Holtzmann disappears from the firehouse for five consecutive hours on most Saturdays, and for most of the day on the first and third Sunday of every month. Erin does not notice it at first, but after six months of living and working at the fire house with her, Erin notices the pattern emerging. She is a scientist and she cannot help but spot the pattern, and then by extension wonder where Holtz goes. The engineer always comes back with plastic bags of junk food, or spoils from a dumpster, but that cannot really be where Holtz spends most of her weekends, can it?
“Hey,” Erin says to Abby one lazy Saturday where Holtz’s music is conspicuously absent. The fire house is quiet—too quiet—when the engineer is not in residence. It is eerie, and Erin does not like it. It breaks her routine of waking up to the sound of the 80s and the smell of coffee and then working the entire day with both in the background.
Abby looks up from her laptop; she’s working on a new book about their findings. It is already highly anticipated, and she is not even past the first draft yet. “What’s up?”
“Do you know where Holtz goes on the weekends?”
Abby either does not know or is being very tight lipped about Holtzmann’s private life; she replies in the negative, and tells her to ask Holtzmann herself. This frustrates Erin; Holtz is perhaps the most friendly person Erin knows, but also the most private. Abby, meanwhile, is the type of person to know when the facts of one’s life should remain secret; it was one of the reasons Erin and Abby became such good friends as children—but it is also, Erin finds, one of the most infuriating things about her.
So, instead of waiting for Holtzmann to come home and ask her, Erin waits until lunch time then asks Patty over the sandwich material in the kitchen.
“Do you know where Holtz goes on the weekends?”
Patty snorts and spreads mayo on her rye bread. “Hell if I know where that girl goes. All I know is that it is quiet, and I can read without worrying about something exploding upstairs. Have you asked Abby?”
“She told me to ask Holtz.”
“Then why don’t you?”
Erin does not think that is a good idea—she does not think Holtz will like her asking about her private life, or that Erin has indeed noticed her pattern at all. What if she changes up the pattern? Erin’s data will be back to square one, if Holtz ever returns to manageable, even data points again. Besides, Erin is not one for confrontation.
“You’ve got that look on your face,” Patty remonstrates as she slaps lettuce and tomato on her roast beef.
“What look?” Erin asks, all innocence.
“The ‘I’m overthinking everything’ face. It’s good for your equations, baby, but not Holtzy. What are you afraid of? She’s not gonna bite you…well, scratch that, maybe she will. You never know with her.”
Erin makes a face, not convinced.
Patty sighs and puts her second slice of bread over the contents of her sandwich. “Seriously, girl. There’s no need for all this sneaking around. Just ask her.”
Holtzmann is always up at all hours, tirelessly working on their new, new gadgets, patent paperwork—her music has been a constant, a thrumming or thudding addition to the background noises of New York, since they moved it. It drifts through the opening to the fire pole at all hours; at night it often settles around Erin in her little room upstairs like she imagines fog settles in San Francisco every evening. Tonight it keeps her up—not that she is not already up, overthinking things, like usual.
Eventually, she can’t stand lying awake in bed a moment longer so she pads down the stairs in her slippers to make some tea. She stops on the landing to the second floor and peers in—Holtz is bent over one of her work tables. Erin shuffles inside to get a better look at what the engineer is working on—it’s one of the proton packs, and Holtz is messing in its core with a pair of precision tweezers.
She waits until Holtz has removed the tweezers from the pack’s guts before saying softly, “Jillian?”
Despite the volume music Holtz hears her. Her head snaps up and her eyes widen; Erin asked her once why she doesn’t wear headphones—Holtz had replied the keep her constricted. Headphones cement Holtzmann to a certain radius inside the lab that she simply can’t abide by. However despite her distaste for headphones, Holtz is always very respectful with her music. When she sees Erin half in the lab, she immediately hurries over to the stereo to turn it down.
“Sorry, too loud?”
Erin shakes her head. “No, I’m just up. Do you want something from the kitchen while I’m down there? Tea, hot cocoa?”
