Erin Gilbert was a brilliant physicist, but there were some things she couldn't figure out. Simple things, like bus schedules. Patty said it wasn't her fault, that with so many overlapping lines and different termination points it would be confusing for anyone at first.
Silly things, like the best strategy for their weekly Munchkin games. (She thought she'd reasoned out the best mix of offense and defense last time, but Kevin won. Again.)
Bigger things. If a ghost dies when it goes through the chipper. If the nuclear device they detonated in the portal caused irreparable damage on the other side. If when her parents died she’d regret not speaking to them for the past six years.
Important things, like how best to comfort an unusually stoic Abby. Erin found her friend standing at the broken window a few days after they saved New York. She didn't know what to say, so she said nothing, squeezed Abby's hand, and paid a contractor double his fee to fix it that day. Which solved the immediate problem of the broken window but didn't fix Abby.
Jillian Holtzmann was another mystery for Erin. Holtzmann, who declared it "awesome" when they almost went under the wheels of a train. Holtzmann, who responded to serious moments with rude noises, yet was somehow the same person who made that strange, heartfelt toast.
Holtzmann, who flirted endlessly but warded off true intimacy by cracking jokes. Holtzmann, who said she considered Erin family but still kept her (maybe all of them) at arm's length.
Erin didn't care if she ever won a game of Munchkin, and she had Patty to write out careful instructions if she needed to take a bus. (Patty was also the one who handed Abby a business card for a therapist, like it was nothing out of the ordinary. Erin knew how to get windows fixed, but Patty knew that people needed help to fix themselves.)
Holtzmann was different. Erin wanted to figure her out. She wanted to know the things Holtzmann was hiding behind humor; she practically wanted to make out with the chaotic engineer’s secrets. (Recently she'd caught herself staring at Holtzmann's mouth and wondering what it would be like to make out with the woman herself but that definitely wasn't because Holtzmann's swagger left her breathless.)
Earlier that afternoon Holtzmann had clattered out of the room with a cursory mumble about testing something on the roof. Soon after that Patty and Abby left to see a movie, so Erin was alone in the firehouse. She drifted over to the Holtzmann’s work table and idly flipped through a stack of papers, as if the answers she wanted would be found in a jumble of equations. Most of the math was incomprehensible even to her, but a page near the top of the stack caught her eye.
Unlike the rest, which were covered with long strings of equations (many of which were crossed out) and doodles (mostly boobs), this sheet was primarily words. “Lack of oxygen/physiological origin?” was followed by a diagram of something that looked like the grounding collar Holtzmann had clamped around her neck during their subway experiment. There was a list of durations ranging from 15 to 55 seconds, all with "no effect" written after them. Further down Erin found “field testing inadvisable but possibly unavoidable” along with what might have been a series of usernames, although there was no specific app or site specified.
At the bottom of the page she saw a single sentence written in thick black sharpie. “Human beings present too many variables.”
“What are you doing?” Holtzmann’s voice was clipped and strained at the edges. Erin worried about what the lack of wordplay meant.
“I was curious about what you were so immersed in over here.”
Holtzmann dropped the remnants of her rooftop experiment on the floor. She took the paper out of Erin’s hands, balled it up and tossed it toward the trash. Erin waited for her to explain, but Holtzmann merely turned her back and bent over the proton pack that she’d fixed earlier that day.
“Patty’s pack acting up again?”
“Needs soldering,” came the mumbled reply. Erin considered leaving the brilliant scientist to work through whatever was bothering her, but decided to approach the issue head on.
“You soldered it this morning.”
“You been spying on me, Gilbert?” Holtzmann glanced over her shoulder and grinned, but Erin could still sense the tension just under the surface.
“I like to keep an eye on what you're working on.”
“Right. So crazy Holtz doesn’t blow up the firehouse.”
“So I can be the first to know it every time you make something amazing.”
Holtzmann pushed her goggles up on her head. She poked at the proton pack with a screwdriver. When she finally turned around, Erin noticed the flush on her cheeks.
“Are Abby and Patty here?”
“Nope. They're out seeing a movie. They invited both of us but I had some notes left to transcribe and you—”
“I didn't hear them because I was in my brain.”
“Left hours ago.”
“Okay.” Holtzmann looked up at Erin. Her curly blonde hair moved as she shrugged. “Ask me if you want to.”
Erin heard the challenge in Holtzmann's voice but pretended she didn't. She retrieved the crumpled paper from the floor by the trash can, then carefully spread it out on the work table.
“What is this?” She asked quietly, tapping the collar sketch. “It looks like the grounding collar, but—”
“But you see enough differences to wonder what it's really for. It's an asphyxiation device.”
