most people.
No, Holly just needed to shelve her little crush in the back.
"I feel like we should go get drunk," said Holly with a deep sigh.
"God, yes," replied Gail. "After you actually go on a date. One of us should have a successful and functional relationship."
Holly arched her eyebrows. "Chris is…"
"Chris. I feel like I'm on borrowed time. It's going too well." Gail plucked at her muffin.
"Gail, not every relationship blows up in your face."
Her friend looked at her dryly. "Did I ever tell you about Nick?"
"Ah. Nicholas Collins. The bad boy with no parents and a motorcycle. He pissed my mom off to no end." She smiled a little. "We were engaged."
Holly blinked. "Wow. What happened?"
"We were in Vegas." Gail paused and played with her napkin. "He went to get some fresh air and never came back."
Suddenly, Holly wanted to punch Nick in the face. She just wanted to scream at him that treating anyone like that, least of all someone as cool as Gail, was inexcusable "Wow… Wow— Just … Holy crap, what an asshole."
"Steve ran a check on him, after picking me up from the airport… And he bought the ticket… Anyway, turned out the idiot joined the army. He's in Afghanistan right now." Gail sighed. "You know, stupid me, I kinda thought he was the one. Right? Stupid. But I thought I could be me with him, and then he just fucked off."
Holly frowned. "Be you? You're not you?"
Gail shook her head. "No. Not… No."
Well that was weird. "You lost me, Gail."
"I'm bitchy Gail with them. The angry one. They like her. I don't get to be me with them. Sends 'em running every time. Like I can't be more than one thing." She sighed and dropped her napkin. "I want to be more things. I am more things."
Biting the inside of her cheek, Holly nodded. She could see all the things that made up Gail. She was falling for them. Hard. The bitchy, the mean, the gentle, the sarcastic. Gail was all the things she'd been looking for in a woman, and she was straight.
Holly sighed. How dumb was she? Falling for her straight friend.
"Fine. Let's set me up so I can complain about stupid girlfriends."
"That's the spirit," laughed Gail.
The best thing about Holly was that, when Gail showed up in uniform and asked if she could crash on the couch, the doctor waved her to the guest room, found her some sweats, and broke out the ice cream.
"It's my mom," Gail said finally. Not that Holly had asked. Yet another reason Holly was the greatest person ever.
"The super? What'd she want now?"
"Mommy daughter time at work." Gail hunched her shoulders. "She wanted women to see two generations at work."
Holly sipped her tea and looked thoughtful. "Okay. What's bad about that?"
Gail hugged her knees and pressed her face into them, feeling the uncomfortable tightening in her gut. The stress of her mother, plus the idea of public speaking, plus the stress of Peck, was leaking out. She shook her head. "It ... " Gail's breath hitched. Damn it. This was why she bailed after Chris bought her time. She couldn't even talk about it.
He would have just run off if he knew what a mess she was. Everyone always did. Gail Peck, the latest heir to the dynasty, couldn't speak in public, couldn't just stand up and be a marionette for her family. It hurt. It actually physically hurt her to talk about it, because after explaining her mother wanted her to do a thing, Gail would have to explain more than just the self-sufficient laws that governed the Pecks.
And yet Holly stayed. "Gail. You're having a panic attack, honey..." A hand rested on her shoulder. "Gail, listen to me okay? Take a breath. Can you breathe with me?"
Listening to Holly's calm voice was helpful. She had something to focus on instead of the crawling terror. Holly went on, her words mellow and smooth. Soothing. She repeated simple phrases, encouraging Gail to breathe and relax.
"There you go," said Holly at length. "Better, right? Take a deep breath. Slow. And easy. Okay." Holly rubbed Gail's shoulder. "Wow, your crazy parents did a number on you."
Gail shook her head. "It's stupid," she whispered.
"No, it's not. If it freaks you out, it's not stupid, honey."
Sighing, Gail closed her eyes. "She just wanted me to do interviews."
The hand on her shoulder paused. "You're afraid of public speaking?"
At first Gail nodded, but then she shook her head and nodded. "Failure."
"Honey, everyone fails," Holly pointed out.
She grimaced and looked at Holly sadly. "Holly, my parents are already disappointed in me enough."
"I will never understand them," grumbled Holly. "You're smart, top of your class, a good cop. So you're not just like them. Isn't diversity good?"
Gail found herself smiling as Holly launched into a diatribe about genetic diversity. There was something about it, the babbling and medical ranting, that just soothed her jangled nerves. "I'm not the right kind of Peck," she said quietly.
And Holly, wonderful Holly, snorted. "Idiots. Them, not you."
The arm around her squeezed once and let go. "Don't you have to give a speech at the academy?"
Gail nodded. "I was 'sick.' Of course." She made the air quotes and Holly rolled her eyes. "I don't like being up in front of people. Stared at." Gail slouched into the couch.
"And the superintendent wants you to be the next superintendent?"
Morose, Gail nodded again. "Steve made detective fast, the first in his class. So I'm supposed to, but I don't want to be a detective."
"What do you want to be?"
As Gail opened her mouth to answer, she felt an unfamiliar tightness in her chest. It wasn't panic. It wasn't fear. But it hurt. It was agony. It ached. Something inside her burned her raw and Gail felt hot tears carving their paths down her cheeks. She gasped for air, struggling out of a sea of the unknown.
Holly looked terrified for a moment. "Gail? Hey, hey, I'm right here." The hand was back on her shoulder, gently rubbing. "Okay? Just breathe for me. In and out."
Shaking her head, Gail wiped her face with her shirt sleeve. "I'm not... I'm not having a panic attack," she said thickly.
"Oh." Holly sounded confused.
"I think. I think you're the first person who's ever asked me that."
It took a moment for the words to sink in for Holly. Gail watched her friend's face contort into abject horror at the idea that no one in Gail's life had asked her that. "What? Ever?"
Gail nodded. "Not even school." She exhaled. That was the feeling. Empathy. Someone cared about her, how she felt. "I'm a Peck. We're cops."
Shaking her head, Holly surged to her feet. "Okay, now I'm pissed. Jesus, you're a person, Gail! You're allowed to have your own fucking dreams!" She'd never heard Holly swear like that before, and Gail snickered a laugh. "It's not funny, Gail! I'm serious! What mental rejects are they!? And your brother just goes along with it? What the hell is wrong with them?!"
"You don't even know," said Gail, trying not to laugh. It wasn't funny. It wasn't funny at all. And yet it was absolutely hilarious. "Holly, you barely know me. Why do you care so much?"
Her friend paused in her pacing. "Because you're my friend." Holly looked confounded again.
Clearly to Holly this was the most simple, obvious, thing in the world. Gail was her friend. Friends helped friends.
If only she'd met Holly years ago.
As she looked at Holly, Gail felt a warmth she wasn't very familiar with. Affection? She did like Holly a lot. A lot more than anyone else, frankly. And she could talk to Holly about anything. But was she just using her?
Gail sighed. "I suck as a friend, Holly."
The brunette smiled. "No you don't. You, Gail, are incredibly loyal. What more could a friend want?"
"Uh. Sympathy? Comfort? Help moving?"
"I don't help people move," Gail said seriously.
"I'll keep that in mind," Holly said dryly, but smiling. "But. You should."
"Help people move? No thank you."
Holly smacked her shoulder and sat down again. "Think about what you want to be."
Gail grimaced and leaned back. "I have no idea."
"Do you like being a cop?"
She shrugged. "I never thought about being anything else—" Gail cut herself off. "Oh."
Holly poked her with her foot. "Oh? What does oh mean, Gail?"
With a sigh, Gail shook her head. "It doesn't matter. It was just something stupid, y'know? I wanted to be an astronaut."
"So did I," said Holly. "All the cool science experiments you could do in space! Did you know we only sent one scientist to the moon?! How crazy is that, right?"
Gail smiled. "I wanted to go to Mars. Be away from my parents."
Holly's excitement faded. "Oh."
"Yeah." Gail shrugged. It wasn't like she didn't know her family's unrealistic expectations were hard. Maybe if she'd been born first it would have been easier. The pressure to succeed was constantly being battered by the recognition that her brother had gotten there first.
It didn't matter how well Gail ever did, she'd never be good enough for them.
"I think. I think we need another drink," said Holly firmly. "And then I'm gonna kick your ass at Death Domain."
Gail smiled. "Never gonna happen, nerd."
For now, she could have a friend though. And maybe that would be enough.
The number of times Gail had shown up at her townhouse looking emotionally defeated was surprisingly high. Holly wasn't quite sure why life felt like it needed to shit all over her friend, but Gail's luck with most things, especially people, was terrible. This last time, the latest time, Gail had arrived around dinner time in the rain. The thin hoodie sweatshirt under her leather jacket was soaked through and Gail's expression was one of a puppy kicked too many times.
Chris had kicked her out.
Chris had dumped her and kicked her out because Gail had chosen not tell him that Dov, high on painkillers, had professed his love for her.
And since Gail had been, basically, living with Chris, her options were to go home to her parents or to seek the shoulder of, as Gail put it, her only real friend.
Of course Holly was willing to have Gail stay with her as long as needed. Her increasingly inappropriate crush on Gail not withstanding, Gail was her friend. And Gail needed a friend. Not a wanna be girlfriend.
Also Gail was straight.
Which had nothing to do with why Gail was on the phone just then. "No, it doesn't look like they stole anything else." Else? Holly hadn't heard Gail mention anything was stolen at all. The cop studied the window and then the room. "Just my uniform."
Holly blinked. They stole Gail's uniform? "Are you sure?" She covered her mouth as soon as she spoke. Gail wasn't talking to her.
Gail nodded. "Yes, I'm sure." She pointed at the phone, reminding Holly she was on it. "They broke the window in the guest room and my spare uniform was on the bed... Jesus, Homicide, why the hell do you care? ... Uh huh. Yeah, we'll wait for forensics." Gail hung up the phone and swore.
"This is ... Is is very peculiar." Holly rubbed her own upper arms. "I'm sorry."
"Not your fault." Gail backed out of the room and rubbed her face. "Forty-eight fucking Pecks in the city. Four. Eight. Twenty-six of us in uniform. Nine women. And this fucking idiot steals my uniform and shoots someone."
"I'm sorry," repeated Holly.
She did feel sorry. Gail had been so stressed and so withdrawn that Holly had all but dragged her on a run that morning. As they'd been on their way back to Holly's, someone Gail only referred to as 'Homicide' called. Gail was a suspect in a murder. When they'd gotten home, literally seconds later, the break in was discovered.
Gail shook her head and sat down on the floor. "Someone short and blonde in a uniform that says 'Peck' shot and killed a man at six forty. Thank god it wasn't my gun."
"Well... It wasn't you. I'm your alibi, right?"
"I'm not a suspect. The perp bled, cut their arm. Quick whatever it was... Wrong blood type for a Peck."
"That. Yes." Gail sighed. "Homicide and forensics will be here. Along with my idiot classmates."
Immediately Holly knew exactly what was going to happen. She grimaced. "I'm somewhat glad they didn't unlock your bedroom door."
Gail eyed her. "I'm glad they didn't get my gun or badge. Jesus, my mother's already going to skin me alive." She paused. "Why didn't the alarm go off?"
That was a good question, and sadly one Holly knew the answer to right away. "I ... I may have forgotten to turn it on."
For the first time ever, Holly was the recipient of a particular look from Gail. Disappointment with a shade of 'how could you be so stupid' mixed in. "Well. Fuck. Holly, you can't do that." The blonde sounded more weary than anything else. "You're a single woman, living alone, on the last townhouse on the row. You're ... You're a target! You have weird hours, too, so someone is totally going to hit your house." Now Gail's voice rose. "Jesus, what if it had been a murderer?"
When her friends harassed her about those things, Holly blew them off. She made light of them. But this... This was asked by a cop. Someone who knew better. Oh it still rankled, but Holly knew Gail was right.
"Technically I'm not living alone," muttered Holly, defensively.
"You will be soon." Gail closed her eyes and thudded her head against the wall. "As soon as the great and mighty Mama Peck hears about this, my ass is going to under house arrest for ... Oh. Ever. Gail Peck. Permanent disappointment."
Holly was stunned. "You're an adult! You're... You're twenty-four! She can't just arbitrarily decide you're moving home."
"Calculatedly." Gail's voice went flat. "She knows I'm staying here, Holly. She's letting me stay here because I'm having a little rebellion. But if I stay, if I tried to stay, she'd use it to target you. Suddenly, you'd find yourself on the night shift, forever. Or never promoted. And yeah, it would be my fault."
The trouble was, Holly realized, Gail was probably right. She sat down beside Gail. "Please don't bash your head against my wall."
"Why? Maybe I can just numb myself so I don't have to feel anything anymore."
Silently, Holly took Gail's near hand, threading their fingers together. It was greedy, stealing a moment like this to keep herself near Gail. Masochistic too, certainly. But she cared about Gail in a way that defied logic. The woman who talked about dead humans with respect. The woman haunted by the pressure of her name. Gail drew her in. Holly liked the bitchy princess who had a dark sense of humor and snapped at people.
"Because then we couldn't hang out."
Gail's fingers twitched. "I'm not sure we should be." She sounded sad. No. Defeated.
"No, I'm serious. I hate it, because you're the only person on the planet who gives a shit about me, but..." Gail shook her head. "I don't want to fuck your career over."
As much as Holly wanted to say it wouldn't, she couldn't. The hanging threat of Elaine Peck was not a vague or hypothetical one. There was a dread fact they both knew, that Elaine could and would do whatever she could to get what she wanted. Gail had warned her and, shortly after Gail all but moved in to the guest room, Elaine had shown up at Holly's office and told her not to get too attached. That Gail would move on, sooner or later. And that it would be for Holly's best interests.
Holly was pretty sure Elaine knew about her crush, too.
Before she could say anything, Gail spoke again. "When the cops get here, let me talk."
"Because you're a cop?"
"Because... I want to protect you from my Mom."
Holly stared at Gail. Protect. How could Gail call herself a bad friend? Here she was, offering to take a proverbial bullet for her. "Gail, don't."
"Please. Let me, Holly." Gail turned and looked incredibly earnest. "Please."
It was the please that did it. It was the soft, gentle way Gail asked to stand in the line of fire for her. And it broke Holly's heart. She found herself nodding and, when the mysterious man named 'Homicide' turned out to be Luke Callaghan, Holly found herself letting Gail tell the story. Then went for a run, Luke called, they came back, the condo was broken into.
"Why was the alarm off?" Luke glanced at Holly, curiously.
"I was being a brat about running," said Gail. "I distracted her."
Luke looked at Gail for a long moment. "You want to do it like that?" When Gail nodded, they both glanced at Holly. "Yeah, okay. You're right." He sighed. "Okay. Get dressed. Let's go find the idiot."
Once Gail vanished into her guest room, Holly cleared her throat. "Exactly how much trouble is Gail in?"
"From the force? None. Your place got broken into, it happens. From her mother... I shudder to think." Luke tucked his notebook away. "Don't forget the alarm again. You're living alone, Dr. Stewart."
Holly nodded. "What about the girl who took her uniform? How much trouble will she be in?"
"A lot. Depending on why she did it, though." The man studied her for a long moment. "Thank you. For putting Gail up for a while. She's not the easiest person to get along with."
