Am I A Ghost Or Real?

Penny

"So Gail, what's your poison?" Traci asks me as she stands up ready to go to the bar and order some drinks.

"Get her some tequila shots and beer." Steve says as he looks at me smiling happy that he knows what I like, but unfortunately I can't drink heavily tonight.

"No, just one beer, I'm driving so can't consume more." I justify why I can't drink. I also can't drink because I've got to go to Marcus's for more answers.

"You can handle your liquor. You were always able to handle it." Steve reminds me with a frown. I guess I've been away for a long time and he doesn't want to feel like he doesn't know me anymore. The thing is even back then he didn't completely know me, but I've been gone too long to let that look on his face remain.

"Of course I can. I can outdrink all of you losers." I say with a scoff, making sure the Gail my brother knows shows up.

"So one shot?" He asks hopefully.

"Fine, one. Can't say no to Jose Cuervo." I joke as I give in to Steve's request. He's right, I've always been able to hold my liquor, so why not?

Traci simply nods and walks towards the bar to order our drinks.

When Steve suggested we get drinks, everyone agreed to come. But the three of us, Steve, Traci and me arrived alone. Sam wanted to wait for Andy. And Traci said that everyone will probably come in after shift. So I thought it'd be a great opportunity to catch up with my brother and to get some much needed information if possible. So here I am sitting in the bar that I know my brother frequents a lot, waiting for a drink from his girlfriend, and aware that this night will be full of questions from strangers that Steve might call friends. I always made a bad first impression. I've always been socially awkward, especially around new people. But having to work undercover most of the time meant I had to learn to deal with people. I had to learn how to act and play nice. I had to pretend to be who I am not. But here, with Steve it was hard to put on the act. It was hard to be someone you're not when I had people I needed to impress. I was going to spend this evening with Steve's friends, I was going to make conversation with his girlfriend, I was going to be around people I had to work with for some time, and that was scary. I didn't want to mess up, have them hate Gail Peck. Which is why maybe I needed alcohol. Maybe Steve was right. I can hold my liquor so why not? It could make this situation less awkward. For me at least. Or was I scared of actually liking them? Becoming friends with them? Of adding more people to the list of people I will hurt when I leave behind with no explanation when the time comes?

"Nice car you got there Gail." Steve notes as he eyes my twitchy hands. I guess he's trying a safe approach at a conversation. When I was given my mission to be a detective, I knew that using my own car was out of the question. No way a detective could afford such an expensive car. So I asked to be sent an alternate car that was at a bit more reasonable price for a detective. So I left my convertible M6 BMW where it lies, and settled for a 4-series Platinum Blue convertible BMW, a car that was only meant for two.

"Thanks. Still paying for it." Even on a detective salary, I wouldn't easily afford it.

"Never thought you'd go for sports cars there little sister." He says as a way of asking though. As if he's wondering what possible urged me to buy such a car.

"Well I wanted a fast car and I like the color." I shrug.

He simply laughs at that, and Traci comes back with the drinks to that scene.

"So is chivalry dead?" I point at Steve getting ready for the assault at him, while traci places the drinks in front of us.

"Why you ask?" He asks me with raised eyebrows.

"Uh, hello! You let your girlfriend get the drinks. Isn't that supposed to be your job when she's around?" I mock him and Traci chuckles at my statement.

"I just didn't want you to feel awkward without me here." Steve admits and in a way it was endearing, but I could handle myself. Even if I was scared and awkward.

"I'm okay Steve don't worry," I reassure him.

He nods and places the tequila shot in front of me as he and Traci hold up theirs.

"Well here's to you being back," he says as he holds his drink up towards me and Traci does the same. I roll my eyes at him before lifting mine and then all three of us down our shots.

"So mom called. She says to remind you about tomorrow's dinner." Steve says after we put our empty shots on the table and take our beers.

"Right, the dinner in hell." I say sarcastically.

"It won't be bad. She misses you, and dad wants to see you." Steve tries to reason.