“How do you asphyxiate a ghost?”
“Then why are you building this?”
“Built. I finished it a week ago."
“Who are you planning to asphyxiate?”
“Myself.” Holtzmann shifted on her feet and avoided Erin’s eyes for a few moments before making a decision. She reached into a drawer and grabbed a stack of papers, which she offered to the redheaded scientist.
The top page was a sketch of a person dangling out a broken window. There was another drawing, this one more detailed, of a hand closing around someone's neck. (Abby’s hand, Erin realized. And Holtz’s neck.) An instant picture of a flock of dark bruises on Holtzmann’s throat was tucked into the middle of the pile.
“Oh." Erin murmured, instantly angry at herself for not coming up with something better to say. She held the photograph up and looked from it to Holtzmann, who fiddled with the brightly patterned scarf that was tied around her neck.
"Yep," the inventor replied. "'Oh' indeed"
"Holtz, I just... I wasn't expecting this. I’m sorry, I'm the worst at feelings."
"Nah." Holtzmann took Erin's hand. She plucked the photo from it but didn't immediately pull her hand away. "I'M the worst at feelings. But here we are, I guess.”
Erin nodded. She could feel her pulse throbbing in her fingers and she wondered if Holtzmann could feel it too. She tried to ignore their physical proximity as she waited for the other woman to continue.
"I..." Holtzmann struggled for the right words. "Abby’s worse off. That window? Total no-go for her. Won’t get within ten feet of it. I'm okay. Minimal flashbacks, maybe a panic attack here or there, no depression other than the usual. It's just..." She trailed off, then dropped Erin's hand.
"Just what? You can tell me. I won't tell anyone if you don't want me to."
Holtzmann took a deep breath. “The last thing that's totally clear is Abby coming out of the bathroom. She was standing too close and she looked at me like... It was a way that Abby doesn’t look at me. After that it's just flashes. Struggling over the pipe, then SLAM, on the floor, then... Which is normal, PTSD-LMNOP but..."
"Abby's hands on my neck, and I can’t breathe, I think about that and… I… it’s just—” Holtzmann scuffed the toe of one of her boots on the concrete floor. “It rings the bell. In a hot way,” she finished quietly, avoiding Erin's gaze.
“Now we have a definitive answer to the million dollar question: which one of us is the biggest freak.” Holtzmann's toothy smile was strained, and the hollow tone of her voice tugged at Erin's heart. "Not that there was ever a question, I guess."
"Feeling that way doesn't make you a freak. Lots of people are into kinky stuff--"
"Oh sweet lesbian Christ, save me from this bizarre alternate reality where the words "kinky stuff" just came from Erin Gilbert's perfect ruby lips."
"What's so weird about that?"
Holtzmann's eyes went wide and she gesticulated wildly in Erin's general direction. "You! Erin Gilbert does not even know the concept of kinky stuff, and she most certainly doesn't talk about it with her awkward but incredibly attractive co-worker.”
Seeing Holtzmann so flustered made Erin smile inwardly, although she kept her face in a careful "confused" expression. "Maybe I'm not as easy to figure out as you thought."
"So. You're not a freak and I'm way cooler than you assumed. Talk to me about the machine."
Holtzmann relaxed as she briefly explained how the device worked. “This part expands, slowly applying pressure to the carotid arteries until the blood supply is cut off. The accumulation of carbon dioxide in the brain produces a feeling of euphoria, then unconsciousness. Anyway, long story short, it works, but I had no major breakthroughs.”
“You tested out a choking machine on yourself.”
“Yes, I did, and no, no one knew what I was doing and yes, I was here alone when l did it.” Holtzmann shrugged. "Lecture away, Dr. Gilbert."
Erin stepped closer, studying Holtzmann’s face. She opened her mouth to scold the other woman but when her voice came out it was gentle.
“You can't just mess with things like that. If even one thing goes wrong you could end up unconscious with that thing still around your neck. You'd die whether you meant to or not."
“I put a dead man's switch on it.” Holtzmann cocked her head to the side and looked thoughtful. “I’m pretty sure that part works too.”
"It bothers me that you'd bet your life on 'pretty sure," Erin replied.
“Dude, I bet ALL of our lives on 'pretty sure' on the daily." Holtzmann grinned. "No such thing as a scientific certainty."
Erin couldn't help but smile. "Thanks, Heisenberg," she said. They stood silently for a few moments. When Holtzmann finally spoke, her tone was measured.