"Everyone says that," sighed Holly. "I like her. She's ... She's a good person."
His lips quirked into a smile. "She can be."
The door opened and Gail walked out carrying her two duffle bags. "Okay, Homicide, let's roll."
Holly's heart dropped. She didn't have to look at the room to know Gail had packed up everything. She was leaving. "So. I'll ... See you tomorrow?"
"I'll call you later," said Gail. She sounded like the outside world Gail, the one who was mistreated and angry. Resigned to being hated. Gail glanced at Luke who held his hands up.
"I'll wait in my car," said Luke, and he walked out.
Kicking the floor, Holly looked at Gail's feet. "I don't ... I want ... Damnit Gail."
"Hey. Not your fault, Holly." Weary. Gail was weary. "This shit happened and it is what it is and ... Thank you."
Holly nodded. "You're my friend, Gail."
"Still. No one... You're the only ... Just ... Fuckit, Holly, say 'you're welcome' or something. Okay?"
They both smiled. "One condition. I will say 'you're welcome' if you promise we're still going to hang out. Because I like you."
Gail froze. She slowly, slowly, nodded. "Okay. But not if Mom threatens you."
"Fine. Fine." Holly rolled her eyes. "You're welcome. You can stay here any time." And she hugged Gail briefly. "Go catch your thief. And if there was a good reason, go easy on her."
Gail hesitated and then nodded. "Okay." She hitched her bag on her shoulder and went for the front door.
"Gail?" Holly waited until Gail turned to look at her. "I am sorry."
For a moment, Gail looked forlorn. Pained. Then she nodded. "Thanks." And Gail walked out the door, leaving Holly feeling empty.
Chris elbowed her at the bar. "You gotta stop leading her on."
Eyeing her ex-boyfriend, Gail scowled. "Leading who on what?"
"Holly. She's crushing on you."
Gail glanced back at the table where Holly was laughing at something Traci was saying. "No she's not."
"She thinks you're attractive."
Gail smacked Chris in the forehead. "First of all, I am hot. Everyone looks at me like that, Chris. I'm fucking catnip to lesbians." Turning back to the bar, she picked up half the glasses. "Second, just because Holly's a lesbian doesn't mean she's into every woman. And third, she's my friend, you moron."
"I was your friend before we dated."
With a sigh, Gail shook her head. "No, Chris. You were not." She walked back to the table and handed out the drinks.
"What's up with Chris?" Dov frowned as he took a beer.
"He's upset because I told him we weren't friends before we dated. Oh, and Holly, he thinks you have a thing for me."
Holly coughed as she drank. "I what?"
"I know, right? Apparently pea brain here can't imagine a lesbian having a chick friend without wanting to jump her!" Gail sighed and sat down. "Which is why I argue we were not friends before we had sex, Chris."
"Uh, you said dating," said Chris, confused.
Gail rolled her eyes. "Our first date we had sex in your truck, moron. Same thing."
"Nice, real nice," said Dov, sarcastically. "I'm never using that truck again."
"You took apart my game to make a pretend bomb with Sue," countered Gail.
"You left it at my apartment!"
"It wasn't yours!"
The argument about that with Dov was comfortable. After the Chris fiasco, Dov had slowly sided with Gail. Chris had rankled, but then seemed to move on as if he and Gail had never dated. A fact Gail was happy to correct for him, regularly. Because they had dated, and Chris was still a fucking asshole about it.
Really, Chris had just reinforced her suspicion that no one was really ever going to pick her first. She could cry that nothing had happened with Dov until she was blue in the face, but Chris chose to side with Dov. He sacrificed Gail for a friend.
Holly had said it well, telling Gail that Chris could have had both, he could have believed that Gail was trying to protect them both. Whatever convoluted story Chris told himself to explain why Gail left out the details, he could suck it. The best Gail could guess was he thought she had feelings for Dov.
Sure. A friendship.
At least Dov was apologetic about it, and defended Gail to Chris, but it was a lost cause. He was a lost cause. First assholes like Nick. Then idiots like Chris. It was why, as she'd told Holly, she wasn't going to date anyone for as long as possible. Sex, fine, but no relationships. People sucked.
"Whatever," said Dov at length, laughing. "Am I the only person with a successful relationship?"
Chris flinched. Gail rolled her eyes. "You're terrified Sue might break you, so you do what she wants."
Beside her, Holly snorted a laugh. "I've met Sue. I can see that."
"She's okay," said Gail with a shrug. "I'm done with relationships. They all suck, and people suck, and I hate them."
"And yet you're here," said Dov.
Gail pointed at Holly. "She's my friend. You two I tolerate because you're easy to beat at video games."
Dov looked hurt. "I'm not your friend?"
Holly poked her. "You're allowed to have multiple friends."
Shaking her head, Gail sipped her drink. "Not the point. You, Holly, are the only person who even listened to my side about anything and helped me. They both picked themselves first. Which you know, I get it. Whatever makes me happy, I'm for. But that doesn't make 'em good friends."
"I'll settle for being a convenient friend," said Dov with a shrug. "It's about the best you can get out of Gail. And she's, y'know, loyal."
Gail smiled, feeling justified.
But the back of her brain clung to Chris' statement. She never intended to lead anyone on, ever, but it wasn't her fault that people always hit on her. Holly was different from all her other friends as well. Holly had her back and let her rant without judging her and was… Well she was the friend people talked about in movies. And Gail adored her for it.
Sure, she was a little more touchy-feely than normal with Holly, but Gail felt comfortable around her. She could be herself, and not worry about being the Peck or the Legacy or the next White Shirt (which frankly she didn't even want). But was she accidentally leading Holly on?
As she and Holly walked to Holly's car at the end of the night, Holly prattling on adorably about the paper she was working on, analyzing an autopsy.
"Huh?" Holly stopped talking.
"Chris thinks I'm leading you on."
Holly stared at her. "Leading me on... Like romantically?"
"Yeah. He thinks, and I admit he has a point here, that I'm catnip to lesbians. And obviously I'm leading you on."
"Wow." Holly laughed. "Wow, Chris has quite the imagination."
Gail grinned. "I know, right?" She elbowed Holly.
"And you are quite the egotist."
"Hey! I'm hot! That's not my fault!"
"Oh please. I see how you dress. All femme fatal, ice princess. You're stunning, you know it, and you use it."
Smirking, Gail shrugged. "Looking this way is not my fault. Using it to my advantage, I'll give you."
Holly laughed again and unlocked her car door. But there was something about the laugh that made Gail wonder. Maybe. Just maybe. Maybe Chris had a point.
Gail hated hospitals. Holly knew it. That was why Holly hadn't called Gail for a ride home. Earlier that year, when Gail was still dating Chris, she'd been exposed to a crazy virus and had been terrified of dying. After she'd been cleared, Gail had shown up for their regular drinks and explained to Holly how much she detested hospitals.
Even so, it was the hurried footsteps of a girl she knew way too well that pulled Holly out of her mental recitation of the veins in the body. It was her way of not passing out while the nurse removed the IV.
"Officer Peck," said a familiar voice. "I'm ... I'm her friend. Is she okay?"
"Ma'am, yes, Miss Stewart is fine—"
"Doctor. She's Dr. Stewart. They said she was shot?"
"Gail, I'm okay," said Holly, raising her voice. The nurse checking her vitals gave her an eye. "Sorry. She's noisy."
The blonde head popped into her room. "Holly! What the hell? Who cleared the scene?"
"Salvador. Gail, I was shot at. I'm fine."
"Uh huh. You're a porcupine." Gail gestured at the nurse.
The nurse rolled her eyes. "She's fine. Possible concussion, which is why she needs a ride home. I presume that's you?"
Gail nodded quickly. "Got your car downstairs. I'm gonna punch Sal and then we're good."
"Gail." Holly sighed, exasperated. "Please, I just want to go home."
Nodding again, Gail turned to the nurse. "Brief me. What do I have to know?"
Holly sighed and closed her eyes, leaning back as Gail got the run down on every possible aspect of a concussion. Then Gail signed Holly out, wheeled her to the car, and took her home. It was a relief not to have to think about it anymore.
Along the ride, Holly babbled for a little while until she slid into a quieter frame of mind and then, finally, dozed a little. She was woken up by Gail's gentle shake to her shoulder and request that Holly wake up and come inside.
"My head hurts," she muttered, letting Gail unbuckle her.
"You bashed it into the ground."
"Stupid robber." The gunshot had started Holly, sending her toppling, whacking her head on the cement. Salvador had caught the bad guy and called it in, but Holly had four stitches on the back of her head and a merry cocktail of drugs.
"Come on, nerd. You need to clean up."
"Can't even shower," complained Holly, but she leaned up Gail and followed her into the townhouse.
She was too tired to express surprise as Gail helped her clean up, washed her hair, even gave her a bit of a sponge bath, and tucked her into bed with an icepack. "Alright, don't fall asleep, I'm just gonna change."
Holly held a hand up, thumbs up, and tried to stay very still. The pounding in her head had not fully subsided, but being clean certainly made her feel a little better. When Gail came back in, she spoke up. "Why are you here?"
"Because you need a babysitter, your sister is out of town on that conference, and your parents live in Quebec." Gail put a tray down on the bed. "Okay, wanna try eating something?"
"You're being nice. Gail, you're never nice."
"I'm nice to you." Gail picked the icepack up. "Come on, sit up."
Holly groaned but sat up. A pillow was wedged behind her and Holly took in the tray. Tea. Toast. Applesauce. "I don't have the flu."
"No, but head injuries tend to make you nauseous."
"Well. Me." Gail picked up a slice of the toast and bit into it. "If you can eat this, we can do grown up food."
With a sigh, Holly took a bite. Gail was right about two things. Her stomach was a little unsettled, but also the toast helped. "How many head injuries have you had?"
"Looking for an explanation to my behavior?" Gail smirked. "Four. My brother hit me with a nightstick once, we were supposed to be practicing. I fell out of a tree at the cottage when I was ten, got stitches for that. Once was at the academy, how I met Nash actually. She's got a mean right hook. And the last one was a perp."
Holly was amused. "Nash? Really?"
"She's a boxer." Gail mimed a punch. "That's why she was our ringer on Fite Nite."
Gail looked surprised. "Inter division boxing. Lots of booze. It's pretty fun."
"I'm kind of shocked you like it."
The laughter was bright. The kind that made Holly feel warm inside. "I love boxing. Fighting. MMA stuff. All that cool stuff. Not wrestling though, totally fake."
Holly grinned. "You like watching boxing. Wow. And here I thought you'd get all weird if you knew I was a black belt."
To her delight, Gail looked elated. "What? Really! What kind?"
"Brazilian Jujitsu. A lot of ground work, but it's fun." Holly's thought train skidded to a halt as Gail leaned into her. There was something warm about the woman along side her.
"You okay? Your face is flushed."
"Headache," sighed Holly. Which was true. Her head was killing her.
"Finish the food. I'll give you yummy narcotics for desert."
Holly sighed. "They're not narcotics. You're going to wake me up all night, too, aren't you?"
As much as she wanted to stay there, with Gail, Holly had to confess. "I'm tired."
But without giving Holly any guff about being sleepy, Gail cleaned up the dishes and brought a book back, as well as a bottle of water. "Okay. You're going to put on your little eye mask and sleep. I'll be right here."
At first Holly wondered how she could possibly sleep with the beautiful woman in her bed, but she was pretty sure she was out like a light. The memories of the night were a blur. She recalled answering that there were 206 bones in the human body, that neon was a noble gas, and the shoulder was also the glenohumeral joint.
Gail. Those things all had to be Gail.
So did the smell of coffee.
"Oh my god, I love you," said Holly, sliding her glasses on and looking up at the blonde, in her uniform, holding a breakfast tray.
"That's an improvement from telling me to fuck off." Gail smirked and put the tray down.
Coffee. Toast again, with jam and butter. Eggs. "You hate eggs."
"You like them. All I know how to make are scrambled."
It was precious. Gail looked worried. "I'm sure it's fine." Holly took a bite and was delighted that it was more than edible. "Why're you dressed for work?"
Gail looked down at her own shirt. "Because I have to go in today. Lisa's coming over, though."
Ugh. "Must she?"
"Yes. Rachel has some trial thing that I didn't care about and Lisa just has to juggle boobs." Gail smirked. "The doctor said you needed supervision."
"He exaggerates. I don't have a concussion."
"Uh huh. Suddenly I see why people say doctors make the worst patients." Gail picked up the second coffee and went back downstairs.
Holly sighed and looked for her phone, to tell Lisa not to come. No phone. Damn it. "Gail! Where's my phone?"
"In your office. Eat breakfast."
She contemplated getting out of bed, but Holly realized Gail had her best interests. And Lisa would likely just want to Netflix and nap. If only that would quell the giddiness she'd felt of having Gail take care of her that night.
"Have you ever touched one?"
Holly looked confused. "One what?"
Her friend made a face. "No. Not outside of work, and no, Gail."
Gail laughed. "I wasn't going there, but since you did—" A pillow hit her in the face. "Ow!"
"You are such a crybaby for a cop. And you know what, I should ask you if you've ever touched someone else's vagina."
With a shrug, Gail hugged the pillow. "Nope. Kissed. Fondled a girl's boob. Didn't get any further than that"
Holly stared at her. "Wait a second. What?"
"I kissed a girl? Was that weird?"
Gail snorted. "Don't be a prude, Holly."
"I'm just .. You've kissed a girl?"
"More than one." Gail leaned back. "College. Post Nick." And there they were, back at the elephant in the room.
Holly pushed a beer closer towards Gail. "You don't have to talk about it."
She didn't feel like another beer. Two days ago, she'd drunk Nick under the table. "He said that it was good to see I was still in there." Gail sunk into Holly's couch.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Holly looked curious and like she found the statement distasteful.
"He thinks the old me was more fun."
"Well he almost married the old you."
Gail smirked. "Thanks for reminding me."
"Hey, you're the one who called him 'the one' y'know." Holly even made the air quotes. "So… what, he knew you five years ago?"
"Yeah." Gail closed her eyes. "I don't share popcorn. I sleep with my socks on when it's cold. I listen to Kelly Clarkson."
She waited for some sort of derisive comment, but Holly just looked thoughtful. "What songs? I'm more of a Taylor Swift girl, but some of Kelly's stuff is good."
Gail blinked. "It was … It was one song."
"Oh! Is it Breakaway? I love that song!"
She gaped. "Seriously?"
"Oh come on, it's great. Did you know Avril Lavigne wrote it?"
"I … Did not know that." Gail smiled, feeling weirdly warm and safe all of the sudden. Jesus, why couldn't Nick be like this? Holly was practically perfect. She was smart, funny, didn't take Gail's shit or try to change her. All the stupid things that had gone on in the last year would not have been survivable without Holly. From the breakup to the break in (which technically was Holly's fault anyway), having her as a friend who cared had been amazing.
She was just the coolest person and Gail couldn't imagine her life without Holly anymore. She was absolutely perfect, from the smile to the laugh to the sense of humor.
The feeling clicked. Not something she'd really felt before, but something she'd heard people talk about. It was the feeling people like McNally described as falling in love. Butterflies in her stomach, heart racing, and a stupid, stupid, desire to see Holly smile as much as possible.
