"Attention Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your captain. Sorry for the inconvenience. We're loading the last of the passengers now. We should be off soon. Thank you for your patience."
The intercom squealed as he disconnected. Gail flinched in irritation at the sound, sinking down in her seat. She was regretting agreeing to this already, and she hadn't even gotten there yet. She had agreed to be 15 divisions liaison at this conference, well more like her mother had offered her up to Frank. She was expendable anyway, not a real needed member of the team, and someone had to go to sit through meeting and lectures on new techniques and forensics. It might as well be her. At least she got a free trip to New York City out of it.
Gail opened her eyes. Standing over her was a woman. She was tall and slender with long brown hair. She smiled down at Gail with a kind but crooked smile. She pushed her glasses up on her nose, almost nervously.
Gail sat up quickly. "Yeah?"
The woman gestured towards the empty window seat beside Gail. "I believe that's my seat."
"Oh!" Gail exclaimed, grabbing her carryon bag, which she had haphazardly flung into the vacant seat. "Sorry."
The woman smiled again as Gail stood up to let her past. "Don't be sorry."
They sat there in mulled silence for a while. They waited and waited and waited for something to happen, but the plane remand motionless still attached to the airport terminal.
Eventually after being side-eyed for a full ten minutes with seemingly no end in site, the woman beside her turned to look at her. Gail ignored her.
"Think we'll ever make it off the ground at this rate?" The sudden question made Gail jump.
She shrugged and kind of grunted in answer, taking hold of the air mall magazine and flipping aimlessly through it. Gail hated being sat beside someone who wanted to talk all flight. It was annoying. All she ever wanted to do was plug her headphones in and read her book. This woman seemed like she was going to be a chatterer so far.
The intercom sounded suddenly again with a wail. They both flinched.
"Attention passengers, we are experiencing some difficulties with the navigation system that will delay our take off time. We appreciate your patience in this matter. Hopefully we'll be leaving soon. Thank you."
Gail and the woman groaned at the same time. They glanced at each other briefly before Gail glanced away again.
"What they need to fix is that stupid intercom," Gail remarked, "It sounds like a dying cat."
The woman agreed. "At this rate by the time we actually get off the ground, we'll all be deaf anyway."
Gail caught her eye, and they laughed. Gail had never met a stranger that had actually agreed with her normally cross personality. It was refreshing to meet someone she didn't instantly put off.
The woman stuck out her hand, "Holly Stewart."
And in a rather un-Gail-like manner, she grasped the hand. "Gail Peck."
"So what do you do Gail Peck?" Holly said turning in her seat to lean back against the window. She drew her leg up on the seat to sit partially cross-legged. "Intercom policing?"
"Oh yes, I regularly arrest people for improper use of sound systems," Gail said. She turned so they were facing each other. "But actually, you're half right."
Holly's face scrunched in a very adorable confused face. "You work with intercoms?"
"Holly, no," Gail said, shaking her head. "I'm a police officer."
Why would she tell this stranger that? Sure, Holly had asked, but she had never been that forth coming with answers to other people's questions before now.
Holly's face lit up. "Oh, you must be heading to the conference then!"
The cop blinked. How in the hell could she know that? Her eyes narrowed as she leaned forward.
"Holly, are you a stalker?" she said it as seriously as she could.
Holly laughed again. It was a sound Gail found pleasant. "No, Officer. I'm a forensic pathologist."
"I know you know what that is," Holly said, "or else you're a very poor police officer."
Gail scowled. "I'm a great cop, thank you very much!"
"I'm sure you are, Gail." From the tone, Holly truly believed that.
"So that must make you a doctor, huh? All smart and nerdy and stuff?" Gail questioned. She'd always been fascinated by forensics to be honest. The blood and guts and people's insides had always held a morbid intrigue to her. She told herself that was the only reason she was still talking to this woman.
Holly seemed bemused by her descriptors. "And stuff."
"Very technical, nerd," Gail said. She wondered how if Holly were in forensics in Toronto they had not met yet. While Toronto was a large city, they should have at least crossed paths. Of course there were thousands of members of just the police department itself so it would be hard to keep track of them all. Gail had a feeling though, she would have definitely remembered Holly if they had met before.
"Just met and already you've given me a nickname," the scientist said. She tilted her head to the side and pushed her glasses up her nose as she studied Gail. It was very much like being an experiment, and the woman beside her was looking for something, anything important. Gail didn't feel very important at all.
The intercom sounded again, causing them both to flinch.
"Ladies and gentlemen, the crew and I would like to thank you for your patience. Our navigation system has been restored. We will be leaving as soon as we get the go ahead by the tower. So if you would, please return to your seats, buckle your seat belts, place your tray tables in their up right and locked positions while our flight staff goes over the safety rules. Thank you again for your patience."
Gail stuck her fingers in her ear as the captain went off. "Jesus Christ, just stop using the damn thing!"
The woman across the aisle scowled at her and held her hands over her toddler's ears. In between them a male flight attendant stood holding a seat belt and an air mask. The intercom let out another dying squeal as his colleague started to explain how to use it. Gail and the woman ignored him, leaning back in their seats to glare at each other.
