Somewhere in the deep-dark haze of that space between sleep and awake, Gail could feel a presence quietly taking a seat next to her on the edge of the bed. Instinct told her to assess her situation for danger. She was, first and foremost, a police officer and a Peck. Being woken up in the middle of the night on "family vacations" to do life-lesson readiness drills was a part of her childhood she preferred not to remember, but in moments such as this the memories came rushing back.
She was lying on her stomach – a position of vulnerability. Whoever was next to her was in control. Who was it? Where was she? She never slept on her stomach. She was hazy, but not hangover; still tired but knew she had slept deeply for at least a few hours. It was all very confusing. She felt a hand gently come in contact with her back – her muscles underneath immediately tensed. Instead of recoiling, whoever it was began to graze their fingertips up Gail's spine. Her body now alert as her head began to play catch up and her senses went into overdrive.
It was her sense of smell that first registered the person now leaning in closer – the soft, faint mixture of lavender and vanilla that she associated with only one person. As soon as she was able to process the scent, her body relaxed and allowed itself to become even more vulnerable to the presence awakening it. She was in Holly's bed; lying under Holly's sheets being woken up by Holly's touch and scent.
The previous day came rushing into focus – the shootings; Oliver; the church; the hospital; introducing Holly to her brother and Chris; and finally, in a moment of pure exhaustion, she recalled giving into her overwhelming desire for comfort and asking Holly to take her back to her place instead of her own. She had wanted nothing more than to just sleep next to this amazing, calming woman and had somehow found the courage to ask.
Gail was not someone who typically asked for anything. She demanded, occasionally whined someone into submission, but never tepidly asked someone for help or comfort. This was all so very new to her. To Holly's credit, she didn't call her on it last night. There were no sarcastic counters or cheeky grins – she just flipped her turn signal right instead of left at the following intersection and laced the fingers of her other hand with Gail's.
"Hey, sleepyhead, you need to wake up. I brought you coffee and the shower is warming up." Holly placed the cup of steaming brew on the nightstand next to mess of blonde hair hiding a half-comatose Gail.
Holly heard a mumbled "Go 'way" as Gail blindly reached and found another pillow to bury her head. It seemed Gail woke up pretty much exactly how Holly had imagined she would – frustrated and ready to kick the first person she saw. She couldn't help but let her mind wonder as to what it would take to get Gail to wake up with a smile on her face…hmm, an experiment for another day perhaps.
Gail felt Holly's hand move from her back to the side of her abdomen tapping the exposed skin between her shirt and pants with her knuckle. It immediately sent a wave of shivers up her spine. She battled internally the urge to turn over and reach for Holly vs. slip back into the deep black hole of the nothingness that she always welcomed with sleep.
Since Holly didn't seem to be taking "go away" for an answer she tried bargaining, "Hol, I will give you everything I own if you let me sleep for one more hour."
"You own a 6-year old car, some killer boots, and a firearm. Not all that interesting to me - try again." This time, Holly took the less gentle approach and grabbed the pillow from atop Gail's head throwing it quickly to the far corner of the bed before she could react in defense. "Come on, Gail, you asked me to wake you up at six a.m. Please do not make me cave to the more devious aspects of my being and throw ice water on you."
Gail allowed for one eye to sliver open so she could glare in Holly's direction. "You do realize I know about thirty different ways to kill someone while still in my pajamas, right?"
"And you do realize I know about hundred different ways to dispose of a body without any traces of evidence, right? Are you always this difficult in the morning?" Holly inquired while inching her body backward to allow Gail to finally start sitting up.
Gail twisted her body sideways as she rolled herself into a sitting position, groaning as her muscles relented to the unwanted movement. She knew she had to get up. At some point in the midst of all the agonizing commotion last night, she had promised Frank she would take Chloe's shift this morning. Plus she was beginning to have a little fun bantering with the woman that so kindly and warmly allowed her to sleep next to her last night without question or pretense. Gail leaned her back against the pillowed headboard and grabbed the hot coffee next to her. Taking a long pull of the dark roast, she tilted her head in Holly's direction, "Anyone with this high of thread count on their sheets does not kill indiscriminately. And in case you failed to realize, I'm difficult every waking moment; it's my thing. Morning just seem to be an opportunity to be a little extra…something."
This time Holly did greet Gail with a playful grin. "Oh, believe me; I caught on to that little tidbit weeks ago. But I know something else about you, Office Peck…"
"Oh, really, and what's that?" Gail challenged knowing she was being walked into some sort of trap.
Holly leaned forward placing her hands on the bed straddling Gail's hips so their faces are inches apart. She closed the distance giving Gail a sweet and soft morning kiss and then whispered. "I may not know every inch of you..your mind or body…yet…but I see you. 'Difficult' may be the thing you want people to see, but 'Difficult Gail' wasn't around last night trading in a much needed and deserved day off to help her division cover open shifts. It wasn't 'Difficult Gail' that spent two hours texting Dov back-and-forth until two a.m. even though she was bone-tired just to make sure he didn't do anything stupid. And it certainly wasn't 'Difficult Gail' that held my hand in front of her squad and brother. I don't think 'Difficult Gail' is really your thing as much as you like to believe it is."
Gail locked eyes with Holly. She wasn't sure how to react to the challenge to her well-honed and carefully constructed persona. She weighed her options – first defaulting to her standby of "attack then retreat." It served her well in the past in keeping people at bay, but did she really want to do that to Holly? She was lying in this woman's bed pretty sure she should credit her good night's sleep to being wrapped in her arms. While the previous day's emotional roller coaster had awakened her still exhausted and ill-at-ease, she could feel there was some part of her breaking through the gut-wrenching drama evolving into a calmness she had never experienced. She knew, without question, the woman with the dancing brown eyes waiting for her to volley the next play was responsible for that.
Much to her own surprise, Gail acquiesced, "I'm not sure I know how to be anyone other than 'Difficult Gail.'. I've tried…maybe not hard enough, but I have tried. It hurts too much when they still turn away."
Holly wasn't expecting such a serious and profound counter from Gail at six o'clock in the morning. Of course, Holly wasn't expecting Gail to be in her bed this morning either, so maybe she should begin to accept that nothing about this woman was going to follow a marked path. She was starting to formulate in her head the list of who "they" may be on Gail's list. Holly was being honest when she said she didn't know everything about Gail yet, but it didn't take her numerous degrees to know that the list probably started somewhere in early childhood and never really quit being added to. She would be damned if she ever made that list.
"Gail, I'm here. I'm not turning away. Whatever you want from me…need from me…you got it."
This time it was Gail who closed the distance between them offering a longer, less chaste kiss and then admitted with a smile, "Somehow I think I've known that since the minute I met you. It just…it just...kinda scares the hell out of me."
Gail then broke the moment by climbing off the bed, grabbing the coffee mug as she turned toward the adjoining bathroom. She then stopped in her tracks, pivoting so she could look Holly once again in eye. With a coy smile she added. "If 'difficult' isn't going to be 'my thing' then maybe 'my thing' can be you."