"Would you sit still!" Holly orders me as she places her hand on my knee.
"No!" I inform her. We're on a plane and I'm about to go meet Holly's parents. So I can't sit still. I'm nervous. They probably don't like me already.
"Gail! It'll be okay. They'll love you." She tries to reassure me but I'm not buying it.
"Not according to shit head over here." I point at Zoey who's got the isle seat on the four seater side, next to our two seater. She however doesn't hear me because she has her earphones on.
"Gail! Zoey's messing with you. Trust me." She gives me that meaningful look that melts me and I just couldn't not agree, so I give her a nod and she reaches out for my hand and interlocks our fingers.
"You're way too understanding for your own good." I remark as I lay my head back and try to close my eyes. She forgave me, she's here, she wants me to meet her parents, she loves me, even after everything.
"You know, when I saw you breathing, I was mad. And it showed. I thought about not talking to you. Giving you the cold shoulder. Ignoring you. You deserved that, and you didn't deserve that. You were dead Gail. I thought you were dead. I thought I'd never see your face, or hear your snark, or kiss your lips. Your addictive lips. Even though we weren't together that long, I was broken. And then you show up. And I'm suddenly being healed, without effort. So I could've ignored you, but why would I do that? When all I wanted was to hug you? Because I can see your face again. I can hear your voice, and kiss your lips, and hold you. I should've been madder than I was, but how could I be mad when I was happy you were there?" I try not to let a tear fall, because since she started her rant all I could do was look at her and hear every word.
So I kiss her. "Too many words." I comment once our lips break apart.
She smiles, remembering that I said the same words when we first kissed.
"I love you." I whisper to her as I lay my forehead on hers.
"I love you too." She whispers back.
Suddenly I feel a pillow hitting me in the back of the head, and I turn around to find Zoey squinting at us.
"Seriously?! We're on a plane!" She exclaims and I just roll my eyes.
"Of course. You have to ruin every moment we have." I comment.
"Just keep it PG." She says then goes back to ignoring us and listening to her music.
I however pick up the pillow she threw and throw it her way hitting her in the head as well, she doesn't fight back though, she just grabs it and puts it back behind her head.
"I think the only problem my parents will have is dealing with you two when you're in the same room. You two bicker more than she and I do." Holly informs me as she points at her sister.
"Not my fault you have an annoying sister." I tell her.
"I heard that!" Zoey exclaims as she turns to face us.
"I don't care!" Maybe I shouldn't start an argument on a plane.
"You're lucky we're on a plane and I'm not in the mood for an argument. Casper." She bites at me.
"Whatever you say, Brainy." She wants to call me Casper, fine. I'll reference her to an annoying Character.
"Brainy?" She wonders at the choice of name.
"He annoys me, and so do you. Fitting." I explain.
"Who the heck is Brainy?" She asks but I just shrug at her.
"Did you just call my sister Brainy after Brainy Smurf?" Holly asks me in a whisper so Zoey doesn't hear.
"You're such a dork." She says and I chuckle at her constant insistence that I'm the dork in this relationship.
"Mom!" Zoey exclaims as she runs towards what I would like to call an older version of Holly. I guess Zoey must have taken after her dad, cause her and Holly don't look that much alike.
"Come on." Holly takes my hand and walks me towards her mom who Zoey is still hugging when we reach her.
Holly looks like her mom. She's not as tall as Holly, but she has her warm face and features.
"Hey mom!" Holly greets her mom who releases Zoey at hearing Holly's close voice and just hugs Holly tight.
"I've missed you!" Her mother tells her and Holly answers with a "Missed you too."
When her mother releases her she holds Holly's face in her hands and she examines her face.
"You look good and rested! Good." She comments and then she lets her go and turns her attention to me.
"Mom, this is Gail." Holly introduces.
"Mrs Stewart." I extend my hand for a handshake, which her mom looks at in contemplation.
"Call me Stef." She says after a few seconds and reaches for my hand to shake. However, she doesn't shake it, she pulls me in for a brief hug.
"You're more gorgeous than Holly described." She adds once she lets me go.
"Thank you?" I ask more than say as I give Holly a look.
"Well I'm glad you're alive." Her mom says and I somehow feel like that was somewhat a warning.
"Glad to be here." I say and she nods at my words.
"Where's dad?" Zoey asks her.
"He's outside, parking the car, you guys landed earlier, so he hasn't gotten in yet. Let's go meet him before he comes in." She then puts her arm around Holly's waist and pulls her towards the exit.
I take Holly's carry on from her and I pull both of ours while Zoey walks next to me.
"Careful, you don't want to disappear when we walk outside." Zoey says to me.
"That doesn't even make sense." It really doesn't.
"Oh it does to me." She laughs and I give her a glare. "I thought Ghosts could go invisible?"
"Still makes no sense!" I inform her.
"You'd get so scared you'd disappear?" She prompts, and I know what she means but I still want to annoy her.
"Why would I do that? Doesn't make sense!" I say and she just groans.
"Stop being annoying!" She comments and I give her an incredulous look.
"I'm being annoying?!" I ask.
"Stop it! You've bickered enough on the plane!" Holly groans out to us.
"Brainy over here is being a Brainy, again. So you can't blame me for this." I answer a bit childishly and I can feel Mrs Stewart's eyes looking at us in question.
"Shut up Casper." Zoey mumbles as she walks past me and past her mom and Holly. Holly just shakes her head at us and follows her sister along with her mother, and now I'm the only one walking behind them.
"What was that about?" Her mom asks.
"Long story." Holly tells her. "They bicker like siblings."
"I see you're fitting right in Gail." Her mom tells me once we walk outside.