Holtz looks thoughtful, then shakes her head. “Nah, I’m good. Thanks for thinkin’ of me, though, hot stuff.” The comment is punctuated with a wink, which makes Erin flush for reasons she doesn’t understand. She flushes a lot around Holtzman; there is something about her that disturbs her wa.
Erin shuffles out of the lab and down the stairs to the kitchen with burning cheeks. By the time the kettle whistles, her Sleepy Time tea steeps, and she has added milk and sugar, she feels like she has returned mostly to normal. She sips it, inhales, exhales, and closes her eyes, savoring the warmth of the mug in her hands. She can feel the chamomile and peppermint start to take effect, easing away her stress, anxieties, and scrambled thoughts in sweet, milky goodness.
“Is there still water in the kettle?”
The physicist is so startled she nearly clears the ceiling. Despite wearing clunky work boots half the time, Holtz is dead silent on her feet. Erin’s tea sloshes everywhere, although thankfully not on her hands or on Holtz.
“Shit! Sorry!” Holtz leaps over the puddle Erin’s startled leap has created and grabs a roll of paper towels. Erin joins her on the floor to help mop it up. “Didn’t mean to startle you—forget how high strung you get.”
“Only when I’m tired,” the red head argues.
Holtz gives her a pointed look that suggests that she is a bit more high strung than just when she is tired. Erin, in turn, pointedly ignores Holtz’s pointed look. Holtz tosses the soiled paper towels and checks the kettle—there is still water.
“I thought you didn’t want anything,” Erin says, slightly accusatory, as Holtz rummages in the cabinets for first a mug, then a packet of instant cocoa. The triple chocolate kind, with mini marshmallows.
“Changed my mind.” Holtzann makes her cup of cocoa in much less time than it took for Erin to fix her own mug of tea. Erin watches as the engineer takes a big gulp, then yelps as she burns her tongue.
The physicist can’t help but tease. “It is called hot cocoa.”
Holtz glares, but takes a tiny sip next time. Erin returns to her own mug—most of the tea in it had been sacrificed to the floor, but there is enough that it is still temperate. She sips at it, then finally drains it when it gets too close to being cold and undrinkable.
“I’m going to bed,” she announces somewhat awkwardly into the silence that follows. To belay it, Erin puts her mug in the dishwasher.
Holtzmann gives her a grin and her customary two finger salute when Erin finishes up. “G’night, then. Sleep tight, bedbugs, all that shit.”
Erin can’t help but roll her eyes and give the engineer a soft smile. She turns to leave, but then remembers Patty’s words to her in this very kitchen not twenty four hours previously.
“Seriously, girl. There’s no need for all this sneaking around. Just ask her.”
She turns back. “Jillian?” Erin almost always uses Holtz’s first name—she can’t help it. She knows the engineer generally prefers Holtzmann, or Holtz, or Holtzy, or anything but Jillian, but calling someone by their last name always feels so wrong to Erin. Besides, Holtz has not corrected her yet, and Erin thinks Holtzmann would say something if she felt uncomfortable.
At her given name the engineer in question crooks an eyebrow.
Erin opens her mouth to ask—then falters. All her doubts from the afternoon come bubbling up, stopping her in her tracks. The silence is stretching now, and Holtz looks expectant; Erin gets anxious.
“G’night,” she stutters, then is out of the kitchen and up the stairs before Holtzmann can respond. Erin sprints to her room, locks the door, curls up in her bed, and tries desperately to go to sleep and forget about the whole encounter.
She has no such luck. She spends the next hour and a half under the covers, cringing as her brain replays the awkward scene on repeat over, and over, and over. Erin finally gets to sleep around four in the morning, the sounds of Holtz’s music still drifting up and under her door from the lab below.
Erin Gilbert has Googled herself many times, but she has rarely Googled a colleague. Because she is a coward she hopes that somehow Googling Holtz will uncover the mystery of her weekend disappearances without her actually having to ask. That being said, she is not sure what to expect when she types ‘Dr. Jillian Holtzmann’ into the search bar.
There are a ton of paparazzi and press photos; the first website that comes up is, surprisingly, theirs. That pleases her greatly. She scrolls down the page; she almost gets sucked into the rabbit hole of Wikipedia, because apparently not only does their organization have a page, but they each individually have a page, also. She reads her own, because this is a new thing since she has last Googled herself, and then she reads Holtzmann’s.
