Holtzmann looks up from her spot on the couch next to Patty, just in time to catch a glimpse of Erin, in a navy blue dress she hasn’t seen before, disappearing down the stairs.
“Later,” Abby waves in her direction without raising her head. Half a minute later the front door downstairs closes.
“Where’s she think she’s going?” Patty raises her eyebrows. “It’s Bachelorette night,” she spoke as if they were churchgoers and Erin was skipping out on the Sunday service. “I made five different kinds of popcorn!”
“Shhh,” Abby hisses. “The boutique furniture restorer from Williamsburg is about to tell her his poignant back story. This shit is gold.”
Holtzmann grabs a fist of paprika popcorn and starts munching. It clashes weirdly with the crunchy caramel flavour still stuck in her molars. Watching The Bachelorette is a firehouse ritual. Three out of the four of them appreciate the parade of man-cake while Jillian gets a kick out of one cute girl eliminating countless pouting male suitors.
Patty makes up raunchy stories about what happens once the cameras stop rolling while Abby tears shreds off every man with excessively sculptured facial hair. Erin rolls her eyes at the cheesy date concepts but goes super-quiet whenever any minor romantic notes are somehow actually hit. Holtz usually likes to ruin these moments for her by singing out a well-timed “Boner!” at top volume because of how this will inevitably make Erin groan and shove her shoulder from her usual spot on Holtzmann’s right.
Tonight, as the tree surgeon from Illinois (his shiny hair highlighted by a glowing sunset as they drift around on an antique fishing boat) leans in for a first kiss, Holtz lets the schmaltz pass without comment. After a beat of expectant silence Patty starts speculating about his probable dermal fillers and Abby skewers him for his follow-up monologue to the camera about how deeply real his feelings are. Holtz fists another handful of cheesy popcorn half-heartedly into her mouth. Some jokes just depend on specific audiences, and Erin - with her pitch perfect, straight-laced manner - is forever and always her best foil.
After the roses have all been dispensed, Abby heads upstairs to call her mom and Patty - grumblingly - traipses downstairs to the office to work on her master’s history thesis, which the other ghostbusters have finally bullied her into actually doing after months of talking around the idea.
Holtz stays on the first floor, having volunteered to do the dishes. Both women give her surprised, dubious looks - she isn’t known for her domestic talents - but it gives her a good reason to be loitering. She’s still wiping down the extremely clean benches when she hears the front door open and she grins.
“Hey, hot stuff,” she pounces, as soon as Erin hits the top stair. The physicist jumps. Her high heels are dangling from the fingers of her left hand and she’s in stockinged feet. She looks a little drained but smiles when she sees Holtz.
“Hey, yourself,” she replies, tucking a lock of hair behind her ears. She looks like she’s going to keep walking, so Holtzmann casually blocks her path.
“You look pretty,” she observes. Erin tilts her head at the compliment. She does, in fact, look very pretty. The navy blue dress is mid-length and fitting. Erin has phenomenal legs. Her still faintly auburn hair is carefully tousled and she’s wearing something slightly sparkly on her eyelids. She makes Holtzmann think of a starry night sky. “So…” she sings. “Where you been?”
“I had a date,” Erin admits, somewhat sheepishly. Holtz breaks into a huge grin.
“You diiiiiiiiiiiiiiid?” she drawls. She props her chin on her fist and gazes at her friend in delight. It’s the first time she’s heard Erin ever use the word in reference to herself. “Tell me everything!” Erin laughs.
“There’s nothing to tell! He was nice,” she shrugs. “We had dinner. He was sweet.”
“Oh no. Sweet huh?” Holtz’s face drops dramatically.
“I mean, boner killer! Am I right?” Holtzmann points out a stiff finger and lets it droop. Erin tries to look shocked but fails, smothering a giggle.
“A little,” she admits. “I mean…he was so lovely. And…super handsome. Just maybe, I don’t know…”
“Booooring as a plank o’ wood?!” Holtz suggests, screwing up her face. Erin scoffs.