Holly sung the chorus. "I'll spread my wings, and I'll learn how to fly. I'll do what it takes till I touch the sky… Yeah, it's just a good song."
Nope, no denying that one. Holly singing made Gail blush to her roots. Quickly picking up the beer and taking a swig, Gail tried to ignore the fluttering feeling in her stomach when Holly smiled. "That's the one," said Gail, nearly mumbling.
Shit. There was a trope about falling in love with a best friend, two tropes actually. There was the one where a woman figured out she was a lesbian because she'd fallen for her BFF and the other where the lesbian fell for her straight BFF. Gail wouldn't ever say love, not now or here, but she was totally felling something for Holly. And it could be at a worse time in her life, but frankly Gail wasn't quite sure how. Having feelings for her best friend, right when stupid Nick had showed back up into her life, was ...
Well screw Nick, first of all.
"What are you going to do? About Nick?" Holly looked thoughtful.
"What?" Gail felt her face heat up.
"You still kinda like him," said Holly, gesturing at the flush.
Oh Jesus. "Kinda don't, no," snarled Gail. "Unless by feeling you mean I want to introduce his face to the feeling of my fist."
Holly rolled her eyes. "Violence is not the answer to everything." She paused. "Or anything."
"Nick... It's just going to be Chris all over again," said Gail, bitterly. "He wants the idea of me, but he doesn't want the real me. He liked angry, rebelling Gail. Chris liked ice princess Gail."
Her friend nodded, sympathetically. "I don't know angry rebel Gail. What's she like?"
Gail hesitated and then pulled her phone out. As much as she denied the existence of the video, she had a copy of herself arguing her way out of a parking ticket while her mouth was full of Novocain. And she showed it to Holly.
The brunette watched the video and laughed. "Oh my god... You are so sensitive to drugs!"
What? Gail blinked. "I'm what?"
"You're high as a kite!" Holly grinned and paused the video. "Look at your eyes. I bet you get stoned out of your mind on opiates."
For a moment, all Gail could do was stare at Holly. Because she was right. "Yeah... How the hell did you know that?"
"Doctor," said Holly, and she waved a hand. "I'm sorry, but this is funny as hell. The hair is funnier."
The hair was jet black and short. "Thanks," snarled Gail and she grabbed her phone back.
Holly laughed again. "The color. Black is ... Too harsh. Dark brown maybe. With your skin, wow. But the cut was sexy as hell."
Gail felt flustered. "I cut it off after Vegas."
"Ah, which explains why you're still growing it out?" Holly canted her head to one side. "What's your real color?"
"Red-blonde. Not strawberry, just... Golden?" She flipped through photos until she found one and showed it.
"Huh. That's ..." Holly squinted. "Less dramatic. I think I like this better. Femme fatale." She handed the phone back. "We talk, right?"
"We do," said Gail, cautiously.
"Okay. I'm gonna ask. Why didn't you get any further with girls?"
Gail's stomach dropped as she realized how bad this was. There was no way Holly could know, though. "It's stupid."
"Oh come on. I told you I didn't like kissing men because their lips were hard!"
The thing was, she didn't want to lie to Holly. Gail sighed. "My mother. She's not very accepting of 'alternative lifestyles,' especially sexually." For starters, Elaine would kill Gail if she went out with a woman. Or disown her. Kick her out, certainly. And damn it, in college it had been easy to brush off the idea of kissing a girl as a passing fancy.
But looking at Holly and her sad face at the idea of Gail's mother being a homophobe, Gail felt pain. Actual, physical, pain. Because she was struck by the fact that she wanted to make Holly feel better, to hug her and maybe even kiss her, and Jesus had Holly always been that hot?
Chapter 2: THEN
Chapter two picks up shortly after one. We're still in season three now. The night before Traci starts as a detective.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Holly giggled at the antics of Andy and Gail, seeming to torment some young men. "How drunk are they?"
"Not as drunk as you'd think." Traci shook her head. "Gail will sing karaoke if she's drunk enough."
"And you're not super drunk."
"Tomorrow's my first day as a D." Traci sipped her red wine. "I don't want to be super drunk."
Holly nodded. The whole idea of the party, the drinking at least, was to celebrate Traci being a detective. "I did say congratulations, right?"
Beaming, Traci nodded. "Thank you. And thanks for coming. I don't have a lot of girlfriends who get this."
"Gail invited me. I think she was under the impression you and Andy were bringing your boyfriends and she wanted a plus-one."
Traci laughed. "Andy actually talked me out of it."
"Girls nights out." Holly nodded. "Much more fun."
"Especially for you, huh? Maybe we should hit up a gay bar."
It was no secret at Fifteen that Holly was a lesbian. Especially not to Traci, who had caught Gail saving Holly from a terrible date at the Penny. The girl had been too handsy, refusing to back off when Holly said no, so Gail swooped in to rescue her.
"No. Thanks though. I'm on a break from hookups."
"And you are somehow Gail's BFF?"
"Someone has to be." Holly smiled. "Besides, she's been avoiding hookups for a while."
"It's your good influence," said Traci. They both looked over and saw Gail poking a man in the chest. "Uh oh. Andy, what did you do?"
"How do you know it's Andy?" Holly was genuinely surprised.
"Because you're right. Gail's benched herself from dating for a while. Said men sucked. I kinda doubt she's looking for a drunken hook up."
"Well." Holly eyed the bottle in Gail's hand. "I should repay the rescue before she brains someone."
"Oh please do. The force frowns on pub violence."
Holly laughed and walked over to Gail. "Hey, honey. There you are." She looped an arm through Gail's, resting her hand on the bottle.
Gail tensed briefly but then relaxed against her, which let Holly take the bottle. "Like I said, chuckles. Not interested. My real friend is here." That last was shot at McNally, who winced. "Come on, babe, let's go somewhere quieter.
It was much quieter in the coat closet that Gail found freakishly fast. They collapsed onto a soft couch in the back and laughed. Because what else could they do?
"This is a fancy club," said Holly, collecting herself and opening the bottle.
Gail, far more drunk, laughed. "It's a hotel. You didn't notice?"
Holly looked around. "Is it?" She sipped from the bottle. "Who did you steal this from?"
"Won it off the idiots playing darts. Pass it over. I need to get drunk."
"Tell me something I don't know."
"What?" Gail laughed and reached for the bottle, but Holly managed to keep it away. "I'm not playing twenty questions!"
The back of Holly's brain informed her that she herself might be drunk. The front of her brain just spoke. "I already know your secrets, Abigail Peck."
Gail growled. "It's Gail and you know it."
"Yes, yes it is." Holly sipped the bottle and then gave in and refilled Gail's glass. "Not afraid of my lesbian cooties?"
Snorting, Gail sipped her champagne demurely. "I've kissed girls before, you know that."
Yes. Yes she did. Holly also knew that Gail had legally changed her name from Abigail to Gail at eighteen, that she was afraid of getting a tattoo because of how much she'd hated getting her ears pierced, that she hated exercising, and that she had unerring aim. Holly knew more about Gail than she'd known about her last four girlfriends. And Holly felt Gail was, hands down, the most interesting (and beautiful) woman she'd ever met.
And she was insanely jealous of the girls who had kissed Gail Peck.
"Okay," said Gail. "I have a question."
"You started this. What's the deal with getting dressed?"
Holly burst out with a laugh. "What?"
"Getting dressed with another woman. Like for a date. How's that work?"
"I don't know... How does it work with a guy?"
"Well..." Gail looked at her glass. "If you're living together, first he gets dressed and then... You get dressed... You know what, never mind. It's a stupid, stupid question."
Taking another sip, Holly gestured at Gail. "Glad we cleared that up. Why does it matter?"
"Getting dressed is the best part of a date," Gail said absently.
That was rather telling about her relationships, thought Holly. "Really? Not undressed?"
Gail laughed a little. "That's fun too, but there's a look guys get. Sometimes they get. When you finally come out of the bedroom with your dress on, and heels, and the makeup. And all their bitching about how long it took for you to get ready just... It stops. And they stare at you."
Ah. Holly knew that one. "Believe it or not, girls bitch at other girls for taking too long getting ready."
"Hm. Which one are you? The bitcher or the bitchee?"
"Alas, neither. I've never had a successful dressy date."
"Bitchee," said Gail, wisely. "Dresses or pants? You look like the pants sort. Heels, pants, maybe a tuxedo style shirt?"
Holly blinked. "How the hell did you do that? Did you look in my closet?"
And Gail laughed. "I'm a Peck. We're supposed to be able to do that."
"Yeah? So how come Traci is the new detective and you're not?"
Gail deflated. "I didn't want to be... Don't want to be." She scowled. "Clothes."
A topic change. Right. "What about them?"
"What are the rules on borrowing them? Like is it cool to borrow a dress?"
Holly snorted a laugh. "Well I wouldn't borrow any of your things."
Indignant, Gail turned to glare. "Why not? What's wrong with my things? Not enough fleece for you, Holly? Not enough backpacks?"
It was impossible not to smile. It probably should have been possible to stop what she did next, but Holly found she couldn't. She leaned in and kissed Gail on the lips. It was not a friendly kiss. Well, no. It was friendly, but it wasn't a friendship kiss. And while it was brief, it lingered in a tingly way. And for a heartbeat, Gail's lips had curved, kissing her back. Chastely, but it was a real kiss.
Oh. Stupid, stupid, stupid! Abort! Bail!
"You are insane. You know that, right?" Holly smiled and got up, keeping the smile on her face and hoping Gail couldn't see the 'oh shit' panic in her eyes. "I'm gonna take this with me, if you don't mind." She held up the bottle. "You can win another."
Gail looked bewildered. "Sorry. What? Where are you going?"
"Home. I can't show up hungover, Peck."
Gail didn't move. "Oh."
"Thanks for inviting me, though. Plus ones forever." Holly saluted with the bottle and stepped back out into the bar.
She all but bounced off Traci. "Oh good. You have a car, right?"
Holly blinked. "I ... Do. What's up?"
"I need to get home. Can't show up hungover."
"I literally just said that to Gail," admitted Holly, hoping her fluster wasn't evident.
Traci laughed. "Where is she anyway? Making out with some guy?"
"Nooooo," said Holly, drawing the word out. "She's in the ... She's hiding with a bottle of booze. Or was." Holly lifted her prize.
The rookie detective looked at the bottle, then at Holly, and seemed confused. "I will never understand that girl. Can you give me a ride?"
"Oh. Sure." Holly glanced back at the coat closet as they left and caught sight of Gail, still sitting there, her fingers touching her own lips.
Maybe Holly hadn't screwed up their friendship...
"You are avoiding me."
Gail nearly jumped out of her skin when Nick spoke to her. "I'm not avoiding you. I'm just ignoring you." She gave him a too-sweet smile and patted his cheek. "It's your inability to pick up on subtle distinctions that broke us up."
"Yikes," said Traci as she followed Gail out of the locker room. "You and Nick?"
"He dumped me at the altar," Gail said flippantly.
"It was Vegas!"
"Took both our airline tickets!" Gail flipped Nick off and looped her arm through Traci's. "Bye, Nick!"
Her friend was giggling when they walked to the parking lot. "Oh my god, I thought you were joking!"
"Biggest mistake of my life." Gail sighed and let go.
Traci glanced back at the station. "No good in bed?"
"Oh, you know, he's fine. But that was bad-boy Nick. He had long hair, a motorcycle. No parents."
Whistling, Traci looked like she was trying to picture that. "He doesn't seem like that kind of guy anymore."
"He's not." And Gail was pretty sure it was the uniform. He was the sort of guy who latched on to an idea. Which was really why they'd never have worked out.
"Coming to the Penny?"
Gail sighed. "No. I'm going for a walk."
Traci frowned. "You sure?"
"Yeah, I'm done with people tonight."
"People or Nick?"
Damn it, why did Traci have to be so smart and insightful. "Just because you're a detective doesn't mean you know everything." Gail freed her arm and waved. "See you tomorrow, Detective Nash!"
Traci sounded concerned but wished Gail a good evening.
The thing was, Gail didn't want to go home.
She didn't want to sit around her parents' house because they'd know Nick was back in town. Hell. It was probably her mother who had assigned him to Fifteen, which was idiotic. Elaine hated Nick. No. That wasn't fair. She'd liked him once he ran off to the Army. Finally made something of himself, that's what Elaine had said.
Gail shoved her hands in her pocket and headed to the beach. The beach on a cold day was good for thinking. And Gail Peck needed to think. She needed to sort out why she'd kissed her best friend. Back. She'd kissed Holly back.
It was unexpected. The conversation and the laughter and then Holly had kissed her and Gail had kissed her back and she wanted to do it again and again. Except when her drunk brain had caught up with what had happened, Holly and Traci were gone. And Gail would be shot dead before she told McNally about that, so she settled for getting blind ass drunk.
Which led to her being hungover as fuck when stupid Nick and his idiot motorcycle showed up and flirted.
All of her nightmares were coming home to roost. All she needed was for her parents to find out she was having homosexual inclinations towards her best friend. That was fucked up on many levels. She was feeling ... Ugh. Gail swore, startling the man walking his dog.
So the issue was that she was falling for her best friend. Gail might have said her only friend, but there was Traci and she'd get mad if Gail didn't say they were friends. But Holly most certainly was her best friend, and the person Gail relied on the most. Having strong feelings for Holly was totally natural, in that sense. A person was supposed to care about their best friend. They just weren't supposed to be having sexual fantasies about them.
Damn it, Holly. She had to move their awkward feelings into a possibility with that stupid kiss.
No. Gail did it by telling her she'd kissed girls. And felt some up. Which was entirely true but it gave Holly hope. Fuck, that meant Chris was right. Holly had always liked her that way. Not that Gail blamed her, but then Holly was holding back and trying to be just a friend. Holly cared more about Gail than her own feelings.
Gail stopped as she crossed the parking lot and stood on the edge of the sand.
So what was her excuse? Why did she slide from friendship into love-type things? Because the honest truth was that she didn't just feel towards Holly like a friend, she adored her in a way that transcended the simple idea of sex... Well. The sex too. God, the idea of kissing Holly, for real, had kept her up most of the night. Those soft lips. The dream of seeing Holly's lazy smile.
Okay, so what if she was falling for Holly. What did that mean? Gail trudged across the sand and sat on a log bench. Was that terrible? Her idiot family aside, Holly was the one person in Gail's life who had constant and consistently chosen her above all else. She had Gail's back and supported her. And Gail felt like she'd give up anything for Holly.
So what did that mean? There was no one Gail had felt like this about before. Not a single person. No one meant as much to her. No one made her feel alive. No one made it into her fantasies with such regularity.
"Should have known you were here," said Nick, shocking her out of her thoughts.
"Two words. Restraining order." She looked over to see the man smirking at her.
How had she ever thought that he was cute? "Hey, you can pretend to hate me all you like. I got a dozen texts that say otherwise."
Fuck. She had texted him after Holly had left. She'd meant to text Holly but Loser and Lunchbox were too close together. "I was drunk, and I confused your phone number with someone else's."
"You know what? I like you. I'm not afraid to tell you when I'm sober."
Gail sighed. "Nick." She rubbed her face. "This is just me, man being me."