Dr. Jillian Holtzmann is a former researcher and nuclear engineer for the Kenneth P. Higgins Institute and the United States Government. She is known best as being one of the four-women “Ghostbusters” team who were involved in the Ghosts of New York incident in July 2016. Dr. Holtzmann holds two Masters Degrees in Nuclear and Mechanical Engineering from MIT, as well as a Doctorate degree in Nuclear Engineering, also from MIT.
Dr. Holtzmann went to Tech Valley High School in Albany, New York and graduated after just three years. She attended MIT for both undergrad and graduate school. She graduated in 2007 with her dual Masters in Nuclear and Mechanical Engineering, and went to work for the United States Government doing research on nuclear engineering in mechanical engineering. Her work for the government inspired her Doctoral thesis, postulated that nuclear energy combined mechanical engineering could be used to create handheld nuclear-powered weapons. Dr. Holtzmann received her Ph.D in 2013 after just four years of research and writing.
In 2014 Dr. Holtzmann was accepted into CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, but deferred joining two months later after a device she was working on exploded and put a colleague in the hospital. After the accident she left her job at the US Government and took a position at the Kenneth P. Higgins Institute working as a paranormal researcher alongside Dr. Abby Yates. Currently Dr. Holtzmann lives in New York City and works at Ghostbusters LLC as chief engineer and munitions expert. Her Ph.D work has directly influenced the design and execution of the weaponry the Ghostbusters use to capture ghosts.
Dr. Holtzmann has over two hundred patents in her name, most dealing in some capacity with nuclear or mechanical engineering. Several of her most well-known patent designs are for the proton packs and containment devices the Ghostbusters use to capture ghosts.
The Wikipedia article, while informative, leaves Erin with more questions than answers. If Holtz had injured someone in a lab accident, why was she not more careful? Was it her flagrant disregard of lab safety that had injured them? Did she go to some sort of AA for lab accident survivors?
She scrolls through Google a bit more, desperate for answers. There were some gossip articles, a few online article’s on Holtzmann’s sexuality from the LGBTQ press, but nothing substantial. After she discovers fan forums, Erin beats a hasty retreat from the Internet and closes her laptop. This was not going to help her.
The next weekend Erin draws the short straw and has to go grocery shopping for the fire house. She wishes they could send Kevin, but considering the last time they sent him he was gone for five hours and returned with nothing from the list, it’s up to the four women to go. She takes Ecto-1 at Abby’s insistence; “Free Advertising!” Abby had said, but Erin does not think they need it. They did sort of save New York and the world eight months ago.
Ecto-1 gets odd looks and the occasional cheer as it rolls into the Costco parking lot. Erin thinks it must look weird as she loads her Costco load into the back. She gets stopped on the way cart return by some excited teenagers who want a selfie—she takes it with them, then hurries back to Ecto-1 before she gets asked for another one.
“We love you, Ghostbusters!” someone yells as she exits the parking lot. Thirty minutes later Erin backs into the fire house, still frazzled from the experiences. As Kevin unloads the car under Abby’s watchful gaze, Holtzmann walks through the open garage door, rolling a bike along with her.
“Where’d you get that?” Erin asks just as Holtz asks, “Costco run? Sweet! Did you get muffins?”
They stop and look at each other. Holtz leans the bike against the wall carefully. “Just a little somethin’ I’m working on,” the engineer says, attempting to be casual, but she scratches her neck after she pats the worn seat of the bike. Erin can tell she’s lying.
“Why’d you bring it into the fire house?” Abby asks with a frown. Neither her or Erin have seen this bike before.
“It’s gonna rain,” Holtz answers swiftly, as if that’s the answer to life and the Universe. She walks over to rummage through the Costco supplies like a curious raccoon, and both Abby and Erin know better to inquire further.
“Mini pizzas!” Holtzmann crows excitedly, holding the box up excitedly as if it were Simba and she was Rafiki. “You’re my hero, Erin!” She comes over, kisses Erin on the cheek, and then bounds off upstairs, box of mini pizzas under her arm. Abby goes after her, yelling, and Erin lets them go.
