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[This Is the Start Of] Something Beautiful

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The night is bright and clear and cool, and it has an air of possibilities.

-

It’s not Holtzmann who proposes, like everyone expected.

It’s Erin.

Everyone knew it was coming, of course. They’ve been dating for almost three years, known each other for four, and they’re still as in love with each other as they day they started dating.

And yes, Erin knows that everyone assumes that it’s going to be Holtz who proposes. She’s not quite sure why that is, but yes, everyone expected it would be Holtz, even Erin herself.

But Holtz hasn’t asked. And Erin is burning to. So she brings her ideas to a thrilled Patty and an over-the-moon-with-happiness Abby, and the plan comes together.

They distract Holtz with Pringles and a documentary filmed using robot animals, and get to work. They shuffle stuff up the fire escape so they don’t have to walk past Holtz, who, distracted as she is, would notice something odd. It takes longer than Erin expected, and by the time everything’s on the roof, her legs are aching from climbing the stairs over and over, and she feels gross and sweaty.

Abby refastens her hair into a loose bun. “Go shower and get ready. We’ll finish up.”

“Are you sure?” Erin asks anxiously, even while she stares at the time on her phone screen. She’s already twenty minutes behind schedule.

“Go,” Patty says, with a gentle push.

Erin hesitates for the briefest of seconds, then does.

-

Erin twists her hands nervously together, surveying the setup on the roof one last time. The sun is setting, casting a warm glow over the roof, and she worries for a second that it’s not enough, that it won’t be enough, that Holtz will say no.

Oh, God, what if she says no?

She smooths her sweaty palms over her dress, and takes a deep breath, willing her uneasy stomach to settle. Abby squeezes her arm. “Ready?”

Erin nods, despite the nerves. “Ready.”

-

Holtz looks up from the TV screen at Patty’s shout.

“Hey, Holtzy! Get your ass up to the roof!”

Holtz’s eyebrows furrow. Patty sounds…angry? Why would she be angry? Shoving a chip into her mouth, Holtz pauses the documentary and flops off the couch, popping back to her feet. She tucks the Pringles can under her arm and goes to find the other Ghostbuster.

Patty’s waiting at the bottom of the stairs, her arms crossed, a frown on her face.

“Pattycakes!” Holtz says, grinning. She offers up the tube. “Pringle?”

Patty snatches the tube, making Holtz gasp in mock-outrage.

“Just get up to the roof and fix it,” Patty says, frustration in her voice, and Holtz smiles and rolls her eyes. She knocks her yellow-tinted glasses off the top of her head and down over her eyes.

“Yeah, yeah,” she says good naturedly, bounding up the stairs.

She flings the door open, sending it crashing against the wall, swirls to face any sort of damage that would make Patty mad…and instead finds candles arranged in neat lines, radiating outward like a starburst. And lights, strung up along the barrier, wrapped around the bench and deck chairs, casting a warm yellow glow.

And there’s Abby, grinning widely and looking like she’s trying not to, and Patty’s behind her now, and when Holtz turns Patty’s grinning, too.

“Guys?” Holtz asks, but then her voice is stolen because Erin.

She’s wearing a dress. It’s not a spectacularly revealing dress; it doesn’t have a plunging neckline or a high hem, it doesn’t cling to her body like a second skin or show off her curves. But it’s a red so dark it’s almost black, and Erin looks incredible in it, and Holtz can feel her breath hitch.

“Jillian,” Erin starts, and she’s getting closer, and Holtz can feel her heart start beating, because she’s sure she knows what’s about to happen. And it makes her so, so ecstatically happy.

Erin has taken Holtz’s hands, and her voice carries the tiniest of hints of hesitancies, but Holtz knows it has nothing to with what she’s asking.

“Jillian,” Erin says again, “I was going to do this traditionally. Get down at one knee with a ring box open in my hands and a long speech on what you mean to me, then I realized that those don’t really matter. And we’re not very traditional anyway. So, I’m just going to ask.” She takes a deep, deep breath, and Holtz can feel the silence, beautiful and aching and full of about-to-be’s.

“Jillian Holtzmann, will you marry me?”

“Of course,” Holtz says, because of course she will, and there’s something stuck in her throat, and they’re kissing and Holtz thinks Erin may be crying. She might be too, her happiness attempting to escape its way out. Abby and Patty cheer in the background, and Holtz pulls back just enough to grin.

“Fork over the ring, Gilbert.”

“Oh,” Erin pulls back, too, looking slightly embarrassed. “I don’t have one. I was kind of hoping that you would make them.”

“You just want to marry me for my metalworking skills,” Holtz says against Erin’s lips, having already leaned forward to kiss her again.

And that was that. They were engaged.

-

Holtz does make the rings. One for her, one for Erin. Hammered metal, one copper (for Holtz), one silver (for Erin), polished until they shine.

Erin cries when she sees them.

-

They live in a state of post-engagement bliss for about a week before they realize that now they actually have to plan a wedding. They’re both adamant that they don’t want a long engagement, which means they need to get moving and set a date, especially if they want Erin’s mom to be able to come.

They’re sitting at two separate desks, on two separate computers. Erin is chewing on a pencil. Holtz has her feet on the ground for once.  Patty had brought it up that they should probably make sure that any venue they want to book actually has available spots, and they’re currently researching places.

Well, Erin is researching it. Holtz is mostly just clicking on random links on the various websites. But by the end of the day, they have six tours scheduled and a list of questions on a notepad, neatly written by Erin.

