I'd be blamed for when
We'd fall open.
"Holtz, wait!" Erin bounds after her, reaching out a hand and grabbing her shoulder to stop her. It had been all of 5 minutes since Dr. Gorin politely decided to continue her visit 'another time.' Erin had followed Holtz from their goodbyes at the front door, intent on discussing things.
Holtz spins on her, tears shining in her eyes. Erin's heart clenches painfully.
"No, I get it. We're not dating, Erin. We're just buddies. Sex buddies. And that's fine. I can-" She stills then, getting quiet, "I can live with that."
She shrugs away from the hand on her shoulder and Erin pulls back like she'd been burned.
"Jill-" She tries, but is cut off.
"Don't-" Holtz says, sharper than she means to. She tries to calm down, "Call me that."
Erin stands motionless.
"Don't follow me," Holtz says, her back turned. With that, she storms off. She brushes past a concerned Abby and vaguely hears her yell something. She can't process it.
Holtz had been fine when Erin's hand slipped from hers out in public. She'd been fine when she hadn't wanted to tell Abby and Patty about them. She isn't fine with this: with Erin telling her mentor they aren't dating and that she's dating Kevin.
She's afraid she might never be fine ever again.
Holtz slams the door to her bedroom shut as soon as she's within the safety of its four walls. She turns to stand with her back against it, her world reeling. As she slides down it to the floor, the sobs come in earnest. She sits like that for who knows how long, ears thrumming, heart racing, lungs burning and tears coursing down her cheeks. She stares up at the ceiling, trying to focus on the star chart she painted there, to find some grounding, but it's blurry through her tears.
A little squeak interrupts her breakdown. She looks down and four sets of beady chinchilla eyes are looking back up at her. Lovelace is pawing her knee and squeaking distressed. Holtz picks her up.
"How'd you get out of the cage again? Shouldn't have named you after geniuses, the smarty pants names are rubbing off on you," Her words are sniffly and half-hearted. She cradles Lovelace in one arm and pets her softly. Her other three rapscallions, Payne, Curie and Nightingale, climb up onto her lap and settle in.
The sobs return in full, as do the squeaks. All at once, the feelings come tumbling out.
"Erin- Erin says we aren't dating. I thought- I thought we were, but I guess-" A violent sob rakes through her, "We aren't."
She sits like that for a while, letting herself sob with four chinchillas. She feels pathetic.
Holtz quiets eventually, the petting of downy fur helping to calm her down. She scratches each chinchilla lightly in turn, as she muses: "It's just... I said we could just be sex buddies. And I meant it, because I'll take whatever Erin will give me. But I just... I want more, because-"
Her phone buzzes in her pocket and she starts. She pulls it out and looks at the screen: a text from Erin.
Buzz. Another text.
'Please open the door'
Before she can even process the words, there's a knock on her door.
Holtz freezes. She ushers the four chinchillas back into their cage and hesitantly opens the door.
There, eyes downcast, hands wringing frantically, is Erin.
"I'm sorry for following. And eavesdropping. And um... all the other stuff." She blurts out.
Erin looks at her then, her eyes are red and still wet with tears, "I've just... I panicked."
"That's not an excuse," Holtz says cooly.
"I know. But I need you to know why. I'd never hurt you- on- on purpose. But I'm-" Erin looks skyward, inhaling sharply to stave off the tears, "I'm so so bad at this."
Holtz waits, her arms crossed protectively over her chest. She just wants this to be over with. She just wants to got back to how it was between them before. She just wants to kiss Erin so so badly. All of these wants wage war within her.
Erin looks back down, determination shining in her eyes, "I love you too."
Holtz is crying again, her nails biting into the skin of her arm as she pulls tighter in on herself.
"You love me, but you're dating Kevin?" It's low and savage, and she regrets it as soon as it leaves her mouth. The pain in Erin's eyes is unbearable.
"Erin-" Holtz opens her arms to her; she needs to fix this, it's what she does.
Erin puts up a hand, stopping her, "No, I deserved that." She's trembling now, holding back tears.
Then Holtz sees something in Erin's whole body shift. She's seen it before, on busts, in front of annoying interviewers, that one time she punched that douchey blogger...
"Phone Dr. Gorin," she says plainly.
"Phone her, please," Erin asks, softer this time.
Holtz does and Erin grabs the phone as it rings.
"Hello? Dr. Gorin? It's me, Erin. Yes, I'm calling from Holtz' phone. Listen: I was lying earlier, I'm not dating Kevin. I'm dating Holtz."
There's a poignant pause and then Holtz hears a stern murmuring of her mentor's voice reacting to Erin's.
Erin is flustered as she attempts a back-and-forth, "No, ma'am. Yes! Yes, ma'am. I'm sorry. I'm not used to- I'm bad at- I um... I do. I um..." She glances shyly at Holtz, "I love her very much."
The weight on Holtz' heart lifts.
"Yes. Yes, I'll tell her. Thank you. Sorry again. Bye."
Erin is trembling as she hands the phone back. She can't seem to look Holtz in the eyes.
"Dr. Gorin said if I ever hurt you like that again, they'll never find my body. She's scary. And she says you can do better than me, and-"
Erin doesn't finish, Holtz' hand on her cheek driving out all thought.
"Do you- please, come in, I can barely stand up right now, but I don't want you to go," Holtz whispers.
Erin nods, closing the door behind them as they all but fall into bed. They are a tangle of limbs and heartache on the mend. Holtz lays curled up in Erin's arms and when they settle, she pulls a blanket over the two of them.