For almost an hour she has something else to think about besides Holtzmann’s clandestine weekend activities.
Erin decides that if Abby, Patty, or the Internet will not tell her what Holtz is up to, and she can’t screw up the courage to ask Holtz herself, she will have to find out for herself in a different way. So, on the third Sunday of February, Erin gets up early and follows the blonde engineer.
Holtzmann takes nothing except herself, her jacket, and her phone. It is warm for February, and she strolls up 7th Avenue, plugged into her music, bopping and weaving along to the music as she walks. Erin follows her, slightly embarrassed but it all, but in New York Holtz’s eccentrics fit right in. Erin wonders if that is why she moved here.
They walk about a mile, Erin tailing Holtz about a block behind the entire way, before they get to an apartment building. Holtz goes inside and Erin looks around wildly for a place to wait and hopefully not be seen. There is a Starbucks across the street, and despite the fact Erin doesn’t like anything on the menu, she goes over, buys a coffee, and installs herself at the window facing the building.
It does not surprise Erin that Holtz has an apartment—she kept one for a while, too, before she just spent so much time at the station that just she moved her essentials to the fire house and put everything else in storage. Holtzmann, with her propensity for collecting scrap and junk to create things out of, probably needs the extra apartment just to hold all the extra stuff.
Holtz is inside for about thirty minutes—when she comes out she has changed clothes and is carrying a backpack. Erin scrambles to follow her. They walk a few more blocks, past the famous Stonewall Inn, before turning left. Holtz disappears into a bar. After almost twenty minutes of deliberation, Erin follows her in.
There’s a large, tattoo’d man sitting behind a reception desk. He looks her up and down as she walks in, then shakes his head. “Doors don’t open until two, sweetheart. Come back in two hours.”
Erin flusters. “But my friend—“
“Yeah, sure, you’re friend. Nobody is allowed in there but performers and techies until two, so beat it until then.”
The physicist flusters, but at the man’s insistence and glare, she leaves. If Holtz had gone in there, did that mean she was a performer? Erin takes note of the name of the bar, King’s Castle, then goes to wander for an hour and a half. She ends up at Washington Square Park, where she sits in the shade by the sad, empty fountain. To pass the time, she looks up the bar on her phone.
The bar has good reviews on Yelp and seems to dabble on the side with performances, which no doubt helps their alcohol sales. King’s Castle holds drag and burlesque shows on the weekends, and according to their Facebook page there was a show today. The 2 o’clock show the door man had mentioned. Was Holtz doing burlesque on the side? No, Holtzmann did not seem the type. Actually she did, but the logical part of Erin’s brain cut in and said that, if anything, Holtzmann was probably working as the bar’s sound or light engineer. That made the most sense. But if she was just the sound and lights engineer, why did she disappear each weekend? That would signify weekly rehearsals.
Erin’s head swum; she decides that since the tickets were only twenty dollars she would spend the money and see what Holtz got up to.
At 1:45p she heads back for the bar. The guy at the door checks her ID, accepts her $20, gives her a hand stamp, and sends her in. At the door, two young persons of indifferent gender offer her a free jello shot. She hesitates, then takes one. She downs it at the door to their cheers. It burns like jet fuel all the way down and leaves her coughing and gasping. The teenagers? Young adults? laugh and pass her off to someone names James who seats her in overflow.
Erin fusses on her phone, which is getting to be dangerously low on battery, until the room is full and the lights dim. She realizes that she is sharing her overflow table with a young couple; they look at her curiously. Erin feels like she might be the oldest person here, but then she remembers the older lesbian couple who came in around the time she did and were seated two tables in front of her.
“Introduuuuucing our host to the 80s—“ the name was intelligible, but Erin thought it was sex pun. A man took the stage, grinning out at the crowd.
“Wassup, bitches? You guys ready for an 80s party?” The crowd cheers loudly. “Wow, this crowd is great. How many people here are coming to this drag show for the first time?” A smattering of claps; Erin was quiet. “How many of you have never seen a drag king show before?” Another couple of claps. “Well, dayum, welcome to the party. Have we got a show for you!”