"Hey! You guys already made it out?!" A man greets when he reaches us and Zoey is suddenly hugging him.
Once she lets him go he goes to hug Holly.
Then she turns to me and I know what's coming.
"Dad this is Gail." The second she says my name his eyes lose the warmth and he gives me a glare.
"Gail." He greets as he extends his hand for me to shake.
"Mr Stewart." I greet back and take his to shake.
Unlike his wife he does actually give my hand a brief shake. Then he turns his full attention to Zoey, so he can take her suitcase. When he looks to Holly, she points at the ones I'm dragging. I just give him a shrug to let him know I'm fine with our bags.
"Okay, well I didn't park far, so let's get you girls to the house." He then leads the way to the car and we follow.
Once we reach it, I pull the handle of the first luggage down, but before I could lift it up Holly's hands are halting mine.
"Oh no you don't."
"What?" I ask wondering what's gotten into her.
"Ribs? You're not carrying anything." She reminds me as she takes over to carry one bag while her dad grabs the other and they place our bags and Zoey's in the back of the car. Then we all climb in. Holly ends up sitting in the middle to keep me and Zoey apart.
She then leans her head on my shoulder while her dad drives, and I reach out to hold her hand.
"Oh God!" Zoey groans out as she gives us a disgusted face. Holly smacks her on the arm to shut her up.
Mrs Stewart turns around to see what's happening and she finds Zoey rubbing her arm and when she notices the position me and Holly are in she gives us a warm smile before she turns back around.
The rest of the drive goes by with Zoey chatting with her parents, while I only answered one question asked by Mrs Stewart. They however stopped trying to include me in the conversation when they noticed that Holly has dosed off. Which is understandable. She didn't sleep on the flight, mostly because of me and neither of us slept well last night because I was nervous and we had to wake up early to pack. So I let her sleep the whole way, until her dad parks in front of a nice two story house with a big backyard, in a neighborhood where houses aren't that close to each other.
Everyone exits the car except us two. Holly's mom goes for the house to unlock the door, her dad goes towards the back to open the back door and unload the bags and Zoey follows to help him, while she leaves her door open.
"Hey hun." I say gently as I gently remove the hair that has fallen on Holly's face, hoping she'd wake. She hums in acknowledgement.
"We're here. You need to get up. You can go to sleep once we're inside." I try and she just hums again.
"Come on babe. I know you're tired. I'll even help you into the house." I say gently and I could see Zoey give me doubtful looks as she stands in the open doorway. I return her look with a glare.
"No you're not. You are still injured." Holly mumbles into my shoulder.
"Like that'll stop me." I'd still help her, even if I was injured.
"Then I'm up." She then lifts her head off my shoulder and blinks her eyes awake. The sight was too adorable.
"What?" She asks once she sees the look I was throwing her way.
"Nothing, you were just being adorable." I inform her.
"Gag." Zoey fakes a gag motion and then walks away towards the house.
"Come on. Let's follow your annoying sister." And with that I open the door, climb out and reach out my hand to help Holly out. And together we walk into the house.
Once we're inside the house, Holly's mom approaches us.
"Your dad's just putting your bags in your old room Holly." She informs us. "Zoey already went up to hers."
"Come on Lunchbox. You need a bed, and sleep." I tell her.
"You sure you're good to walking up and down those stairs several times today?" Holly points at the stairs in the house, and I realize that they're longer than the ones in her house or mine.
"I'll be fine." I reassure her but she doesn't seem to buy it.
"Holly, it's been over a week. I'm healing. I'll be fine! Besides, you can help me if needed." I remind her that she's been there to make sure I follow the doctor's orders and to take care of me if I need it. If she's around, I'll be fine. She seems to forget that I've had it worse than this.
"Sorry mom. It's just, I had a long shift yesterday and then slept late and woke up early for the flight." Holly apologizes to her mom about her sleepiness.
"Go rest up. We can catch up and really meet Gail later at dinner time." Her mom reassures her. "There's clean towels in the bathroom if you two want to shower." She then gives Holly a kiss on the cheek and me a warm smile.
That"s when Holly grabs my hand and leads me towards the stairs, which we ascend slowly.
When we reach the top with two steps left, we are met with Holly's dad making his way towards the stairs.
"Sorry dad, I need sleep." Holly informs him as she takes a step up, when he moves aside.
"Sleep huh?" He asks her with a raised eye brow and a doubtful look.
"Sleep!" Holly deadpans.
What does he think we'll be doing?
That's when I get his drift, right when I'm taking a step up behind Holly, and I seem to take that step faster than I should've because I bumped into Holly, and pain shoots through my ribs for a few seconds.
"Damn it." I hiss once the pain hits me, and I stay in that position, standing on the stairs, holding onto the railing and clutching my side with one arm, for a while.
"You okay?" Holly asks me worried.
"Yeah, sorry, I was walking faster than I should've." And in a few seconds the pain fades, until it's barely there.
"Come on." Holly then helps me slowly walk up the last two steps, until we are standing new her dad. Holly kisses his cheek.
"Sleep." She tells him and leads me to her bedroom.
I wake up before Holly.
I decide it's best to leave her sleeping. She's been tiring herself this past week. She went back to work and when she's not working she's spending her time with me. She sleeps as little as she can so she can spend more time with me. That makes me feel bad about what I did, and yet it makes my heart beat faster, knowing she cares this much.
So with a kiss to her shoulder, I leave the bed, and head towards the shower. I grab clothes from my suitcase on my way there, and find the clean towels where I was told they'd be.
After a shower and putting on some new clothes, I find Holly still asleep when I get to the room. The sight of her makes me smile.