"That's code for you're gonna be all ice queen with me again tomorrow?"
Screwing up her face, Gail looked away. "Shut up."
Instead of leaving, Nick sat down and put a bottle of tequila down. "Maybe you can get drunk and tell me you like me."
"I don't." She took the booze and opened it however. "This I like. You I can do without."
He tapped the bottle. "Share."
And she took a swing of the bottle and passed it to Nick. Silently, methodically, they worked their way through the drink. Nick broke out glasses and they went shot for shot until the bottle was nearly empty.
"That's three in a row." Gail smiled at him, a little tipsy and finally feeling relaxed.
"I wasn't ready."
"Yeah. It's good to see that two tours of Afghanistan, and I can still drink you under the table."
Nick laughed. "Well, like I said. It's good to see you're still in there somewhere."
Gail rolled her eyes. "Come on. That was five years ago. I'm a different person." She hoped she was. She had to be. Holly wouldn't want to be with her if she was a jerk.
"Right." Nick poured another shot. "Still sleep with your socks on?"
"When it's cold."
You still listen to Kelly Clarkson?"
"I was 22! And it was one song."
Nick just looked pleased. "You're the same person."
But Nick leaned in and, without warning, kissed her.
Someone was knocking at her door.
Holly struggled from the abyss of sleep and stumbled to the door. She fumbled and opened it, surprised to see the blonde head of her best friend. "Gail?"
"I kissed Nick," blurted Gail, and Holly could smell the tequila coming off her in waves. Two nights in a row? Honestly. "And you need to check who's at the door before you open it."
"Jesus... What the hell?"
"Door. Peep hole."
"Gail! It's the middle of the night!"
"More reason! You already had a break in!" Gail waved her hands. "And I fucking kissed Nick!"
This was not an hour in which Holly was prepared to deal with straight girl drama. "Gail… You kissed him. It's not the end of the world."
Gail growled. "You don't get it. We were talking and I kissed him. Or he kissed me. And I realized I didn't want to kiss him. Or Chris. Or Dov or - or anyone! Except ... and ... I had to come here."
Holly blinked a few times. The conversation was taking a very odd turn. "How- how did you get here?" Gail turned to look at the poorly parked car on the sidewalk. "Did you take Nick's car?"
"Yeah," she mumbled.
"And drove drunk?"
"I'm not drunk." Now Gail was indignant.
Holly grimaced. "Gail, it's after midnight."
"I know." Gail hunched her shoulders as if preparing for a blow. "I had to... I had to come here."
"So you said…" Holly sighed and waved Gail to come inside. "Sit down. I'll make tea."
After a heartbeat pause, Gail nodded and came inside, sitting at the table with her face in her hands. "Tequila."
"Uh no, I'm not getting that out. And you smell like you've had enough."
"I mean I was drinking it."
"I can tell."
Frustrated, Gail threw her hands up. "For crap's sake. Holly, I was drunk, he kissed me, and I didn't want to kiss him, so I left!"
She stared at her friend, confused. "What?"
"I don't. Want to. Kiss Nicholas. Ever. Again. Ever again."
Holly stared at her. Lost. "Wait. Wait. Did Nick try to— to force you? Was he about to date rape you!?" Her body felt hot. Overheated. Nick would have hurt Gail? Every bone in Holly's body wanted him dead. "How the— how dare he even think— no means no! What the hell is wrong with him, kissing you when you didn't want it? Jesus, I'll bash his car in, that son of a bitch! I don't care if he almost married you once, I'll eviscerate him! I'll break his legs one at a time and—"
Gail cut her off in an unexpected way.
Without any warning, Gail reached over, taking Holly's face in both her hands and pulled her in for a kiss. What the hell? The rage and fire shifted more abruptly than Holly would have felt possible. She was lightheaded and tingling with the feeling of Gail's lips on hers. The intent...
Oh dear god. Gail hadn't wanted to kiss Nick. She wanted to kiss Holly. Nick hadn't tried to force her, he'd just been the wrong person.
Was this even real? Holly tentatively returned the kiss and Gail... Oh god, Gail was kissing her. Gail was kissing her and it was totally Gail's idea. Finally slowly, they broke apart. "I'm sorry," whispered Gail. "You just... You just had to stop talking." She didn't let go, though. It was as if she was afraid of speaking louder, or maybe that if she let go of Holly, that one of them would run for it.
"I won't say another word," replied Holly, stunned and yet giddy. Oh god. Oh holy god. Gail leaned back in and kissed her again, more gently and languidly. God that was good.
As Gail's lips played against hers, Holly forgot the thread of the conversation. This was no swift peck on the lips. This was kissing the way she'd wanted to kiss Gail for a year. More than a year. Probably closer to two. And Gail clearly wanted to kiss her. The blonde pressed herself against Holly, holding her close. Finally she paused. "I didn't want to kiss stupid Nick," Gail quietly said. "I wanted to kiss you."
"I ... I figured that out." Holly breathed and leaned against Gail. "But..." But Gail was straight. Maybe? There was that experimentation thing. Maybe Holly had read the wrong thing when Gail had said how horrible her mother was. Maybe it wasn't fear, but strength.
"I'm stupid, I know. But I've— I've been thinking about this, about you, a lot. As soon as he kissed me, I knew for sure. I knew I wanted you and not stupid Nick. And I know, I'm screwed up and kinda slutty, but I like you a hell of a lot." Gail closed her eyes and leaned so her forehead rested against Holly's. "I get it if you don't want to even consider it. I mean, I'm a mess and I've never dated a woman before, but I want to. You."
Holly blinked a few times and then leaned back to look at Gail seriously. "You want me?"
"Yeah." She looked impossibly young and scared, it about broke Holly's heart.
"Honey." Holly reached up and caressed Gail's face. "That's a lot."
Gail's face crumbled a little and then steeled itself. "Oh."
Quickly Holly backpedaled. "That's not what I meant." She tilted her head and softly kissed Gail's lips. They were so, so soft and warm. "It's just a lot all at once."
"I've been thinking about it for a long time." Gail's voice was guarded and quiet.
"Oh." Holly struggled to formulate a sentence so she just kissed Gail again. It was calming at the same time as it was butterfly inducing. She could kiss Gail for years and never feel like it was enough. And then Holly knew what her answer was. "Okay."
Gail frowned in the kiss. "What does okay mean?" The blonde leaned back.
"Okay means… Okay means I wanted to kiss you too. And I want to keep kissing you. And… I want to see if maybe we can be… something."
"Something," repeated Gail.
Reaching up, Holly gently cupped Gail's face with her hands. She brushed her thumbs over the pale skin, tracing the cheekbones. Gail's eyes stayed on Holly's lips though. With a smile, Holly ran one thumb over Gail's lips and leaned in slowly. She watched Gail's eyes close and then their lips met again.
"Not tonight, though," said Holly as they finally separated. "You're drunk."
"Not really, no." But Gail didn't sound like she was arguing. "Can I stay here? With you?" When Holly hesitated, the blonde teased her. "Or will you be incapable of keeping your hands off me?"
Holly exhaled dramatically. "Not if you don't shower." She smiled at Gail's indignant expression. "Yes. You can spend the night."
"Good." Gail tugged her a little closer. "In your bed?"
"Hmmm. Can you keep your hands off me?"
"I can. I can take it slow," said Gail, her voice barely a whisper. She kissed Holly again, tenderly and briefly. Then, abruptly, she added, "I'm not scared. I just ... I don't want to screw things up."
Of course Holly knew. She'd known about Gail's screw ups with romance. She'd heard all about it. "Then we won't," Holly replied. "We won't."
She'd known that kissing Holly felt like nothing else. From the very moment Gail had felt the soft lips on hers, she felt like life finally made sense. Even if it had taken her weeks to figure out why the brief touch of Holly's lips on hers had set her on fire after that night at the bar, she had known, deep in her heart, that she was falling for the woman in every single way possible.
Her world had been spun on it's end. Topsy turvy. Everything was new and crazy and finally made sense for once. Everything was right. Gail finally understood what people were talking about with women and kisses.
And lying on the couch with Holly, kissing her lazily as if she had all the time in the world, felt like the best thing in the universe. Gail was getting accustomed to the sounds Holly made. The way she moved when Gail touched her just the right way. When Gail touched Holly's breast, there was a way the other woman arched her back, pressing up into Gail's hand that just fit. And it exposed her neck, so Gail could kiss that long, lovely expanse of skin.
Everything felt like too much and not enough at once. Gail wanted to feel more skin, and at the same time she was sure she'd combust if she did. Her body ached with a want like she'd never felt before. Lust was one thing. Gail knew that feeling well, and she'd satisfied it more than once. Nick. Chris. Boys like that. But this was different. This was a longing.
Gail paused and braced her hands on either side of Holly's head, pushing herself up to look down at the brunette. "Holly," she said softly.
Face flushed, eyes dark, Holly looked back up at Gail, concerned. "Are you okay?"
Nodding, Gail dipped her head to kiss Holly again, softly and almost chastely on the lips. "I ... I want more."
Holly blinked, frowned, and looked clearly confused. "What?"
"More. I want ... I want you."
The frown deepened and then Holly's eyes widened. "Oh. Gail, I told you I'm okay with taking it slow."
Gail shook her head. "I know." She leaned back in and kissed Holly with an intent. Pressing a thigh between Holly's, Gail rocked forward. "I want you." She knew damn well what she was doing would drive Holly a bit crazy. It sure as hell drove her mad when Holly had done it to her. "I want to have sex with you," Gail said firmly. Clearly.
And Holly laughed. "Gail..."
The laughter was off putting. "What?" Gail scowled and pushed herself up, but Holly was stuck in the giggles. "What's so funny?"
"Uh, I didn't think I'd be having this conversation," admitted Holly, covering her mouth. "We've been having sex, Gail."
What? Gail stared at Holly and sat up. "What?"
It took a minute, but Holly sat up and wiped her face. "Honey, remember last weekend?"
How could she forget. They'd been messing around, much like a few moments before, on Holly's couch and... Gail blinked. Okay, so there had been that. And yes, there had been orgasms and it had felt great but that wasn't what she meant. "I mean real sex," she amended. "The kind where we're naked."
Holly laughed a little more. "Honey." She shook her head and rested her hands on Gail's thighs and looked ... Scared. Holly was scared. "I'm kinda nervous," admitted Holly, softly.
"Uh, news flash, Holl. You've actually done this with a girl before. I'm kinda winging it and hoping I read the right stuff."
"Read?" The fearfulness on Holly's face faded a little. "You read up on lesbian sex?"
"Yeah," replied Gail, peevish. "I mean, I know what I like and all, but ..." She'd read a lot actually, including some stuff that had made her face heat up and decidedly turned her on. And thinking about doing that with Holly, even some of it, was exciting and terrifying. "Why are you scared?"
Holly turned a new shade of red. Embarrassed and nervous. "I've never been anyone's first time with a woman, and I'm kinda ... I don't want to scare you off."
Gail blinked. "With the one thing I'm dreaming about, like, all the time? Really?"
"You dream about me and … sex?"
Rolling her eyes, Gail nodded. "Yes. Jesus, you want me to tell you I think about you at home with my vibrator?"
"Oh." Holly turned remarkably even more red and sighed loudly. "I don't want to scare you off."
"You said that already." Gail studied Holly's face. "Hey. Look at me." She reached over and gently nudged Holly's chin. "I want this with you. And I'm not scared about sex. I'm not really sure what I'm doing, and I'm worried you won't, y'know, enjoy it as much. But I want to touch you."
Holly bit her lip. "You're really confident."
"Life is 90% luck and 10% timing," said Gail, quoting the one useful thing her mother said.
"That doesn't make any sense," muttered Holly, but she stood up. Nervous. Holly was still nervous.
"Are you trying to hide a hideous scar?" Gail canted her head, looking up. "I mean, I've seen you in running clothes, which is practically naked, and I didn't see any. But even if you were burned or had a tattoo of some dude's name on your butt, I still want to see you naked, Holly."
The doctor covered her mouth, smothering a laugh. "How do you do that? Calm me down like that?"
Gail stood up and took Holly's hand away from her mouth to kiss her. "I have good timing. And ... I'm not afraid of you hurting me on purpose."
"I wouldn't. Not ever."
"See?" Gail smiled and stepped towards Holly's stairs. "Come on."
Holly sighed and nodded, still nervous. And really Gail got that. Her first times had been rather inglorious and unremarkable. The boy she lost her virginity to was no one worth remembering. A classmate of her brother's, picked because she knew he was nice enough and leaving soon for college. The series of subsequent boyfriends had been what they were. Nick, the then bad-boy, and Chris the Boy Scout, were both athletic, at least, but neither were people Gail found herself dreaming over.
And then there was Holly.
And yes, being someone's first time was a little daunting. She'd been that before, being the more experience person in someone else's first time. Remembering the stress made it easier for Gail. After all, she remembered the things that made it difficult and weird, so she'd just not do that for Holly.
Not that it really worked out that way. Oh, it worked out. It was a little messy and awkward and at one point Gail had a giggle fit over trying to figure out just how her hand was supposed to turn. But. She'd had sex before. And she'd masturbated before. So it was just going to be a little bit of practice and experience to figure out what went where and when. What did Holly like, what did she not like.
As she'd hoped, though, things with Holly were easy. If there was someone she could laugh with and joke with, then there was someone she could sleep with. Good sex needed good play, and they had that. They could talk about things. That was one of the things that was great about them.
There was a little awkwardness, being naked together for the first time, but Gail quickly confirmed she was into women. Holly was beautiful. The way she looked, the way her body moved, the way it felt against Gail was amazing. The way she made Gail feel was mind blowing.
Gail, who was not a cuddle kind of girl, found herself comfortably wrapped around Holly afterwards. The older woman was smiling lazily, in a self-satisfied sort of way, drawing lines with her fingers up and down Gail's arm. Taking a deep breath, Gail closed her eyes and relaxed into Holly's soft, firm, warm, frame.
They still hadn't put a name on what they were. Gail hadn't managed to tell her parents anything. She didn't know if they were girlfriends now, or friends who had sex, or what.
What she did know was that her life had changed in some incontrovertible way. Gail felt that in her very bones. She wasn't who she'd been.
She hoped Holly would like who she became.
Holly stared at the phone in her hands. It was the enemy. She had never hated her phone more in that moment.
"No, the battery died. She... She called me?"
"Three times. Apparently she wanted to talk to you about ... Something?" Detective Luke Callaghan was studying her thoughtfully. "You're friends?"
Holly nodded. "Yes. Yes, we're friends." More than friends. Maybe? Friends who had been kissing and who had sex. But Gail had balked at defining anything.
Which was why they were fighting. What were they? Did Gail want a casual relationship? She said no, but every time they got anywhere near putting a stake in a the ground and saying they were dating, Gail froze. They'd slept together only a few times. Jesus. What the hell were they? What they hell would they be?
They may not ever have a chance to solidify what they were. Gail, who hated PDA and didn't publicly talk about any relationship, let alone the lesbian one, had been a brat. A child. She'd shouted that she didn't want to come out, to let people know. And it brokered no argument with her, so Holly told her to go home until she could grow up.
God that hurt.
