Author's note: This is intended as a stand-alone, multi-chapter story. However, it is, in a sense, a continuation of the world and the characters created in an earlier story, It Has Been a … Day, and takes up some time after that one left off. Thus, if you haven't read it, there may possibly be some characters or back story of their relationship missing and you might want to go read it (Spoiler Alert: It's long). That said, I'm pretty sure it's not absolutely necessary.
There it is. The click of the first lock. Then the second.
Holly looks up from her book, pulls off her glasses and lays them on her bedside stand. She listens to the sound of the doorknob turning, boots being kicked off, keys hitting the bench, and then, finally, the soft footfalls coming toward the bedroom.
And then there she is.
"Hi," Holly says softly, laying the book next to her on the covers.
"Mmmm," Gail moans, shuffling into the room, frowning and falling in a dramatic face plant onto the other side of the bed.
Holly smiles and places a hand over Gail's head, the only part of her she can reach.
"Good day then?"
"Mmmm," Gail whimpers without lifting her head. "They made me run," she mumbles into the covers.
"Who made you run?" Holly asks, smoothing out her ponytail against the covers.
"All of them. All the criminals" Gail moans. "Three times."
She lifts the arm that had been lying prone at her side, holds up three fingers and waves them in Holly's general direction. "Three freaking times I had to chase someone. It's like everyone but me had their Wheaties this morning."
Gail moans into the covers again, a long low grumble, before turning her head to the side, muttering, her cheek pressed against the comforter. "Not funny. I'm not built for this, Holly. "
"Poor you," Holly says idly, combing her fingers through her hair and smiling at the way Gail has to play everything for drama, all part of her Gail shtick.
Finally she lifts her head and looks up at Holly, her frown ebbing away.
"Hi," she says suddenly, smiling, her chin resting in her hand.
"Hi." Holly smiles back.
They look at each other for a long moment, mutually, contentedly invested in the tender project of taking in each other all over again, of re-making their little world together.
And when she is done doing that, Gail peels herself off the mattress and crawls slowly over to Holly, leaning in and kissing her softly on the lips, before pulling back.
"How are you?" She asks, her blue eyes narrowed, cat-like, affectionate, at Holly.
"I'm fine." Holly tells her as Gail busies herself sliding fully dressed under the covers next to her and curling against her side. "No running for me," she says, wrapping an arm around Gail's shoulder. "Just a whole lot of desk time. Editing. Boring."
"Yeah, are you done with that stupid paper yet?" Gail asks, picking up Holly's book, reading the cover and tossing it back down again. "I haven't seen you for nearly a week, you know."
"I saw you on Monday, for lunch, remember?"
"Lunch doesn't count," Gail tells her, pouting, drawing her arm across Holly's stomach. "I can't feel you up over lunch"
"So sorry," Holly says, chuckling. "It was quite the tight deadline they threw at me."
"I mean, who needs to read that much about, what was it- drowned people?" Gail shakes her head, yanking at the bottom of Holly's t-shirt. "Drowned shot people?"
"Analysing bullet wounds in mid-term submerged corpses." Holly tells her for what feels like the eighteen thousandth time. "And many, many people want to know about it. Forensic pathologists want to know. Lawyers want to know. The courts want to know. And you police will want us to know next time you drag a body out of the lake, so I wouldn't complain if I were you."
"Okay, okay," Gail tells her, shrugging. "Still, I'm not sure it is worth the neglect."
"Neglect huh?" Holly laughs. "Okay. Well then I think you being on night shift four nights in a row is totally unacceptable." She pokes Gail in the ribs. "And I am unimpressed."
"Hmmph." Is all the response she gets.
Holly smiles, pulling Gail in closer. She's missed her beautiful grouch. It's been too long. They have both been too busy of late, too busy to catch a solid moment together, and it has been no fun at all.