They decide on actually getting married in City Hall, and for the reception, they decide on a space above a small restaurant. The restaurant provides the food; very, very good food, as they quickly find out (the tour guide takes them through the kitchen, and the sous chef is apparently a huge fan of the Ghostbusters and won’t stop giving them samples of the things they’re prepping for that night). It’s open and airy and not too big, but not too small, either. And, most importantly, it’s not outrageously expensive. They’re booked out pretty far in advance, but there was a cancelation the day before, and they leap on it immediately.

A date has been set.

-

“Y’all are insane,” Patty says in disbelief. “You can’t plan a wedding in four months.”

Abby nods vigorously in agreement. “I know nothing about this kind of stuff, and even I know that. You need at least a year.”

Holtz props her boots up on the tabletop, cramming a pizza crust into her mouth. “Is that a challenge?”

“No,” Patty says firmly, glaring at the engineer, who grins back.

Erin sighs, leaning back in her chair. “It’ll be difficult, but it’s not like we’ll be having a huge wedding. I mean, we don’t have that many people to invite. You guys, of course…”

“Kevin,” Holtz puts in. “And Mike Hat.”

“We’re not inviting a dog to our wedding.”

“Alllllriiiight.”

Erin smiles at her, and Holtz smiles back, until Patty clears her throat. Erin shakes her head slightly.

“Anyways, other than that, it’s just my mom and Dr. Gorin. Oh, and Abby’s parents and sister.”

Abby looks up. “You don’t have to do that.”

“I want to,” Erin says, earnestly. “I spent most of my teens at your house. It was better than mine.”

It’s said so casually, and Holtz can feel a little ping in her chest at the thought of a baby Erin, so unhappy at her home that she spends all her time at her best friend’s.

Patty nods, once, though she’s frowning. “You guys should probably invite Mayor Bradly and Jennifer Lynch. Professional courtesy and all that.”

Abby is the one who groans. She’s held a long-standing grudge again Jennifer Lynch for a conversation when Erin and Holtz first announced they were dating, and can no longer be in a room with the woman without glaring at her.

“Patty’s got a point,” Erin says, admittedly reluctantly. “They pay our bills, and we interact with them often enough that it might be weird to the media if we didn’t.”

Holtz shrugs. “As long as you guys and Rebecca are there, I don’t care who comes.” She leans over Patty to Erin. Her original goal was to press her face into Erin’s shoulder, but she’s not tall enough to do that, and she’s already half in Patty’s lap, so she must settle with an area somewhere below Erin’s ribcage. “I just want to marry you.”

Erin semi-awkwardly wraps an arm around Holtz until Patty pushes her off with a grumble. She pops back up, still grinning. She leans toward Patty, smiling conspiratorially.

“How ‘bout you make our guest list?”

Patty’s eyes grow wide, and she looks to Erin, apparently expecting her to protest, but Erin’s nodding slowly. “That’s actually a good idea. You’d know who we’d want to invite, and who we kind of have to invite so we don’t risk offending anyone.”

“I could stand with you offending Jennifer Lynch,” Abby grumbles, but she’s smiling as she says it.

Patty sighs, but it’s good-natured. “Okay. Just give me a list of everyone who you want there and I’ll deal with everything.”

“Thanks, Pattycakes,” Holtz says, and she leans up to kiss Patty’s cheek. Patty grumbles and pushes her away, so Holtz launches herself across her lap to kiss Erin instead.

Erin squeaks in surprise, but leans into the kiss.

“Okay, y’all are not making out on my lap,” Patty says, and Holtz breaks away from Erin.

“You know you like it.”

“That’s gross, Holtzy.”

-

Erin sits on her bed in nothing but underwear and a t-shirt, her phone screen lit up in front of her. She’d called her mom the minute she and Holtz got back to their apartment. Her mom had been absolutely delighted, and promised Erin that she’d book her plane tickets right away. It leaves a warmth in Erin’s chest, because there’s still a tiny bit of her that worried her mom wouldn’t approve.

She’d only met Holtz twice, after all, over two Christmases, and only for a few days at a time. But Shannon Gilbert had sounded genuinely thrilled for her daughter, which came as such a rush of relief that Erin had laughed, giddy and light-headed.

But now, her screen glows with numbers she hasn’t dialed in years. Not since she was in her twenties, and desperately trying to reconnect.

Holtz comes in the room, hair still wet from the shower, hanging loose around her shoulders. She climbs up onto the bed next to Erin, scooting close.

“You don’t have to do this, you know,” Jillian says, “He doesn’t deserve to know.”

“I know,” Erin says, but there’s the beginning of a sob caught in her throat. Jillian wraps an arm around her, holding her close. And Erin hits call.

The phone rings for a small, agonizing eternity before someone picks up. Erin hits speaker phone before she can second guess herself.

“’ello?” The voice is male, familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. “Aaron Cordell.”

“Hi,” Erin says, and chokes on some emotion she can’t place. Anger, sadness, fear, she doesn’t know, and swallows hard. Jillian squeezes her arm, and Erin starts again.

“Hi, Dad. It’s Erin.”

“Erin?” Her dad doesn’t sound accusatory or angry, but he doesn’t sound warm, either. Erin closes her eyes, gathering up her courage.

“I’m calling to tell you…to tell you that I’m getting married. In October.” She’s holding tears back, desperately, frantically. “I…I thought you should know.”

“Oh.” The phone crackles with silence. “What’s his name?”

A deep breath. The feeling of a hand squeezing hers. “Her name’s Jillian.”

“Erin.” Now her dad sounds angry. “I thought you knew how I feel about your…unnatural urges. It sullies the family’s reputation and I want no part of it.” He keeps talking, but Erin isn’t listening anymore. Tears are falling freely, now, and she’s shaking.