It wasn't like Holly wasn't aware of the angst of coming out, but it was so annoying to be forced back into the closet because the girl you loved wasn't okay with PDA and was afraid of her idiot parents. Which, again, Holly totally understood. Gail had legitimate issues with her family, fear of them. But damnit, Holly hated it and she wanted to tell everyone. And she knew, she really knew why Gail didn't want to tell everyone. She had enough shit with her family, and now...
Now Gail was kidnapped by a serial killer.
Now Gail could die.
And Holly never told Gail how she really felt.
"Why wasn't she staying with you? She did a couple years ago."
Exhaling, Holly looked from Callaghan to the more friendly face of Oliver Shaw, and then to the other rookies behind him. This was not how anyone sensible did these things. Was she about to have to out Gail? "It's ... It's ..." She gave Oliver a pleading look. If there was anyone safe to talk to about this, it was him. "We were having a stupid fight," she whispered.
And bless him, Oliver's eyes widened. "Oh." He tapped Callaghan's shoulder. "Detective, why don't I ... Holly, Dr. Stewart's not used to this, Luke. I'll talk to her. Alone."
Luke frowned but nodded. "Fine. Fine. Collins, Diaz, Epstein, come on."
Silent, Holly watched her ... her girlfriend's ex boyfriends, plural, leave the room. Oliver closed the door and sighed. "I'm sorry, darlin', I didn't even think about that. I know what you mean to Gail."
"You ... You know?" Holly felt stunned. Had Gail actually told someone?
"Not in so many words, but I'm good at reading our girl." He smiled wanly and sat down beside her. Not across. Luke had sat across from her. Oliver sat beside her and put a hand on her knee. "Let me guess. You two are sorting things out about being a thing. A couple. And right now you're having a kinda fight because she's stubborn and pushes people away instead of talking about what she's feeling, like a grownup. So the last time you talked you were shouty and that's why she's been at Andy's and not shacked up with you?"
The soft, warm voice broke her. The fear Holly had been fighting all morning, since she'd woken up to a uniformed officer pounding on her door, telling her she was needed at Fifteen right now, telling her Officer Peck was missing, had finally surfaced. "Oh my god," she whispered, covering her face with a hand. "The last thing I said was she should grow up. And, and I told her not to call me unless she wanted to talk. And I needed space and... Oliver, what if that's the last thing I ever say to her?" Holly all but wailed.
One strong arm went around her and hugged her. "Hey, hey it's okay. We're gonna bring our girl home."
"It's so stupid," said Holly between the sniffles. "I don't care if she never tells her parents. They're assholes and— and they're idiots."
Oliver patted her arm. "They are. They are."
"I just want her home." And the tears overtook her. Oliver held her gently, like a parent, like a father. Like her own father held her when she'd had her first, real, heartbreak. Holly sobbed into Oliver's chest, the terror of losing the person she'd just realized meant the most to her.
After he calmed her down, Oliver managed to get Holly to explain that she hadn't answered her phone because it had died and, after a long day with a late autopsy, she'd not bothered to plug it in and had just gone to sleep. It was worse when she realized she'd done the autopsy on the girl involved in the same case.
Really it just made her feel sick.
At Oliver's suggestion, she stayed at the station that day. He wisely pointed out she wasn't going to be any use at her work, and staying home would drive her mad. Which was why she was there when the call came in that Jerry was dead and they had a bead on Gail. And it was why Holly was there when a heavily drugged Gail was wheeled into the ER.
Holly had spent her day listening to the last of the messages over and over. The first two were simple, Gail being Gail and saying pointless things like the fight they had was stupid. But the last two... The second to last was Gail telling her she was going undercover and she'd be perfectly safe, so don't panic no matter what Holly heard. And then that last one, oh god, it felt so important, like it would change Holly's life. Like if she'd heard it, Gail would have been safe with her. Like maybe Gail wanted more than what they had.
Uh, hey, it's me. Um so, you know, I'm on my own tonight, and I'm at Andy's, and I was just sort of thinking maybe, uh, maybe we should talk. And I— I know it's been a really long day, but, well, Frank gave me tomorrow off, so, uh, just, uh, call me.
It was possible Holly had memorized it.
As Gail was wheeled in, Holly jerked forward and those beautiful blue eyes caught hers. She was alive. She was awake. She was aware. "Hey, slow down," managed Gail, lifting a hand out of the blanket. She sounded fuzzy. Befuddled. Her voice was rough and scratchy, and her neck was in a brace.
"We need to get you checked out." The EMTs were set to ignore the request when one sported Holly. Unlike the officers, Holly had used her medical status to get in the back. As she stepped closer, the man blocked her path, confused as to her status. "Oh, sorry ma'am, I thought Dr. Selby-"
Gail interrupted him. "You're 'kay?" Her voice was slurred. They'd said she was on a mix of ketamine and acetylpromazine, which had to be one hell of a trip.
And here, after somehow coming out of a kidnapping alive, the first thing Gail asked was if Holly was okay. Holly's heart broke a little. "Yeah." She wiped her face. "I'm fine."
Exhaling, Gail looked relieved. "S'my fault. Called."
"Yeah, I got your messages."
"Mm. I'm sorry," said Gail, and she squinted as if the world was rotating in a different direction.
"Ma'am, we really need to get Officer Peck checked out."
"I know. I know. Gail, behave."
With a deep sigh, Gail closed her eyes. "Fine."
She wasn't able to abuse her medical privileges as much as she'd hoped. Holly found herself standing outside the room with Nick and Chris, watching the nurse tuck Gail in and set her up. The blonde had her back to the window, as if craving some privacy.
The three of them stood and watched quietly. Holly wanted, desperately, to be in there and hold Gail's hand, to make sure she knew she wasn't alone. This was the time and place to tell Gail she didn't care about the fight. That whatever they were was better than not being them at all.
And yet… At the same time, she didn't want to be the girl who outed someone. Gail had been so scared of coming out, of her parents finding out she was seeing a girl. It had nearly given Gail a panic attack, just trying to talk about it with Holly. Of course Holly understood the incredibly, stupid, pressure the Pecks put on Gail. Always they told her she wasn't good enough and yet demanded perfection. Of course she was a mess.
But she was a mess Holly was falling in love with.
Her indecision was saved, again, by Oliver, who quietly asked Diaz to come with him. As Chris left, Nick exhaled. "Go."
"What?" Holly blinked and looked up at him.
"Go. In there with Gail."
She stared at Nick, dumbly. "I ... You've known her longer."
"Yeah. Yeah I have. Which is why I know, Holly. I know what it means when she looks at you. I remember that look. Don't fuck it up like I did, okay?" He gripped his belt. "She needs someone, and ... It should be you."
Holly bit her lower lip and then nodded. "Nick... Please don't-"
"I'm not going to tell. Gail would kill me." He smiled and reached over, squeezing Holly's shoulder. "I'll be down the hall, keep the rest out. If you need anything, call for me, okay?"
She nodded and opened the door, stepping inside. All her boldness was saved for this moment. For walking in and looking at the curled up woman on the bed. "Gail?"
The nurse looked up at her. "I'm sorry, Ms. Peck isn't feeling up for visitors."
Of course. Gail always pushed people away when she needed them most. Yet another shitty aspect of growing up Peck. Gail was terrified to rely on anyone. Holly nodded and asked, "Is she asleep? I just… I just want to know she's okay." When the nurse hesitated, Holly added. "I'm a doctor. Can I...?" She gestured at the chart.
"Holly can stay," said Gail, her voice unbearably rough.
The nurse tilted her head but she nodded, tucking Gail in and giving her one last reminder about the pain killers and then left, closing the blinds for them. When Gail didn't say anything, Holly picked up the chart and skimmed. The blonde was actually pretty much alright. She was cleared for a concussion, and the pain was related to the killer choking her unconscious. No wonder she didn't want to talk. And those drugs. Jesus, what a trip that must have been. Holly tried to envision being on psychotropics while locked in the truck of a car and shuddered.
She sighed. "Your throat probably is killing you, honey. And I bet you feel like shit. So... I'm just ... I'm going to sit here with you, if that's okay?"
Gail shifted on the bed a little. "Yeah," she said, her voice soft and small and scared.
That was her Gail, realized Holly. She pulled a chair up and sat down. Immediately, a pale hand reached over and Holly took it, lacing her fingers through the pale ones. "I'm right here," said Holly softly.
"I'm staying, Gail. You don't have to talk."
"Need to tell my folks," whispered Gail. Her voice sounded scratchy and raw. "And friends."
"Gail, you don't have to tell anyone until you're ready."
The hand in hers squeezed. "Want to." Gail's eyes struggled to stay open. "I want to," she repeated, barely audibly.
She wanted to tell people. The woman came through hellfire and brimstone and thought only that she wanted to make peace with Holly and let people know about them.
"We can talk about it, Gail. Later."
"Don't wanna lose you."
Holly couldn't think of what to say in response, but apparently all she needed was to stay there, with Gail. The blonde did drift off, but she woke up multiple times and, each time, Holly just said she was here and Gail would relax.
It didn't feel like much, but it felt like a lot.
The yoga didn't help calm her down very much. Which Gail could have told them. Apparently being kidnapped by a serial killer made a person edgy. What she really needed was to go home with Holly and spend some nice, quiet, time with her. Sleeping at Holly's was one of the greatest things ever.
The doctors wouldn't let her go yet. She was still too stressed. She wasn't sleeping well. She had memory gaps. If Holly hadn't been a doctor, Gail would have just signed herself out AMA and told them to fuck it.
Luke asking her to repeat her statement wasn't helping either. The door opened as Gail worked her way through another cycle of Downward Facing Dog.
"You taking up yoga?"
Gail carefully hopped to her feet and stretched her arms out. "Yeah. My, uh, doctor said I should try and do something to help calm my nerves." Her doctor girlfriend, actually. "'Cause apparently getting kidnapped by a serial killer can make you kinda edgy."
Luke didn't laugh. Holly had laughed and kissed her cheek and walked her through another set of poses. No. Luke was all business. "You haven't returned my calls."
She glanced at the phone. "I can't use that phone. Sick people they they cough, and they breathe into that mouthpiece, so..."
"Well, sick people also put their feet on that floor."
"But the really sick people they they can't walk, so..."
Luke sighed. "Gail, we need to go through your statement again. I have some more questions."
It was the last thing Gail wanted to do. So she asked Andy's ex-fiancé the annoying question. "So are you are you back? Or are you just here to deal with this whole thing?"
"I don't know yet." Luke eyed her sympathetically. She could have killed him.
"Well, if it's okay with you, I would really rather wait to do this until I'm outta here."
"It's better if we do this now."
Gail stared at Luke for a long moment. "Fine. Which part?"
"The first part."
She nodded. "I was staying at Andy's, and there was a knock at the door, and I thought it was ... I thought it was someone else, so I answered it. And then the next thing you know, the door slams me in the head. There's a guy wearing a mask. We're fighting, and then he gets on top of me, starts choking me, and then I passed out." Gail stopped and looked at Luke, tired of having the same conversation over and over.
Luke looked up from his notes. "You said in your statement that your memory of the incident was a little foggy. Anything come back to you?"
Gail shook her head. "Not really. I'll get a flash every now and then."
"It's like the sound of his shoes on the cement. Or the sound of his voice." She stopped and clenched her fists. "I didn't know what he wanted." Luke waited her out and she bit her tongue, physically, for a moment. "Can only assume that his plan was to rape and kill me, and … if it wasn't for Jerry."
He flinched. Good. Maybe he would leave now. Luke stood up. "Who did you think was at the door?"
"The door. You said you thought it was someone else. Nick?"
She snorted. "No."
"You broke up?"
Gail sighed. "I thought it was Holly. I called her earlier. I wanted to talk to her about … something." He knew that too. Luke had to know. He was too smart not to know, so he was fishing.
"What, exactly, is your relationship with Dr. Stewart?"
Taking a deep breath Gail shook her head and lashed out the way she knew best. "She's my friend, Homicide. You know those things you used to have before you cheated on McNally?"
Luke looked like he was slapped. Good. He mumbled an understanding and closed his notebook. After Luke left, Gail sat on her bed and stared at the phone. In all fairness, Luke was a cop and he was trying to put the best case together to keep Perik in jail. For that, he wanted information. Ugh. The damned truth was she really didn't remember a fucking thing more than she'd told him the other times. Holly said that was normal, that the drugs would do that, but she might remember later.
Wasn't that something cheery to look forward to.
Gail picked up her phone and texted Holly.
How much do I have to bribe you to check me out of here?
The phone buzzed right away.
Not gonna happen.
I can ' t sleep here.
I want to sleep at your place.
You have to get discharged first, honey.
How am I going to get discharged if they won ' t let me out for not sleeping?
Do you want me to ask Lisa for help?
These are your choices, honey.
Fine. Please ask the botched boob job to bail me out. And thank her for fixing my lip and forehead.
You ' ll thank her yourself, or no sex.
You like me.
I do. I like you a lot.
Gail smiled at her phone. She did like Holly a lot. Someone knocked at her door and Gail sighed. "Who is it—? Oh." Traci, her friend Traci, stood in her door. Traci was tired and thin and looked like she was a second from crying herself.
"Uh. Hey." Traci sounded worse than Gail felt.
"Hey." What was she supposed to say? Gail chewed her lip.
"Is this a good time?'
"Yeah. Uh. I've been meaning to to call you." Gail put her phone down, picked it up, and then winced. Her voice was cracking. It was worse than when she tried to talk about it with Holly.
But Traci needed a friend. And maybe, maybe Gail could do that.
Holly stirred. The door to her bedroom had opened. "Gail?"
"Go back to sleep," said Gail softly.
Reaching over, Holly turned on the light. Her girlfriend was taking off her boots. "You look beat," said Holly, squinting a little to try and focus.
"I am. Long day." Gail put her boots under a chair and sat on the edge of the bed. "Is it okay that I'm here?"
With a tired smile, Holly reached out to touch Gail's knee. "Honey, I gave you a key."
"I know but... It's almost one and..." Gail trailed off.
"What will your parents say?"
Gail snorted. "I doubt they'll notice I'm gone. If Dad's not driving me to therapy, he barely talks to me."
Holly sighed. Most of the time Gail stayed with her parents. While Holly had gone over for a dinner, a thank you invite delivered by Elaine herself, she was still not the girlfriend. But they'd talked about it. It had not been a good time to explain everything. Holly knew that. She was certain of it from the moment the dinner started, and it was clear Gail was not garnering any sympathy or affection from her parents regarding her trauma.
What slim support Gail did get would likely be pulled away the moment she came out.
They had told a few people. Oliver, though that was really confirmation. Traci, who had been surprised but hugged Holly and told her she was happy for them. Lisa and Rachel, of course. And that was it. For now. It was still painful to live under a bubble, but Holly understood now what was going on.
She'd gone with Gail to a therapy appointment, quite a ways out of their way, and Gail managed to explain her fear. It wasn't that she cared if anyone knew she was gay. It wasn't that she worried about people finding out she was dating Holly. No, it was all the fear of her parents not accepting who she was and how they might react, not to Gail but to Holly, if they knew.
They'd never accepted Gail for what she was. Disappointing daughter, screw up, had to get into the academy on recommendation of the (then) chief of police. Gail confessed she'd skipped the exam on purpose. Her final attempt at rebellion. A last ditch effort to be anyone besides a Peck.
