i. these bones she is not supposed to see
She is skinnier than she used to be. The cheekbones that have always been obvious now cut across her face in sharp, fierce lines. Her collarbones stick out further and the area of her chest where her skin stretches across her sternum is so tight that you can see the curves of her ribs.
It was gradual, Holly knows, a slow change that only those who truly paid attention could see. And she does. She does pay attention. Sometimes it feels like Gail is the only thing she actually sees.
Her job requires constant attentiveness to details and informed, objective analysis, but in those moments when she is in her lab, her only company an empty shell of what used to be a human being, her thoughts are a scrambled cacophony of all the things she could be doing for her girlfriend and all things she may be doing wrong. Really, Gail is the same person. The attitude is still there. The quick, dry wit that most people mistake for cold-heartedness, is still there, in full. That sharp, swift tongue of Gail's is something Holly has always loved about her.
That first day, when Gail took it upon herself to subtly insult her way in, the words that rolled off her tongue felt a lot more like the beginnings of friendship than any kind of animosity.
(In the months later, Holly learned about all the other things that tongue could do.)
But that is the worst part of it is the fact that she is still outwardly the same person. Because it is all making Holly feel a little crazy. Maybe the reason that she is the only person noticing these little things is because they aren't actually there.
Holly knows better than to ask Gail about it.
And she knows that her fears increase when she is standing over lifeless bodies.
Because she is starting to wonder why her mind is correlating the victims on her table with whatever is going on with the woman she loves.
And she is starting to wonder if the woman she loves is still inside that body with the well-defined cheekbones and the more pronounced ribcage.
ii. sometimes quiet is violent
Finally it all starts to be too much. Not because Gail is being angry or closed-off, or any of the other things she likes to pull out of her bag of tricks when someone is getting to close to the truth.
It is the quiet. It is the fact that Gail stops talking in the car. She stops talking when they grab quick lunches at breaks. She stops talking when they are all getting drinks at the Penny.
If Holly or Chris or Traci try to start a conversation, Gail will participate, if only to prove she can speak, but her head doesn't seem to be in it.
Even though it means something is worse, it is also a tangible difference that other people notice, which Holly takes a sick sense of reassurance from. At first it is Chris.
"Gail? You there? Chloe has been talking for a whole three minutes and you haven't told her to shut up once."
Holly snapped her attention to Gail and the way she was staring into her drink, her heart rate speeding up in anticipation. But she deflated when Gail's only response was to glance up, mutter a quick, "sorry" and then turn her attention toward the voice she once told Holly reminded her of a hybrid of a drunk Disney princess and a chihuahua.
Four days after the night at the Penny, Traci had walked into Holly's lab, a clear evidence bag in one hand and a white coffee cup in the other.
"Hey Doc, can you run this for me? When you get a chance?"
Holly looked up from the computer screen to see Traci standing in the doorway with a wry grin on her face. "Hey Trace. I'll get one of the interns right on it."
Traci nodded her thanks and crossed the short distance to place the coffee cup on Holly's desk. She shifted on her feet for a moment, looking at Holly in consideration, before seemingly making a decision. "Actually there is something else."
"It's about Gail."
"Look, I realize that maybe it isn't really my business, and Gail would probably tell me to fuck off if she knew I was worried, but I am. And I think you are too."
Holly set down the pen she had been twirling between her fingers and gave a deep sigh, forcing out the weeks of confusion and indecision in one wavered breath. "Yeah."
"Do you think..." Traci bit her lip. "Do you think the department shrink cleared her too soon?"
Yes. The answer was a resounding yes. But, Holly had to admit, she was a little biased, because three years after the shooting would have felt too soon to her, let alone three weeks.
But Holly had held it back, assuring Traci that Gail would be fine, knowing that it was imperative her fellow officers believed in her. And Holly's false certainty seemed to work on Traci at the time.
But that was last week. And last night Gail woke up screaming and sweating and Holly decided that enough was enough. The woman she loved was in pain and she would be damned if she wasn't going to do everything in her power to fix it.
Gail may have always been blind to what was best for her, but it is still the only thing Holly sees.