First there was the journal editor all of a sudden putting the accelerator on Holly's research paper, saying they wanted to use it in an earlier issue. This meant a frantic week or two of writing up, editing referencing— all the parts Holly usually likes to take her sweet painstakingly careful time on— and instead had to spend every spare waking hour on it for days to feel like she'd got it right in time. Then there was Gail's spate of night shifts, meaning she started work as Holly was finishing and didn't clock off in the early hours of the morning. None of this has been at all conducive to good old-fashioned quality time, let alone any time at all. And even though she is joking about being unimpressed with Gail herself, Holly's frustration at this situation has been very real.
She slides down the bed and turns to face Gail, curling a hand under her neck. Gail automatically turns too, mirroring Holly, lying on her side. She looks weary. Back-to-back night shifts will do that, Holly supposes.
It's funny, she muses, with all the other things that she thought that could— and the some that did— make things difficult for them so far, Holly had never actually factored in the everyday practicalities of timetabling— that this would come to be the main obstacle to any sort of togetherness. It simply hadn't occurred to her that they are working with two very different lives, lifestyles and jobs in this budding relationship. All the other differences had been so much more obviously portentous of trouble. Who knew that the simple need to find time together would, at least for now, be their biggest issue?
She feels Gail pulls at a strand of her hair, silently demanding Holly's attention come back to her. Obedient, she returns to her.
Gail's eyes gleam quietly in the lamplight as she smiles a small but convincing smile, followed by a whispered, emphatic, "I missed you."
Holly feels that tug inside that she feels whenever Gail says something so candidly affectionate. There is something particularly special when Gail is like this, when she forgets the snark for a moment, the tongue-in-cheek bravado, the pouty whimsy and just speaks her feelings out loud. Holly likes it all, all the Gail crap, but the simplicity of a claim like missing her said with such guileless sincerity, has the ability to make her melt in a delicious but slightly embarrassing way she'd never admit to Gail.
"I've missed you, too." Holly tells her, kissing her. She reaches down under the covers and hooks her fingers into one of the belt loops of Gail's jeans, pulling her closer. "Can you stay tonight?"
"I'm on night shift again tomorrow." She sighs. "Lucky me. Another lawless, drunken Toronto Saturday night." She sighs. "I'm so sick of the late shift."
"Well, like I said, I'm sick of you doing the late shift." Holly says, slipping her hand under the back of Gail's jumper and running her hand across her satiny lower back, enjoying the sensation of her skin under her hands again. "And I will think of you, I promise, as I enjoy the drunken Saturday night."
"What are you doing?" Gail asks, instantly, slightly, interrogative.
"A work party, actually," Holly tells her. "I am sure it will be very well-behaved, though. No police presence required."
Gail pouts. "I wish I could go to a party, instead of being called in to break them up."
"I wish you could come to this party." Holly tells her, running her hand further up her back. "Not as the fun police, of course," she adds. "As yourself."
"Mmm," Gail agrees, breaking into a yawn. It is half-hearted agreement at best. Holly is not surprised. She knows Gail is terrified of meeting her friends. She has already told Holly that she historically doesn't come off well meeting strangers, all because of what she calls her 'stranger danger'. Her awkwardness with people she doesn't know, she claims, can sometimes suddenly spin into a kind of weird hostility. She doesn't mean it. It just kind of happens. Holly had laughed when Gail told her that. She has certainly seen enough of Gail in social action that she believes it might be true. She also likes the fact that Gail cares enough about it that she feels a need to forewarn Holly.
Gail nudges her head under Holly's chin and kisses her neck before leaning back and frowning. "I'm hungry," she says, like it has just occurred to her.
"Of course you are," Holly smiles. Gail is always hungry. "Did you have dinner?"
Gail shakes her head, kissing Holly's neck again. "I should have got something on the way, but I just wanted to hurry and get here while you were still awake."
"Aw," Holly mutters, kissing her. "I'm glad. But do you want to call for take out? Or I can make you something?"
"Neh," Gail shakes her head, sliding in closer to Holly, and slipping a hand into the waistband of her leggings. "I'll make some toast or something later. I just want to feel you up a bit first. You know, make up for Monday."