And Pecks? They weren't lesbians. Her mother, who out-Pecked the born Pecks, was someone Gail knew, without a doubt, to be unwelcome to the idea of homosexuality. She'd heard the jokes that weren't funny and the snide remarks. Oh, Gail was sure of what was going to happen. Her mother was going to kick her out.
Silent, Holly watched the blurry Gail quietly move through her condo, showering and changing and finally slipping into bed. She waited for Gail to finish fussing around and then touched her arm. "Gail. Come here."
"I'm going to toss … I should probably sleep in your guest room."
"Don't be stupid, Gail. Come here."
A moment passed. Gail rolled over and rested against Holly, letting the arm drape over her and pull her close. At length, she sighed and spoke. "A kid dumped a slushie on me today. And we had to send her back to foster care. I feel like a failure."
Ah. Holly kissed her forehead. "You can't save everyone, honey."
"I know. But ... I gave her my card."
"She threw it back at me."
That was less good. Holly sighed. "Oh."
"She's thirteen. She's in a gang. She's going to end up dying alone, or worse, and thinks no one cares about her."
There it was. Holly gently rubbed Gail's upper-back. "I'm sorry," she told her girlfriend.
"I don't know if I can keep doing this," said Gail, her voice a whisper. "It all hurts."
"You're not alone." That was what the therapist suggested Holly use to remind her. Gail wasn't alone. She wasn't abandoned. "Who do you have?"
Gail grunted her annoyance. "I have Oliver. And Traci. And stupid Chris and Nick and Dov." Her voice quieted. "And I have you."
"You have Frank and Noelle. And even Andy."
"Can I trade in Andy for someone else?"
Holly smiled. "And you have Lisa and Rachel." After hearing about the kidnapping, every single argument that Lisa and Rachel had about how Gail was a bad idea went away. Suddenly they were all on board and supportive.
Smothering a laugh, Gail shook her head. "No. No, I don't want 'em."
Good. She was thinking about her friend. "You've got me. I'm not going anywhere."
"You say that now—"
"And I'll say it tomorrow, honey."
Gail sighed. This time she didn't voice the fear. That had been the scary one. The fear that Holly wouldn't want Gail. That Holly wouldn't want a jerk who was broken in more ways now. That Gail's nightmares and fears and realities were too much.
It wasn't all that strange. Being presented with the idea of losing Gail was what had clarified it in her mind that she did love the irascible woman. The simple thought that she might one day wake up without Gail's sarcasm hurt. And worse, she'd lose her without anyone understanding why she was so devastated.
"Maybe I should have taken Dad's offer…"
"What? Work with your mother? Honey, I'd be bailing you out for homicide."
Gail snickered a laugh. "Yeah, probably." She yawned. "Thank you."
"Any time." Holly kissed Gail's forehead and they settled into the bed.
Now was not the time to bring up her own situation, decided Holly, soothingly stroking Gail's back. While she was going to have to sort out her office and job sooner rather than later, sooner was not tonight. Tonight, her girlfriend needed her love and support.
The universe was determined to bring Gail down, and Holly wasn't going to let it happen.
What job could Holly be talking about. Surely not... San Francisco!?
Chapter 3: ELSE
Rounding up season three and then stepping into season four. This means the other Perik scene happens in this chapter. It's the one that was very hard to write.
Just having a hand caressing her hair made her feel better. Holly's soft voice asked the dreaded question. "So. Are you suspended?"
"Desk duty," replied Gail. She closed her eyes. "For now. SIU hasn't said yet."
"This is a really shitty year, honey," sighed Holly.
Gail snorted. "I almost want to ask for a do-over."
Lifting her head up, Gail looked at Holly seriously. "Almost. I could have lost you too." Holly's hand paused and the doctor deflated a little. Oh. "You haven't told them no, have you?"
"If you're suspended, you could come with me," offered Holly.
Gail grimaced and leaned back. "Still? You're still taking it?"
"You're acting like it's a choice, Gail." Holly scowled. "It's four months in California or it's no job."
Intellectually, Gail knew that. It just felt like everyone else. Everything else. Everyone else. The words came out on their own. "So you're leaving me, too."
Frustrated, Holly stood up. "I don't want to! Damn it, Gail, I'm not Nick! I'm not going to vanish in the night, or something stupid. Okay? I'm going to be in San Francisco. We can talk every day."
That had been the argument for days. Gail slumped in the couch. "I know. I know. I'm ... I'm sorry." She was picking a fight and she knew it. She was angry and hurt and it wasn't Holly's fault at all. "I'm sorry," she repeated.
And Holly softened. "Honey... You have every right to be mad at all the shit the world's thrown at you this year. What'd your therapist say?"
Gail waved a hand. "To stop dwelling on it and try to be productive." She closed her eyes. "Which is stupid. I dwell on it because this is my life now. Gail Peck, screwed up beat cop, shitty daughter, terrible girlfriend-"
"Hey." Holly's voice was quiet and soft. "If this is about what Lisa said-"
"God, that lopsided boob job," snarled Gail. Lisa had not been happy to find out Gail was still in the closet. She'd been vocally annoyed when Gail admitted she'd not told her family yet. As much as Lisa had been sympathetic when Gail had been in the hospital, that didn't seem to extend to coming out. The grace period of support for closeted lesbians was over.
And Holly laughed. There was a noise and Gail felt hands on her knees. "Honey. Come with me. Take a - take a sabbatical and come with me. You need a break."
Morose, Gail shook her head. "I can't. Can't leave until after the trial anyway, and if there's another for this shitstorm..."
A hand touched her face. "Then stay here."
What the what? Gail opened her eyes and stared at Holly. "What?"
"Move in here. With me."
"Uh, you're leaving."
"Temporarily. And I'm coming back. If you live here, then I don't have to worry about the lease or it being empty. And when I come back... We can live together." Holly gnawed her lower lip, the way she did when nervous.
Guilt washed over her, making Gail feel dizzy and queasy. "Holly... My parents still think you're just my really cool friend."
"And maybe now isn't the time to tell them," said Holly. "I mean, not everything. Hi Mom, hi Dad, I got kidnapped by a serial killer, by the way thanks for showing up for that. Now I have PTSD and took the fall for my whole division for a guy's death. But hey, I have a totally hot girlfriend now."
Gail paused and stared at Holly. And then she laughed. It was moments like that, the times when Holly was just like her, that Gail adored her the most. She laughed and covered her mouth and kept laughing until she started to cry. And Holly laughed with her. Maybe not as hard, but they did laugh.
"You are insane, Holly. You know that, right?"
She smiled. "So you tell me." Holly reached up to wipe at Gail's face with a thumb. "They did teach us that laughter is the best medicine," she teased.
Gail smiled and caught Holly's hand, kissing it. "Sometimes I'm not sure you're a real doctor."
"Afraid so." The lopsided smile was warm and welcoming.
Sighing, Gail shook her head. "Okay. Come to dinner with me. With them." At Holly's quizzical look, she explained. "My parents. They swear they never see me, and if I'm moving out, I better let them really meet my girlfriend."
Holly froze. "Gail. I wasn't kidding. You don't have to tell them-"
"I want to. Because I've got one good thing going for me right now, and ... And I want them to know. Okay?"
Silent, Holly nodded. There was something in her face, though, something that told Gail she'd said the right thing.
Smiling, Gail squeezed Holly's hand. Maybe she wasn't the worst girlfriend in the world after all.
"Dinner's off," said Gail on the phone.
Holly blinked and closed the door to her lab. "The dinner ... With your parents?"
"Yep! Did what the shrink said. Just us at lunch, me, Mom, Dad. Told them I was moving out. Then I told 'em I was dating a woman. Mom said stop joking. Dad said not to come back." Gail sounded full of snark and bravado, but Holly was sure she was about to cry. That was Gail alright. "So I hope you were serious about me moving in, cause it's that or Dov."
"Gail. Where are you?"
"Packing boxes at my parents."
"I'll come pick you up-"
Gail cut her off. "No. No, please don't come here. I have a car."
Except Gail didn't currently own a car. "Whose car did you take?"
"Nick's. And borrowed."
"Did you ask first?" When Gail didn't answer, Holly sighed. "Gail."
"I'll text him," said Gail in her most petulant.
"Thank you. Are you going right home?"
There was an odd pause. "Home. Huh." Gail exhaled loudly. "Yes. I'm going home, then I've got to give Nick his car back."
"How about I pick him up?"
"That would help."
"Okay." She paused. "Honey. You're not alone."
"I know. It's just shitty."
Her girlfriend sighed, loudly. "I know. I have you, and Oliver, and those idiots Dov and Chris and Traci and Nick and even fucking Andy. Okay? See?"
But that was angry Gail. Holly knew angry Gail. Not her favorite Gail. And sadly, since the kidnapping, Gail was a bit more angry Gail than not. Which Holly couldn't blame her for. In the months since, Gail hadn't slept well at all. She'd lost weight and become more irritable.
If it wasn't for the moments where Holly saw the old Gail, the one who was sweet and caring and loving, she'd have been inclined to ... Well. Not to break up. But to push Gail harder maybe.
"Honey," she said softly.
And that was, as it often was, all it took. A very wet sniffle came across the line. "Holly, don't. Okay. Please? Let me be pissed off now and when I get back you can make me cry. But not now."
Not in front of her parents, who were likely around the house. Right. Okay then. "Home," said Holly, in the tone of a correction.
"You're not coming back, you're coming home."
Gail's laugh was shaky. "Not helping."
"Come home, Gail. All your best clothes are here anyway."
"I will. I promise. I just want my yearbooks and embarrassing photos." Gail was making an attempt at sounding flippant and Holly smiled. It was as much as Gail could muster just then, and it was alright.
They made their goodbyes and Holly sighed. At least she was done for the day. Finding Nick at the station was easy, though he was a bit confused as to why Holly was there.
"She took my car?"
"She's moving out," explained Holly. While Nick was somewhat aware of their relationship, Gail had not seen fit to really explain anything. Which was basically Gail in a nutshell. She preferred to let people figure it out than explain or defend herself.
"Oh." Nick frowned. "She told them?" When Holly nodded, he winced. "Have you met them? Outside of work?"
"Once. After Gail got out of the hospital, Elaine invited me over."
Nick arched his eyebrows. "So she knew?"
Quickly Holly shook her head. "No. At least, we didn't say it..."
They both glanced around the station. "Let me change, we should talk in private."
That seemed more reasonable, realized Holly. They stayed quiet until they got in the car and had pulled out of the lot. "Okay, Nick, now you're scaring me," she said as they got further from Fifteen.
"Holly... They don't know you're gay, do they?"
"I ... I don't know. I know Gail told them—" She stopped abruptly. "I don't know what she told them."
"She told them?"
"Something... She wanted to tell them before... We were supposed to have dinner Friday tonight with them." Holly frowned. Was it safe to tell Nick about the therapist? No. "We decided maybe springing the gay thing at dinner was bad, so she had a lunch with them and told them she was gay."
"What did her parents say?
"She said her mother said it was a phase, and Gail told her she was moving in with me... No. No, she said she was moving out." Holly had learned Gail tended to be quite particular with her words. "And she said they told her not to come back."
"Okay, that's ... Her parents are really ... They call her a Pale Fail."
"What?" Holly snapped her head around so fast it hurt.
Nick looked morose. "Gail the Fail. I heard them call her that at dinner more than once. They're mean to her. They have all these expectations and she never seems to live up to them."
Oh. Holly sighed. "They were polite when I met them."
"Well. You're the awesome pathologist. Maybe they'd hoped you were a good influence?"
"Maybe." Holly pulled up at her house.
"She's here." Nick pointed at his truck.
Holly nodded. "She said she would be." And Nick just eyed her. "What?"
"You get a different Gail," he said quietly. "You get the one I never saw. The sweet one."
What? She eyed Nick right back. "She's not sweet, Nick. She's ... She's grumpy and snide and cruel. And, yes, she's nice when she wants to be, but nobody ever gives her a reason to be nice, so why bother?" Holly sighed. "She's hilarious and opinionated and ... And ..."
She stopped. Because the next words were not ones that should be said to Nick first.
Because she loved Gail.
And he knew. He nodded and he knew, getting out of the car without another word.
In that new silence, they went to the townhouse. Holly opened the door and called out. "Gail?"
"Oh good, you're both here," said Gail in a tone that clearly belied her delight. "Brilliant. Callaghan wants to see you Nick, so skedaddle." She tossed the keys at the man.
"Now?" Nick looked panicked.
"Yeah now. Enjoy."
Nick hesitated and then kissed Gail's cheek and bolted.
"Ass," muttered Gail, wiping her face.
"What was that about?"
"He got tapped for undercover work. Which I wasn't even considered for since I'm benched."
Holly frowned and walked up to her girlfriend. "Hey. Can you unpack for me?"
"Well it'll take another hour or so—"
"Gail. What happened?"
The blonde deflated a little. "Summary?"
"Not suspended, Dad kicked me out because I'm gay, I go back to normal work next week, Andy and Nick are going undercover. I didn't even get to the part about how I was dating you."
Hmm. Interesting. "And the long version?"
Gail whinged. "Do I have to?"
"Gail," said Holly softly.
The blonde growled and walked to the couch and fell down onto it. "Okay. Frank said I'm not suspended any more because Perik's trial is next month and they think a suspended cop will make them lose the case. I went to lunch with my parents. Mom told me that it was my fault the guy died, and this is what I get for trying to use the Peck name, which I don't deserve. Then I told them I was moving in with you, which Mom was actually okay with since you're a good influence. And then I said I was gay and that was when it kinda all went to hell and she said I wasn't." Gail sighed. "Dad said he wouldn't stand for it in his house, so I should pack up my things now."
Well wasn't that an up and down. Holly sat beside Gail, taking one of her hands. "I'm sorry."
"Hey, I'm a fucking genius for taking Nick's truck!"
She was deflecting. Holly sighed. "I'm right here, Gail."
"For three weeks," said Gail, despondently. "I can't go with you."
"I know. But I'll come back. It's just summer. Four months."
Gail slumped, sinking into the couch. "I hate summer."
"You are rather pale."
Narrowing her eyes, Gail glared. "Not funny."
"San Francisco isn't warm in summer. Or sunny." Holly grinned.
Her girlfriend huffed. "Well."
"And you could take a week off in, say, August?" Gently, Holly rubbed her thumb on the back of Gail's hand. "And I'll take a week off in July anyway for the break and come here. We could go to Niagara Falls."
That won a laugh from Gail. "Oh my god. What? Why would we do that?"
"Have you ever actually gone somewhere for a fun vacation?"
And then Gail shut down again. "Once. Vegas," she said grimly.
Damn it. "Well I'm just gonna shut up," said Holly with a sigh. "I'm kicking landmines."
Gail turned and looked away. "Maybe this is a stupid idea. Us."
"What?" Holly startled.
"I mean… You're just with me because you feel guilty."
Holly froze. "Hey, woah." She sat up. "Gail, look at me for a second." She waited until Gail slowly turned back to face her, eyes down. Holly stifled a sigh and crooked her fingers under Gail's chin. "Look at me."