Of course the show was 80s themed, Erin thought, as the MC introduces the house rules. As if Holtzmann would be performing in anything else. She had not seen Holtz in the sound and lights booth, or in the stage people who had been milling around before the show, so it lead her one conclusion—Holtz must be one of the people to take the stage.
The revelation both shocks Erin and makes complete and utter sense. Holtz was always dressing on the more masculine side of the spectrum, but Erin had never taken her for the performing type. She had always seemed perfectly happy to tinker away in her lab to her heart’s content. Apparently, Erin had vastly miscalculated.
The music starts and the house lights fade completely to black. The stage washes in red, and the crowd screams happily as the first act came out. Erin watches, bemused, but also transfixed. She tries to understand what Holtzmann loves about this. The drag kings dance and lipsynch along to 80s classics; some of them strip, others keep their clothes on and simply perform to the music. Erin recognizes many of the songs as the ones Holtz pumps from her stereo. The crowd throws dollar bills at the performers, more if clothes come off, less if it’s only dancing. Some of the bills are collected by the performers, but most are picked up by stage hands who scurry around on the floor.
Is Holtz in it for the money? Erin doesn’t think so. The Ghostbusters have enough money, between the government funding and their personal stipends, that the lot of them do not really have to worry about funds. It is a nice change for Erin, and she thinks it must be for Holtz, too. Maybe Holtz got into this while she was still working with Abby, or before at the government, or in college, when she still needed the money.
Money, though, never seems to bother Holtz. The main thing, Erin thinks, is that Holtz like the performance. She knows firsthand Holtz’s love of dancing around the lab, making funny faces and lipsynching into a screwdriver or soldering iron or whatever she has in her hands at that particular moment. Is that what drew Holtzmann to this strange, but not unenjoyable, spectacle? She wonders, suddenly, if Holtz’s lab performances are her practicing for these shows.
They go through five acts and an intermission before Holtz finally appears on the stage. When she does it’s as ‘Voltz’ the drag king; the crowd goes nuts when she comes out. Erin hypothesizes she must be a crowd favorite. The music is DeBarge, and Erin recognizes it instantly as the song that was playing the first time Holtz danced in front of her and nearly set their space over the Chinese takeout place up in flames.
‘Voltz’ does not appear to be much different from the Holtzmann she knows. Holtz’s blonde hair has been stuffed under a short blonde wig with a rattail; she is wearing torn black jeans, an airbrushed graphic t-shirt, sunglasses, and a beaten up denim jacket. But Holtz has done something with make up to contour her face differently, and there is incredibly realistic fake mustache crouched above her upper lip.
Voltz-Holtz sheds the jacket and steps off the stage into the crowd, which sends everyone into a frenzy. She dances in front of a couple of people, lets others tuck dollars into her waistband, and generally works the crowd. Erin can’t help herself—she digs out a dollar and holds it aloft, wondering if Holtzmann will notice her.
Holtzmann does notice the dollar, or maybe she had just planned to work the room a little deeper. She walked towards the back in time with the music, teasing the crowd a bit by raising her shirt and showing her toned stomach. She stops by Erin’s table, takes Erin’s dollar with a cheeky grin, then freezes ever so momentarily when she recognizes her. Then something happens Erin did not bargain for. Holtz stuffs the dollar in between her teeth, takes up position in front of her, and returns to her dancing.
Holtzmann isn’t exactly straddling her lap, but it’s pretty close. She grinds and gyrates, and the shirt inches up with every sway of her hips. Erin is rooted to her seat, pretty sure her face is glowing as bright as some of the radioactive things in Holtz’s lab. She wants the floor to open up and swallow her whole… but there is some increasingly loud part of her brain that does not want this to stop. Ever.
Erin is vaguely cognizant of the end of the song drawing near. So is Holtz—Voltz—whatever Erin is supposed to call her. Voltz-Holtz turns around, whips off her shirt, and tosses it over her shoulder. It lands in Erin’s lap. The crowd goes insane, dollar bills flying everywhere as Voltz-Holtz heads back to the stage. When Holtzmann remounts the stage and turns around, Erin sees her breasts have been pulled back with flesh colored tape and ‘x’s have taped in black over where her nipples would be if she were a man. It’s strangely very attractive.