Making sure I don't wake her, I decide to face the family. I can't hide out here or behind Holly forever. So I leave the room and make my way downstairs, where I hear voices in the kitchen.
Once I enter the room, I see Zoey sitting on a stool at the kitchen bar, with a coffee mug in her hands, while her mom prepares dinner I guess.
"Hey." I announce my presence.
"Gail." Zoey greets.
"There's some coffee left, if you'd like." Mrs Stewart offers and I nod in confirmation but before I could move to prepare my own, she's already grabbing a mug and pouring coffee into it, then she sets it on the kitchen bar, as if inviting me to take a seat there. Which I do with a "Thanks."
"You need any help?" I ask as I take a sip.
"Oh thanks dear, I'm good." She declines my offer with a smile.
"You should let her cook sometime mom. She's really good." Zoey compliments me and I smile with my cup at my lips.
"Is that so? Then I wouldn't mind help. This one is really bad in the kitchen." Stef comments and points at Zoey.
"What do you need me to do?" I ask as I pull the mug to the end of the kitchen bar next to the kitchen counter, and grab the offered Apron that Stef is offering.
"Salad? Any kind you want, the vegetables are all in the fridge, and everything else is in the cabinets, feel free to look through." She offers me a task and I smile in appreciation for being included.
"Okay. What're we having for dinner?" I ask.
" Chicken marsala." She says as she grabs the mushrooms from the fridge.
"Holly likes it." I remember her saying she likes it when her mom makes it. Her mom gives me a smile for knowing this.
"Okay how about the tuscan bread salad and bean and rice with corn salad?" I ask as I make my way to the fridge. "The Tuscan will need to sit and marinate for half an hour." I say as I open the fridge.
"Anything you want." She gives me the go and I get to work.
While we cook, I sip my coffee and we have a conversation.
"So how'd you learn to cook?" Stef asks.
It's a good thing she was informed that I worked as a spy.
"I had to learn for an undercover mission at first. And then I just loved it. Everytime I'm in a new country I'd learn a few of their local dishes. I've tasted a lot of amazing dishes. And couldn't not learn how to make them." I say honestly and then grab the rice to drain.
"Good thing you're here then! I could use some help for Christmas dinner. Maybe learn a few recipes." She says gratefully.
"About the spy thing." She adds a few seconds later. "You must have had quite a life huh?"
"Yes, I've seen a lot, been through a lot, in just a short amount of time." I have a feeling there's a drift to her conversation.
"Must be hard to let it go like that." And there it is.
"Not really. I may have seen a lot, but I've almost died many times, and had to fake my death. I've been injured and badly beaten. I've kept distance from my family and I had no friends, because it was hard to have any. It was a lonely life. And if having Holly means giving it up, then I'd gladly do that. Being with Holly is more exciting than never knowing if you'll make it through the day alive. Because with her I am alive." I guess I got more carried away than I should've. Said more than a should've.
But when I look at Stef, I see a proud smile on her face. Did I pass?
"You're not eating the salad though right?" A voice asks from behind me. Holly. She must be standing at the doorway.
"Nope. That's for you guys to eat. I'll eat this." I indicate to the beans I'm about to drain above the salad.
"Good. Cause after that Speech I wouldn't want you to die." She strides towards me, gives me a peck on the lips and then takes the stool next to her sister's.
"What? No comment?" She asks her sister.
"Nah, that was kind of cute. With all the love declaration and shit." Zoey waves her hands between Holly and me.
I may have won Mrs Stewart with the speech, the first day in the kitchen, but it took a while for Mr Stewart to come around.
That first day we ate dinner and we had a bit of a serious conversation, where Mr Stewart asked a lot of questions about me, and how I became a spy, and if I'm truly out of the spy game.
And after some convincing on my part, we had a change of subject.
The day after was Christmas dinner though, and a lot of their family members were coming to the Stewart house.
So I've been working in the kitchen with Mrs Stewart since the afternoon. Helping her with the dishes she needs, and teaching her some new dishes from different cultures.
While we cook I mentally prepare myself for meeting Holly's extended family. The part of the family that doesn't know i was a spy, that still thinks I'm a detective who faked her death for a job.
Holly joins us in the kitchen half an hour before her family arrives and she keeps the conversation going. She offered to help, but her help wasn't much needed so she stays seated at the kitchen bar stool. Zoey comes in to steal some food, but Holly kicks her out, telling her she's not up for an argument between me and her. Which is kind of how the last few days have gone. Me and Zoey arguing as usual. Mrs Stewart just smiles at us fondly when we do, and Mr Stewart ignores it, while Holly tries to play the peace maker.
It's good to have someone to argue with like a sibling though. It reminds me of Steve growing up. We used to argue just this much.
Mrs Stewart excuses herself for the bathroom, and I go back to checking on something cooking. When I put down the lid of the pot, I feel arms gently incircle me. Knowing it's Holly, I lean into her with a satisfied hum.
"How are you feeling?" She whispers in my ear.
"Much better." I answer.
"Good." She then leaves a trail of kisses up my neck, and I shiver at the sensation.
I groan when the emotions taking over me, become too much.
"Stop being a tease." I complain.
"I can't help it." She stills her lips on a spot on my neck.
"You're the one who put the whole no physical strain until I'm better rule. So don't tempt me, then leave me hanging." I remind her. "Besides, we're in the kitchen, cooking, for christmas dinner, which all of your family is coming for. And your mom will be back any second now."
"Ruin my fun, won't you?!" I can feel her pout onto my neck. Then she lifts her face up and gives me a kiss on the cheek.
Just as she pulls her face away a bit, someone clears their throat in the doorway.