"My best friend almost killed me while possessed by the ghost of some pathetic, MRA fucktwiddle, and it changed something in me." Holtzmann was as serious as Erin had ever seen her. "I want to know why that happened and how I can fix it.”
“So what's the next step?”
Holtzmann turned back to the array of papers on her work table. "I'm not sure. The ethics involved in human testing... Complicated."
"Human beings have too many variables," Erin said, remembering the scrawled phrase.
"Yeah. And thoughts. Feelings. Desires. Squishy heart parts."
Erin didn't want to spend too much time thinking about either of their desires. "Maybe this isn't a problem to be fixed. Like I said before you implied that I'm an uptight prude-- lots of people have kinks--"
"You don't have to tell me that." Holtzmann looked Erin up and down. "I've had double the kinky sex that you have."
Erin's brow crinkled. "I'm not sure how we'd measure that," she said seriously. "I suppose we'd have to assign a point system. It's not like you could make a one to one comparison of a quickie on the beach and a weekend long orgy."
Erin was pleased when the inventor seemed unnerved by her response, although Holtzmann recovered her composure quickly.
"But does ten instances of sex on the beach equal one orgy? What if the sex on the beach was midday instead of at night? How do we account for degree of difficulty?”
"We're not even considering the reliability of self-reported data."
"Social sciences!" Holtzmann's nose wrinkled in disgust. (Erin tried not to think it was cute.) “People lie, so that data is practically useless."
"Empirical evidence is the only real option,” Erin agreed. "But that would only tell us who has more kinky sex in the future, not which one of us has had more kinky sex up to this point."
Holtzmann's blue eyes bored into Erin. "What's the kinkiest thing you've ever done?" She asked suddenly.
"Kinky is subjective." Erin’s cheeks burned as she tried to think of a plausible yet sufficiently impressive answer, since telling the truth would be too revealing.
"You're too embarrassed to tell me." Holtzmann leaned back against her work table, a smug smile on her face. "Probably because you're all talk and no walk."
Erin debated if she should dignify the teasing with a response. Eventually Holtzmann seemed to decide that an answer wasn't forthcoming and turned back to her work table.
"I like strap-ons," Erin blurted out, a little too loudly. Holtzmann froze. "Wearing them. I had an ex-boyfriend who was really into me using one on him. I thought I was just doing it because he wanted me to, but then we broke up and... I missed it."
Holtzmann slowly turned to face her. "Okay," she said warily. "That's kinky."
"And I have my nipple pierced. Just one, because it hurt really, really bad. It bothers me that they don't match."
"That's a little kinky, a little OCD,” Holtzmann said. Erin took a few steps toward her, stopping about an arm's length away.
"I have a schoolgirl outfit that I've worn recreationally, not on Halloween." Erin swallowed hard. "And a Girl Scout uniform. Actually MY Girl Scout uniform from when I was a teenager."
“You were a Girl Scout?"
“Damn right I was. I earned my gold award by creating a women in science mentorship program that operates to this day in Kalamazoo, Michigan." Erin looked up to see Holtzmann staring at her, a fond look on her face.
"That is so sweet I think I might puke," she said, but Erin could tell she meant it in a nice way.
"So. Problem at hand?" Erin asked.
Holtzmann sighed. "I just wish I could eternal sunshine the shit out of the last month."
"You want to forget being the badass that saved New York?"
"Selectively eternal sunshine out the uncomfortable parts." Holtzmann had relaxed through Erin's confessions, but she stiffened again. "This particular kinky stuff isn't part of my factory default programming. I need to know where it came from. Euphoria from oxygen deprivation or a repressed memory or a really bizarre coping mechanism or what. But I need to repeat the results first to know its not an anomaly."
"Holtzmann... You're not a science project."
Holtzmann shrugged and grinned. “You sure about that?”
Erin was unable to come up with a response that felt right, so she dropped it. "So the machine doesn't work. What's next?"
“Picking up a stranger in a bar and asking them to choke me is next on the to-do list. Not quite there yet. “
"I'm glad," Erin said, just a bit too quickly. "Because that could be dangerous," she added.
“Staying this way feels dangerous too."
"Strangers aren't the only option."
"I told you, the machine doesn't do the trick."
"That's not what I meant. You have friends."
“Yeah, I ask Abby and that’s like a year more therapy for her. Patty would roll her eyes and go “baby, you know I love you, but oh hell no!" Kevin's too dim to follow reasonable scientific protocols. And you..."
"I don't want you to think I'm screwed up beyond repair."
Erin's chest fluttered as she looked at the miserable woman in front of her. She wasn't the best at words, but she knew she had to find the right ones now. Holtz had shared something big with her and was probably feeling vulnerable, and the last thing Erin wanted was for the blonde to worry that her trust had been misplaced. She reached for Holtzmann's hand and squeezed it.