“No! Just…I think maybe I need someone a little more…intellectually stimulating,” she looks faintly embarrassed at her judgement, which frankly is ridiculous. Holtzmann snorts.
“Of course you do. You’re the smartest person I know.” Erin scrunches her nose at this.
“You’re sweet,” she replies, her lip twitching. Holtz reaches out and lightly shoves Erin by the hip.
“You take that back!” she widens her eyes, giving her a seriously maniacal glare. Erin’s dress is made out of some kind of silky fabric and Holtz can feel the unexpected warmth of her skin as she shoves at her again, both of them failing to hold in their laughter as Erin tries to dodge and swat at her at the same time.
She refuses to take her words back, murmuring “so sweet!” at her like she’s a kitten and so Holtz keeps shoving, first one hip and then the other, while Erin laughs high and loud, dropping her heels to the floor and trying to defend herself. Despite her tight dress she sneaks out a leg and tries to trip Jillian in some kind of judo move that she evades, but which unbalances them both, making the engineer grab at her shoulders to right them, tipping them almost into the wall.
“I’ll show you sweet,” Holtzmann growls at her and suddenly Erin’s laughter sputters out. Her back is at the wall and Holtz is still holding onto her shoulders. Erin’s trapped hands fall forward against her collarbones. For a second there’s a clunky strung-out pause as their eyes meet and Holtz feels an overwhelming urge to swallow. Then Erin gives another, softer chuckle, shoves Holtz off her and rolls her eyes.
“Fine,” she agrees lightly. “You’re right. You’re not sweet at all you…jerk. Can I go to bed now please?” She stoops to pick up her heels. Jillian watches.
“Hey Erin,” she calls out, just as the physicist heads up the next flight of stairs. Erin pivots halfway to look at her. “I’m sorry he was boring,” she says sincerely.
“I mean, otherwise, you would totally have been getting laid right now,” she says. “Just think!”
For the rest of the week things are back to normal. They’re busy; six months down the track New York is still suffering the after-effects of being flooded with an apocalyptic level ghost infestation.
On Tuesday they hunt down a scissors throwing poltergeist in a hairdressing salon in Queens. On Wednesday, it’s a ghostly set of twins in an apartment building in Brooklyn. They spend the whole of Thursday night staked out in an old movie theatre on Long Island while a long dead but surprisingly slippery usher evades capture, ducking and weaving and running them ragged until they finally nab him just after dawn.
They all collapse wearily into a booth at a nearby 24 hour diner as the sun comes up and order stacks of pancakes. The waitress pours their coffees around Abby’s head as she snores lightly, her face resting on her arms on the table top. Erin thanks her with an extra sweet smile in the hopes they don’t get kicked out. As the waitress walks away, her smile slips and she groans and drops her own weary head to Holtz’s shoulder beside her.
“Am I dead?” she asks. “I think I’m dead.”
“You smell dead,” Holtz informs her. Erin had managed for once to leap out the way of the ghost’s ectoprojection, only to turn and slip on it three minutes later. The back of her jumpsuit and some locks of her hair are still stained green.
“Great,” she mumbles. “I have a date tonight and I will both look dead and smell dead. That is just…super…super hot.”
“Maybe you’ll luck out and he’ll be a necrophiliac,” Patty fake-tries to cheer her up.
“Ughhhhhh,” Erin slumps even further into Holtz, as if she has no bones left in her body at all. Holtz slings an arm around her shoulders. She digs how warm and loose Erin gets when she’s exhausted. Her edges blur and her filters fail even further.
“Another date? Baby girl you have got it going on right now,” she enthuses. “Men are just dripping off of you!” Erin snorts, her breath snuffling against Holtz’s neck.
“No,” she corrects her. “I’m just on tinder, that’s all.” Holtz pushes her upright, ignoring her groan of protest.