The song ends, Voltz-Holtz gives the crowd a wink, and swaggers off. The MC has trouble regaining order but finally does and introduces the next act as the stage hands scurry around trying to collect all of the dollar bills. There are three more acts after Holtz’s, but Erin barely registers any of them. She’s still stuck back in Holtz’s act, when she was grinding and basically stripping right in front of her. Erin definitely hopes Abby and Patty do not know about Holtzmann’s little drag king hobby, because she wants to keep this bar and it’s stripping, sexy version of Holtz all to herself.
The show ends, the MC has all the performers take a bow, then runs promotion for the troupe’s next show with them all still standing on stage. Holtzmann’s eyes find Erin’s, and once she’s sure she has her gaze, she winks at her. When the last song plays and the performers disperse into the audience, Holtz motions for Erin to stay in her seat, then disappears backstage.
When she returns, she has changed into more typical Holtz wear—a crop top, combat boots, jeans, and her signature safety goggles. The facial hair and makeup are gone, and Holtz’s hair is styled as normally. She is carrying her backpack and looking smug.
Erin feels her face heat up as the engineer heads her way.
“Enjoy the show?” Holtzmann asks flirtatiously once she reaches her; there is with no hint of malice or annoyance in her voice. If anything, she seems to enjoy the fact that Erin showed up.
“I—erm—you were very good,” Erin stammers. Holtz grins. Erin realizes she is still clutching Holtz’s shirt, and she holds it out to her silently.
“Oh, thanks.” Holtzmann takes the shirt and stuffs it in her olive drab rucksack. “Let me go collect my check and then we can get the hell out of dodge.”
Erin follows Holtz through the dwindling crowd, over to the woman who had been running the merch table. Holtzmann makes introductions, but Erin does not catch the woman’s name, although she does catch ‘producer’. The woman hands Holtz an envelope, which she slides into her bag.
“See you Saturday?”
“See ya then.” Holtz gives her producer a two fingered salute, then pushes through the crowd by the doors. Erin hurries after her. It’s dark—it is six o’clock in February. Holtz does not seem to feel the slight chill in the air, and Erin wonders if the heat inside the club had seeped into her very bones.
They walk in silence until Holtz says, “Mind if I drop by my apartment? Need to drop this off.”
The apartment is the same place across from the Starbucks that Holtz disappeared into earlier in the day. Holtz invites her up. Despite feeling like she has pried enough into Holtz’s private life for one day, she goes. Holtz opens the door with a flourish and walks in, leaving the door wide open behind her so Erin could follow her.
The apartment was fairly neat, which surprises Erin; considering the state of Holtz’s room at the station, she would have thought there would have been piles of scrap and gadgets everywhere. But the floor is clean, the counters clear of debris. It looks unlived it, which makes sense, considering Holtzmann moved into the station almost as soon as they acquired the lease. Erin has a feeling that the apartment would not be this neat if Holtz spent most of her time here.
The apartment itself was fairly nice, a one bedroom affair with a decently sized living room and kitchen. Erin follows Holtz into the bedroom, which is less of a bedroom and more of a storage space. The bed frame, a full with no mattress, only the box spring, has been pushed against the wall; it has been stacked up with plastic bins. There are wheels carts like one finds at the department store in the middle of the room; pants and shirts and jackets hang from the racks. Boots and shoes of all styles and colors crowd the top of the carts. On one of the walls there are shelves populated by wig heads—all sorts of styles and colors of hair are represented there, although most are short and blonde. Erin watches Holtz pull out the wig she used in the show out of her pack, gently brush it out with her fingers, and set it on one of the empty heads.
Belatedly Erin realizes that the entire apartment is basically a giant drag king storage unit. At such a size and in such a prime location, the place must have cost Holtz a fortune. She wonders how Holtz can afford such a place if she does not even live there.