The blue eyes were scared. Hurt. Of course they were. "You don't have to … You don't have to feel guilty. You're not the moron who didn't check before opening the door, and fuck I knew better— "
"Gail, stop." Holly wanted to shake her girlfriend by the shoulders and knew it would be a terrible idea. "I'm not with you because I feel guilty about that night. You were a fucking brat. I wasn't much better. Okay? It would have happened if you'd been here, or … Hell, it would have happened at your parent's house, probably."
Gail snorted. "Unlikely."
"No. No, totally likely. He's a rapist and a murder and a psychotic. He would have found a way."
The words seemed to sink in and Gail nodded a little. "I'm a fucking mess, Holl."
"I know," said Holly softly. "But you're my fucking mess. And you'd stay with me if anything like that happened to me, right?"
Gail screwed up her face. "What kind of question is that?"
"That's my point, honey." Gently, she ran her thumb over Gail's chin. "You just had a … you had a fucked up few months. Okay? You figured out you're into girls—" Gail snorted a laugh. "And then you nearly got killed by a psychopath. There was the whole shooting fuckup, which is not your fault, no matter what your parents say, and speaking of, you made it through all of that without their support! You're amazing. And strong. And brave. And, yes, you're fucked up right now. But you're here."
Sighing, Gail closed her eyes and leaned into Holly's hand a little. "That just makes me sound like the universe's whipping girl."
That was sadly true. "I'm not in charge of that."
"I wish you were."
"Me too, honey. Come here." There was a little shuffling and Gail rested her head on Holly's shoulder. "I want you to be here. And, not gonna lie, I wish you would tell people, but that's just because I want the world to know how fucking lucky I am."
"It's going to screw up work," muttered Gail. "And I'm not sure my parents won't fuck up you too."
"If they do… If they do, I have you."
After a pregnant pause, Gail snorted. "God, that is some codependent bullshit right there, Holly."
It was, and Holly had to laugh. "Sorry, it's all I got right now."
"I've never had a long distance anything," said Gail very quietly.
There it was. Her actual fear. It always took a while to draw that out of Gail. "Me neither," admitted Holly. "But I'm kinda looking forward to phone sex with you."
And Gail cracked up. It wasn't much, but it was what Holly had right then.
She was not thrilled to see Nick, and made that patently clear when he hugged her. At the Penny, he sat and nursed a beer and his black eye.
"I can't believe you hit me," complained Nick.
"You hugged me."
"Seriously, Nick, we are over with a capital O."
"We're friends," repeated Nick, helplessly.
"We need to lay some serious ground rules, okay?"
"Okay." Nick winced as he poked his own face. "Jesus, who taught you to throw a punch?"
Gail shot him a droll look. "Who do you think?"
To his credit, Nick looked abashed and surprised at the concept of Holly knowing how to fight. "When's she coming back?"
"Two weeks." She frowned and sipped her own drink.
Nick was quiet for a moment. "You miss her. Did you get to see her at all?"
"Yeah. Couple times. After the... After the trial, I went out there for a week." Gail didn't smile. She wanted to, because the week had been fucking awesome. Sex, being stupid tourists, some awesome food, and sex. But the week after had been horrific. She'd actually called up the stupid therapist again and talked about how, well, depressed she felt.
Somehow, Gail didn't feel like quite that much of a loser for admitting she was sad. Which was new for her. She had been sad, and she'd missed having someone in person to touch and talk to like that. And the therapist said that was normal. That humans were not solitary creatures, for the most part. And Gail was normal for missing her girlfriend.
Gail frowned when she realized Nick was giving her a weird look. "No. Don't look at me, don't touch me, and don't give me those, like, really weird, creepy, meaningful looks."
"Am I allowed to recall what you look like naked?"
"Do you want me to punch you in the face again?" Gail made a fist at him.
Behind her, Holly cleared her throat. "This sounds fascinating."
Gail swiveled and saw the brunette, glasses and all, smiling at her. Gail could barely process the fact that Holly was standing there in front of her, looking like she'd shown up right from the airport… No. No bags. Not that Gail really wanted to look anywhere but at the real live face of her real live (albeit secret) girlfriend.
God. It was so much better to see her in person.
"Holly!" Fucking fuck fuck fuck. That was Andy, who hooted and ran over to throw her arm around the doctor. "Are you back? This is like super homecoming day!"
To her credit, Holly gamely smiled at Andy. "I am. Graduated early."
"It wasn't a real class, nerd," said Gail, getting a smirk back from Holly.
"Hey, I'm an accredited pathologist with letters after my name. And you are… what again?"
Gail snorted. "Deans List, double major, thank you."
"Top of my class," said Holly, sassing her right back. "And I think you're supposed to buy me a drink."
"She punched me," cautioned Nick, smiling.
"You hugged me, asshat. We went over that." Gail shoved his arm. "Come on, McNally, get off my roomie."
If Andy was confused by the conversation, it didn't show. And given how dense Andy was in general, it probably wouldn't occur to her. Wait till Andy found out that Sam was dating that Cruz chick.
The problem though was that Andy, and everyone else, wanted to ask Holly about her trip and what she'd done. They all crowded around her, giving Gail no chance to have any privacy. Not that she would have tried to have sex in the bathroom. That was for idiots like Dov.
Thankfully Traci saved her. "Doc, you've gotta be goofy with your timezones."
Holly, on cue, yawned. "Oh I've been up since early anyway. You have to catch an early flight to beat the Frisco fog."
"I have your car," pointed out Gail. Excellent, this was a great plan!
"Do you mind skipping early?"
Gail looked at Andy and Nick and shook her head. "Nah, I already punched Nick." She downed her drink and waved, heading out with Holly.
No one was in the parking lot. As Holly buckled up, she babbled. "I actually am exhausted. I know you hate surprises, but I thought I could finish the last session up early and come home. I mean, who would have expected a serial strangler in the middle of a class? But it was nice to work on a real case and not the hypothetical ones. There's something about real that— Well anyway. It's nicer to be home. I missed home and you."
The woman could babble. Especially when she was stressed or nervous. Gail leaned across the console and kissed her. "Good surprise," she said.
Holly exhaled and smiled. "Oh good." They kissed again. "Drive me home, please."
No sooner had they stepped inside the condo then Gail grabbed Holly's collar and pulled her close to kiss. "Hey," she murmured when they paused. "I missed you."
Holly laughed and backed Gail up against the door. "Really?"
"Really. I was considering dragging you off to the bathroom." Gail sighed happily as Holly kissed her neck. "God that's good."
"Sorry it took so long. Didn't expect everyone to want to say hi."
"Not your fault. Stupid McCollins came home." Gail manhandled Holly a little, pushing her jacket off. "Where's your stuff?"
"Really?" Holly paused and eyed Gail. "You want a present?"
Gail arched her eyebrows. "No, I'm unwrapping my present now. I want to make sure I don't trip over your crap while I get at it." To punctuation her words, Gail unbuttoned Holly's flannel shirt. "Also can we get more lesbian? Plaid? Really?"
The shirt hung open and Holly just laughed. "I bought plaid panties."
"You did not!" Gail burst out laughing.
But Holly just smirked and stepped back, undoing her pants. "You'll have to find out for yourself!"
When Gail had shown up with fake blood in her mouth, Holly had freaked. So of course Gail had to tell everyone that. And they did go to the engagement party, together, but not as a couple. Holly had thought it would upset her, being in the closet with Gail's friends, but after everything that had happened over the last year, she was more than willing to take her time.
As much as she adored Gail, and she really did, the young woman had gone through the wringer. Gail was messed up in a lot of ways, more than just the casual abuse from her parents could account for. She was angry a lot more, even now a half year later.
But then there were moments where she was the adorable, silly, fun Gail. The one who sang karaoke and played morbid jokes. And how Holly adored that Gail. That was, in fact, the Gail she'd fallen for. Maybe not fallen in love, that was so hard to tell. But certain as eggs were eggs, Holly would walk across fire for the wicked humor of Gail Peck.
Holy felt like, now, as they eased into autumn, Gail was inching back to being that Gail.
Maybe she was making some kind of breakthrough. Maybe she was just adjusting to life as it was. Maybe this was the new normal for Gail. Dark and angry, but with a hint of humor underneath. Maybe Holly could keep making it a safe place for Gail to let her guard down.
"Holy crap," said Holly as she walked into the bedroom.
Gail was standing in the middle of the room in her bra and panties, looking at her dresser. "The blue or the red?"
"Uh. What?" Holly tore her eyes from the pale beauty in front of her to what Gail was looking at. Two dresses. One was a lascivious red and the other a bombshell dark blue. The red had a plunging neckline. The blue had a more boxy one. And Gail was in a matching shimmering pearl bra and panties set.
"Hey, lesbian? Dress for dinner tonight?"
"Fuck dinner," said Holly, and she walked up behind Gail. "Jesus, you look..." There were no words. Holly rested her hands on Gail's bare waist and softly kissed her neck.
She'd always known Gail was beautiful. Anyone with eyes and a pulse could see that. And yes, it was the stunning looks that caught her eye when she saw Gail sitting beside the body of a dead teenager. Her very first thought was that it was illegal for a cop to be so fucking attractive. But then Gail had tossed out her wit and sarcasm and humor, all while actually caring about a dead girl.
Holly was a goner.
After letting Holly have access to her neck for a while, Gail turned and slipped away. "Put on that too sexy tuxedo shirt of yours, Dr. Stewart." She soothingly kissed Holly's lips in a way that wasn't inviting but promising. "I want to go out. With you."
And again, she slipped away.
Holly sighed and took a deep breath to calm herself. "Gail, honey, I really just want to take my time getting you out of that, slowly, and grrrraaaaaaaahhhh you."
"Wow, you lost all your pretty words, Holly." Gail laughed and picked up the blue dress.
"Red. Please. Oh my god, you're going to kill me, but the red dress." Holly sat on the bed and pulled her shoes off.
"You know. I was starting to think it only worked with men."
"The nearly naked thing. If I'd known it was going to erase years of Med School out of your brain, I'd've made you get dressed first."
The memory of that conversation flicked back into Holly's addled brain. "Oh. I'm starting to understand why you like the getting dressed part," she muttered. Watching Gail slither into the red dress, though, was a religious experience. "I am a lesbian."
Gail glance over her shoulder. "Does the lesbian care to zip me up?"
Holly scrambled off the bed and was at Gail's side in a heartbeat. She smoothed her hands over the dress which hugged every single curve of Gail's body. "God."
"Still answer to Gail."
"God, you're an ass." But she planted a kiss on Gail's spine, and then the base of her neck. Excruciatingly slowly, she zipped Gail's dress up.
It was a mystery how Gail hadn't spontaneously combusted, but the pale woman hadn't even a hint of blush. Sometimes Holly felt like Gail had too much self control. Stupid Pecks. It was with that amazing self control that Gail turned and slipped away, again, third time, and just smiled at Holly. "I'm an ass who made dinner reservations. You have thirty seven minutes."
"Thirty seven minutes, baby. Then we're going to dinner, and then we are going to come back here and you can try and convince me that undressing is more fun than dressing." Gail picked up a necklace and clasped it on. "Winner picks the next date."
Holly watched her girlfriend walk out to the bathroom and groaned. "How the fuck did she do that?" It was a damned mystery.
But she rushed through dressing and they did indeed go out to a romantic, quiet, dinner. The whole time, mind, Gail kept running her foot up the inside of Holly's pant leg. It was incredibly distracting, especially since she knew exactly what was under that damned dress.
When they got home, Holly did not exactly take her time in undressing Gail, or herself. There was a popped button or two, and Gail's left stocking was a loss. They'd live. A little death was just a little death, after all. And oh, how Holly had taken that in hand.
During her little jaunt to San Francisco, Holly had made do with two weeks of fun with Gail. Once in July and once in August they'd spent a week together. Mostly sex, if Holly was being honest. The rest of the long four months they'd made do with phone sex and while that was awesome, as was the setting, nothing was quiet like having Gail naked in their bed, not a hotel or the loaner apartment, moaning her name.
Talk about a religious experience.
God, Gail was amazing.
"You are amazing," said Gail, drawing a deep, shuddering breath.
"I was just thinking that." Holly kissed the pale stomach.
Gail laughed and reached down, fingers scratching the nape of Holly's neck. "Come back here."
Holly smiled and slowly made her way to lie alongside her girlfriend. "So. Dressed or undressed?"
"Mm." Gail caressed Holly's face. "Dressed. But naked beats both."
To that, Holly had to agree. "I liked dinner out." She sucked in a breath as Gail's hand drifted down her face and across her chest. "Really liking desert in."
"Me too." Gail pressed herself against Holly and nipped at her neck.
Oh yes, nights in after nights out were good. So, so good.
"I'm never having children."
Gail fell onto the couch.
"Honestly, Gail. In your uniform?"
Without looking up, Gail pointed out the truth. "That is not what you said about my uniform earlier."
Holly was silent and Gail smirked. A month or so ago, Holly had watched Gail get dressed for work, something she rarely did at home, and commented on how fucking hot Gail was in her uniform. Not long after that, they'd made a bit of a mess of Gail's spare uniform. Gail was always glad that her family had taught her how to clean her uniform properly at home and not rely on a dry cleaner to get out stains.
"That particular uniform is not clean."
"It doesn't have anthrax on it, so I'm one up on McNally."
The sound of running water stopped and, a moment later, Holly was sitting on Gail's legs. "Excuse me, Officer Peck. What about anthrax?"
Oh right. Holly had been in court. "That nasty drug related death? Anthrax. McNally and Cruz got exposed. They're fine."
"I miss all the fun," complained Holly. There was an odd tension in her voice.
"How was court?"
"Fine. Science saves the day, blah blah blah." Holly patted Gail's butt and got up. "Please change. And why are you wearing that home anyway?"
"I'm avoiding McNally. She's trying to get over Swarek by getting under Nick."
"Why do you care?"
Gail sat up and untied her shoes. "I don't! But Andy has this weird, misguided impression that I might."
There was a noise of annoyance from the kitchen. "That might be your fault."
Because Gail was still not out at work. Right. "Are you mad about the camping thing?" Gail had, for the first time, been invited camping by the gang. She'd carefully asked about Holly, and been told it was going to be rookies only. Not even Denise was coming. Which ended up being why no one went. At least in part. Gail and Holly had come to the party, in all of its awkward glory.
Holly didn't answer right away. "Yes," she said at length. "I don't like this."
"Okay." Gail stood up and thought about it for a moment. "I still don't want my parents to do something idiotic to you because of us."
"Well it's a bit late."
Oh fuck. "What?" Gail felt her entire body chill. This was what 'her blood went cold' must have meant. What could her parents have possibly done?
"Your father told me I was a bad influence on you."
The fuck? "When... When the hell was that?" And how much had her father said... Gail knew, intellectually, she should let Holly know the whole story, the whole shitstorm her parents had thrown at her before casting her out.
"Today, at court." There was a thwack as Holly chopped something.
Oh Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and all those idiots Gail did not believe in. "What... What else did he say?"
"Well. Being gay is unnatural. And it's clearly my fault you've decided to engage in such sinful behavior."
Gail was unable to hold back her snort. "Oh for fuck's sake. Mom's a fucking lapsed Catholic. And Steven was born six months after they got married."
