She puts the cup on the bedside table, kneels on the soft mattress, and watches the hand as it reaches out from the covers to quiet the noisy phone. Finally, the exaggerated beeping that Gail could hear assaulting the morning from the kitchen comes to a halt.
"Hey," Gail whispers to the moving lump beneath the covers.
Holly's head emerges from under the covers. She blinks several times, turning her head away from the light.
"How do you always manage to do that?" she mumbles, throwing her hand over her face.
"What?" Gail asks, even though she is pretty sure that she knows exactly what Holly is referring to.
Holly rubs her eyes slowly and eventually turns back to her. "I am seriously beginning to think you don't sleep at all. That you're some kind of vampire cop." She yawns, stretching her arms over her head until they are pressed against the wall behind her. She turns and looks at Gail with that quizzical, half-amused look she always seems to be looking at Gail with.
Gail just shrugs at her. She can't help it if she wakes up early.
"Let me guess," Holly says, smiling, her eyes crinkling at the corners. "You have a question?"
Gail crosses her legs on top of the covers and sits up straight. "Maybe," she says, aloof. "What makes you think that?"
"Because you always have a question in the morning. Too much thinking time on your hands" Holly reaches out and curls her hand around Gail's, still smiling. "So tell me, what's it going to be? Do I need caffeine first for this one, or is it easy? Maybe something weather-related?" she adds, clearly hopeful.
Gail laughs, picking up Holly's hand and rubbing the smooth, almost olive, skin with her thumb. How is it that Holly already seems to know her— and her tics— better than most of her friends and family do? She kisses the hand and drops it, turning toward the bedside stand.
"Guess what?" She turns and takes the steaming cup from the small table, turning back and holding it up in Holly's direction. "I already provided caffeine. Well … tea." She shrugs. "I'm too scared to use your coffee machine. It doesn't like me."
"It likes you plenty," Holly scoffs, pulling herself out up in the bed and sitting back against the wall. She takes the tea carefully and sips it. "Mm, and I definitely like you lots, now." She smiles at Gail. "Okay, I am ready for question time."
Gail puts her own cup of tea down on the bedside table, crawls across the bed and climbs over Holly so she is sitting straddled over her legs, facing her. She pulls a tangled lock of Holly's long brown hair and drops it behind her shoulder, smiling at her. Gail likes morning Holly best. She likes it when she is all sleep-eyed and dazed and, frankly, still beautiful. Holly always seems to be so together, and it kind of makes Gail feel better to be reminded frequently that she is not always completely self-possessed and on top of everything. Gail certainly never is.
But it is not just that. Gail knows it is also the fact that this particular Holly is all hers— that only she has access to this messy-haired, drowsy, slightly behind-the-eight-ball version of Holly, the version that Gail secretly thinks is Holly at her most adorable, but will never tell her because its gross and cutesy. And at this time of day, in these private moments she gets to feel a delicious sense of possession, of claim over her. At other times, Holly's social generosity means she is always to be shared, always dividing her attention among many because she wants to know everyone, because she seems to feels so at ease among people. Not that Gail minds- she is the first to admit she is envious of this quality- but she still likes these moments best, in the early morning, when Holly is still all hers. And she still cannot fathom how, even just after the small parting of sleep, how this woman just continues, inexorably, to happen to her all over again.
"So, what have you got for me, Peck?" Holly asks again, placing her teacup on the bedside stand.
Gail rests her hands on Holly's shoulders, firing her latest early morning musing at her.
"What if I hadn't kissed you that day in the interview room?"
Holly exhales in a kind of half-laugh and rests her head back against the wall. "Right, so, definitely not the weather then?"
"Nope." Gail shakes her head, smiling.
"So what do you mean, if you never kissed me?"
Gail shrugs. "Just that. What would have happened if I'd been all like, 'Never mind, Holly, stop stressing out, I'll see you later,' instead of kissing you." She shrugs again, looking down at the small stretch of covers between them. "What would have happened then?"
"I have no idea." Holly shakes her head. "I guess I would have gone back to work. And still worried about you." She adds.
"And that's it?" Gail feels her shoulders drop.
