Thank you so much for your kind words already. They mean a lot.
Without further hesitation - here we go again.
You don't remember calling her, or asking for her to be called, but you must have done one of those because she's there.
And in that moment you didn't want to see anyone more.
There are tears in your eyes and your head is still filled the fluffy haze from that Oxy-whatever they gave you. There's a dull sting in your wrist, and all these emotions and feelings are making your head hurt. Then suddenly over Andy's shoulder there she is.
Glasses pushed up on the top of her head and smile relaxed; when she catches your eye it's all it takes to calm you down. What happened, or what is happening between Nick and Andy doesn't matter. It's done.
You say your goodbyes to McNally, citing some line about real friends which later, when you recall this alone you'll be impressed with yourself for. Holly's smile widens when you approach and you can see the concern in her eyes. Your stomach flips but the Oxy-stuff kills any urge you have to ignore it. Its good stuff this.
"Hey," she half whispers.
"Hey, let's get out of here."
You've rounded two corners of lino floored hospital corridors in silence before she speaks. It's soft and cautious. "So erm, how… how are you feeling?"
There's a hidden depth to her question that you're sure is there, but you don't know how to tackle that one right now. You're too dazed. And not just because of the pills. "I nearly burnt my hand off," is how you decide to go. It's easy and you can fill it with sarcasm. "With like super strong chemical stuff. How do you think I'm feeling?"
She giggles lightly, "that super strong chemical stuff you refer to, was probably some concentration of sulphuric acid. It's highly corrosive and can cause…"
"Hol, stop with the words."
"You're smart you know?"
"Yeah, I know." She smiles and pauses for a second. "That's the first time you've said something like that and not insinuated that I'm a nerd. Are you softening up Officer?"
Rolling your eyes you reply with you usual quickness, "it must be the meds."
Maybe you are softening. You hadn't wanted to call her a nerd or a dork or a geek. You genuinely wanted to let her know you thought she was smart, and you like that she's smart. It makes you feel some sense of pride. This girl is super smart and it makes you feel proud that she's your friend.
The cool evening air hits you the second you walk through the glass doors of the hospital and you automatically pull your jacket tighter around your body. As you do so however, you brush too hard against your wrapped wrist and you wince as the pain shoots through you. Holly's hand is immediately on your upper arm and she's stops you both, meeting your eyes. That concern is back, written all over her face and you can't deal with that and everything else right now. So you avert your gaze and look around the parking lot for her car.
"I'm okay," you offer as you start walking again, hoping Holly will just follow. "I just knocked it."
You can still feel her eyes on you but hear her feet on the asphalt as she returns to her place walking beside you. "I'm parked over here. Come on let me take you back home. Are your flat mates in?"
"They're both on shift," you remember and say aloud.
Holly's silent for a moment and you reach the back of her car before she speaks again, pulling her car keys from her pocket and turning her attention to the lock so you can't see her face. "Well, I'm not leaving you on your own whilst you're coming off the meds. You can come back to mine."
You start to protest. Weakly telling her you don't want to put her out or be any bother. As you both climb into the car, she cuts you off. "Gail, you're coming home with me so I can keep an eye on you. It's been a long day and anyways, you shouldn't be on your own whilst the Oxycodone is wearing off."
The look on her face tells you not to argue this time. In fact it's actually pretty scary. And you don't have energy. Instead, you let out a sigh and tip your head back against the seat, letting your eyes close. You can feel Holly's eyes on you briefly but she doesn't say anything more and you keep yours shut. When the engine starts, you speak, just loud enough to be heard. "It's been a really freaking long day."
Holly's apartment, you realise as she pulls off the road on to a drive way, isn't too far from the coffee shop you'd met her at last week for a rare Sunday brunch. It's a nice area of the city. You find yourself feeling glad Holly lived somewhere safe and away from trouble. Wordlessly, the two of you make your way towards the building and she leads you in and up to her door. Her neighbour opposite is on her way out, locking her door. She exchanges hellos and raises her eyebrows at the sight of a cop stood in the hallway. Holly follows her eyes, which are currently looking your slightly dishevelled but uniformed state up and down. You both speak at the same.
"She's a friend," Holly explains.
"I'm off duty," you fire out, at what you'd probably consider low to medium level aggression.
Once you're both inside the apartment and Holly's closed the door behind you, flicking the dead lock across, which again fills you with a sense of ease, she turns to you. "Mrs Wilkinson seems to like you," she jokes gently but you know it's her way of scolding you for being so abrasive.
"She was looking at me funny," you say by way of excuse, and even you know it's weak.
"Yeah, well you do look a bit funny."