"I don't think that. At all. There is nothing about you that needs fixing." Erin let herself drift closer to Holtzmann, who looked about to say something, then stopped and frowned.
"You know I'm gay, right?"
"Everyone who has ever met you knows you're gay," Erin replied.
"I'm that obvious?"
"The first thing you said to me was a pick up line and you look at Kevin like he's an experiment gone awry instead of a sex god.”
"Kevin IS an experiment gone awry," Holtzmann replied. “And a Ken doll. Nothing under his clothes and you’ll never convince me otherwise.” She paused. “So you know I'm into women but you're still okay standing this close to me."
"Why wouldn't I be?" Erin held her breath. She watched Holtzmann struggle with her response. She sensed that the blonde was on the cusp of saying something real, something serious, but in the last moment Holtzmann swerved.
"Straight girls sometimes freak out at this range. I'm pretty irresistible," she added with a wink.
"I'm going to forgive you for making wild assumptions about my sexual preferences and history without the proper data to back them up. Again." Erin replied evenly. She ignored the look of surprise (interest? Oh god maybe that was interest) on Holtzmann's face and reached for the silk scarf that was tied around her neck. "May I?"
Holtzmann nodded and Erin's spindly fingers went to work on the knot, then gently pulled the fabric away.
It had been quite some time since Erin had seen Holtzmann's bare throat. As her fingers traced the lingering shadows of bruises, she understood why.
"You still have these after a month. they must have been really bad at first."
"Were you scared?"
"Are you scared now?"
"Yes." Holtzmann's voice was small and soft. Erin wanted to hug her but she held back.
"Of disappointing you." Holtzmann shrugged awkwardly. "Whatever that means."
Erin inhaled deeply. "You won't disappoint me. And I'll do whatever you need me to, to help you work through this."
Erin nodded. She bit her lower lip as she gently placed her hands on Holtzmann's neck. She felt the other woman tense up, but left them there, not squeezing but also not letting go.
"So how will this work?" Erin asked quietly.
"I hadn't gotten that far yet."
Erin nodded. "Let's start by gathering data. How do you feel right now?"
"Actual measurable data. How's your heart rate in relation to your normal baseline?"
"Higher. Right between "almost getting hit by a subway train" and "epic Times Square ghost battle." Tension in the muscles of my chest, shallow breathing. My face feels hotter than it usually is. I think my hands might be shaking."
Erin glanced down. "They are. Any other physical effects?"
"Yes." Holtzmann's gaze flicked to Erin's lips, then back up to her eyes. "They're the kind that you might want to let me catalog myself," she said with a wink and a grin.
Erin's own heart rate jumped at the implication, but she forced herself to view the situation through the detached perspective of a scientist. "If you're aroused right now, it likely has nothing to do with oxygen deprivation. I'm not actually affecting blood flow here."
"Could be a psychological reaction triggered by the euphoria of the initial oxygen deprivation. Or it could be..." Holtzmann trailed off. "Too many variables. I hate the soft sciences.” She bit her lip and met Erin’s eyes. “I think we’re past the orientation stage. I need you to press harder."
"If I do this wrong I could kill you."
"Lucky for me you're a perfectionist. I trust you. Apply pressure on the sides, avoid the trachea and I'll be fine. Please."
Instead of complying, Erin dropped her hands, but before Holtzmann could protest the redhead was pulling her toward the stairs.
"If you go down while we're both standing unsupported, there's more of a risk of injury." Erin opened the door to her office and sometime sleeping space. She moved a chair to the side and then gestured to Holtzmann to stand with her back against the wall. The younger scientist did. She watched, puzzled, as Erin stepped back and scanned the room. The redhead retrieved a paperback book from a shelf and pressed it into Holzmann's hand.
"Is this a kinky experiment or a book club?" Holtzmann teased.
Erin smiled at her saucy tone. She was pleased that coming upstairs seemed to have relaxed the other woman enough to allow for a little casual flirting.
"You hold the book, then if you need to stop but can't say so, you drop it. Or if you pass out, you'll drop it and I'll know right away."
"Smart. I’m a little impressed.”
"It's useful in settings when verbalizing a safe word is impossible."
Holtzmann cocked her head to the side and looked Erin up and down. “My my… what kinky experiments of your own have you undertaken, Gilbert? I’d love to know what hypothesis you were testing.” She leaned close and dropped her voice, her lips dangerously close to Erin’s ear. “Maybe I could read up on your results in a prestigious, peer-reviewed journal."