"Steve, you and I both know that what happened yesterday was a one off. It won't happen again, she won't be nice tomorrow. She'll scold me and judge me and she'll make me feel extremely guilty over everything. She'll tell me how disappointed she is that I ran away, because Pecks don't run away." I recite to him what I'm sure will be said tomorrow. "I'm sure dad will be happy to see me, but he'll just sit back and let mom scold me during the whole dinner and he won't say a word. I know how this goes. I may have been gone for a while, but mother will never change and you know it."

"Or, she'll be happy you're back and proud that you made detective so fast." He tries to reason again and Traci just scoffs.

"Steve, even I know Gail's right." I'm guessing Traci's meetings with my mother haven't been all that pleasant, considering she's siding with me on this.

"Okay, maybe you're right. But we'll be there. We'll even bring Leo, she can't be very mean in front of Leo." He says as he takes a sip of his beer.

"And Leo is?" I ask.

"My son." Traci answers.

"Oh." I guess asking a lot of questions at this moment wouldn't be appropriate, but I'm also guessing that he's Traci's son only, as in Steve is so not the dad. That'll have to be a story for another time then. "Yeah, I don't suggest you bring him. Maybe next dinner or something. But kid or not, Elaine Peck won't be nice tomorrow." I tell Traci as I reach for my beer. If we're going to talk about my mother I will most definitely be needing the alcohol.

"Thank you Gail." Traci says nodding towards me, understanding that I wasn't asking her not to bring him because I didn't want him there, but for his own safety.

"I do want to meet him though. You know, since I may sorta be his aunt." I joke and they both just chuckle.

"Soon." Traci promises.

Just then Andy and Sam join us at the table. "Hey guys." Andy greets as she takes off her jacket and drapes it over a seat next to me and then sits.

"Hey, I'll be right back." Sam greets and then departs towards the bar, I'm guessing to get drinks for him and Andy.

"So how's your case going? Sam didn't tell me anything?" Andy asks us.

"We've just gotten relieved from the case. More free time for us." Steve says as he lifts his cup in salute.

"What? You just let the case go?" Andy asks confused.

"No. The big guys took over. Might as well. They need to do some proper real police work from time to time." I mock them as I explain the situation.

Sam then places two drinks on the table, one in front of Andy as he sits down.

"Interesting first day for you huh Peck?" Sam asks me as he sits down.

"You could say that." I pick up my beer and sip.

"I've heard from Frank that you've solved many big cases in Vancouver." Sam praises.

"Yeah, lucky devision. Having me here." I start the sarcasm as I sip my drink.

"Actually yeah, we could use someone so infuriating." Sam says and I just chuckle. "I actually wanted to punch you in the face when you were in that interrogation room."

"Actually, I think you wanted to punch me more when I was walking out of the station without even giving you an answer." I take a guess.

"Probably, yeah. A possible suspect walking out. I thought Frank was losing it." He says.

I place my drink down as I feel my phone vibrate. I reach for it in my pocket.

Get ready. Jameson is walking into the bar. Marcus texts.

I simply frown. I didn't tell him I was coming into the bar.

Are you stalking me now? I ask him.

No. I'm stalking him. ;) . Was the wink face necessary?

Dork.

Make conversation. texts back ignoring my dork statement.

Affirmative. I text as I erase all texts and place my phone back into my pocket. Once it's in my pocket I reach for my drink.

"What's that?" Steve asks out of nowhere.

"What?" Traci asks him.

When I follow his eye sight, I notice he's looking at my wrist. My sleeve had ridden up and my right wrist was visible, which meant so were the double scars I had there.

"How'd you get those?" Steve asks me concern filling his eyes as he points at my wrist.

"Perks of the job." I answer as I ignore his look and go back to my drink.

"Gail." He says my name, and I know he's telling me my answer is not enough. He needs to know more, to ease his mind.

"No big deal Steve, I'm fine. Being a police officer means putting yourself at harms risk. So I've had a few bad days on the job. Haven't we all?" I say in dismissal as I pull my sleeve down to cover the scars.

"They look deep Gail. How'd you get them?" Steve pushes for more information.

"Does it matter? Are you gonna ask about every scar I have? What's done is done, let's move on." I try to dismiss the conversation. In the past five years I've been through a lot. I have gained many scars. I've been cut and shot at. I've been tortured and I almost died more than once. But he doesn't need to know that. He doesn't need to worry about my undercover everyday life.