Then, Jillian moves. She snatches up the phone from Erin’s lap.

“Listen up, asshole,” she says directly into the phone, and Erin’s eyes fly open in surprise. “My name’s Jillian Holtzmann. Your daughter’s fiancée.”

Erin looks at Jillian in surprise, but the blonde isn’t meeting her eyes.

“Erin is one of the most incredible people I know, and if you can’t see that, then I feel sorry for you, and your tiny brain.”

There’s an indignant spluttering coming from the phone, but Jillian keeps going. “She reached out to you. She didn’t have to, but she did. And this is how you answer that?” Jillian’s face is creased in anger, anger for Erin.

“I don’t care that you’re her father. You’re not her dad. Her dad would have supported her, no matter what. You don’t deserve that title.” And she hangs up.

Erin’s shaking with tears, and Jillian wraps her arms around her, pulling her close. Erin buries her face in Jillian’s shoulder.

“I just…wanted him to know. I stupidly wanted him to say it doesn’t matter,” Erin says, kicking herself for even thinking that it might be possible.

“It’s not stupid,” Jillian says into Erin’s hair. “It was hopeful. There’s a difference.”

Erin sighs, and flops back into the bed. Jillian follows, curling up next to her girlfriend. “I mean, look at it this way. Now you know. You’ll never wonder again.”

Erin curls her fingers through Jillian’s. “You’re right.” She leans forward, kissing Jillian softly, almost chastely. When she pulls back, she’s smiling, even though there’s still evidence of tears on her face. They’re silent for a while, just holding hands.

“I never knew that Gilbert was your mom’s last name, not your dad’s,” Jillian says, unexpectedly.

“Really?” Erin asks, frowning. She could have sworn that Jillian knew that.

“No. Was it always like that?”

Erin shakes her head. “I changed it when I was a teenager. After he left. I already shared a first name with an absent father. I didn’t need to share a last name, too.”

“Makes sense.”

“I can’t believe you called him an asshole.”

Holtz’s smile stretches wide. “It felt so good to do. After what I know he’s put you through.”

“It felt good to hear!”

And then they’re laughing. Erin isn’t quite sure what they’re laughing about, honestly, but aren’t those the best kinds of moments, anyways?

-

It’s decided that Patty’s going to go with Holtz to go wedding outfit shopping, while Abby’s going with Erin to look at her dress. Abby had offered to go with Holtz, but Holtz had shaken her head.

“You should go with Erin. You’re her best friend.”

“I’m your best friend, too.”

“Yeah, but Abby, I know you want to go with Erin.”

Abby had looked so guilty, that Holtz had to literally shove her out the door after Erin, with many assurances that it was totally fine. That they had scheduled everything on the same day on purpose, and that they had decided when they did that Abby was going with Erin, Patty and Kevin with Holtz.

So now, Holtz is standing in a store, being blasted by an air-conditioner turned on too strong, while Patty talks with a consultant and Kevin looks around in utter bemusement. Holtz kind of knows how he feels.

It’s one of those big stores made specifically to get wedding dresses and suits and bridesmaid dresses, and Holtz doesn’t think she’s ever even step foot on one before. And, by the way the consultant is eying her paint-splattered overalls, crop-top, and screw-u necklace, they’ve never had anyone like Holtz in here before, either.

But she’s friendly and helpful, despite her initial hesitation, and doesn’t even bat an eye when Holtz mentions that her fiancée is shopping for a wedding dress the same day. And, before Holtz knows it, they’ve finished up and she’s telling them that Holtz will get a call once her suit comes in, and she can schedule a time to start on the alterations, and they’re done.

They’re done two hours before they need to go meet Erin and Abby, so they go get lunch. Holtz flops down into the booth as soon as they get seated, only sitting up and scooching aside when Patty pats her legs.

Kevin is frowning. “Why aren’t Abby and Erin here?”

“It’s tradition, Kev,” Patty says, flipping open her menu. “They’re not supposed to see each other until the wedding.”

Kevin’s frown gets deeper. “What about the busts?”

“What about them?”

“If they can’t see each won’t it make the busts difficult? Will they have to wear blindfolds?” He starts to look concerned. “What if a ghost sneaks up on them and they can’t see it?”

Now Patty’s the one looking confused, until Holtz laughs.

“Kev, sweet, sweet Kev, we can’t see each other the day of the wedding,” she says, grinning. “We can see each other in the three and a half months before the wedding. It’s just each other’s outfits we’re not supposed to see until then.”

“Oh.” Kevin nods. Patty’s looking at him as if he’s a particularly interesting specimen in a lab. She still hasn’t got over the fact that he exists.

Food is eaten, the waitress flirts with an oblivious Kevin, and then it’s time to meet Erin and Abby.

They’re waiting outside the agreed upon café, both with satisfied smiles on their faces. Holtz links her arm with Erin’s.

“Did you find it?” She asks, practically hanging off of Erin’s arm, making her stumble.

Erin’s shy, excited smile is all the answer Holtz needs.

-

They let Abby and Patty decide what bridesmaid dress they wanted to wear. As long as it was dark blue, and as long as it was matching, they didn’t care what they chose. Kevin took a bit more babysitting, which is why they made him come with them, despite that the entire process probably would have been a lot more enjoyable if they didn’t have to explain everything to a man-puppy dog hybrid. But they got it finished, and it was still fun.