"No comment,” Erin said lightly, even though she was a little hung up on how “peer-reviewed journal” could sound so dirty when Holtzmann said it.
"Under those tiny bowties lives a wild heart." Holtzmann grinned. "I'll have to remember that."
Erin couldn't help but smile back. She studied the blonde for a few moments, then took a deep breath and returned her hands to Holzmann's throat.
"Any change from when we were downstairs?"
"At the risk of being imprecise... I feel better. Less nervous."
"I thought part of it might be that you didn't want to risk the others finding out about this. Privacy seemed prudent." Her hands flexed and she prepared herself to apply a gentle pressure to Holtzmann's throat. "Ready?"
Erin told herself it was like setting a bone. Sometimes it needed to hurt more before it could get better. As her fingertips made indentations in still-healing flesh, she watched Holtzmann's face carefully. The blonde was focused on the opposite wall, but then her gaze flicked back to Erin and their eyes met.
Without her bluster, her constant motion and her loud voice, Holtzmann looked small. Erin knew she was the taller one, but she was still surprised at how strangely delicate the other woman seemed.
"And now? How do you feel?" She asked, hands firm but not actually restricting blood or air flow.
"I feel... I feel... Like there are too many variables."
Holtzmann’s eyes roamed the ceiling, the floor, scanning every part of the room. Her hands came up and gently covered Erin's. "Are we really doing this, Gilbert?" she asked quietly, avoiding eye contact.
Erin pressed her lips together and tried to keep her voice steady. "Look at me?"
Holtzmann wrenched her gaze from a corner of the ceiling back to Erin's face.
"I don't want to make things weird," Erin said.
Holtzmann laughed. "I fucking love that you don’t see all of this as weird already.”
"You know what I mean." Erin tried to pull away, to put some distance between the two of them, but Holtzmann's hands were still firmly on top of hers. She opened her mouth to say something but couldn't find the right words. She was still struggling when Holtzmann broke the heavy silence.
"I can't tell if it's the sensation of being choked that's turning me on," she mumbled. "Or if it's because you're the one that's doing it."
Erin’s heart lurched to her throat. "Which one would you rather it be?" She asked quietly. She thought for a moment that Holtzmann might kiss her, (and oh god she wanted Holtzmann to kiss her) but the blonde made no move either toward or away from her. Erin thought about making the leap herself but it felt dangerously like taking advantage, so she held back.
"I need a few more data points" Holtzmann said.
"Take your hands away but stay as close as you are now."
Erin let her hands drop to her sides and focused on regulating her breathing, which had gotten fast and shallow.
"One step closer?" She asked, and Erin did.
She was close enough that if she breathed too deeply her chest would touch Holtzmann's. She looked down at the contrast of her crisp white blouse next to the soot-smudged and paint spattered top of the inventor's overalls. Her eyes trailed down to where Holtzmann's crop top ended, leaving the side of her waist exposed.
"Good?" Erin asked, directing her focus back to Holtzmann's face.
"Yeah." Holtzmann paused. "It could be the physical proximity and not the choking."
"It could be both."
Holtzmann nodded seriously. "We should test that hypothesis," she murmured.
Erin stepped close enough to trap Holtzmann between her body and the brick wall and her hands returned to the sides of the blonde's neck. This time, she pressed just slightly harder. She felt herself blush when Holtzmann squirmed against her.
"Definitely both," Holtzmann gasped. "You may want to stop doing that."
"Do you want me to stop?"
"Not even a little bit. But-- correct me if I'm wrong-- I think we are approaching a point of no return here."
Erin relaxed her hands but left them where they were. "So option one, I step back and walk away. And we pretend this didn't happen?"
"If that's what you want."
"Option two, I don't step back. What happens then?"
"You get Holtzmanned." Holtzmann waggled her eyebrows and Erin had to stop herself from giggling like a tipsy schoolgirl.
"You'll shoot me with a proton gun?"
"No, no, different kind of Holtzmanned. Less mortal danger, more orgasms." Holzmann straightened her yellow-tinted spectacles. "Erin… as much as I would sell a non-vital organ to see your o-face, and seriously, I would, we have to work together and--"
"I like you," Erin interrupted. She pulled her hands away from Holtzmann's neck but didn't step back. "It's juvenile and probably against half a dozen HR regulations--"
"-- says the woman who regularly sexually harasses our receptionist--"
"-- but I like you. As a colleague and a friend and a human being and..." Erin trailed off. She looked down into blue eyes that were staring at her as if she were a fascinating foreign concept. "You make me laugh all the time. You're brilliant and creative and I wish I could live in your brain, or even just visit for a moment to see what it's like." Erin took a deep breath. "And the kinkiest thing I've ever done was masturbating here in the firehouse.