Holly laughs, pulling at Gail's jumper— her vote for its removal. "You go right ahead."
"Well hello there."
Holly looks up from her coffee and from Thao's epically tragic tale of a visit to the in-laws with a sick child to find the smiling face of Oliver Shaw in full uniform, standing at their table, grinning down at them.
"Hi there." she smiles at him, surprised but pleased to see him here in the café under the lab, where they are snatching a sneaky late afternoon coffee. She likes this man a lot already, based on a few recent, brief work encounters. She couldn't help but instantly like the sweet, almost canine nature of his obviously protective and unconditional affection for those around him.
"What are you doing in this part of the world?" she asks, then remembers introductions. "Thao, this is Officer Shaw…"
"Oliver," he interrupts.
"Oliver." Holly repeats, "This is Thao."
"Pleased to meet you," he tells Thao, who smiles her response.
He turns back to Holly and to her question. "Ah, we were just taking something to the lab. Then I needed a caffeinated beverage and remembered Miss Cranky Pants over there owes me a coffee. So I made her come to the nice place for the good lattes." He waves his hand in the direction of the counter. There, across the room with her back to them at the counter is Gail, paying for two take out coffees, her blonde hair pulled back into a low ponytail. Holly feels that slight charge—that most moderate of turbulence she always seems to feel when she unexpectedly sees Gail.
"That woman will never, ever, remember that you shouldn't bet against me when it comes to politics, hockey or when teenage boys are lying." Oliver says, shaking his head.
"And thus, she owes you coffee?" Thao asks, smiling up at him.
"Exactly." Oliver tells her with gusto.
Holly smiles. She's going to guess Gail lost a bet on the third topic. She can't imagine Gail talking either politics or hockey, let alone laying bets.
He turns back to Holly. "So, how are those bodies treating you? Behaving? Not giving you any gyp?"
"No," Holly laughs, sipping her coffee. "Not lately, anyway."
"You know, Holly, that's why I like the sound of your job. They don't answer back. See, I'm a family man," he says, turning to Thao, bringing her into his expansive stage. "I've already got teenage kids. They backtalk all the time. Won't let me, their father, be the superior mind among them. Teenagers know everything. Did you know that?" he asks them.
Thao shakes her head, smiling. "Mine is barely old enough to speak yet."
"Ah, see, now enjoy that." Oliver says, pointing at her. "It gets ugly as soon as you give them words. So, I've got the kids, then I've got criminals, who …"
Holly tries to focus in on this strangely entertaining spiel but the sight of Gail, now finished buying the coffees and scanning the room distracts her. Holly watches her blue eyes roaming until they locate Oliver. Sighted, she heads in their direction without noticing who it is he is talking to. In fact, she doesn't spot Holly until she is close and Holly can see that when she does, her eyes widen ever so slightly. She also sees Gail bites her bottom lip as she negotiates the crowded café with two full cups, trying to cover a small smile that escapes anyway. Holly involuntarily mirrors the smile; enjoying witnessing Gail's pleased reaction to her sudden, probably surprising, presence. She's so skittish, you never know how she'll react to anything she is not prepared for.
Gail finally makes it to them, coming to a halt next to Oliver and nudging him with her wrist, a prompt to take the coffee from her.
"Ah, see, and then I've got this one and her pals backtalking all over the shop," Oliver takes his coffee from Gail with one hand. He places the other around the back of her neck and shakes her gently, fatherly. Gail looks about as comfortable as Holly would expect her to in a moment likes this. Not at all.
"Yep, this one's a real smart ass." Oliver continues. "Might as well have another teenage daughter for all the respect I get."
"Okay Dad." Gail shoots back, at her belligerent teenage best. "At least that's the calibre of the jokes," she tells them. She looks over at Holly, but doesn't move. "Hey," she smiles.
"Hi," Holly returns, as cautiously casual as she can be. It is in this moment that she is grateful that Gail's uniform saves them from any awkward decisions about PDAs. "Gail, this is my friend Thao, Thao, this is Gail."