Your hands automatically shoot up to your eyes which you know must still be red and puffy. Damn pale skin. And you rub at them roughly. Holly takes a step toward you and goes to reach out for your hands but thinks better of it and stops herself. You drop them anyway and the two of you stand in a silent face off for a heartbeat. "I'm sorry," she apologises softly. "You don't look funny. You look like someone who needs to take that bulky jacket off and have a warm drink and rest."
"Yeah," is all you manage and start to shrug your jacket off. It feels better without it on, without its bulk you feel lighter. Holly takes it from you without you asking so and hangs it up on a hook beside hers. When she turns back to you, you're untying your heavy boots, but her eyes are drawn straight to the now exposed bandage on your wrist.
As you stand back up, now with your shoes removed and kicked to the side, you can tell she wants to stay something. For the second time in as many minutes she's holding back on you, and you find it both infuriating and oddly soothing. It's somewhat calming to know that this friendship of the two of yours is causing her these kind of feelings too.
Instead, she gestures in to the rest of the flat and you realise you've just been stood in the entrance way without seeing the rest of the place. "Do you want the tour? Or just to crash out? I can have the guest room made up in a few minutes."
"You have a guest room?" You ask, incredulous. "In the city?"
"It doubles as an office for me to work out of when I don't need to be in the lab," she explains. When you don't come back with some retort she carries on. "It gives me space to write, you know research papers and pieces for pathology journals?"
You don't know, not really, science has never been your thing. But you remember that first afternoon in the lab, the day you met when you were read the magazine you'd found lying around. The article had her name in the by-line. Because Holly is smart, really smart. Holly knows how to put skeletons back together and how bodies respond to gunshot wounds and what chemicals are in industrial drain cleaner. You really like that Holly is smart, and you don't really know what to do with that fact.
Intrigued by what the apartment holds, and what she can learn about its owner, you walk past Holly and through into the living area. The place screams Holly, or at least what you already know about her. There's books everywhere you look, and an impressive CD collection, and photographs on every spare surface. You pick one up from the nearest shelf; it's of Holly and two girls that look exactly like her just older.
"My sisters," she says from behind you and you turn to find she's followed you in and has been watching you take in the room. You didn't know she has sisters, and put the frame back down where you found it. There's a funny feeling in your stomach, that you think has something to do with finding out you don't know everything about this girl.
Those feelings are getting harder to ignore.
It's the early morning sun streaming through the blinds that wakes you; although you can't say that you'd slept well. The night had been full of tossing and turning. An hour of sleep here, maybe another there. Mostly you'd just lain awake; your mind racing off at a thousand miles an hour replaying the last twenty four hours.
When the ray of pale sunlight hits you between the eyes, you actually feel more exhausted than when you'd crawled into bed late last night after sharing a pizza with Holly.
That's where you were now. Holly's. In her spare room. Wrapped up in her spare sheets. Whilst she's asleep less than 10 feet away on the other side of the wall.
The two of you had sat up last night, talking about nothing in particular. Hockey and work and some band you'd heard on the radio. She'd told you about her sisters, and her sisters' husbands, and her sisters' children. You'd sat and listened, not really offering any of your own family stories. You'd enjoyed listening, enjoyed learning about her.
And you stopped trying to ignore those stupid feelings, just for one night. As the Oxy-whatsit wore off, it was easier just to feel.
Rubbing the stress from your temples, you swing your legs out of the bed and start pulling on yesterday's uniform. Your wrist is smarting and there's a dull pain right at the front of your head, but the first thing you want to do, more than take a shower or find painkillers, is get the hell out of there.
You have to be back at the station in two hours, and you can't shake that impending sense of doom you get when there are undeniably busy days' policing ahead. It's so far from you need right now and it makes your head ache more.
There's no sound coming from Holly's room so you assume she's still safely in the world of nod and head straight for your boots and jacket. It takes all the strength you have left to push the feelings of guilt to the back of your mind. Running from her flat, whilst she's still fast asleep, Holly doesn't deserve this.
Not even close.
Not when she took care of you last night, offering you a place to run to; someone to run to. Not when she ordered your favourite pizza and made tea. Not when she changed the dressing on your burnt arm and took extra special care when applying some cream that she promised would make it heal faster. Not when she became the first person to put you first in a very long time.
It makes your head spin and your stomach lurch. You feel like a jerk, a huge selfish jerk, but you're used to that feeling by now. Self-depreciation is a feeling you can handle.
As you let yourself out of the apartment and practically skip down the stairs for freedom, you have to remind yourself that you're supposed to be ignoring these intense and difficult feelings. You keep telling yourself that on the cold walk home. And in the shower. And as you sit at the station listening to Frank brief the new operation.
Your head's almost in the game when Traci calls you to join her team, but when she mentions that they're waiting on some DNA results from the lab before the can make a concrete ID, your resolve unravels immediately.
You have your phone in your hand in seconds, ignoring Traci's intrigued eyes as you tap out a text.
To Holly: I'm sorry. X