"You have more than those?" Steve catches on and that's when I realize I slipped, and mentioned more scars.

"Nothing that calls for worry." I lower my voice and make it softer, hoping to assure him that I'm fine.

"Gail." He pleads with me, for more information I'm guessing.

"Fine Steve." I relent. I guess I could bring it as close to the truth as I can now. I got the scars on my wrist when I was on a mission in Whitehorse Yukon. I got captured and tortured for answers. They tried to suffocate me with water and starve me, and after two days of no answers from me they then they strapped me to a chair, and started cutting into my wrist and arm when I wouldn't tell anything. I have five more scars on my arms, three on the top of my right arm, and one on my left wrist and another on the top of my left arm. One of the cuts on my right wrist was too deep, it was deep enough to bleed me to death. Luckily my partner at the time Hannah found me just then and made sure I got stitched up before taken away for medical care. But I couldn't tell Steve any of that. So I lie.

"I was kidnapped on an undercover mission a few months ago. They captured me and tortured me by making cuts on my arms for information. They thought I'd talk if I was going to bleed to death. But my fellow officers found me in time. That mission is what guaranteed my promotion to detective." I lie and Steve believes it.

"How badly were you hurt?" He swallows heavily and I could feel the heavy atmosphere at our table. Everyone was quiet, probably thinking the same thing.

"Just the cuts, most of them didn't even scar." I try to reassure them that the cuts were all. I'm guessing they thought it was worse. I wasn't raped, even in reality. I was just tortured. I remember walking out with so many bruises on my face, and all I was worried about was having a broken nose. Because sneezing would be difficult then.

I'm guessing the look in Steve's eyes at that moment means that I am not to tell him about any other bad days I've had. I hope he doesn't notice any other scar. I have three gun shot wounds. Thankfully my everyday clothes requires to have them hidden. I'll just ignore beach season. Which is so far away from now considering it's mid october.

"Hey guys." Diaz and Epstein greet us then, breaking the tension.

"Hey!" Andy greets them. They just pull a table close to ours as Sam shuffles his seat to make room for it and them.

"Where are your drinks?" Traci asks them as they sit.

"Ian's taking care of that." Epstein says pouting towards the bar.

So I'll be sitting at the same table as Jameson. Time to play it right and play it safe then. But when I look towards the bar I see him and Nick getting drinks. Shit! I really didn't want to deal with Nick right now.

A minute later I see them both walking towards our table each with a drink in hand. And I simply glare at Nick as he catches my eye. I was hoping my icy glare would tell him he's not allowed to sit at this table. But he simply lifts the right side of his mouth in defiance and comes towards our table.

Once Chris and Dov get their drinks the other two take a seat.

"So detectives, anything on the case?" 'Ian' asks us.

"Higher ups took over. No more talk about the case." Sam answers and I scoff.

"So much for a homicide on my first day on the job here." I say as I drink the last bit of my drink.

"No murders of this mystery level in Vancouver?" 'Ian' asks as he meets my eyes. He was being defiant. I don't know if I'm being paranoid, but I felt like he was daring me to slip up.

"Oh of course. But none that I handled. Even though I begged to help." I chuckle. "Guess a detective in training was pretty much a rookie. I was on coffee duty most of the time and file ordering." I say with another scoff.

"Yeah, that was the most annoying part." Traci agrees as she nods at me.

That answer and Traci's support seemed to satisfy him for a while.

"And you said Ottawa right?" I ask him. "No big mystery killings there? Is it just gloomy old gothic Toronto who gets them?" I joke. Considering he was questioning the homicides in Vancouver, I tried to make it as if he was insinuating that a murder like this only happens in Toronto, dark city. Which is not true.

"Nothing an officer like myself got concerned about." He answers calmly as he takes a drink and meets my eyes.

I get distracted by a text message.

All well? Marcus asks.

I'm confused on whether he's on to me or not. He stares too much and asks too many questions. I text back.

He's just paranoid cause you're the new kid on the job. Just prove him wrong. he reassures me. I look up from my phone and 'Ian' is still staring at me.