Holly turns around and gives her mom a smile as she takes back her seat at the stool. I however, am sure my cheeks are red. Mrs Stewart does not make any comments though, she just walks into the kitchen to continue where she left off before leaving.
We continue like that, until the doorbell rings and Zoey opens up. That's when the first few members of the family arrive, and I ready myself to face them.
"So you're the girlfriend!" Someone exclaims from the kitchen door, and I turn to see Holly standing with a woman that looks a lot like her mom, a guy and a girl who both look about our age, or maybe a bit older, and Zoey behind them with an smirk.
"Hello." Simple greeting is good right?
"Gail, this is my aunt Maya and her kids, my cousins, Seth and Joanna." Holly introduces.
"Nice to meet you."
"Likewise." Seth says as he takes a step closer and extends his hand for a shake.
Joanna gives me an assessment with her eyes though.
"Glad you're still alive dear." Holly's aunt says. "This one was a mess without you. Just don't scare her again."
"I don't plan on it." I promise.
"You don't look like a scary cop to me." Joanna speaks, but she says it with a joking tone.
"Cause she's not." Zoey remarks.
Now I'm the one giving her a smirk.
"Except you almost peed your pants when we first met. I'm sure you were scared of me then!" I remind her and she just gives me a glare.
"I did not." She defends. I simply raise my eyebrows in question at her. "Not my fault you move like a freaking ninja." She adds in loud mumble.
"What happened?" Joanna asks intrigued.
Zoey gives me a glare to shut up, and I smirk. Which is probably why Holly jumps in.
"I'll tell it." She declares, before me and Zoey argue more. "Zoey came to my house in the middle of the night unannounced, Gail was there. She heard the door downstairs, so she grabbed her gun and scared the shit out of Zoey." She leaves out the cool details. I don't add them though. "It's a good thing I woke up and told her that Zoey was my sister before Zoey got arrested."
Joanna laughs at the story.
"She freaking moves like a ninja. You can't even hear a thing." Does Zoey know that she's complementing me?
"I approve then." Joanna says with a wink.
Befroe anymore can be said, small feet paddle towards the kitchen.
"Momma, aunt Stef says I can sleep over!" A little voice exclaims excitedly.
"And what did dad say?" Joanna kneels down to face the little girl, who looks to be around three or four.
"He said yes! Duh!" The girl says as if it was expected.
The girl however moves towards Holly and hugs her feet.
Holly grabs her and lifts her up, and walks towards me while carrying her.
"I want you," Holly addresses the girl, "to meet someone special to me. This is Gail." Holly points at me.
"Hi." I put a smile on my face as I address the cute little girl, with a dark haired ponytail, chocolate brown eyes, a sweatshirt with the letter N on it, blue jeans, and black converse. This kid has cool parents. "And what's your name?" I ask.
But the girl just turns shy and hides her face in Holly's shoulder.
"This here, is Cinderella." Holly says and I give her wide eyes at the name.
"No." The girl mumbles into Holly's shoulder.
"No what?" Holly asks her.
"It's not Cinderella." The girl has left her hiding spot.
"You don't want to be Cinderella?" Holly asks.
"No." The girl says firmly.
"You don't want to be a princess?" Holly keeps questioning.
"No." I can feel the anger coming from her little body.
"Then what do you want to be?"
"Wizard!" The girl exclaims as if it was obvious.
The surprise is evident on my face.
"Don't ask, her parents are nut jobs, who got her to watch Harry Potter." Holly says a bit loudly, so Joanna gets the point. I guess the shirt makes much more sense now, since it's Christmas.
"You're jealous cause she gets to watch it more than you do." A man says as he makes it to the kitchen.
"Gail, meet Dominic, Nova's dad." holly introduces the man and reveals the kid's name.
"Hi." He doesn't question or give me looks, just greets with a simple hi.
"Hello," I greet back.
"Can we watch Harry Potter?" The girl asks.
"Not tonight. Maybe tomorrow?" Joanna answers for all of us.
"You say that all the time and then we don't." Nova complains to her mom and it's adorable.
"Nova." Her mom starts but I cut in.
"You know, I haven't seen it in a while. If they don't let you, you and me will watch it without them." I promise the girl, and I intend to keep the promise.
"Really?" She asks with a smile, showing off her little teeth.
"Yes. Any part you want."
"You love Harry Potter too?" She then asks.
"Yes. Can you keep a secret?" I ask as I get closer and she nods in enthusiasm. "I'm a Griffindor." I whisper, though I'm sure the whole room can hear my whisper.
"You're Red." I guess she gets the point of a secret, because she whispers back, just as loud as my whisper. "I'm Red Too! But Daddy's Yellow, so I'm Yellow too."
"Oh really?" I ask.
"Yes. I have the shirts for it." She adds, and I can't help but chuckle at how much different this kid is from others. While other little girls want to be princesses, her dad made sure she'd want to be something else.
"And where do you think Holly belongs?" I ask.
"The Blue, Raven." Nova notes after a second, saying the house wrong.
"I'm Ravenclaw?" Holly asks.
"Yeah. Cause you're super smart." Nova explains and Holly smiles.
"So are you kid." Holly adds and I'm amazed at how much this little girl understand such a wide and detailed universe.
"And what about Zoey? What house?" I question and Holly gives me a look, a not to mess with fire warning.
"Muggle." Nova says immediately and I'm amazed she knows what that means.
"Cause she doesn't watch it." Nova says as if it was obvious.
"I'm too cool for your magic classes anyways." Zoey announces.
"Think we can turn her into a yellow rat?" I ask Nova and point at Zoey.
Nova giggles however and Zoey glares at me.