"Hi," Thao says, looking up from her phone and raising a hand in a kind of friendly half-wave. Gail offers a quick smile, and then looks straight back down at the lid of her coffee, picking at the plastic lid.
Holly sees Thao eyeing Gail curiously, subtly trying to get a good look at this woman she has heard so much about while showing Oliver something on her phone. A picture of her kid, Holly guesses, but she has clearly missed this part of the conversation due to the minor distraction that is Gail's presence.
"Very cute. Get that child an agent. So, did she tell you?" Oliver asks, handing Thao back her phone and turning back to Holly, disturbing her covert observation of Gail dealing with this potentially social awkward— for Gail— meeting.
"Tell me what?" Holly asks him, looking from him to Gail. Gail's frown tells Holly that she doesn't know what he is talking about either.
"That myself and Officer Peck here are soon to be awarded, along with Toronto's finest officers, an award for bravery in emergency response." He puffs his chest out a little as he makes the announcement. It appears eighty percent mocking, but maybe, just maybe, twenty percent genuine to Holly.
"Wow?" she says, looking over at Gail. It's the first she's heard of it.
"Yeah, you, me and like, one hundred and fifty other of Toronto's finest officers." Gail scoffs, sipping her coffee and frowning. "It's this annual thing. They give out a heap of awards every year. No big deal."
"What did you get it for?" Thao asks, looking back and forth between Gail and Oliver. Holly can tell Thao is completely entertained by their banter, their indulgent enjoyment in playing out their odd couple alliance for comedy. And rightfully so. From the few moments Holly has witnessed lately, the Gail and Oliver Show can be a beautiful, if dizzyingly whacky, thing.
"As first responders to the scene, we very bravely rescued a mother and child from the lake a few months back," Oliver announces, putting his coffee down on their table and stirring in sugar.
"We?" Gail turns to him, throwing him her best Gail shade. "Uh, only one of us came out of that rescue with their uniform wet. And it was definitely not you."
"Well, I couldn't risk getting my hair wet," Oliver shoots back, lifting his arm and primping at his thinning pate. "Besides, who actually hauled them out? Who, might I ask, administered the first aid?"
"Yeah, yeah" Gail tells him, sipping her coffee. "While I tried not to be dragged to a watery grave by the weight of my uniform."
"Anyway," Oliver says, ignoring Gail, "We are to be honoured— among many others it now seems— because we are fabulous."
"True," Gail shrugs, screwing up her face and nodding in agreement.
"And now we must take these talents back to the mean streets of Toronto, ladies."
"Bye. Lovely to see you, Oliver." Holly says, meaning it.
"Nice to meet you," adds Thao, smiling and leaning forward in her chair.
"Likewise." Oliver says, ever affable.
He turns to Gail. "Shall we make a move, my dear? Still a few hours left of Daddy/Daughter shift to enjoy."
Gail doesn't answer. She just throws him side eye and delivers a gritted-teeth smile. Oliver, unruffled, just smiles right back, inured to her lack of charms. She then turns and flashes Holly and Thao a brief weary smile before turning to follow him out of the restaurant. Holly tracks them with her eyes as they make their way to the door.
When she turns back to Thao is smiling at her.
"Sooo, that is Gail," she says slowly, tucking her hair behind her ear and reaching for her purse.
"Yes, that is Gail." Holly agrees, feeling suddenly shy. Thao was the first and is still one of the very few people Holly has talked about Gail with. And Thao first heard about her existence during a particularly rough point in their getting together, a time when Gail was being, well, slightly crazy. Now that they have actually met, she hopes knowing this hasn't coloured Thao's opinion of her.
"She's certainly feisty." Thao says, throwing a note on top of the bill and pushing her chair back. "And funny."
"Ha," Holly laughs, getting up and pulling on her coat. "That was nothing."
"Imagine being arrested by those two?" Thao ponders, shaking her head as they get up to head back to the lab. "I feel like it'd be positively slapstick."
Nope, Holly cannot imagine it.
To be continued. Your reviews are always appreciated.