She tinkered with the device silently, but frantically. The lab upstairs of the Chinese restaurant was silent, save the violent metal scraping of Holtzmann. There was a pulsing in her, a relentless tone she couldn’t shake. She had to finish it, if she finished it, she could fix all of this, she could save-
A cool hand on her shoulder stopped her movements, instantly.
“The world’s not going to end if you take your time,” Erin chided softly.
Holtz didn’t look up, but replied with a wry chuckle, “The world already ended.”
Erin stepped away. Holtz returned to work, until the space was suddenly filled with rhythm. The song was slow and if Holtz remembered correctly, painful in meaning. She turned in her chair to find one of Erin’s hands on the stereo and the other outstretched to her in invitation. She tilted her head in a silent question: dance with me?
Holtz put down her project at last, crossed the small space and took the offered hand. Erin pulled Holtz to her, arms settling around her neck. Holtz’ fumbling hands found their way to Erin’s waist. Her head fell to the taller woman’s shoulder in acquiescence.
They swayed to the soft music, lost in the moment.
Holtz figured it was now or never.
“I wanted to tell you before, but I couldn’t- there wasn’t a right moment and I’m just so bad at feelings,” Holtz sighed and continued, “I like you. Have liked you. A bit more than like. Since you walked through the door at Higgins. Probably before, since I read your book. And I want this to be real. I want us to be real.”
Holtz gulped, “Erin say something.”
Erin stilled. Holtz leaned back to look at her face, which is when Erin kissed her.
And it was everything.
She was everything.
They were as soft as Holtz had imagined. Erin’s movements were small and calculated, as if she wasn’t sure how far to take this. Holtz closed her eyes at the onslaught of sensation. She could smell Erin this close; of her dry shampoo and an almost clinical smell of lemon. It made her head spin in the best kind of way.
Erin pulled away first and whispered through a tearful grin, “Holtz, please. Wake up.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Holtz asked with a chuckle.
When she opened her eyes, there was no one there to answer.
Holtz blinked, then quickly returned to her desk; tears pricked at her eyes, but she continued on in silence. Had there ever even been music?
It was morning before she was interrupted again. Slow and deliberate footsteps sounded up the stairs and approached her from behind. Holtz turned expectantly, but her eyes dropped when she spotted it was Patty.
Patty sighed, “C’mon man, go home. You haven’t slept since the Mercado. We did our best. There’s nothing else we can do.”
“I can fix this! I can get to them! They can’t just be gone! I just need to finish this!” Holtz snapped.
Patty said nothing, just pulled her into a hug. Holtz struggled for a moment before she didn’t have the strength to and gave in. Neither could hold back the tears.
Holtz choked, “Patty, they’re gone. I couldn’t stop them. The line was in my hand. And then it just ended. It just-”
Holtz let out a sob.
“It just snapped. And I just stood there and did nothing.”
“It’s not your fault. It’s not anyone’s fault,” Patty assured.
Holtz pulled back to look Patty in the eyes, “Then why does it feel like my fault? Abby’s my best friend and Erin… I never even got to tell her. She deserved to know! She deserved the world! Both of them did! I didn’t get to tell them how important they are…”
Patty’s eyes were soft and sympathetic as she spoke, “Baby, go home.”
Holtz laughed, dry and bitter and broken, “I don’t think I have one of those anymore.”
She pulled away and returned to her frantic work. She didn’t notice Patty leave.