"Ugh, enough arguing you two! I don't think you argue with Steve this much." Holly complains. I guess Zoey and I have been doing it too much.
"Seems like you're already fitting in quite well with this one then Gail." Dominic who's only uttered one word to me, finally says more.
"She's Holly's package deal." I say.
"You're lucky there's a kid in the room." Zoey was probably going to have a very heavy answer to that.
Speaking of said Kid, she breaks our argument when she addresses Holly.
"If I sleep over, Can I sleep next to you?" The kid asks Holly and she gives me a sideways glance at that.
"We'll see my little wizard." Holly doesn't like making promises, so she repeats what the kid's mom said.
"Pwease?" The kid adds with pleading eyes.
"Where would we put Gail then?" Holly asks Nova.
"She's sleeping with you?" The little girl asks and I almost choke at her question.
"Yes." Holly confirms for her.
"Then can I sleep between you and Gail? Like I do with Mommy and Daddy?" She is so adorable.
"But Honey, Gail is injured…" Holly is trying to reason.
"And is healing well, and will be quite fine. So yes." I cut in and answer for Holly.
"Yay!" The little girl exclaim.
Before Holly scolds me however, or Joanna comments, the doorbell rings again. I guess there's more people to face now.
Holly's family is big. I don't interact much with all of them though. There's too much of them for me to get very well acquainted with. Now I understand why Holly had ordered and sent ahead all those gifts.
I let Holly catch up with her whole family, while I help serve the food, and watch Holly be happy around the people she loves. My favorite company of the whole day was Nova. She wasn't the only kid there, but she was the only kid who wanted to talk to an adult. She asked so many silly questions, and she even wanted to help in the kitchen a bit.
It was nice to see everyone enjoy the food, and I got many compliments on it, when it was something I've made and Stef tells them that it was all me. Some would ask me where I'd learned it or what culture it's from and I tell them I took different cultured cooking classes. They still are under the impression that I'm a detective, so had to keep the façade with them.
Holly and I must have stood under three mistletoes, four if you count the one Holly held above our heads and demanded a kiss.
I've never enjoyed A Christmas gathering as much as I have now. At the Pecks it felt more like a show than an intimate family thing. And in the past five years, I didn't have the spirit for it.
By the end of the evening, after dinner is had, everyone's in the big room, with the fireplace, where the Christmas tree is, and everyone is exchanging gifts. I focus on Nova's face when she opens her gift from Holly and it ends up being a guitar.
Her face lights up as she grabs the guitar out of the case and she looks at Holly in wonder.
"So you can play music and be better than daddy." Holly tells her and the little girl just hands the guitar to her mom before she runs off to hug Holly. I guess being the youngest in the family means she's the most spoiled. But she's too adorable not to spoil.
"Thank you!" The little girl squeaks once she reaches Holly's arms.
"Can you teach me?" She then asks Holly and Holly gives her a blank look.
"Uh, I don't play guitar sweetie." Holly explains and I just jump in before Nova can answer.
"But I can teach you." I offer and Holly turns to look at me with surprise.
"What?" I can play a few instruments." I answer her unspoken question.
"Is there anything you can't do?" Holly says in a voice only I can hear.
"Maybe." I answer in just as low a voice and turn my attention back to Nova. "I played i a band for a while, so tonight and tomorrow I can teach you a few things, and then you can continue from there. Deal?" I ask the kid and she nodes enthusiastically.
"Holly?" She starts with excitement.
"Yeah kid?" Holly answers.
"I like Gail." The girl tells her and I can see a small blush creeping unto her cheeks, except the girl was too excited when she spoke.
"I like her too kid." Holly says and then she turns towards me to give me a lopsided smile.
Nova stayed seated in Holly's lap for the rest of the present opening.
Eventually it was time for me and Holly to open each other's presents. I tried insisting on exchanging our own gifts later, in private, but Holly explained that her family would insist. Because each year they all exchange gifts together. She explains that it can't be like the gift exchange, the one on my wrist. The bracelet she got me for my birthday and I haven't taken off since. The one with the lunchbox. The one that helps me carry her with me everywhere I am, right in my heart. Sap! I Know!
So I hand her the box, just as she hands me mine.
And we both open it together, with Nova scooting a bit far to give Holly more space to open the gift.
I had to find time to sneak away from Holly to get my gift. I kind of ordered everything and assembled it in the fortress. And at this moment I hope it would pay off. And she'd like it.
I hand her my box and she hands me hers. Mine is a bit bigger than hers.
Holly urges me to open mine first. So I do. And in there are four other tiny boxes and I give her a questioning look.
"I realized you never took off your bracelet, the one I got you for your birthday." With that she touches the bracelet on my wrist. "So this is one of my gifts. Additions to the bracelet." I knew for a fact that that charm must have cost a bit more than I'd expect. And I'd have been content with no other gift. I was just happy with the one I already had. But I was curious what she thought would go well with the lunchbox. So I open each box individually.
The first box holds a slice pizza.
"Is that?" I ask as I lift the box.
"On our first official date we had pizza." She explains and I smile at the memory. Getting her to eat my pizza.
Then I open the second one and I find the charm to be a pineapple.
"You had pineapple pizza. Never thought I'd taste that. But you made me. It was your favorite and now pineapples remind me of you." I can see that she's starting to ramble. She's probably nervous by my lack of response.
I go for the third box and in it I find a band aid.
"I wanted to find gauze, but that was difficult and we kind of kissed cause you got injured and I was rambling while gauzing your hand and you kissed me to shut me up." Again I don't answer her just smile and go for the last box.
In it is a tiny ring charm. At that I give Holly an incredulous look with so many questions.