“You’re whaaaaaaaaaat?” she examines Erin in delight. “Lemme see!” She tries to case Erin for her phone, patting at her hip pockets and the one in front of her left boob.
“It’s in the car!” Erin bats her hands away. “And no, by the way.”
“What’s your profile say?” Holtzmann really wants to see how Erin Gilbert markets herself in the virtual meat market. “What photos did you pick? Any cleavage shots? C’mon show me!”
“No,” Erin tucks a strand of hair behind her ear, then pulls her hand away with a grimace. She wipes it grimly on the leg of her jumpsuit and Patty silently rummages through her giant handbag and passes her a little bottle of hand sanitiser which she uses gratefully.
She looks up. Holtz manages two phone snaps in quick succession before Erin throws her hands up to block the camera.
“What is wrong with you?” she protests. Holtz can’t stop laughing as she examines the shots. Erin is grimacing and green streaked, more hair escaping her ponytail than in it, so pale she’s almost ghostlike herself. The dark circles under her eyes are accentuated by the glaring light of the diner.
“Post this one to your profile!” she wheezes with laughter. “That’s how you’ll pick the right person to date. You want someone who loves you when you’re at your - oh my god! - at your worst,” she looks at the photo again and laughs so hard tears spring to her eyes.
“You’re such an asshole,” Erin grouses, pushing her away when she tries to show her the amazingly horrific snap. Holtz still can’t stop laughing as she wraps an arm back around her glowering friend’s shoulder, pulls her head back to rest on her again and turns and drops a kiss on her stinky disgusting hair.
When Holtz looks up, still grinning, Abby is awake across the table and watching her with a thoughtful expression.
Their pancakes arrive.
This time it’s barely even 9pm when Holtz hears her come in. She lays in wait until Erin is on her way down the hallway and then opens her own bedroom door just as she’s passing, greeting her with a cheshire cat grin. Erin shrieks, her hand clutching her chest.
“Why Dr. Gilbert,” she selects a Russian accent. “Fancy seeing you here, so very early,” she emphasises. Erin rolls her eyes and Holtzmann throws open her bedroom door all the way stepping aside with a welcoming flourish. Erin huffs out a breath but she steps inside, looks at Holtz for a beat, then groans and collapses dramatically back on the bed.
Holtz laughs. Goofy Erin is her favourite Erin. She hops up next to her and reclines with her head propped up on her hand, examining her. Erin’s in another unfamiliar dress. This time it’s short-sleeved and white. Holtz thinks she looks fucking adorable. It is completely ridiculous to believe she’s forty-two.
“I don’t think I’m cut out for this dating business,” Erin turns her head toward her and sighs. “It is seriously time-consuming.” Her lipstick is red and slightly bitten.
“Eh,” Holtz shrugs. “What else are you going to do? Bust ghosts and try to solve the mysteries of the universe on your whiteboard all the time? Might as well get your rocks off while you’re at it.”
“Right,” Erin looks at her pointedly. “But do you see how I’m very much not getting my rocks off right now because I’m right here lying on your bed instead?”
“Why Erin Gilbert,” Holtz bats her eyelashes at her. “Are you trying to proposition me?” Erin snorts and pushes away her hand as she tries to walk her fingers up the physicist’s bare arm.
“I had a nap to stay awake tonight,” she reveals. They’d all passed out once they’d finally made it home from their all-nighter. Abby hadn’t even made it past the couch. “I put on makeup, I wore a cute dress, I took the subway…all that effort and he was an asshole.” Holtzmann stiffens.
“What did he do- what did he say to you?!” her words trip over each other, already ready to trial her ghostchipper on someone more corporeal.
“No, nothing,” Erin rushes to reassure her. “He just…ugh. He was a banker. He was super into himself and the fact he had some kind of big deal car and a property portfolio. He tried to order for me,” she grimaces. Holtz pretends to cough up a hairball. Erin’s lip twitches. “And he was rude to the waitress. So, I left,” she concludes.
“Of course you did,” Holtzmann loves her.