But now, Holtz is flat on her back on the couch on the third floor, leg flung across the back, head in Erin’s lap. Her other leg is mostly in Abby’s, who grumbled a bit but didn’t push it away, and Patty is squished next to Erin, the hard bit of the arm of the sofa digging into her thigh.

Out of all of them, Holtz is the only one who’s moderately comfortable, Erin thinks. Even Jennifer Lynch looks mildly uncomfortable, perched on the very edge of the worn, squishy armchair.

“So, girls,” she says, pushing a pile of papers across the table. “I want you to explain this to me.”

So, yes, Erin thinks. Earlier had been fun. This? This was not fun.

“It’s y’all’s wedding invite,” Patty says, slowly, as if she’s talking to particularly young child she doesn’t really like.

“I can see that,” the woman says, giving the piece of cream-colored cardstock a look of distaste. Out of the corner of her eye, Erin can see Abby bristle, and shoots her a glare. Jennifer places another piece of paper on the coffee table; this one has been printed up from the official Ghostbusters Instagram account. Patty mumbles something about needing to block her.

It’s one of the rare photos on the account not taken by Patty; it was taken by Erin, who posted it after much deliberation and second-guessing. It’s Holtz, frozen in a laugh, pointing a screwdriver at Erin like it’s a wand (Holtz and Abby had been arguing about Harry Potter. Erin has never read it. Holtz called her a muggle). The way her hand is angled, the engagement ring can clearly be seen on her finger.

Erin had captioned it simply.

I love her.

The internet had, predictably, exploded.

Erin wasn’t intending it as some big reveal; her internal deliberation had been more about the caption than the actual photo. She loved Holtzmann, who happened to be her fiancée. She honestly didn’t think anyone would notice.

She must have said this out loud, because Jennifer frowns.

“Oh, people noticed.” She waves a clipboard for emphasis. “1.7 million and counting have liked this photo, and the comment section is full.”

“What sort of comments?” Holtz asks from Erin’s lap. She’s slowly been sliding more and more away from Abby so she can curl around Erin, and Erin swears it’s to make Jennifer uncomfortable. It appears to be working.

Jennifer’s smile is humorless. “Hundreds, and most are sexual in nature.”

Holtz’s eyebrows fly up, and she reaches to where Erin’s phone is sitting on the table. Erin bats her hands away, and Holtz pouts dramatically. Jennifer’s distaste gets more pronounced.

“We have assigned you a publicity person for a reason, girls,” Jennifer says, “We would have liked you to consult her, first.”

“Which one is she?” Abby asks. “I’ve lost track of them. Is the current one Christmas Sweater or Hipster Glasses?”

“Christmas Sweater,” Patty answers. “Hipster Glasses quit after Holtz accidently set her on fire.”

“I thought it was Old Lady Perfume who Holtz set on fire,” Erin says. “Didn’t Hipster Glasses quit after Patty called that newscaster an asshat? And I thought Christmas Sweater quit, too.”

“Oh, yeah! I forgot I did that. Which one of y’all was the one who splattered Christmas Sweater in ectoplasm? Was that you, Holtzy?”

“No, it was me,” Erin grumbles, and Abby laughs.

“Oh, yeah! You slipped and got ectoplasm on her $400 jacket.”

“Girls,” Jennifer breaks in, looking like she’s trying very hard not to snap and punch someone. “That point is, we would prefer that you talk to someone before making any major announcements like this.”

Holtz, who’s now totally in Erin’s lap, curled up like a cat, smiles. “I bet we could make everyone forget about this, real quick.” She snaps her fingers, a devious look on her face.

Patty’s eyes light up. “Fake pregnancy announcement?”

“No. I was thinking more along the lines of amnesia, but that works, too!”

“We really need to stop letting you guys watch soap operas,” Abby says, shaking her head.

“ENOUGH,” Jennifer snaps, suddenly, and they all turn to look at her. She forces the next words out through gritted teeth. “Just…in the future…talk to us first, okay, girls?”

She climbs out of the chair, and gathers up the papers.

Patty waits until she’s almost at the stairs to ask if she’s coming to the wedding.

Erin finds the sound of pure frustration she makes utterly satisfying.

-

Most of their wedding planning happens at night. Like tonight. They’re curled under white sheets that smell faintly of lavender. Or, at least, Holtz is. Erin is propped up against the headboard, laptop open in front of her. The cold blue light illuminates her face and bare shoulders, the blanket wrapped around her chest.

“What do you think about hiring a photographer?” Erin asks, not tearing her eyes of the computer screen.

Holtz shrugs. “Enough people will be taking pictures we’ll probably get at least one or two good shots.”

“Do you want to have a bridal shower?”

“Not really.”

“Me, either.” Erin’s quiet again, scrolling down, and Holtz can feel herself getting distracted by her bare skin. She inches closer to her girlfriend, resting her chin on her shoulder. Erin wraps an arm around her, but absentmindedly, still clicking through wedding planning websites.

“Er,” Holtz says, reaching out to close the laptop. “We don’t need a florist.”

“But-“

“Er-Bear, Abby’s taking care of that, remember?”

And she was. Abby had volunteered to decorate as a wedding gift, much like how Patty was taking care of the guest list, and despite Erin’s reservations, they had agreed.

Erin set the laptop on the bedside table, laying her head on Holtz’s. “It’s hard. Most of these websites say you need at least one year to plan a wedding, and we’re doing it in four months. I’m sometimes can barely work because I’m thinking of all the stuff I still need to do.”

Holtz nuzzles into Erin’s neck. “Everything’s going to be fine.”

“But-“

“Erin,” Holtz sits up, and takes Erin’s face between her hands. “Our wedding is going to be great. Do you know why? Because I’m marrying you. And that means even if literally everything goes wrong, it’s going to be incredible.”