"She doesn't even know what those words mean," Gail said, jutting her chin out in a challenge.
"Doesn't mean you have to say them, you know," the mom snapped back.
The flight attendant shot them both an uncomfortable look as he switched to showing them the oxygen masks. The woman on the intercom rattled on none the wiser.
Gail lifted her hands to make a gesture the kid would definitely not know when warm hands stopped her suddenly. Holly raised an eyebrow at her in warning as she slowly pulled their joined hands into her lap. She leaned across Gail to apologize to the woman.
The woman shook her head. "Your girlfriend is extremely rude. You could do better."
Gail practically had whiplash from how fast she turned her head. She opened her mouth to say it was nothing like that, but Holly beat her to it.
"I know. She's just so pretty though," she said with a wink. Gail flushed. Holly had called her pretty. She should be used to strangers calling her pretty, after all with her face it happened often enough that it had lost most of its meaning. Nevertheless, she could feel her face turning a bright red.
The woman laughed and the anger seemed to just dissolve. She analyzed Gail's face critically. "Yes, I guess so."
Holly and the woman shared a smile before the woman turned back to her child who pulled at her arm. Holly sat back in her seat and let go of Gail's hands.
"What was that?" Gail asked. Holly seemed unfazed that the woman had thought they were together. She had so easily defused the situation with a smile and some charm. Gail could only ever make the situations worse.
Holly shrugged. "Seemed like the best way to get you out of there without her launching herself across the aisle."
"Did we have to be together?" Gail snapped. They barely even knew each other.
The intercom let out another screech as the demonstration was over, and the attendants returned to their own seats.
Gail had hardly noticed though until the plane began to back up. There was a collective cheer around the cabin by all except Holly and Gail who were still looking at each other. Holly's smile had dropped. She fidgeted and pushed her glasses up, but her gaze dropped to her hands in her lap.
"Oh," she said simply, glancing out the window as the plane began taxying.
Gail realized how that sounded. She hadn't meant it like that. She was just thrown by Holly letting that woman believe that they were together and annoyed she hadn't been able to tell her off. She had obviously hit some kind of nerve with Holly. Of course, already fucking up what she hoped was a friendship at its start. Did she hope this was some sort of friendship? She must be on something. She had to fix this. She had to let this woman know they weren't going to be friends.
She reached out and grabbed Holly's hand. She had never been this touchy-feely with a practical stranger before. Instinctually however, she felt the unwavering need to reach out to the other woman. "Holly, no, I didn't mean...I was just annoyed with this whole trip. It had nothing to do with you. I'd be lucky to date someone like you."
There was a smile stuck on Gail's face that she wasn't sure how it had gotten there. Sure her brain had to send signals to her muscles to make that facial expression, but she was sure her brain hadn't been the one to send them.
That hadn't been the way to distance herself from the other woman. That hadn't been the way she meant that little speech to go. She was supposed to put Holly down in a harsh, but realistic way and bask in the silent plane ride for the next hour and a half.
Holly turned both eyebrows raised. "Who said I'd want to date you, Gail Peck?"
Gail laughed. Holly seemed to have regained her composure, taking her sarcastic gut reaction more in stride. It was something not everyone could do. That impressed Gail at least. "Of course, I'd be totally wrong for you. My last relationship blew up in my face."
Holly leaned back towards her. "How so?"
Woah, what was she doing? Why was she about to tell this stranger a highly personal story about her breakup? No, she was going to tell Holly to mind her own business, but before she could the plane started moving faster. The wind outside grew to a roar as they began to race down the runway. Gail sank back into her seat, going rigid. She always forgot how much she hated flying until the plane was taking off. She gripped the armrests so tightly her knuckles were white. Her eyes snapped closed, and she held her breath.
Until a hand rested on top of her own, fingers wrapping around to pry it off of the armrest. She peeked over at Holly as she gave a reassuring squeeze.
It wasn't until they reached cruising altitude that Gail could breath normally again without sounding like she was about to hyperventilate. She felt dizzy.
"You alright?" Holly said, her eyes soft and concerned. Where Gail's friends would have taunted her with her fears, Holly seemed only concerned for her well-being. There was no comment on the tough Gail Peck being afraid of flying. She felt a swell of affection she didn't even want for this new friend. Why did she keep calling her that?
Gail nodded a bit more than necessary. The plane rattled a bit as it hit some turbulence. She inhaled and exhaled slowly. She fucking hated flying.
"Hey, it's alright," Holly whispered, "There's only a 1 in 11 million chance of dying in a plane crash."
"With my luck, I'd be the one," she muttered. She scrunched her eyes shut and tried to think of something less scary: sharks, centipedes, flying ninja stars.
"Could be worse," Holly remarked, leaning back in her seat. She was still holding Gail's hand, though Gail's grip was considerably less deadly than it had been. The blonde decided she would allow herself to take a moment to feel a bit more grounded before she let go. It had been a long time since she had held anyone's hand. Then she'd tell this woman off in someway that would force her to leave the blonde alone.