"So you gonna call up Abby too?" Holtz asks after a moment.
Erin is suddenly nervous, "She um... she already knows. She yelled at me. Threatened me with bodily harm if I didn't fix this. She's really mad at me. You've got a lot of older brothers ready to beat me up."
"I'm sorry," Erin whispers as she fiddles with Holtz' hair, gently pulling out elastics and bobby pins and depositing them on the bedside table. Her movements are natural from practice.
Holtz leans into the touch, "I forgive you."
"I'm still sorry," Erin murmurs. Her hands run through golden locks, and Holtz sighs, "It's okay."
"It's not! It's just," Erin sighs and buries her face into Holtz' hair, "You caught me by surprise. We've never- never really discussed what we are."
"I assumed you knew. What with the dates and kissing and sex and all that." She reaches an arm up and ruffles Erin's hair playfully.
"I know! I know... It's just... I've never even said it out loud." She manages to somehow bury her face father into Holtz' blonde hair.
She was tired, confused and just not following, "Said what out loud?"
"That I'm- y'know...," Erin's voice drops down to a whisper, "That I'm... bisexual." The last part comes out like a curse word.
Holtz is wide-eyed. The pieces of the Dr. Erin Gilbert puzzle clicking into place. She moves so she can look Erin in the eye.
"Oh my god."
"What?" Panic plasters over Erin's features.
"Oh my god. I'm sorry!" Holtz grabs both of Erin's cheeks in her palms.
"Wh-what? What do you have to be sorry for?"
"It all makes sense now! The distancing thing in public. The hiding around Abby and Patty. The telling Dr. Gorin you were dating Kevin thing. Oh my god. You're in like Narnia levels of closeted." Holtz is excited about this new hypothesis, like an invention is working properly for the first time. She stares at the older woman in awe.
Erin is blushing and fiddling under Holtz' scrutiny. She doesn't know what to say.
Holtz rubs her thumbs on Erin's temples softly. She furrows her brow and muses, "I outed you in front of a stranger before we even discussed what we were. I just assumed. I'm just always so out there, I forget people aren't."
Erin grabs for Holtz' face, mirroring their positions, "I lied in front of your mentor about dating our dumb hot secretary. I made you cry."
"We aren't very good at this," Her hands slip from Erin's face and Erin's do the same.
"I want to try at this. Whatever this is. I want to be-" Erin sits up, determination blazing in her eyes, "Jillian, will you- will you be my girlfriend?"
Holtz swallows hard and nods, "Yes, please."
"Oh no, I made you cry again." She moves to pull Holtz back into her arms and Holtz burrows herself in.
"That's okay. Better than okay. You're dating me and everything's amazing," She rubs her face into Erin's shirt.
Erin pulls her back up and kisses her lips softly. It sends tingles down to her toes. She laughs softly as Erin peppers kisses across her face.
"How long have you known? Y'know, that you liked girls too?" Holtz needs to know, she's never known someone in the closet for so long.
"Been repressing and lying about it and many other things for at least half my life," She kisses her lips again.
The thought makes Holtz hurt for Erin all over, "Well, we don't have to be open about it if you don't want to."
"I want to," Erin says with conviction.
Holtz flips her onto her back, pinning her there, "Good, because I am very gay and it's hard to turn off."
Erin laughs, hands covering her mouth, "I'm sorry. Again. About the the Dr. Gorin thing. "
"I forgive you." She kisses Erin on the forehead, "And I'm sorry I assumed things." A quick peck on the nose and Erin ducks away from the attention, giggling.
"It's okay. I just... the look you gave me," Erin leans her head against Holtz' chest, "I've never felt so bad about anything I've ever done ever. I never want to hurt you."
"Because Dr. Gorin will dismantle your body, atom by atom?" Holtz tucks Erin's hair behind her ears.
Erin locks eyes with her, "She won't have to, I'll already have fallen apart."
Holtz wants to say something witty, wants to play it off, but instead, she raises Erin's left hand to her lips and kisses the top of it. Erin blushes fiercely, turning away.
A tranquility settles over them like a blanket. Everything is good again.
A small squeak breaks the languid silence. They both turn to find the source: Lovelace, perching at the end of the bed, the other three chinchillas climbing up close behind.
"Not again," the disgruntled engineer huffs. She shifts off of Erin and untangles slightly from the blankets.
Erin giggles, "Let them be, I probably have to thank them for some... stuff I found out today. You were talking to them earlier, right?"
The four balls of fluff scurry onto Holtz.
"Yeah, I was. I really can't figure out how they keep escaping. Naughty children," Holtz boops Nightengale on the nose in a halfhearted reprimand.
"They're crafty like their mom," Erin says fondly.
"Damn right!" Holtz picks up Payne and nuzzles her nose against the chinchilla's tiny snout.
Lovelace hops tentatively up to Erin's knee and she gently lifts the small creature up. Erin scratches the chinchilla on the chest warmly, "I think I like Lovelace best."
Holtz smiles, "You remembered which one was Lovelace and her favourite scratch spot."
"Well, we're dating, Jill. I have to impress your kids to have any chance with you," Erin laughs, but Holtz has gone quiet. She knows Erin meant it to be funny, but she can't help her mind from racing to all the directions that statement leads her. Dating. Jill. Kids.
"I love you," Holtz breathes, unable to think of anything else. There'll be time to figure out the rest of the jumble in her head that Erin Gilbert inspires.
Erin kisses her softly, "I love you too."