She kisses the very tip of Erin’s nose, watching as it scrunches up adorably. Erin signs, leaning forward to kiss Holtz gently.

“Thank you,” she whispers, “I needed that.”

“Of course.” Holtz slings her leg over Erin so she’s straddling her thighs, kissing her gently. She slides her hand down between their two bodies, moving her hips so slightly against Erin’s as she does.

“What are you-Oh, okaaaay,” Erin gasps, and they quickly stop talking.

-

Two months before the wedding, Holtz has a bad day. She has them, sometimes, and Erin knows they’re typically triggered by high amounts of stress, but this is the first time she’s had one that makes her tuck herself away in the dark.

Erin knocks gently on the door to the tiny bathroom on the third floor, where Holtz has shut herself inside. “Hey, Jillian? Is it okay if I come in?”

There’s a small sound of affirmation, and Erin opens the door just enough to slip in, before closing it gently behind her. Holtz is curled up against the far wall, her cellphone casting a glow on her face. She’s still wearing her sunglasses, despite the darkness, and the reflection of her phone glints in her glasses.

“Are you okay?” Erin asks, softly, sitting down next to Holtz. She’s careful not to touch her, instead waiting to see if Holtz scoots over. She doesn’t.

Holtz nods, slowly, but Erin knows she’s lying.

“Jillian,” Erin says softly, and Jillian wordlessly hands her phone over.

Erin’s eyebrows furrow, looking at the phone screen. At first, she’s not sure what she’s looking at. Then it clicks. She’s looking at the comments on the Instagram post from months ago, the one of Holtz wearing her wedding ring. Her chest sinks.

Erin had read the comments. Of course she did. It’s like watching a car wreck; you can’t look away. And yes, most of the comments are lovely and nice and congratulating them, but there are lots of comments that are more mean-spirited in nature.

She finds the comment that upset Holtzmann easily.

I give it a month. I dated Holtzmann for a few weeks, and she’s too unstable for a relationship.

“Jill,” Erin says, but her girlfriend won’t meet her eyes.

“What if it’s true?” Jillian says, after a few minutes. “All my relationships have ended horribly. What if we get married, and I do something wrong?”

“Jillian, that’s not going to happen,” Erin says, and the pain in Jillian’s eyes makes her ache. “Jillian.”

“But what if?” The engineer says, not meeting Erin’s eyes. “What if something does go wrong? What if…this isn’t supposed to be?”

Erin shrugs. “Then it isn’t. But even if I get a week of being married to you, I’ll embrace that week with all my heart. And it’s not going to happen, Jill. Because I love you, and I know you love me, too.”

Jillian, after one long, long moment, scoots closer to Erin, curling up against her. “I shouldn’t be listening to what crazy people say on the internet, anyways.”

“Probably not.” Erin kisses the top of Jillian’s head, wrapping an arm around her shoulders.

That’s how Patty finds them, hours later. They crawl out of the bathroom, and while Holtz still spends the rest of the day unusually quiet, it’s a different sort of quiet, one that more has to do with mental exhaustion than high anxiety.

Jillian sits at her desk, and Erin sees her hesitate for one long moment, before she says softly, “If we weren’t already getting married, I’d marry you,” and there’s no joke in her words.

Erin smiles, squeezes her hand. “I know.”

-

Later, Holtz wonders how Erin didn’t just implode. She spends the month leading up to their wedding in a state of constant panic; problems with her dress, with the baker they hired to make the cake, to finding a new baker, to booking hotels for guests and planning a honeymoon (They’re going to stay at an Airbnb in a tiny town outside of NYC; not particularly exotic, but still wonderfully romantic and ghost free). And now, waiting in the airport for Erin’s mom to show up, Erin’s practically vibrating with anxiety.

Holtz grabs her hand. “Er, everything’s great. You and your mom have been getting on really well.”

“I know!” Erin snaps, then instantly looks guilty. “I’m sorry, I just…there’s still so much to do and I’ve got a list in my head and I can’t stop thinking about what I need to do when we get back.”

Holtz kisses her nose. “99% is done. Everything else can wait until the day before. We’ve filed for a marriage license, we have our time slot at City Hall, Abby has your dress, and Patty has the bridesmaid dresses…everything is going to be fine.”

“You’re right.” Erin sighs, and rubs at her face. She looks exhausted. Holtz makes a mental note to force her to take a nap when they get back to the firehouse.

Erin is so exhausted, and Holtz is so distracted by Erin, that Shannon Gilbert finds them, instead of them finding her. She looks uncomfortable in the crowds, and clutches her bags tightly to her. Holtz gives her the biggest smile she can without it starting to look slightly unhinged.

“She’ll get your bags,” Holtz says, gesturing at Erin, and offering an elbow to Shannon with a dramatic flourish. Shannon hesitates for a few seconds before planning a hand on Holtz’s elbow, and then Holtz is moving.

“You’ll be staying at our apartment; we tried to book the hotels too late and turns out that the only available spaces are at the seedy bedbug infested ones. Now, don’t get me wrong, if you want to stay at a hotel I have ways of making those bugs go away- even bedbugs aren’t immune to radiation poisoning -but you’ll be perfectly comfortable in our apartment. Erin even changed the sheets for you.”

Shannon’s eyes are wide, and she looks from Holtz to Erin then back to Holtz again. “Oh, I don’t want to kick you out of your apartment-“

“No problem-o!” Holtz says cheerfully. “We’ll be perfectly comfortable at the firehouse. More than comfortable, if you know what I mean.” She wiggles her eyebrows, which earns an embarrassed hiss from Erin.