"I'll remember that next time," said Holly, grimly. "Your father is a homophobic ass."
"I'd say I'm shocked, but that sounds like dear old Dad," said Gail with a sigh. "His brother was disowned for being a fag. His words."
Holly paused and looked over. "Disowned."
Fuck. Not a conversational path she wanted to walk down. "Or shot. It's hard to say, actually." Okay, that was possibly a worse path.
"What? What do mean 'or shot'?" Holly looked appalled.
She wasn't getting out of this conversation cleanly, realized Gail. "Uh. You know how Pecks aren't always the nicest people?" Her girlfriend gave her a droll look. "Right. So Uncle Hugh was shot in the back by some mafia dicks when I was ten. Takedown gone bad. Except the bullet wound was the wrong caliber."
"I'm going to regret asking you this." The brunette cleared her throat. "How do you know?"
Gail tapped her name tag. "Peck. I can probably identify caliber based on entry and exit wounds better than you can, Holl."
Holly grimaced. "You know... Just when I think your family is fucked up enough, they go and move the bar into a whole new level of insane." She put the knife down. "I wanted to punch your father."
With a shrug, Gail told the truth. "I wouldn't stop you, miss judo asskicker."
"I'll remind you of that if he tells me you're unnatural."
That was a good one. "He needs a new line," said Gail with a sigh. "Unnatural. Can't have kids. Abomination... None of the anti-gay propaganda makes sense. I mean, I'm a lesbian, I'm not pedophile or an abuser. Jesus, more cops have abusive relationships than lesbians."
"If you hit me even once, we are done," said Holly, grim and annoyed.
"Ew? Why would I ever hit you? Besides the fact that you can kick my ass any day of the week and twice on Sundays, I want to fuck you, not hurt you."
For whatever reason, that made Holly crack up. Oh good. Not that Gail was a fan of keeping the situation with her parents a secret, but just a little while longer would be alright. Maybe.
Holly wasn't sure why she was there. It was not comfortable. It made her skin crawl, to be honest. But … But Gail was in there, talking to the man who tried to kill her. And when Oliver had called to tell her what Gail was doing, Holly asked if she should come. After brief hesitation, Oliver said Gail would be very mad if she did, but possibly very thankful afterwards.
So she was standing in the observation room with Nick and the detective assigned to the case, watching Gail try to glean information from the man who tried to rape and murder her.
"Viktor E. Frankl. Man's Search For Meaning. You ever read it?"
"Is that where the answer is? Am I gonna find it in a book?"
Ross laughed softly. "The answer's always in a book. Frankl wrote it about his experiences in captivity. He believed that in periods of extreme distress, love keeps us going. You must know something about that."
Holly sighed, as did Nick. The latter spoke up, "Look, he's not giving her anything. He's just getting off on the attention."
The detective, Luke Callaghan, shook his head. "Soon as Andy and Swarek have a solid lead, I'll pull her out. If you can't watch, Collins, leave."
Nick hesitated. He looked at Holly. "I'm sorry…"
"It's fine," said Holly softly and she watched the man leave. It wasn't fine. But she could do this. If Gail could be in there, talking to her fears, then Holly could be here, waiting for her. As her friend. As her lover. As whatever Gail needed.
Because Holly had learned something from that day, something she'd never realized before. Gail was a part of her in an indelible way. She could live without her, of course. But she wanted the woman in her life.
Ross shifted in his seat.. "The day you got away from me. Who was on the other side when you made your great escape?"
Gail said nothing.
"Your boyfriend? Ah, see? There's that guilt again."
Shaking her head, Gail replied. "You don't really know what you're talking about, Ross."
"Tell me about him. What's his name?"
Holly chewed her lip and glanced over at Luke.
The blonde man muttered. "Don't tell him anything personal, Gail." Not that Gail could hear them.
"There's something…" Ross leaned forward.
"There's nothing to tell," said Gail, her voice remarkably even.
"I'm not lying."
Ross shook his head. "Please. It's in the back of your eyes, the shape of your mouth. Your shadow self, clawing to the surface, begging to breathe." Gail glanced up at the camera and the mirror. She didn't know Holly was there. "Stop worrying about the cameras, Gail. You're here for Grace. Worry about Grace."
Her attention back on Ross, Gail asked, "Why are you doing this?"
"Because of you, I have nothing- Four walls and a stack of books. You want my help? Give me something to think about while I'm rotting away in here, waiting for my appeal."
Holly glanced at the camera, where she could see Gail's face in profile. There was something about the set of her jaw, something… Not a shadow self (Jung was full of it). It was a secret though. Holly was well aware Gail was keeping something a secret just then, but she wasn't pushing. Not yet at least.
As Perik prattled on, Gail finally spoke, in a rush. "I was disowned."
Ross paused and looked a little surprised. God knew Holly felt stunned. When had that happened? "Disowned. A Peck."
"Yes. My parents kicked me out and disowned me."
"And I haven't told anyone."
Now she had his attention. "Not even your boyfriend?"
"No. No one. I … I lied to everyone about it. I said that we just had a fight, that they kicked me out. I liked about it to myself, like maybe if I ignored it, it would go away."
Holly felt punched. When Gail called from her parents that day, the day she told Holly not to feel guilty, that must have been it. Gail wasn't just kicked out, she wasn't told to leave, she was cast out. And she told no one. Not even Holly. She kept the pain of her family to herself. Holly sucked in a breath and pushed the heel of her hand into her chest.
"What did you fight about?"
Gail looked down and didn't say anything.
"Was it your boyfriend? Do they not like him?" Ross sighed, a gentle sigh that creeped Holly the fuck out. "You chose love and they threw you away. Oh, poor Gail. Must be tough being discarded. You can't trust anyone anymore, can you?" When Gail didn't answer, Perik pushed. "Are you gonna answer me?" Gail looked away and then stood up, ignoring him. "What are you doing, Gail? Wh-where are you going? Gail? Officer Peck— "
"No." Gail swiveled as she reached the door, pointing at him. "You are not gonna tell me where Grace Finn is because this is not your crime. You have nothing to confess to me." And Gail looked down at him, her voice cold, derisive. "You're just a guy chained to a table. I guess we've both been discarded."
Desperate, Ross pleaded. "You weren't- you weren't listening. 'Cause I already told you." Gail turned around. "The answer's always in a book. He's the one with all the answers because he's the one with all the books."
Now Gail shouted at him. "I need a name."
Ross was flummoxed. Off his game. "He always called me Dr. Perik. I-I never bothered to ask his name."
The observation room was a flurry. Luke turned to the warden. "Okay, Perik's had access to books. Who runs the Millburn library?"
The warden frowned. "It's an inmate- Adam Sawyer. He was just paroled maybe two weeks ago."
Luke nodded. "Give me an address, anything else you got." Then he hit the buzzer. "Peck, get outta there."
The door buzzed and, as Gail walked in, Holly could hear Ross shouting. "I'm not done yet. Where are you going? You can't leave now. Gail! You can't leave now. Gail!"
The door slammed shut on his words.
Gail looked at Holly and froze. Luke was already out the door. It was just them. And Gail… Gail looked panicked.
"What are you doing here?"
Holly inhaled quietly. "I was worried about you."
"They got a name. Callaghan… Are you okay?"
Gail looked as skittish as a wild animal. Like she expected Holly to walk out. "Me?"
"Yeah, you." Holly took a half step towards Gail. When Gail didn't try to back away, Holly reached out and took her hand. Gail's hand was cold. "Honey..." Taking both of Gail's hands, she gently rubbed them.
Still, Gail said nothing. She stared at their joined hands and looked as if she was filled with agony, terrified and tense. Gail looked like she wanted to run. That this moment was more terrifying than what she had just faced.
"I don't get it," said Holly. "Your parents. I ... I don't understand them at all. They have an amazing, caring, brilliant, daughter, and they just throw your away. And. And everyone does that, don't they? Your parents, Nick, Chris... Being alone with Perik, God, Gail. How can you do that? How can you just face your fear like that?"
In a whisper, Gail replied. "He's not what I'm afraid of."
Holly paused. "No?"
Gail shook her head. "I'm afraid ..."
And Holly got it. She got that part. Gail was afraid, and with good historical reason, that Holly would leave her too. "I'm not leaving you, Gail. And... Damnit, if you try to leave me, I'm getting a fucking boom box and playing In Your Eyes."
A wet, tired laugh came from her girlfriend. "I hate that song."
"I know." Holly gently tugged at Gail's hands. "Come on. Let's go home."
To her surprise, Gail shook her head. "No... No, I want to see them. Grace and her father. I want to see a better happy ending."
Holly nodded. "I'll drive you."
It was the least she could do.
"I hate these things."
"I know," said Holly, holding out Gail's claim ticket. "Everyone's happy, it's disgusting." She frowned. "No tip?"
"Seriously? Wow." Gail rolled her eyes and put a five in the jar. "If the real coat check girl shows up, I want my seven bucks back."
"I can pay you back in a different way," said Holly, suggestively.
"That better be a dildo fund." Gail was pleased to see her girlfriend flush. "Come on, let's just get this over with."
To Gail's relief, Andy and Nick were not at the wedding. She wasn't up for McNally's increasing guilt about everything, misguided and misplaced as it was. But she wasn't really wanting to explain to Andy that she didn't care about Nick like that anymore. Andy would tell everyone, including Steve. Right now, her brother didn't know about Holly. Apparently her parents hadn't told anyone at all, for whatever reasons.
Of all the things Gail worried about, being shot or accidental left to die by some Peck-payrolled crony wasn't one of them. If her lesbianism was under wraps, they'd leave her be. But even so, that kind of dispatching wasn't done anymore. She hoped. No. She worried about the far more practical things, like Holly being fired. It would be no work at all for someone to set Holly up for a fall.
And that other aspect, the one where she too was at risk for career immolation, was one that kept Gail up at night. The smart thing to do would be to tell Frank. But it was his wedding night and this was not the place. Even though Dov seemed to think it was the time to tell Frank he was boning Chloe, Frank's goddaughter, Gail had more sense than that.
She sighed, watching people get drinks and food. Holly was one of them, having offered to find Gail something delicious.
"You are way too serious for a wedding, darlin' dear." The one man on the planet she could trust kissed her cheek.
"Says the man with his ex-wife and girlfriend at the party."
"Hmm. All true. Where are yours?"
"I don't have any," she replied. "A miracle."
Oliver leaned back and looked over at the table. "Things okay?"
"Yes and no..." She hesitated. "Holly wants people to, y'know, know."
"Can you blame her?"
"I am entirely awesome."
The man laughed. "So what's holding you back?"
Gail twisted her ring around her finger. "Pecks," she said softly.
Oliver's face tightened. "Oh. You know you'll be safer the more people know, right? They can't pull funny business."
She looked back, spotting Holly laughing at something with the woman Oliver had brought. Celery. That was her name. "They disowned me," she whispered.
There. She'd said it.
After a heartbeat, Oliver snapped his head around and sought out Steve. "What? Does—"
"I don't think Steve knows," she said quietly. "He hasn't said anything. I don't... I don't know how to tell him."
Gail nodded. "I ... She knows." She felt a little cold though.
Oliver started to say something, but Celery and Holly walked up. "We will talk later, Gail," he finally said.
As the man squired his date off, Holly frowned. "What was that?"
"Shop talk," said Gail. She shivered. "I'm cold. Can we go someplace quieter?"
While Holly didn't look like she bought it, she did gesture with her chin at the coat closer. Which was how Gail ended up wrapped in someone's fur coat with a bottle of champagne and an empty plate of food.
Unlike their last time in a closet, Holly was snuggled up beside her. As the dark haired doctor caressed Gail's hair, she asked, "Do you want to talk about it?"
Gail shook her head. And yet she spoke. "I told Oliver about the thing. My parents."
"And ... I'm going to tell Frank. After. I can't right now."
"No. No, you really can't today." Holly sighed.
Gail sighed too. "I hate weddings."
"I know." Holly didn't question the topic change.
"You're always here for me... Even before."
Her girlfriend stiffened. "Honey, if you're about to propose—"
"Don't get excited, you nerd," Gail said disparagingly. "I'm just trying to tell you that I love you."
In retrospect, there might have been better ways to say it. But Gail knew she couldn't, quite, give Holly what she really wanted. Gail wasn't stupid. She knew damn well that a large part of Holly still felt guilty. Had they not fought, Gail would have stayed at Holly's and not been kidnapped. Which wasn't at all the truth, and they both knew that.
No, if Gail had been at Holly's then it would have been Holly, not Andy, who was semi drugged. Only Holly was better at hand to hand combat than either of them, and knowing what Perik did to Jerry, he probably would have killed Holly. But she'd never been able to make Holly see the sense of that.
While Holly had her guilt, it gave Gail doubt. Was Holly only with her because of the guilt? Worse, was she only with Holly because she was grabbing at the first good thing to ever happen to her?
It took Gail a long time to realize that neither was the truth. The truth, the reality, was that life was complicated and weird and messy. The truth was Gail wouldn't die for Holly, because that was stupid. No, she would live for her and love her, if only Holly would let her. If only Gail's damaged brain and fractured heart could let her love anyone.
Holly was silent.
Gail took a deep breath and jumped in. "Holly... You're the best thing that ever happened to me. And I love you. And ... I know I'm not perfect. I know, God, I make these idiotic emergency situations where I run up a tree and push the people I need away but... You're different. And I'm different with you. I want to be with you. And I'm a brat, I'm impetuous and mean and I've been so, so angry this last year. And you... You made me want to be better."
Still, Holly was silent. Gob smacked. She stared at Gail. Her lips moved and Gail cupped her cheeks. "Gail," Holly finally said, her voice barely a whisper.
"I'm in love with you, Holly."
Holly's mouth moved, not forming words, just moving. She laughed softly, thickly, and leaned away to wipe at her eyes. She was crying. "Oh, Gail."
This time Gail waited. She could tell the difference now, between Holly's sad tears, the angry tears, and the happy ones. This was the happy crying and it was, Gail hoped, a good sign.
"How do you ... You astound me, honey," Holly said. She wiped her nose on her sleeve, which Gail was tempted to tease her about. Instead she kept her mouth shut. At least until Holly kissed her. God. Kissing Holly told her everything she needed to know. It was Holly's yes. It was Holly's 'I love you too' statement. It was Holly's assurance that she understood.
Broken or not. Struggling or not. Holly was with her too.
It is entirely on purpose that all the Perik scenes are told from Holly's perspective. It's far more terrifying for the person on the outside, and it always irritated me that Nick made it about himself. Chris called him on it the first time, getting mad that Nick didn't seem too broken up about it. And I do understand that Nick internalized his feelings. But then this... No. So Holly is the opposite of Nick. She sees Gail and wants to be there, and she's not letting the fact that Gail's a bit of an idiot stop her. And she sees the pain and the secrets and the lies and understands.
And Holly is not going to do that. Because that one day, that one day she could have lost everything and she's not willing to give it up.
There is one more chapter left. Come back in two weeks.
Chapter 4: END
And finally... Gail needs a haircut and we should address the problem that is Steven Peck. All things must come to an end.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
"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.
"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?"
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?"
"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?"
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.
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.
Thanks for coming along on this one.