Holtzmann snorted. "I guarantee we've all done that."
Erin slid one of her hands up the side of Holtzmann's face, tangling it in her unruly blonde hair. "I was thinking about touching you while I did it."
Holtzmann made an immensely satisfying noise that sounded like a cross between a cough and a moan.
"Are you sure you're Erin and not Erin-being-possessed-by-a-mischievous-entity?" She asked. "Ghost of Mata Hari? Or Cara Delevingne?"
"I'm pretty sure I'm me, and that Cara Delevingne is still alive."
"Okay. I'm gonna put the book down now, and it doesn't mean stop," Holtzmann said. She threw the paperback in the vague direction of Erin's bookshelf and then pulled the redhead to her.
When their lips crashed together, it was as sudden and chaotic as Erin had expected, but also surprisingly tender. Holtzmann's fingertips gently traced along her cheek as they got their bearings.
It felt odd to bend down to kiss someone. Erin enjoyed the new sensation for a moment, then pulled away for long enough to kick off her heels. Even barefoot she was still a few inches taller than Holtzmann was in her battered converse.
"You've never made out with someone shorter, have you?" Holtzmann asked merrily. She toyed with Erin's tiny bowtie of the day.
"Not in a long time." Erin smirked. "You're smaller than you look."
"I'm highly concentrated," Holtzmann shot back. She yanked off her goggles and tossed them across the room. With a rakish smile she stood on her tiptoes, which made her slightly taller than Erin. "Better?"
Erin pushed her off her tiptoes and back against the wall. She leaned in close. "I like that I'm taller," she whispered.
They kissed again. Erin focused on letting Holtzmann lead, tried not to escalate things too quickly. Soon one of Holtzmann's hands was firm on the back of her neck while the other tugged her blouse out of her skirt. The blonde slid her hand under the fabric, skimming Erin's ribs with her fingertips. Erin gasped -- squeaked, really, but that was so undignified-- much to Holtzmann's obvious delight.
Erin decided that two could play at that game. She used the hand that was in Holtzmann's hair to pull her head to one side. She gently kissed her neck, careful to avoid the bruises. She made her way back to Holtzmann's earlobe, which she nipped at with her teeth. Erin was pleased when the action prompted a breathy sigh.
"So tell me about that kinky stuff that you like," she murmured, her lips against Holtzmann's ear.
"The great Dr. Jillian Holtzmann, speechless? Should I make it easier for you?"
"Yes?" Holtzmann squeaked.
"Okay. Hypothesize where we'll be in ten minutes."
"Naked in your bed?" Holtzmann responded hopefully, her hands drifting further up Erin's shirt, stopping just short of her bra.
"Oh! Dirty talk. Okay, I get it," Holtzmann considered for a moment. "You'll be on your back and I'll be laying between your thighs, driving you crazy with my tongue."
"So you're a top?"
Holtzmann snorted. "Have you met me?"
"But this" Erin said, returning her hands to Holtzmann's neck "isn't very toppy."
"Yeah, I don't... I'm not sure." The blonde shifted, uncomfortable again. Erin waited for her to still before speaking.
"Are you up for one more experiment?" Erin asked gently.
"Depends on what it is."
"Let me lead."
Erin held her breath while Holtzmann considered this for a few moments. The blonde inventor nodded.
"Then lead," she said.
Erin grabbed the book again and handed it to Holtzmann. "You might need this," she said before pressing her back against the wall.
Holtzmann gasped as Erin nipped at her neck. She clutched at Erin's collar, the bow tie now undone. "Can I?" she asked, fingers lingering at the top button of Erin's shirt.
Erin paused and stepped back. Holtzmann’s eyes went wide as the redhead yanked at the front of her blouse, sending tiny buttons flying in all directions.
"Whoa. That was so hot I think I just died," the inventor said. "Or maybe I died before and I just realized it. Or maybe I've been a ghost all along and--"
Erin cut off her babbling by quickly unhooking her overalls. She shoved the threadbare denim down Holtzmann's thighs and slid her fingers into the front of Holtzmann's underwear, pleased by the surprised noise the action provoked.
"You're so wet for me," Erin murmured, feeling the dampness of the fabric on her knuckles. She stroked lightly along the blonde's slit, then slipped her middle finger into the cleft. Holtzmann moaned and leaned heavily against the wall.
"Gilbert... I want..."
"Tell me. I'll do anything you want me to. Fuck you with my fingers. Get on my knees and eat you out."