“Jill, that’s my mom!” Erin’s cheeks are bright red. Holtz just smiles, and gestures for the taxi she flagged down to pop the trunk.

-

They all squish into the backseat, Erin in the middle, between Holtz and her mom. Her mom asks about work and ghosts and their lives, and Holtz answers most of the questions, because Erin is so exhausted and she’s currently trying to solve three problems all at once (The bakers have been nothing but a problem; they’re trying to deliver the cake the day before the wedding, not the day of, the restaurant that’s catering isn’t getting along with the baker, and she forgot to book a room for Abby’s younger sister, because in her mind Leah is still sixteen, like the last time Erin saw her. Fifteen years ago).

Her phone screen is blurring before her eyes, but she’s still trying to keep texting until Holtz leans over and plucks the phone from her hands.

“Er? When’s the last time you slept?”

“Um…” Erin casts her thoughts around, both Shannon and Holtz’s eyes growing wide in concern when she doesn’t instantly answer. “Not last night, but the night before?”

“Er,” Holtz says, but trails off.

“Erin, I know this is stressful, but you need to sleep.” Shannon reaches for Erin’s hand. “I planned a wedding once, too, remember? And I did it in two months. I know all the anxieties that come with it. But everything is going to be fine. You can sleep.”

“You’re right.” Erin sighs, leaning against Holtz. She is exhausted.

“You planned a wedding in two months?” Holtz asks, instantly interested.

Shannon’s cheeks turn slightly pink. “Yeah. I, uh…kind of had too. It was a rural small town in the 70s.”

It takes a second, but Erin can see when it clicks in Holtz’s brain. “Oooh, okay. Erin appeared ahead of schedule?” She grins at Erin, teasingly digging her elbow into her ribs so slightly. “We don’t have that problem. If we did, there’d be another bigger problem. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Erin’d cheat, but who’s ruling out possible immaculate conceptions?”

“Jillian,” Erin groans, but she’s smiling as she does. Holtz wraps an arm around Erin’s shoulders.

“Shhh,” she says, reaching up toward Erin’s face blindly. Erin thinks she’s probably trying to cover her mouth, but instead Holtz’s hand just kind of bounces off her nose after dragging down her face. “Sleep, Er-Bear. I’ll wake you up when you get to the firehouse.”

Typically, Erin would have violently protested, but she’s so, so tired, and so, in the back of the taxi, squished between her mother and her girlfriend, she sleeps.

-

It’s the day before the wedding when Erin finally mellows out. She wanders into the kitchen on the top floor of the firehouse, humming under her breath, still her in pajamas and the MIT hoodie she stole from Holtz years ago, and just never gave back. Holtz can see Abby’s eyebrows fly up. Even Patty looks startled, and Patty is pretty much never startled by anything Erin does.

“Good morning!” Erin chirps, taking out her favorite coffee mug from the cupboard. She fills it with coffee and adds a splash of cream before sliding into the chair next to Patty. The other woman side-eyes her.

“What, no massive amounts of panic?” Abby demands, looking confused. “No charging around telling us all the things that need to get done?”

 “Nope!” She says cheerfully, reaching for the box of doughnuts in the middle of the table. “What’s going to happen is going to happen.”

Patty and Abby stare at her for one long moment. Erin is oblivious, sipping her coffee and scrolling through emails on her phone. And she’s still humming. One of Holtz’s classic rock songs, one of the ones she blasts whenever she’s feeling especially frustrated with what she’s working on.

“Okay,” Patty says, “Who are you, and what have you done with Erin?”

Erin laughs. “Patty, what do you mean?”

“I’ve seen y’all get anxious over returning a library book that was due the next day. It’s the day before y’all’s wedding. You should be a nervous wreck trying to call three people at once.” She turns to Holtz. “Did you drug her or something last night?”

Holtz smirks. “No. Not with medication.”

“I think I see where this is going,” Abby says, and gets up.

“We had fun last night.”

“Holtzy, I do not want to hear this,” Patty growls, but Holtz ignores her.

“Like, a lot of fun. At least three funs each.”

“Holtzy, NO.” Patty stands up, grumbling. “I told y’all many times. I HAVE NO DESIRE TO LEARN ABOUT YOUR PRIVATE LIFE.”

“It’s not always in private places though,” Holtz says, and she feels the rush of triumph as Patty’s face twists in disgust.

“Y’all are nasty,” She growls, pushing away from the table.

“I LOVE YOU TOO, PATTYCAKES,” Holtz yells after her, and the other woman flaps her hand in Holtz’s general direction in reply. She turns to Erin, and raises her eyebrow.

“They’re kind of right, though. I’d thought you’d be “Sound the alarms, Erin’s about to implode” by now.”

Erin rolls her eyes, taking a sip of coffee. “I was thinking last night. Tomorrow’s going to be crazy; amazing, wonderful, but crazy. And besides, you’ll be staying at Patty’s tonight, so I won’t see you again until the actual wedding.” She reaches across the table for Holtz’s hand. “And I don’t want to spend all of today stressing out.”

Holtz squeezes Erin’s hand. “That can be arranged.” She checks her watch. “Rebecca’s not supposed to get here for another few hours. What do you say we continue were we left off last night?” Her voice drops into a sultry purr, but the effect is ruined when she says “If you know what I mean” in a horrible imitation of Kevin. She grins at Erin’s groan, but her girlfriend still leans over and kisses her.