"I thought you were dead for two weeks, until you showed up in my office, guns at the ready ands caring the shit out of me. Then you gave me a ring, which was a tracker. And each time I'd question whether you were real or not, If I imagined that you were still alive or not, I'd find the ring still on my finger, and I'd know that you weren't dead, and that I'm happy for that. Really happy. So yes, a tiny ring. Just to symbolize the day you truly came back to me." She is so cute when she rambles. "I know it's a little cliche but I thought the ring was an important part of our story and…" She doesn't get to finish. Because I cut her off with a kiss, ignoring everyone who might be looking at us, but being mindful of Nova who is still sitting at Holly's lap. Which is why I make the kiss short.
"You just had to stop talking." I tell her and she smiles at that.
"Thank you! I love them. And they all mean a lot. I'll be sure to add them, and always keep this on." I promise her as I place the small box back in the bigger box and close the lid on the bigger one.
With that it means that it's Holly's turn to open her gift and I'm excited to see her face when she does open it.
She opens the lid and grabs what's inside the box.
"A lunchbox?" She asks with a smile. A bright adorable smile.
"Your old one's color is starting to fade." I explain my choice.
"It's a medical kit." She defends.
"Whatever you say lunchbox." I tease.
"Well thank you." She sounds playful. "I love it." And she means it, because she pecks me on the lips.
"What? You're not going to open it?" I add and she gives me raised eyebrows in question at that statement before she goes for it, and opens the red lunchbox.
"What is that?" She asks incredulously.
"Something for you." I explain as she starts to pull it out of the lunchbox.
"Gail…" She has finally taken it out and looks at it wondrously. "How?"
"I saw your collection of science books. You have a few old ones, thought I'd add to your collection." I explain my gift choice. It's a book, an old third edition book.
"This must have cost a lot." She notes as she passes her hand above the cover.
"And I have a lot to spend." I remind her.
"What is it?" Zoey asks from across the room, reminding us that we're not alone.
"It's the third edition of Charles Darwin's 'On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection', it was published in 1861. So it's old. And important." Holly explains.
"Sounds fancy." Her sister comments.
"Thank you." Holly breathes out as she gives me an adoring look, which I return with a smile.
She opens the first page and my smile grows in anticipation.
"You put tickets in the book?" She asks as she finds two pieces of paper in there. She grabs them to read what's written and then she gives me an amused look. "Comic con?" She asks.
"Toronto comic con, in March." I explain. I may have purchased the tickets way early, but who cares.
"And why would I want these?" She asks lifting the ticket in front of my face.
"You may not, but I do. And this is me asking you to be my plus one." I explain the situation.
"And you call me the nerd?" Her sarcasm is showing.
"Is that a yes?" I know she'll go. She likes it as much as I do.
"Plus one forever." She promises and I smile.
"Ugh! Stop being too adorable, it's nauseating." Zoey complains loudly.
"You had to have the most annoying sister didn't you?" I ask Holly, and to my surprise everyone laughs at my comment.
"What?" I add towards Holly when they do that.
"They agree." Holly tells me and I jump into the laughter as Zoey rolls her eyes at us.
Everyone else keeps exchanging gifts.
It's only when everyone is done, is a guitar thrust towards me.
I look up to find Zoey holding a black acoustic in my sight.
"What…" I start to say but Zoey cuts me off before I can say more.
"You say you play guitar, and we have one that no one knows how to play. So prove yourself." She says.
"Is this your way of asking me to play guitar?" I ask.
I give Holly a look and she looks excited at the notion, even Nova does too. So I grab the guitar from Zoey and watch her go back to her seat.
I look around the room and I notice that everyone is still in the room. I'll have to play in front of everyone.
I've played in front of crowds before but none that I knew would be as intimidating as someone I love's family. I have to impress them fully, otherwise I won't be deem fully worthy of Holly.
So I deflect first. I ask Nova what song she wants to hear.
"Shake it off." She decides and I give her a questioning look.
"The Taylor Swift song." Holly explains.
"Oh, well unfortunately I don't know it. But I'll learn it just for you. Is there anything I know that you might want?" I ask again knowing that the chances for that aren't big.
"Mulan!" She says then and I laugh.
"You want a Mulan song? No Christmas songs?" I need reassurance.
"No! Mulan!" She says Mulan so excitedly. Where has this kid been all my life. She's perfect.
"Okay." I think of which song is best to play. While I do that I strum a chord and it sounds awful.
I give Zoey a look. "When was this last tuned?" I ask her.
"Never?" She sounds so sure. "Not since we bought it anyways."
"Why'd you buy it then?" I'm curious as to why someone would buy a guitar and never use it.
"Ask Holly. She's the one who got it before she left for toronto." She explains and I turn in surprise to Holly.
"I wanted to learn. But I didn't have the time and I got busy with going to college and the idea of med school, so the guitar just remained untouched." She explains.
"Well I can teach you if you still want." I offer.
I tell Nova I'll take a minute before I can play her song, because I need to tune the guitar and she waits patiently while I do that by ear.
"Okay, now let's see, do I sing or do you?" I ask Nova.
"You sing!" She is still excited I see.
"Okay." And I choose a song.
I start playing 'I'll Make A Man Out Of You' and the whole room is silent and listening to me play and sing. I don't play the whole song, just till the chorus is first sung and at the bridge I change my voice to fit the characters that sing each part, which causes Nova to laugh. And when I finish everyone applauds.
"You're amazing." Holly comments. "You have a lot more to tell me." She points at the guitar with her eyes and i nod and agree.
"More!" Nova exclaims.