As long as the creepy staring stops. I text back.

Maybe he likes you. You are easy on the eye. But once he'll know you, yuck. He jokes in his texts and I can't help but contemplate his suggestion. What if he does? The agency can't ask me to go with it can they? Because I am not sure I can play that part well undercover.

I think that would be creepier. I tell him hoping he gets what I mean.

Agreed! He texts and ten follows it with another text. Besides, you got a hot Pathologist to think about.

Asshole. I text as I chuckle quietly and tuck my phone back into my pocket.

"Anyone interesting?" Steve teases me when I meet his eyes.

"A friend from Vancouver. Just checking in." I answer him.

"So not a boyfriend?" He asks digging for information.

"Nope, definitely not a boyfriend." I answer him and I hear Nick scoff at my statement.

"What?" I ask him meanly.

"Nothing. You're not exactly the type for that." He says with an amused smile and raised hands as if in surrender.

"The type for what?" I keep my mean tone.

"Long distance dating. Or just the girlfriend type in general." He says as he picks up his drink. How dare he judge? The asshole.

"Last I remember, you were the one with the issues." I jab at him. "I don't recall making promises and then getting cold feet. Because that wasn't me who did that, was it?"

"Gail…" He starts, his tone telling me he was about to try and make our situation better, as if I'd tolerate him, or worse, try to apologize.

"Shut up!" I cut him off as I get up.

"Where you going?" Steve asks me worried that I might storm off.

"Well I'm hungry. So I'm going to get food. And when I come back I expect soldier boy here to ignore me." I answer as I throw my icy glare towards Nick.

"Okay." Steve nods.

"Anyone want anything?" I ask trying not to be too rude by walking without asking them. And they all shake their heads in the negative.

As I walk away from the table and towards the bar to order some food, I could swear I saw 'Ian' discreetly smirk.

When I make my way to the bar and order my food, I decide to wait for it there. I could collect myself and get my anger to subside before I go back there.

After a few minutes of standing by the bar I feel presence behind me. I don't have to turn around to know it's him. Why did he follow me?

"Detective Peck," 'Ian' says as he comes closer to stand next to me. He leans at the bar just as I'm doing.

"Gail, we're not at work, so you can call me Gail." I let him know as I wait for him to make his intentions known.

"Gail." He says as if he's trying my name out. "Collins is an idiot you know." He adds.

"Oh that I am aware of." I agree.

"I'm guessing you guys used to date?" He asks.

"I was lacking some sight and brains at the time. Otherwise we wouldn't have." I say through clenched teeth. The subject of Nick just irritates me.

"Well then he's an idiot." He says again.

"You said that already."

"Yeah well, he's a bigger idiot, for letting you go." He explains as he straightens his posture and I just look at him questioningly.

"I'll see you tomorrow, Gail." He says as he nods.

"You're leaving?" I ask.

"Early shift." And with that statement he turns around and walks away.

Shit! Did he just flirt with me? Marcus is so gonna love this.

Just as I shake those thoughts from my head and turn back towards the bar to wait for my food I feel other sets of eyes on me. I turn to my left and I am met with brown eyes only less than two feet away from me.

"That went well." My brown eyed observer says.

"Lunchbox." I greet her with my new nickname for her and she simply chuckles at my annoying way of greeting.

"Detective." She says as she brings her lips up into a lopsided grin.

The bartender places her drink in front of her and she pays for it. Jack and coke. Nice.

"So you're here." I state.

"Well since I have no case to work on. Thought I'd get a drink." She explains as she takes the first sip.

"They took the body huh?" I ask her.

"Yes." She nods.

"Gotta love the big guys." I say sarcastically.

"Well it looks like that big guy," she points at the entrance to the pub where 'Ian' just walked out, "has a thing for you."

"Oh, can't help it if people fawn at my feet. Nothing to get jealous about Lunchbox." I tease with a wink and she simply shakes her head at me.

"One cheeseburger platter with no tomatoes." The man at the bar says as he places my burger in front of me.

"Thanks." I say as I take it.

"Not a fan of tomatoes?" Holly asks.