-

Rebecca Gorin isn’t really one for knocking. She breezes into the firehouse with little dramatics, and when Holtz and Erin come downstairs half an hour later; laughing, holding hands, hair and clothes mussed, she’s in Holtzmann’s lab, peering at one of the dials on the new containment unit.

“Becca!” Holtz cries, delightedly, dropping Erin’s hand to charge her mentor. Erin’s eyes widen as Holtz grabs the woman and pulls her into a firm hug, with much pounding on backs. The older woman looks slightly uncomfortable as she untangles herself from the enthusiastic engineer, but still takes her by the shoulders and smiles.

“Jillian. Congratulations. You know how happy I am for you.” She turns, and her eyes settle on Erin. Erin shifts, uncomfortably. Her interactions with Dr. Gorin are always stiff and uncomfortable, and Erin always ends up blurting something out that she’ll end up kicking herself over later.

“Dr. Gilbert,” Dr. Gorin says, and her voice isn’t cold, exactly, but it doesn’t hold the warmth that it gets when she looks at Holtzmann. “Congratulations to you, as well.”

Erin feels her chest warm when Holtz reaches over and grabs Erin around the waist.

“Thank you,” She says, smiling down at the blonde. “I’m so lucky to have her.”

Dr. Gorin nods, once, sharply, but something about her softens at the corners, and Erin can feel herself relax. Just a little bit.

-

Abby practically has to drag Erin away from Holtz that night.

“You can stand being away from each other,” She grumbles (admittedly good-naturedly) as she nudges Erin out the door. The mid-October air is cool, and Erin shivers despite her sweater. They’re mostly silent in the five-block walk to Erin’s house, but before they enter Erin’s apartment building, Abby stops her.

“Erin,” Abby says, hesitates, and starts again. “I…I was mad at you for a long time. And even when I wasn’t, there was part of me that still didn’t trust you.”

Something in Erin’s gut sinks, but Abby barrels on. “And when you started dating Holtz…well, I was worried. That one day you might leave again, and I knew it would break her heart. She’s loved you for so long. Pretty much since you first met.”

“I know,” Erin whispers, and Abby grabs her arm.

“What I’m trying to say is I’m sorry. You clearly love her, so, so much, and I’m so happy you guys are getting married. You’d never, ever do anything that you thought would hurt her.” Abby laughs, softly. “Two of my three best friends are getting married. And that’s so awesome.”

The heaviness in Erin’s stomach vanishes, and she pulls Abby into a hug. Abby protests for a second, but then hugs Erin back, equally tightly. When she steps back, Erin swears she can see a tear at the corner of her eye, but Abby just tilts her head and smiles. “So…are we just going to stand on the sidewalk or are we going to go up to your apartment?”

Erin rolls her eyes as she laughs, and fishes her keys from her purse.

-

Erin doesn’t think she’d be able to sleep, but she does. And when she wakes up, from pretty much the instant she gets out bed, there are people.

Someone does her hair and someone else does her makeup, Abby and Shannon flutter around her, talking and laughing and eating the bagels one of them left early that morning to get. Erin’s stomach is in knots with nerves, and so she has to settle for sipping orange juice, careful not to spill as she’s jostled and moved. Even if she does spill, it’s not that big of a deal; she’s just wearing a robe, but it still makes her nervous. At one point, Abby notices her hands shaking as she takes a sip, and gives her an encouraging smile and a thumbs up.

And then, everyone’s gone, and it’s just Abby and Shannon and Erin, and Erin’s standing in front of the dress that Abby had brought over the day before. It’s still in the bag, in case Holtz had decided to visit the apartment, and Erin takes a deep breath and reaches for the zipper.

Shannon helps her into the dress, and Erin determinedly doesn’t look in the mirror, keeping her head turned as Shannon zips her up. Abby lets out a little happy gasp, and Shannon does, too, although there’s a hint of a sob in her voice, as well.

And Erin turns. And oh. Oh.

She had forgotten how good it looked. It’s shorter than most wedding dresses, ending just below her knees in layers of soft, lacy fabric. The bodice hugs her torso, with a sweetheart neckline, covered in sheer lace that ends just below her collarbone. The lace covers her shoulders and forms sleeves that end just below her elbow.

Oh, the dress. Modern yet traditional, white and beautiful and perfect.

Shannon’s crying, and when Erin turns to her mom, she’s crying a little bit, too. Shannon grasps her arms, and says, so, so softly. “Erin, you’re so, so beautiful.” And somehow, somehow those words carry a lifetime of meanings, of years of not talking, of distrust, of regrets, and they exchange sad, knowing smiles.

Abby looks like she’s been crying a little bit, too, her eyes glistening behind her glasses, but she smiles, wide and bright, and snakes an arm through Erin’s.

“Come on, Ghost Girl. Let’s go get you married.”

-

The lawn outside of City Hall is packed full of other wedding parties, but Erin ignores all of them, instead scanning the crowd for a sight of familiar blonde hair. Instead, she finds Patty, wearing the same navy blue bridesmaid dress as Abby, who waves wildly, grinning broadly.

“Holtzy, Kevin and Dr. Gorin have gone to check up on everything,” Patty says happily, as she reaches out to crush Erin in hug. “Girl, you look amazing.”

“Thanks, Patty,” Erin says, smiling. “You, do, too.”

Patty pulls away. “I’ll go get Holtzy. You wait right here.” She vanishes amongst the small sea of other brides, and Erin can feel her heart beating. She waits, holding her breath, the ache of waiting intensifying.

And then, she sees her. She sees her, and all her breath exits in a rush.