"Gail," Holly places her hands on Gail's thighs and gives them a squeeze. "Is what you are really asking, is, if it hadn't happened then, whether we would have still gotten together?"
"I guess," Gail shrugs. "I mean, if that crazy day hadn't happened, I don't know if I would have been …"
"Brave enough to jump me?" Holly laughs.
Gail smiles, feeling suddenly shy. "Maybe," she mutters, taking her hands from Holly's shoulders and folding them in her own lap. "Who knows? You might be dating that woman from the Penny that night. And I might still be going on terrible blind dates my mother organised," She tries to laugh, to make it more light-hearted than she is actually feeling.
"Hey," Holly says, reaching over and untangling Gail's hands from the knot she has made of them, and then slipping her own fingers through Gail's. Gail looks at her, biting her bottom lip. Holly smiles, squeezing her hands.
"You don't think that this was kind of inescapable?" she asks. "That it would have happened, eventually?"
"I guess," Gail mumbles. Of course she does. And that is what she was hoping to hear from Holly— what she thinks she already knows, but for some reason, today, really needs to hear.
"The fact that I wasn't interested in that woman that night at the Penny was part of the reason why I knew that something was standing in the way of my being open to meeting someone like her, someone who was really quite great- and very attractive I might add."
Gail frowns, remembering the woman. She was pretty cute. "Shut up, Holly."
Holly laughs. "Anyway, I was pretty much slowly figuring out that you were the thing standing in the way at that point."
"So, if I had never done anything, you would have made a move on me?"
"I guess, eventually. Holly turns her hand over, palm up, and kisses it. "I don't think I would have been able to help myself." She shrugs. "Maybe not that day. And I don't know how it would have happened, but it would have." She says, nodding. "This feels … inevitable, don't you think?"
Gail looks down at the mesh of their hands, smiling.
"Who knows, maybe you still might have kissed me, at some point." Holly adds.
"I don't know," Gail shrugs. "I have no idea what I will do, pretty much ever, but … I think it … this … was inevitable, too. I do." She nods.
"Good," Holly smiles and pulls her forward by her hands until she is close enough for them to kiss. "Then we're on the same page." She kisses her again and sits back, sighing.
"You're okay, aren't you?" Holly asks her. "This is just a bit of the old Gail 'give us this day our daily reassurance' stuff, right?"
Gail just stares at her, nodding, but meanwhile quietly revelling in the delicious knowledge that she has this extraordinary woman: this woman with her goodness and her insight, a woman with that particular brand of kook that soothes Gail's very own streak of crazy, a woman with an ability to get Gail in ways that no one else seems to. And the fact that this woman sees the two of them together as being just as much an immutable fact of their now-coupled existence as she does, makes her happier than she would ever, ever, admit. It is, however, because of this, though, that she will never stop being as terrified as she is thrilled by the ineluctable nature of her feelings for Holly. This fear is the reason she feels constantly compelled to ask these questions.
"Yeah, I'm fine." Gail finally mutters in response, climbing off her and lying down next to her above the covers.
She lies there for a while, feeling the slow stroke of fingers through her hair as she rests her cheek against Holly's hip. Then she takes a deep breath and decides to brave up.
"But also, just, " she mumbles, flinching slightly as she tucks her face against the covers. "I am really, really into you. Like, really, kind of embarrassingly into you. So …" She slaps Holly on her leg. " … don't mess it up, okay?"
"Gail," Holly laughs, scooting down the bed, so she can turn and face her. She presses her palm against Gail's cheek, smiling. "I had and have absolutely no intention of messing it up, you mad woman."
"Good." Gail smiles at her. "Because I'm amazing." She leans forward and presses a kiss against Holly's lips. "And so are you," she shrugs, "I guess."
To be continued...
Author's note: Happy New Year! I hope you all survived the party intact. Thanks so much for you reviews so far. There will be another chapter of Gail being brave to follow tomorrow.
BTW, I've a Tumblr now, and will post links there, and maybe some one-shots and some TV (and Rookie Blue) related pieces I am messing around with, so if you you like to play over there, check the link on my author's profile.