“And so now it’s Friday night and I’m here at home with you and that’s way better than a dumb date anyway and shall we watch a movie? I can grab some beers?”
“Uhhhhh,” Holtzmann stalls. Erin is lying a foot away from her, lounging across her bed and she smells kind of wonderful like she’s wearing perfume made of real apricots. Holtz could just kick off her boots, grab her laptop and they’d slouch against her pillows, watch some female buddy flick and pass out side by side and god Holtz is also super tired, really come to think of it, but-
“I…kinda have a-“
“You have a date!” Erin accuses, sitting suddenly upright. “You are going to leave me alone, on a Friday night, after a bad date, so you can go and get laid! I don’t believe this. You are the worst friend ever.” She’s mad but she’s also laughing.
“Well, this is awkward,” Holtzmann agrees. She stands up, reaching for her leather jacket. Erin’s still perched on the edge of her bed. She crosses one long leg over the other, lets her foot bounce a little. She leans back on her hands and glares at her.
“C’mon Holtz,” she narrows her eyes. “How many women do you really need to have in your bed tonight?” She kind of glowers but it’s sort of a pout and Holtz knows when she’s being played but she still never thought she’d see the day that Erin Gilbert would try flirting with her to get her to bail on a date.
“Just one, probably,” she replies. “But I’m gonna go with the one who’s actually gonna put out,” she wriggles her eyebrows. She blows Erin a kiss and grabs her keys. “You’re welcome to stay,” she tells her. “But if you’re still here later I’m going to assume you want a ménage à trois with a sexy bartender called Mimiko.”
“Fine,” Erin throws a pillow at her and collapses dramatically back on the bed.
She hooks up with Mimiko. Because of course she does. She’s super hot and it’s pretty fun. But when Jillian kisses her goodbye and declines to stay the night - walking home instead through the dark streets and tiptoeing through the quiet fire station - part of her is disappointed when she opens her door to find her bed is empty.
“So how’s the whole tinder thing going?” Abby asks Erin. It’s late on a Monday afternoon and the two of them are the only ones in the lab. Patty’s at the library and Holtzmann is out somewhere raiding dumpsters for weapons parts.
“Eh,” Erin sighs. “I’m kinda just trying to see it as evidence gathering,” she explains.
“Sexy,” Abby observes. Erin nods.
“Yeah. I…kind of have a list,” she confesses. Abby pricks up her ears. “You know, like Patty did, when she met Michael.” Patty has been dating a federal agent they met on a high level bust three months ago. He’s four inches shorter than her, but all muscle. He’s got twinkly eyes that they all like and he treats Patty like she literally has ‘Queen’ in front of her name.
“Really like Patty’s list?” Abby grins. Patty’s list of boyfriend requirements strongly emphasised on an extremely technical level what a potential suitor had in his pants. Erin screws up her nose.
“No!” she scoffs. “But I think the concept is right. You need to establish the right conditions and then eliminate the variables that don’t fit your criteria.”
“Makes sense,” Abby rolls her work chair closer. “Show me what you got.” Erin looks reluctant, but she pulls one of her notebooks out of her stack, opens it to the front page and hands it to her friend.
“It’s just a preliminary list,” she clarifies. “Each date I go on helps me refine it a little bit more.”
Abby takes it and starts to read. “Makes me laugh,” she begins. “That’s a good start,” she agrees. “Adventurous. Pushes me out of my comfort zone. Really?” she asks. “I thought you were all about your comfort zone.” Erin frowns.
“Exactly. Sometimes I need a little push,” she admits. “I mean, if it wasn’t for Holtz posting that Aldridge Manor video on youtube, I’d still be kissing all of the asses over at Columbia.”
Abby manages not to react outwardly to this. She just nods and continues to read. “Highly intelligent and can appreciate my work,” she pauses, as Erin jumps in.