"Why don't you get your new guitar and join me?" I ask her and she runs off of Holly's lap towards her mom excitedly and grabs the tiny guitar and carries it calmly back to Holly. I guess she's the kind that takes care of her things.
Holly helps her sit back on her lap and I teach her how to put her guitar correctly.
Some start a silent conversation and I contemplate what easy song to teach her. I remember a three chord song.
I teach her three chords and tell her how to change between them. And once I'm sure she got them I tell her to do just that and it's okay if she messes up.
And we play Knockin On Heaven's Door together.
"I can't believe you taught her that?" Holly exclaims once we're done. Again we only played till the first chorus is done.
"What? It's a classic." I say in defense.
"If she's influenced by you two, she'll lose her mind." Joanna comments as she comes closer and picks up her daughter while Holly takes the tiny guitar from her.
"You're the one to talk. You and your husband are worse!" Holly defends us and I chuckle. I don't know how much of nerds they are, but I'm sure we're worse.
"That was great sweety." Joanna compliments her daughter and Nova squeals in excitement and hugs her mom.
The night continues. And I don't remember ever having that much fun on Christmas. I love Holly's family and I'm glad they approve of me.
Nova ends up sleeping over. Before bed however we watch the first Harry Potter until she falls asleep between me and Holly. I wake up the next morning to her giggling. I open my eyes to see her caressing Holly's nose and Holly scrunching it up in annoyance.
I smile at the sight.
"Morning kid." I greet her and she turns around with a squeal of Gail. Before she hugs me though Holly grabs her back and hugs her instead.
"Hugging Gail could hurt her." Holly reminds me and Nova.
"Sorry Gail." Nova apologizes and I just aww at the moment.
We make it downstairs for breakfast. And after that I teach Nova a few more things at the guitar and tell her to practice and learn more, as much as she can. We keep it up till her mom picks her up.
We spend that day eating leftovers and just hanging with Holly's parents and Zoey, talking and taking a stroll around town in her dad's truck. I find a shop that helps me add the charms to my bracelet and I can't help but smile every time I look at it.
By the end of the day me and Holly make it to bed happy.
"You were incredible yesterday." She comments as she tries to find a cuddling position that doesn't touch my broken ribs.
"So were you." I tell her.
"You were amazing with Nova." She ignores me complementing her and insists on me.
"She's amazing." I compliment Nova.
Holly just kisses me on the cheek and takes a comfortable cuddling position as we drift to sleep.
The rest of the week passes the same. I grow closer to Holly's parents and to Holly. I tell her more stories and adventures and she tells me more about her. Her mom shares childhood stories and baby albums and I didn't think it possible but I love Holly even more. And I have a feeling this love will keep growing.
New Year's we go to a bar with Zoey and Holly and I share our first New year's kiss.
It was a great escape from the world of crime and danger.
It was a great new life to have.
When we come back to Toronto we go back to just sleep. And Holly is reluctant to go back to work, but she does. I however am still off for a couple more weeks.
So I visit her at the lab as much as I can.
Our alone time gets filled with make out sessions that she ends too soon, because even though I'm getting better she still refuses to risk anything.
And I hate Greene more than ever now for shooting me.
So I fill my time by visiting the station, hanging out with the 15 devision friends I've made and just being with Holly.
Until it's time to go to Toronto, to finally resign as an agent and start the new life.
"Come on Gail! You know I won't let you go without me!" Holly begs for the third time today. She was fine with me going by myself, but today she's been reluctant to let me go without her.
"Holly, you just came back to work for real. I can't just take you away." I try to reason knowing it's futile.
"I told you before, I'm not letting you out of my sight!" She recalls her words from when she first learned I was alive. "Besides, you're still injured."
"You and I both know I'm fine! It's been a month and I'm healed, you just won't believe me." I am pretty sure my ribs have healed by now.
"I won't risk anything, until your X-Rays in two weeks. So I'm coming with!" She is so stubborn. I guess I have no choice but to relent.
"You know I'd love it if you would. So are you sure? You're sure you can take two days off?" I ask her one last time.
"Yes. Now let's pack a small bag and one more flight!" She says excitedly.
Even though she's had to work lately, she's always checking on me. We also always sleep in the same bed. Whether at her place of mine. If we remain as we are, which I'm sure we will, in the next couple of months, we will have to move in together, it's inevitable. The question is, who's house do we move into?
"Holly, you don't need to book an extra flight. I'm taking a private jet. I'm sure there's more room for you." I inform her and her expression turns slack jawed.
"What?" I ask.
"Almost dying several times, makes a lot of money." I answer and for that I get a slap on the arm.
"Not funny." She then strides upstairs. "I'm going to pack a carry on."
After we both pack a carry on, we sleep and drive the next day to the airport.
Holly is even more surprised when we just skip baggage check and go straight to the plane.
"We're only going to Ottawa! And we're VIP passengers! And I'm in Law enforcement! So this is normal." I assure her as we make it towards the Jet and walk up the stairs till we're inside.
She finds a place for our carry ons and then she takes a comfortable seat. I do the same.
Once the plane takes off and I'm sure we're away from all prying eyes now, since the pilots are both in the pilot booth. I take the opportunity to do something I've been trying to get Holly to do for the past few weeks. I take her by surprise when I leave my chair ands treadle her.
"Gail! Your ribs!" She warns.
"Are fine!" I add and shut her up with a kiss.
I knew she wouldn't go any further. She's been shutting me out every time I try claiming that she won't do anything physical until she sees my X-Rays. If only the appointment for them was sooner. So I have to wait two more weeks now. Because knowing Holly, there's nothing that will change her mind about this.
So I take what I can get, and make out with her for the remainder of the fifty minutes flight.
