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Real or Fake or Something In Between

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Holtzmann skidded to a stop beside Patty, who was looking through a book on mid-century New York architecture she’d just bought. “I need you to come to dinner with me,” Holtzmann panted out.

Patty turned, eyebrow rising with incredulity as she took in Holtzmann’s disheveled appearance. “You want to go get dinner?” she asked. “Why can’t you just ask like a normal person? Whatever, I’ll go find the others.”

“No!”

The interjection came so suddenly that Patty could only blink, surprised at the vehemence behind the word. That was really not the response she’d been expecting. Holtzmann grinned at her, looking at least somewhat apologetic, and rubbed at the back of her neck. It was kind of endearing, though Patty would never say so out loud.

“I mean, uh, it’s not for a team dinner. Just the two of us. Well, three of us,” Holtzmann said, and that really wasn’t an explanation at all.

“What does that even mean?” Patty asked, a little exasperated. Sometimes Holtzmann was so hard to follow. “Who even is the three of us?”

Holtzmann smiled winningly, though there was an edge of nervousness about her. “I kind of need you to be my fake girlfriend for dinner with Dr. Gorin tonight?” she said in a rush. “I may have accidentally given her the impression that we’re dating and now she’s insisting on dinner and I can’t really say no now.”

“Uh, yes you can,” Patty replied, because what? And also why? “How did that even… you know what, I don’t want to know. No, I’m not gonna be your fake girlfriend, go get a real one.”

“But she thinks it’s you,” Holtzmann moan, flopping down on the other side of the booth. She was pouting, slumped over the table with her chin resting on her folded arms. “I can’t just get any old random girlfriend.”

Patty snorted, but she supposed Holtzmann had a point, convoluted though it was. She tried to consider what doing this would mean. Holtzmann was her friend, which made her want to do this favor for her, but Patty also had a bit of crush on her and pretending to be her girlfriend… well, that just sounded like a rabbit hole she really didn’t want to deal with.

“Pleeeease,” Holtzmann begged. “If you do it, I’ll go with you to that house tour thing you’ve been talking about that no one else wants to go to.”

“Fine,” Patty said after another moment’s hesitation. She really did want to go on the house tour, it was supposed to be a great showing of early twentieth century architecture, and both Abby and Erin had flat out refused to go. Besides, dinner couldn’t be that bad. “But you bet your ass you’re paying for my dinner. And I’m getting lobster.”

***

“I really wish you would have told me about your girlfriend earlier,” Dr. Gorin said, and Patty could tell this was an old complaint by now.

She took a sip of her wine, wondering how long Dr. Gorin had been complaining about this exact thing before Holtzmann finally gave in and this dinner happened. Well, that wasn’t really her business. Holtzmann had been the one lying about them dating, she was just there for solidarity. And free food.

Holtzmann sighed, her left eye twitching a little. “I told you,” she said, the hint of a whine in her voice. “I didn’t want to jinx it. Or have you scare her off. Like you know you do.”

“You know I just try to take care of you.” Dr. Gorin waved her hand vaguely, like they were supposed to know what that meant. Well, Holtzmann probably did. “I don’t want to see you hurt again. I’m your mentor after all, that’s part of the job.”

Patty tended to think that was more the job of an older sibling or maybe a mom, but the relationship between the two crazy scientists was so not her business either. Even if she was pretending at the moment it was, it was up to them to work out their shit. She was there to watch and eat and live out Holtzmann’s lie for the evening.

“Yeah, fine,” Holtzmann replied, but Patty could tell she was touched by the older woman’s words.

It made her wonder about that ‘again,’ but still, she had to remind herself that it was not her business. She’d have to let Holtzmann tell her if she wanted to. Which wasn’t very likely, because as boisterous and talkative as Holtzmann usually was, she didn’t talk about her feelings or past a whole lot. After the heart-felt outpouring at the celebration after their first big ghost win, Patty couldn’t think of a single time.

The rest of the dinner went pretty well, all things considered. Dr. Gorin was a mix of her usual mad scientist and an oddly protective older sibling figure. Patty breezed through the pointed questions because although they weren’t actually dating, she did like Holtzmann. Sometimes when she was alone, she could even admit it was more than just as a friend or fake girlfriend.

After paying the rather hefty bill for the dinner, Dr. Gorin left them at the parking lot, disappearing onto the busy New York streets with a promise to catch up with Holtzmann again soon. It made Holtzmann smile all the way back to the firehouse, which had something warm and content rising up in Patty’s stomach. As much as this whole situation was ridiculous, she was glad she could see that look on the other woman’s face.

“Hey, uh, thanks for doing this for me,” Holtzmann said as they pulled up to the building. She beat an uneven rhythm on the steering wheel with both hands, a distraction. “It was… I mean, you were… just, thanks.”

“Anytime,” Patty said, then held up her hands. “By which I don’t actually mean anytime because fake dating because you lied to your mentor is kind of weird.”

“What about real dating?”

Patty had to pause for several long moments, wondering if she was hearing things. The nervous look on Holtzmann’s face told her that she’d heard exactly what she thought she’d heard. Which, well… that wasn’t something she’d been expecting. Hoping for in her weakest moments, maybe, but not expecting.

Holtzmann opened her mouth, probably to take back what she’d just said, but Patty wasn’t about to have that. She didn’t want to put away the feelings she’d been holding back, not now that she knew Holtzmann had similar ones. So she did the only thing she could, she leaned over the center console and pulled Holtzmann in for a kiss.

As kisses went, it wasn’t spectacular. Holtzmann was too surprised for that, but Patty had no doubt they’d get better. And there were certainly going to be more chances for that if Patty had anything to do with it. Many, many chances.

Patty pulled back, smiling at Holtzmann’s windswept look. “That’s a yes to the real dating, by the way.”