"How?" Gail questioned.
Holly gave her that lopsided smile and shrugged. "Could be killer sharks."
Gail let out a bark of a laugh as Holly started humming the theme to Jaws.
"I like the way you think, Stewart," she said, squeezing Holly's hand.
Holly glanced down at them. "You think I can have that back now?"
Gail blushed and immediately let go. "Oh, right, sorry, I didn't…"
The brunette stretched out her fingers for a moment, massaging her joints before she reached out and grabbed Gail's hand back. "It's fine, Gail. I was just losing a bit of feeling from your death grip there."
She squeezed their hands. "You can hold my hand all flight if it makes you feel better."
Gail wasn't used to feeling that rush in her stomach that came with those words. It was a feeling she wasn't sure she should be having. No, this wasn't supposed to be happening. What on earth was she doing?
"Is this how you pick up all the ladies?" she remarked with a smirk as Holly practically choked on air in surprise. That's it drive her away.
She turned to Gail in surprise, her eyebrow rising. She asked rather daringly, "And what if it is?"
Gail, if nothing else, liked the gall of the doctor, so she asked a question she knew would surprise her. "So you're a lesbian then?"
If she was surprised, Holly didn't show it. Her gaze was challenging instead. "Yes, I am. Is that a problem for you?"
Gail's smile softened. "Not a problem at all."
Well that hadn't worked well at driving her away now had it?
Holly's face lit up. She opened her mouth to say something when the flight attendant interrupted her.
"Would either of you care for a beverage?" she asked, gesturing to the cart she was pushing.
"Water, please," Holly said. She was so cheerful and open to everyone. It was a bit unsettling to Gail. She had never met anyone who was as charismatic and friendly as Holly. Except maybe Chloe, but where Chloe's enthusiasm with life bugged Gail, Holly's seemed, against her better judgment, to be growing on the blonde.
She realized suddenly that she had been staring at Holly and the flight attendant was still waiting for her answer. She blinked a few times, before she put on an actual smile, though it may have looked more like a grimace, as she requested a coke.
For the rest of the flight, which was quite short for air travel, she and Holly talked. Gail couldn't seem to stop herself. There was something about Holly that made her want to tell her things. Maybe it was her friendly open face. Maybe it was her lopsided smile. The cop wasn't sure. Now though she was beginning to really get to know the scientist.
Holly wasn't, as it turned out, a forensic pathologist in Toronto. She lived in Ottawa. This was her second flight of the day, a connector from Ottawa to NYC. She told her a funny story of her two-hour layover and how she had gotten so into her book that she had almost missed the boarding.
Gail teased her relentlessly as she produced the book in question: Game of Thrones. Holly defended herself, saying if Gail had ever watched the HBO show, she would understand. Gail was skeptical, but promised if she had the chance she'd watch at least one or two episodes when she got home.
They talked so long about anything and everything and nothing at all that before they knew it, the intercom squealed again, causing them both to jump as the attendants announced they were on final approach to NYC.
Gail and Holly buckled their seat belts. The blonde's head sank back into her headrest as she took a large, deep breath. Her hands gripped at the armrests tightly, and she shut her eyes, trying to imagine herself anywhere but here.
Holly's hand rested on top of hers once again and her voice said softly in her ear, "Just breathe."
Gail swallowed hard as she nodded. As her stomach dropped with the falling altitude, she latched her fingers around Holly's palm. "Jesus Christ."
The plane jolted as the wheels touched down. Gail's whole body went rigid. She gritted her teeth right until they slowed to taxying speed.
Holly's thumb ran across the blonde's knuckles soothingly. When Gail peeked over at the scientist, she was smiling reassuringly at her.
Gail tried to make her body relax, though it was difficult. She glared at Holly. "You aren't allowed to make fun of me for this."
The brunette placed her free hand over her heart. "I promise to never bring this fear up again."
Gail's eyes narrowed as she analyzed the sincerity in the other woman's words. Deciding even with her amused smile that Holly actually meant it, she nodded. "Good."
She ignored how the promise of "again" made her want to smile.
The intercom made them both jump again. Gail was so ready to never hear that shrill sound again. If she had her gun, she would have shot every single speaker in this compartment.
"Ladies and gentleman, welcome to New York City. Thank you for flying with Air Canada. Welcome to New York City! We hope you have a pleasant day!"
People started to stand. Gail jerked her head towards the now open compartment door. "Come on, I need a drink."
"Already asking me for drinks, Officer? You do move fast," Holly said as she stood, ducking down because she was too tall to stand fully upright under the overhead compartments.
Gail smirked. "Well you certainly weren't moving fast enough, Ms. Holding-Strangers-Hands."
Gail grabbed her bag, and in a moment of chivalry snatched the doctor's bag and tossed it over her shoulder as well.
"Such a gentleman."
"Shut up and buy me some tequila, nerdbian."
Holly's laugh echoed down the jet bridge.
Let me know what you think. Thanks for reading.