"You're killing me here Gail!" Holly breathes out just as the pilot announces we're about to land.
"Then change your rule and I can take care of that frustration I keep causing." I give her a mischievous look and I slowly get off of her and take my seat back and fasten the seatbelt.
"What kind of doctor would I be if I just ignored the medical rules?" She questions.
"A horny one." I may be being unfair, but this is fun.
Holly gives me a glare at that, and doesn't answer.
So I let it be for now. Because the plane lands, and when we leave it, we are created by Ashley standing at the bottom of the stairs, waiting for us to descend. She gives me a hug once we reach her level and then she directs a smile at Holly.
"So you're the only who melted the ice queen." Ashley notes at Holly.
"I never met the ice queen you speak of." Holly answers and I just give her a smile.
"Wow. Sawyer! You're so in love! It's adorable!" Ashley comments at my smile and my smile then turns to a glare her way.
"It's Gail Peck. I'm not Agent Sawyer anymore!" I remind her.
"Right. Well I'm your escort to the base, then I'll take you to your apartment. So shall we?" She indicates towards the car parked not more than a few feet away.
"We shall." I say as I take Holly's hand in mine and walk towards the car.
Being at base wasn't as hard as I thought it'd be. I was welcomed with warm smiles and praise.
Upon meeting Caroline. I hand in the paperwork. And agree to only do analysis for the agency from now on. Analysis from the base in Toronto, and I would only ever come down here if it was absolutely necessary, but I was done with field work.
Caroline then just hands me a badge, which seems to be the same one I had before.
"Well then, Detective Peck, Homicide, Toronto PD, 15th Devision. With an Alias Charlie Sawyer, Analyzer for the Canadian Intelligence Agency. Welcome to base."
Caroline has used my real name, welcoming me as a detective. I guess I'll have to keep my Alias when working for the agency though, since she announced it.
After that. Ashley, Caroline, some other agents, Holly and me, went for drinks. And it wasn't bad. We talked about missions and silly things. Holly joined into the conversation, and it amazed me how easily she gets a long with everyone. She's just amazing. And we've also had a bit to drink, which is why I was caught staring at her with a goofy smile on my face. Until Ashley kicks my shin.
"You are so far gone. I'm so happy for you." Ashley coos and I just roll my eyes at her and go back to smiling at Holly.
And then we leave to my apartment in Ottawa, which Ashley convinced me to keep. So I gave her a key, in case she ever needs it.
And then next day, I get to the base for more paperwork, and then spend the day with Ashley and Holly. The next morning, Ashley is the one who takes us to the airport. Her and Caroline promised to always keep in touch. Not like Caroline wouldn't, I still work for her. Then when Ashley hugged me goodbye, she whispered for me to promise to invite her to the wedding. A comment which I just shoved her lightly for.
On the way back to Toronto, I do the same thing I did on the way over to Ottawa. I straddle Holly when she least expected it and I start a make out session, which leaves us both wanting more when it's time to separate.
So I hope these coming two weeks pass by fast.
Then next day I go to work. First day as official Detective Peck. But it doesn't feel strange or new. I've been doing this for the past few months. I guess I got the hang of the job. Everyone welcomes me with smiles and happiness. Ian's absence is felt though. However, I do still find a way to keep in touch.
And for the next two weeks. I do my job, mostly behind a desk, because Best doesn't want me out there until I am medically cleared as well. I spend my time with Holly and my family. I even go to Family dinner every sunday now, with Holly by my side.
And I wait, till it's time to be cleared for full duty, and to be able to just be free with Holly, without her worrying every second.
So when two weeks are done, and it's time for the X-Ray, I hope it says all's good.
Which is probably why my smile could blind someone when the results show that my ribs are fully healed. I don't inform Holly though. I ignore her texts and just make it to the station to clear myself for full duty.
Then I take off work earlier than usual, in order to make it to my house before Holly does. I text her to meet me there and let herself in with the key I gave her. When I get there I take off my clothes, shower, and put on a robe, only a robe. Then I grab the X-Rays and place them on the table downstairs, where I'm sure Holly would place her keys, her briefcase and her coat on the hanger nearby. Then I make my way to the bedroom and sit on my bed waiting.
Fifteen minutes later, I hear the front door close and I know Holly's here. Two minutes later, I hear her call for me, so I call back informing her I'm upstairs.
When she enters my bed room I stand up to face her.
"So the X-Rays…" She starts.
"Show that I'm fine." I interrupt. "Completely fine." Then I start to take steps closer to her, with a seductive face. "So shut up and take me. Cause I don't think I can last much longer." I then take off my robe to show my full nude self to her, and I smile triumphantly at the sight of her face. The want and arousal she feels is showing and it turns me on even more.
Before she can say anything though I kiss her. A kiss that's not so gentle. A rough kiss, filled with need and want.
"You're wearing too many clothes." I comment, before I start taking them off, piece by piece and she helps me.
Once we're both naked she takes over, and pushes me onto the bed, and then climbs over me, resuming the kiss and the body rubbing, before she takes me to higher places, over and over.
We had a lot to make up for. The happy sex after knowing I was alive, the make up sex, the Holiday sex, The drunken sex, and weeks of no sex.
And our love making varies between love and gentle. But it's all love. Love is present in every touch, every whisper and every moan.
And when I wake up the next day, tangled up in Holly, I know that this is it. The life I've been preparing for. Everything that's happened has led me to this. Being Home. For wherever Holly is, I'll be. Because she's home.
And I know that whatever comes our way next, we'll figure it out.
For now, we'll just enjoy this.
And I'll just keep falling in love with Holly.
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