The book slipped from Holtzmann's hand and Erin froze.
"No, no, don't stop," the inventor sputtered. "That didn't mean stop, I just-- I don't want to have to concentrate on-- that was the hottest thing I-- are you sure you're not possessed?"
"Impractical shoes in the streets, sex goddess in the sheets. I'll have to remember that one."
"Are you okay?" Erin asked, using her free hand to tip Holtzmann's chin up.
"Yeah, I'm.... I'm— I'm basically living one of my fantasies right now and you— I don't need the book, I'm great, I'll tell you if I stop being great, go back to what you were doing before," the inventor instructed in a rush of words. Erin did, sliding her fingers tentatively against Holtzmann, who moaned. She was pleased at the low growl that came out of the blonde when she moved a finger down to press into her. She crooked her finger so the heel of her hand settled in just the right place.
"How's your heart rate now?" Erin asked breathlessly a few minutes later.
"Halfway between "epic ghost battle in Times Square" and "impulsively jumping into a portal to another dimension to save a friend." At least, that's my guess," Holtzmann added.
"So getting fucked by me is more exciting than playing with your new toys?"
"God, baby, don't make me choose," Holtzmann whined. The term of endearment made the redhead feel wobbly on a molecular level, but she quickly found her bearings again.
Erin wished she had a camera to record Holtzmann as she started to come undone. She didn't, so she tried to log every detail in her memory instead. A pink flush on pale cheeks. Thick eyelashes fluttering over the bluest eyes she'd ever seen. One hand pressed against the wall, the other clutching desperately at Erin's shoulder. A light sheen of sweat covering Holtzmann's exposed skin, her chest straining against her crop top with each ragged breath. The overalls bunched around her ankles and the unruly blonde curls that peaked out of the top of her Wonder Woman underwear. They were soft on Erin's wrist as she slid her hand against Holtzmann.
"You still okay?" Erin asked. Holtzmann laughed.
"This is the most okay I've ever been! I have never been okay before this moment. Every second I feel even more okay." She leaned forward and kissed Erin hard.
"You don't want to tweak the variables?" The redhead emphasized "tweak" by pressing directly against Holtzmann's clit. "Expand the experimental parameters?" She asked, sliding down to position two fingers at her opening. "Is there really no room for improvement?"
"I didn't think so but then you started talking science while literally inside me," Holtzmann joked. "So, uh... God, I talk about everything, why is this so hard?"
"I could stop until you've composed yourself," Erin teased.
"No! I've got this." Holtzmann closed her eyes and covered them with her hand. "So, uh, two fingers is great, three is usually too much but I sort of want to see if that's different today."
"Okay. I'll start with two," Erin said, pushing forward, feeling the other woman's body yielding. "You want me to warn you before I try three?"
"No, that will just make me tense up. Try when it feels right and I'll stop you if it hurts."
"Okay. Anything else?"
"Can you... It's okay not to if it feels silly, but... earlier when you said that thing about getting on your knees..."
"You want me to go down on you?"
"No." Holtzmann uncovered her eyes and looked at Erin. "I mean, YES, obviously, but not right now. But you saying those things--"
"You want me to talk dirty to you?"
"I'm sorry if that's weird."
"You're kidding." Erin leaned close, dropping her voice to a low purr. Her lips grazed the outer edge of Holtzmann's ear. "The only thing hotter than fucking you against a wall is fucking you against a wall while I tell you about all the things I've fantasized about doing to you."
"I've imagined us at work. I'm reading some idiot's attempt to debunk us, and you decide to cheer me up. You pull me upstairs to your room, push me down on the mattress and fuck me with a strap-on until I can't see straight."
"That can be arranged," Holtzmann gasped, shuddering as wildly as she could while trapped between Erin and the wall.
"Have you ever had someone else fuck you with one?"
"No,” Holtzmann replied. “But I'd let you."
"I’d start off being so gentle. Lick your cunt until you're soaking wet and begging for my cock."
"Jesus," the inventor muttered, arching her back against the wall.
"I’d push into you so carefully, give you time to get used to feeling me inside you. I’d go slow until you told me you needed more, that you wanted me to fuck you hard.”
"Fuck. Erin, I'm... I'm so close." Holtzmann squirmed against Erin. "Can you-- I'm so demanding, I'm sorry--"
"Don't you dare apologize," Erin said firmly. "Do you realize how much I get off on knowing I'm doing exactly what you want me to? Tell me."
"Okay, so keep doing what you're doing, but also-- can you..." Holtzmann inhaled sharply, her teeth pressing into her bottom lip as Erin moved inside her. "I want you to--" she shook her head, then took Erin's free hand and guided it to her throat.