Jillian is wearing a fitted white suit and vest, over a white button-up. She’s wearing a bow tie- navy blue with tiny white spots -and her hair is in its usual style. Even her yellow-tinted glasses are perched on her face, and she’s smiling, so, so wildly.

Erin’s moving before she realizes it, and Jillian is, too, and they crash together, laughing, crying a little bit.

“Hey, Er,” Jillian breathes, and Erin laughs, and kisses her.

It’s deep and intense and passionate, and Erin knows that a picture has probably been taken, and it’ll probably be in the newspaper tomorrow, but she doesn’t care. (It is. In four. All of them bearing the very original title of “Gaybusters Wedding”)

And when she pulls away, she’s breathless and burning, and it feels like every nerve has been set alight.

“Hey, Jillian?”

“Yeah?”

“Want to get married?”

“Yes, yes, yes.”

-

Jillian made the rings. Of course she did. She did them in secret, in stolen hours between work, bent over, making and remaking until they were perfectly imperfect. Like them.

Copper and silver, two individual strands. Braided together, hammered flat.

She slips one on Erin’s finger. And Erin slips one on hers, and it feels like, in this moment, they are one person, same lungs breathing the same air, same hearts beating in rhythm.

Erin. Jillian. Erin. Jillian.

Hearts beat, beat, beating. Together. For the rest of their lives.

-

“I now pronounce you, wife and wife.”

-

They all squish into one car; Abby and Patty and Shannon and Kevin in his groomsman best (button up shirt, navy blue suspenders, a bowtie matching Holtzmann’s). Even Dr. Gorin (somewhat reluctantly) joined them, and she looks uncomfortable with all these bodies in one small car, but she’s smiling, happy. But they don’t notice.

Because, Erin, and Jillian. Tangled together, practically sitting in each other’s laps, and they’re holding hands. Their rings, copper, silver, together, bright and new on their fingers.

-

The enter the reception to be greeted with cheers. Erin finds herself tugging in so many different directions it makes her head spin a little bit, as she greets more people than she even realized she knew. At one point, she’s pulled aside by Jennifer Lynch, who’s looking uncomfortable and somewhat unhappy, even as she tells Erin how happy she is for them.

Erin decides to take it.

-

After a meal, after a few hours of laughter and talking and a little alcohol, Jillian stands up. She knocks her knife against the glass, and the room slowly quiets.

“I’ve never really been one for speeches,” Jillian says, “So I’m going to keep this short. I fell in love with Erin Gilbert almost as soon as I met her. She came bursting into our lab, yelling at Abby, looking so furious, and so pretty, I couldn’t help but flirt with her.”

There’s a soft chuckle, and Jillian looks down to a smiling Erin, who nods, gesturing her to continue.

“That was four years ago. So much has changed since then. We’ve proved the existence of ghosts, we’ve somehow become some sort of minor celebrities, we’ve become a family. And now…well, now, I get to spend the rest of my life with the woman I love with all my heart. I love you Erin Gilbert.”

She sits, and people clap, and she coughs to clear the emotions in her throat, and Erin leans over, lips brushing her ear, and Jillian can see the tears in her eyelashes.

“I love you, Jillian Holtzmann, with all my heart. Forever and always.”

-

They eat a little bit more, there are a couple more toasts, and they eat a delicious cake. Holtz props her boots on the table, and Abby frowns, but not seriously, and Erin laughs and leans against Holtz’s shoulder.

Then, they dance. Their first dance together, as a married couple.

Music thuds through the speakers, and they dance. There’s no traditional, slow ballroom dancing here, hands on waists, slowly swaying.

No, they dance.

They dance with hips and shoulders and hands. They dip and twirl and stomp. They dance like they dance in the lab, as if no one is watching, even though so many people are. People clap, people laugh, and somewhere, Patty whoops.

They dance, gasping for breath, cheeks flushed, eyes shining, and they end, pressed chest to chests, hands clutching at each other, and they laugh.

Slowly, other people flood the dance floor, and they dance with other people. The music is about as untraditional as it can get, a mish-mash of songs from Holtz’s own collection. Rock and pop and rap and classical, and a couple that don’t sound like actual music just a lot of screaming, but no one cares.

They dance, and they always end up, back with each other.

-

Afternoon turns to evening, and, at some point, Jillian realizes that Erin is no longer in the room. She navigates her way through the crowd, searching for a glimpse of that white dress, before finally spotting her.

Erin’s out on the balcony, leaning against the rail, staring out at the city. Jillian slips out the open doors and joins her. They’re standing so close their shoulders are touching, and Jillian can feel the all-so-familiar kiss of electricity, zipping through her veins, a starburst from the skin contact.

Every time she touches Erin, it’s like she’s touching her for the first time. As if they’re newly in love.

Erin doesn’t turn her head. “It’s a nice night.”

It is. The sky is clear, the air is cool, the breeze light and teasing. Erin’s hair has started to escape it’s formally immaculate style, auburn strands brushing against her face. Something about that makes Jillian’s chest grow warm and soft.

Every time Jillian sees Erin, it’s like she’s falling in love with her, over and over again.

There are still wedding sounds inside, laughter and music and the thud of shoes against the dance floor. But in this moment, it was just the two of them.

Erin and Jillian. Colleagues. Best friends. Lovers.

Married.

Jillian rests her head on Erin’s shoulder, and Erin reaches for her hand. Jillian wants to kiss her, but right now, right here, everything is perfect, and she doesn’t want to move.

There’s a time for kisses later. There’s a time for so, so many things.

There’s a lifetime of laters.

For now, it’s just the two of them, living in the right nows.

-

The night is bright and cool, and it has an air of possibilities.