"Not when I'm allergic." I answer as I start to walk away. When I'm a few steps away I turn back towards her. "Well come on Lunchbox, can't have you sitting there alone. You can sit with me." I say as I smile teasingly.

"Are you ever going to use my name?" She asks as she gets up and walks towards me.

"Not nearly as fun." I answer and we both make it towards the table.

When we reach the table I grab the empty chair where 'Ian' was sitting and place it on the other side of the table next to mine. I don't think I want Holly sitting next to Nick, that would mean I'd have to look his way more than I wished to.

Once I place the chair in place, I place my plate in front of my seat and sit down.

"Thank you." Holly says as she sits down and then she greets everybody.

Everyone greets her with a "Dr Stewart" except for Traci who calls her 'Holly'.

"Got some unexpected free time?" Sam asks her.

"Yes, they took the body away. Nothing to poke at." She answers with a smile as she drinks.

"No dead body talk, I'm eating." I warn as I grab my burger and dig in.

"Okay," Holly says as she meets my eyes with a lopsided grin.

"Good." I tell her in between bites.

"You're a messy eater aren't you?" She then asks me as she observes the way I eat and I don't bother to take a breath from chewing my burger and simply nod.

Steve just laughs at that. "She really is. Gail loves her food." He says as he reaches forward and suddenly I see him snatch a french-fry off my plate. "She also hates sharing food." He adds as he puts the fry in his mouth.

"Jerk." I say as soon as I swallow. "Keep your hands off my food." I warn and pull the plate closer to myself as I go back to eating as Steve lifts his hands in surrender. I can hear a few chuckles around the table. I simply refuse to look up and meet their eyes, especially not Holly's which I'm sure would be bemused now.

"People!" Officer Shaw greets as he approaches and then he grabs an empty seat and places it next to Nick.

"Oliver" and "hey"s take place in greeting.

"So little Peck how was the first day at 15?" He asks me.

"My name is Gail you know." I tell him with a smile. Somehow it feels wrong to be rude to this man. "But it went well, thanks for asking."

"Good, that means you'll stick around, Gail." He adds my name just for my benefit and I smile. He then turns towards Sam and Andy and they pick up a conversation.

I feel Holly creep her hand towards my plate but I act like I don't see her. Once she reaches it she takes a fry and that's when I look up to meet her eyes with raised eyebrows. She simply gives me a challenging look as she puts the french fry inside her mouth and chews it. I squint my eyes at her but say nothing and do nothing. She then reaches for another one with her defying look still meeting mine. She grabs another fry and raises her eyebrows waiting for my reaction. I lose my squint and shrug at her as I slide my plate a little closer to hers.

"No biting my head off?" She jokes as she eats the fry in her hand.

"Not in the mood." I answer lamely and she simply gives me her signature grin.

"Seriously?" Steve exclaims having witnessed the exchange.

"Shut up Steve." I shoot at him as I go back to finishing my cheeseburger. Traci then simply chuckles.

"Well, I'm going to buy our next round." Steve says as he stands up. "Beer everyone?"

Everyone nods agreeing to his suggestion.

"Gail?" He asks me. Since I gave no nodding answer.

"Sure why not? Just this one." I guess Two beers and one shot can't even make me tipsy so why not.

"I'll come help with the drinks." Diaz says as he stands up and walks away with my brother towards the bar.

.

Two hours later and everyone except me is pretty much wasted. They've all been sharing stories about each other, and me being the new one, was blessed enough to be told all of them. Traci told me some embarrassing stories about Steve and I was happy I was being given some amunition to use against him later on. Even Holly seemed to fit into their group, even though I learned that she rarely hangs out with them outside work. I guess she was the kind of person to fit in everywhere. She even shared some stories of her own. And throughout the night, I was the silent listener. If anyone was to ask me for stories, I would simply divert their attention to something else, and surprisingly I was listening to everything they were saying. I guess I can admit that I was having a bit of fun.

"I guess it's time for me to go." Holly says as she stands up.

"You got a ride?" I ask her worried. She'd had a few more beers than she intended and I was sure she wasn't fit to drive.

"No, I'll leave my car here. I'll just call a cab." She answers.