Erin carefully settled her fingers across skin still mottled by bruises. "Like this?"
"Yes. Just touch me, though. Don't squeeze."
Erin kept her hand slack against the blonde’s neck as she kissed her. Her fingers circled Holtzmann's clit and the inventor moaned into her mouth.
"That's it." Erin murmured, sliding her fingers through Holtzmann's folds. "I can't tell you how many times I've imagined what it would be like to make you come. Wondered if you'd work hard to stay quiet or if you'd scream. After busts, I'd be in the shower and I'd get off thinking about you clenching around my fingers as you came." Erin paused for a moment and studied Holtzmann's face. "You're even more gorgeous right now than I imagined you'd be."
Holtzmann whimpered and Erin could tell she was close. She pressed their lips together as she slowly eased three fingers inside the blonde.
"Fuck, Erin," Holtzmann pleaded. Hearing her name in that tone of voice made Erin ache.
"I love being inside you. I love learning what really gets you off, what makes you whine and moan," Erin said, slowly thrusting her fingers. "There is nothing about you that isn't okay with me. Including this," said, gently moving the hand that was still across Holtzmann's throat. "I like all of it, and I want all of it. God Holtz, I’ve never wanted anyone the way I want you.”
Erin was so focused on the task at hand that it surprised her when Holtzmann grabbed her ass and pulled her close. The blonde kissed her ferociously.
“I give you… eight out of ten on the dirty talk… nine point five out of ten on the pillow talk.” Holtzmann managed. Her fingers dug into Erin’s shoulder. “I'm—”
“I've got you,” Erin whispered as Holtzmann’s body started to shake against her. The inventor threw her head back and cried out as she wrapped both arms tightly around Erin.
Erin watched with fascination as Holtzmann thrashed, babbling her name over and over again. She continued to thrust gently until the blonde's body clamped down hard around her hand.
She held still until Holtzmann relaxed. The other woman's arms dropped and she slumped back against the wall. She whimpered as Erin slowly pulled her fingers away.
Erin hooked her arm behind Holtzmann’s shoulders. She kissed the side of her neck and whispered "thank you" in her ear.
"I think that's my line," Holtzmann mumbled. "At least, it would be if it wasn't totally fucking inadequate." The wiry scientist bobbled a little on her feet. “Can we get horizontal? I don’t have any bones left below my hips.”
Erin led her over to the bed. Holtzmann sat on it heavily, then untied her boots. She tossed them toward the bookcase.
"Thank you... for pushing me. I feel... Okay, to be totally honest I'm still a little freaked out that I enjoy something that tangentially connects to that fucktard Rowan." Holtzmann reached up to adjust her goggles, then realized she wasn't wearing them. "But I'm glad it now directly connects to you. Not that I want you to strangle me every time we fuck. I have a pretty big repertoire and lots of theories I want to test with you. But this..." Holtzmann struggled for the right words. "Whatever, this was awesome, and I'm super into you too, and not just because you just gave me the ride of my life on the Gilbert Express.”
Erin hadn't realized she was holding her breath. She laughed and and stood in front of Holtzmann, who used her index finger to lightly trace a path from her knee to halfway up her inner thigh.
“I think we can agree that after rigorous study, it's clear that I'm more kinky than you are,” Erin said evenly, as if they were discussing particle wave theory instead of sex.
“Reaching a conclusion after testing a single set of experimental parameters?” Holtzmann’s eyes narrowed. “That’s bad science, Gilbert. Now I'm going to have to spank you before I get you off.”
Erin shivered and grinned. “You say that like it’s a punishment.”
Holtzmann shrugged and reached around to unzip Erin's tweed skirt. "You know, if you'd SAID that you've never wanted anyone the way you want me, we could have started doing this ages ago. It's really mostly your fault we're not further along in our research," she scolded as she reached around to unhook Erin's bra. She pulled it off and smiled.
"I was right. I figured it was the left one." Calloused fingers tapped the silver bar and Erin's nipple hardened around it. “I was right about something else too.”
“What's that?” Erin asked, just before she found herself flat on her back on the bed.
“I am totally going to ruin you with my oral skills,” Holtzmann replied, crawling up so she was kneeling between Erin’s legs. “And then I'm going to go to my lab and get a few prototypes and you're really going to love me,” she said with a wink.
Erin’s heart fluttered in her chest as Holtzmann’s fingers tugged her underwear down. She shuddered when an errant blonde curl brushed against her hip.
“Now that is a scientific absolute,” Erin quipped, but then words failed her and she couldn't have cared less.