Holtz grins at her, and Erin realizes she said that out loud. Goddamn her (nonexistent) brain-to-mouth filter. Then she sees Holtz sober a bit, which is a strange look on the usually bubbly engineer. Erin isn’t sure she likes it.
“It was my uncle’s,” she says suddenly, as she puts the clothes she wore in the show in the hamper, as if that explains everything. When Erin looks at her blankly, Holtz elaborates. “He was gay.” Erin still doesn’t get it. The engineer sighs. “He died of AIDs in ’87.”
Erin blanches. “Oh my God, Holtz, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know”
Holtz shrugs and puts away a makeup bag in the closet. “It was thirty years ago. I was three.”
Erin looks around, not understanding how Holtz came into possession of this apartment if she was three. “How’d you get this place?”
“He willed it to his partner, Jeff. The family tried to take it from Jeff, but Jeff was the co-owner on all the documents, so it turned into a giant legal battle. It stretched out forever, until like ’95, until Jeff got too sick to keep fighting. I had just come out, so he made a compromise and willed it to me. Told me he wanted to keep it in the gay family…he died a year later.” Holtz trails off; it was once of the longest string of sentences Erin had heard from Holtz, except from that moment in the bar after the Rowan incident that gave the Ghostbusters their name. She spoke in the same stilted tone she had used then, as if sharing personal information physically hurt her. Holtz looks away, chewing her lip. “So now it’s mine. I just have to pay taxes.”
Erin’s heart broke a bit for Holtzmann. “I’m sorry.”
Holtz shrugs then moves into the main room, tossing her bag away into the corner. “It’s done. I only lived here when I was commuting to Jersey, and working for Abby. I sort of just keep my drag junk here now. T’sagood location. Close to the bars and shit.”
Holtz nibbles her lip, fussing with her keys. It’s the least confident Erin has ever seen her. Usually she just oozes it, but now she is quiet and awkward. Erin tries to lighten the mood.
“Patty texted me while I was waiting for you to say they ordered pizza.”
Holtzmann, predictably, brightens at the mention of food. “Really? Great! I could kill for a slice of Hawaiian!”
Erin can’t help herself; she smiles. “It should be there by the time we get back.”
Holtz grabbed her leather jacket from the back of the door. “Let’s get going then.”
Erin nods. They leave, Holtz locks up, and they ride quietly down to the street level in the building elevator. Their walk home along 7th street is uneventful—nobody recognizes them. In the crush of humanity that is New York, even the famous Ghostbusters are reduced to two anonymous figures. It is more comforting than Erin thinks it should be.
As they turn onto North Moore St, Holtz grabs Erin by the arm and draws them to a stop. She hesitates, then takes a deep breath. “Look, I don’t mind that you came to the show, but please don’t tell them.” She jerks her head at the fire station; her words are quick, rushed, tinged with nerves.
Erin nods, understanding. “Of course.”
Holtz smiles at her, dimples dialed up to their fullest. She leans up and smacks a kiss on Erin’s cheek—or tries to. Erin misinterprets, turns her head, and Holtzmann’s lips land on hers. They both freeze. A moment passed, but neither pulls away. Holtz relaxes a bit, and Erin does, too. The kiss lingers for a second or two more before they finally drift apart; neither of them go very far.
“I’ve been wanting to do that forever,” Holtz confesses softly.
“Me, too,” Erin whispers.
“Wanna do it again?”
They lean in and kiss again. Holtzmann is just the slightest bit shorter than Erin, but the different is not enough to make their kiss uncomfortable. Holtz’s lips are chapped beneath hers, but they are ever so gentle and non-insistent. When they part, Erin is pretty sure her heart is going to thud out of its chest.
Holtz grins at her. “Doin’ okay there?”
The engineer’s grin widens and she entwines their fingers. “I had hoped you weren’t straight.”
Erin recovers enough to maintain her brusque attitude. “I’ve identified as bi since college.”
“You’ll have to tell me your coming out story,” Holtz replies, then looks back over her shoulder at the station. The delivery bike of the local pizza place is parked out front. “Want to tell it to me over pizza?”
Erin follows her gaze and nods. Holtz squeezes her fingers, and they walk back to the station hand in hand.