"No you won't." I tell her as I stand up and grab my jacket from behind my seat. "Come on, I'll take you home." I answer her as I pick up her jacket and handed to her.

"Are you sure you can drive?" She asks as she wears her jacket.

"I only had two beers."

"Okay." She then pockets her phone. "Goodnight everyone."

"Anyone else need a ride?" I ask the bunch and they all shake their heads negatively.

"Don't worry Gail, we're good." Steve nods towards me with a smile.

"Okay then, see you people tomorrow. Goodnight." I then walk behind Holly as she leads the way to the exit and towards the parking lot.

"Is there anything in your car that you need?" I ask her once we're outside.

"I should probably take my briefcase out." She says and then walks towards her car and takes it out. "Okay all ready." She adds as she makes sure her car is locked.

I then lead her towards my car and help her get in. Once I turn my car on I ask for her address.

"Guess I'm in luck, you're on my way." I tell her as I pull out of the parking.

I drive her home in silence with only the sound of the radio playing. She hums to some song I haven't heard before and I feel relaxed. This stranger somehow made me feel relaxed, as if it doesn't matter whether I'm Gail Peck, or Charlie Sawyer with her, because with her I'm completely my own person, far from any of the other two.

"Here we are." I inform her once I park in front of her house.

"Thank you Gail." She says as she turns towards me but doesn't walk out of the car.

"When does your shift start tomorrow?" I surprise myself with the question.

"10 AM, why?" She asks.

"Mine too. Need me to pick you up and drop you off to your car?" I ask nicely. I don't know why I'm offering but the thought of her without a car makes me anxious.

"Didn't know you care so much about me detective." She teases with a grin.

"Don't flatter yourself, you just happen to be on my way." I scoff. "I could retract my offer you know." I warn.

"I would actually really appreciate it." She accepts my offer. "You know, I could even buy you breakfast as a thank you, if you don't mind." She adds in invitation.

"Since you're buying why not." I shrug and try to hide my excitement at her offer.

"Good." She says and reaches for the door handle.

Before she pulls the door open I reach for her phone inside her pocket. She barely even notices as she opens the door and attempts to walk out.

"Wait." I say as I offer her phone back to her.

"How did you?" She asks and cuts off her question.

"I added my number in there. Use it if you happen to need anything." I say as she reaches for the phone and gives me a smirk.

"You should really put a lock on your phone." I warn her as I start my car.

"Goodnight Gail." She then says.

"Goodnight Holly." The fact that I just used her name for the first time doesn't go unnoticed by her. She then closes my car door with a smile, and I wait patently till she gets inside her home safely before I pul out of the driveway.

I drive towards Marcus's and get there about eight or so minutes later. Once I get my seatbelt off I hear my phone chime with a text.

Thanks for the ride officer. The text reads. Holly.

You know I'm a detective right? Or are you too drunk to remember? I text back teasing.

Shame. I always liked a girl in a uniform. She then adds and I hear myself swallow. I'm already going in deep and I don't know how. I thought I told myself I couldn't drag anyone into my crazy life, but it looks like I'm the one dragging myself into her life now and that wasn't fair, not to her. Not if I can't give her what I want to give.

Oh well, there's plenty of women out there in different uniforms, pick one. It may be wrong to do this, but my mind seemed to decide to flirt back.

Smart observation there. Are you home yet or drive texting? She then adds as she changes the subject.

Yes I arrived home. You don't have to worry. I tell her.

Okay good. Goodnight Gail, see you tomorrow. She then texts putting an end to our somehow awkward flirty texting and I'm immediately grateful.

Goodnight Lunchbox.

And here I thought you'd start using my name. I could tell the nickname wasn't as annoying as it was before.

Not a chance. I save her number in my phone under Lunchbox and I then leave my car with that and put my phone back in my pocket. I lock my car and make my way towards Marcus's place.

Maybe a friend couldn't hurt. Even though I want so much more. I just knew her a day and she's already driving me crazy and crossing my barriers. But I really can't drag her into a life like mine. I need to keep myself in check and keep myself away from her life. Can't let her fall for me, even though I'm sure spending time with her during this mission will definitely get me to fall for her.

I guess there's no escaping Holly Stewart now.



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