“I don’t mean- you know, I’m not trying to be an elitist,” she defends. “It’s not that they need to have advanced degrees in a STEM related field or anything, but-”
“But it’d be nice,” Abby knows what she means. At least, she’s pretty sure she does. Seventy percent at this point. “Kind to me, and to the people around them,” she continues anyway. “Wants to know about my day.”
Her heart twinges a little for her friend. She knows that not everyone around Erin has been as excited as she is about the finer details of her incredibly cerebral life. While the fame of being a ghostbuster has alleviated this a little for her, Abby has seen men in bars as well as journalists writing feature pieces letting their eyes glaze over as Erin hypes enthusiastically about advanced particle physics, until she starts to look increasingly deflated and fades out.
“Cares about understanding me,” Abby reads on.
“I guess those last three are all kinda the same, huh?” Erin’s screwing up her nose and frowning again. Abby smiles at her.
“I think it’s good.” She would really like to see her friend as happy all-round as Abby suspects she could be. She worries a little, that maybe this dating experiment has the potential to rough up their home and work life a whole lot more than Patty’s meeting Michael ever could. But something is in motion here and Abby knows better than to try and control an unstoppable force, no matter where the collision is going to happen. “I think you should definitely hold out for someone who really gets and appreciates you,” she concludes, carefully.
“Yeah,” Erin sighs a little wistfully. “Maybe sometime before 2039.” Abby reaches out and squeezes her shoulder. She’s not entirely convinced it will take quite that long. At least, hopefully not.
“Different to me, but complementary,” she reads further. Hoh boy. “Gets along with my friends. Guess that shouldn’t be too much of a problem,” she mumbles under her breath.
“Hm?” Erin asks.
“Well,” she swallows a laugh. “We’re great. Who wouldn’t love us?”
“We’re lovable as shit,” Holtzmann arrives with a massive clatter as she drops a small pile of steel rods and an old microwave to the floor just inside the door. Abby sits back to consider as Holtz saunters up, brushing off the front of her shirt and vest.
“Whatcha doing?” she perches on the edge of Erin’s desk. Erin tugs the notebook back from Abby’s fingers and shoves it under the rest of the pile.
“Just theorising,” she smiles up at the blonde, who’s pulling off her fingerless gloves and shaking out the numbness from her hands.
“Oooh,” Holtzmann grins back at her, running her fingers through her already wild hair. “Tell me more. Tell me everything. Does it involve ghosts? Wait,” she holds up a finger. “Are you back on your theory of vector meson dissociation across the thermal phase transition? What happened when you applied the Feynman rule?! Because that shit is wack.”
Abby watches as Erin’s eyes light up and she leans forward.
“The weirdest thing!” she turns her finger into a gun and triggers it at Holtzmann, her expression triumphant. “It turns out that the supersymmetry of the neural components have a direct impact on the mixing of scalar-leptons! I have this idea - it might be crazy, but-”
“I fucking love it when you get crazy,” Holtz shakes her head solemnly. She extends her hand over the desk and tugs Erin to her feet. “But you’re gonna have to map this one out for me, babes,” she wraps an arm lightly around Erin’s waist and steers her over to the whiteboard, picking up a marker and removing the cap with her teeth before handing it to her. Erin begins to write formulas at lightning speed, gesticulating excitedly. Holtzmann gets so lit up as they talk it’s like she’s glowing.
So there’s…that, Abby thinks. She wonders if maybe it’s time to batten down the hatches.
Erin is frankly starting to consider that maybe there’s something wrong with her approach. She’s never thought of herself as having unrealistically high standards before. It’s just that it’s date number six and for the sixth time, she’s walking home alone.
Dates number one, three and five had all liked her. All had pressed to see her again, walk her home or invite her up for a nightcap and Erin had kissed their cheeks goodbye and politely declined. Something each time had just felt a little bit off in some way. Date number two with the banker was a non-starter, and date number four had looked disappointed from the moment she’d walked in. So counting today, it’s six out of six times that Erin is headed for home with her optimism increasingly flagging. As strike rates go, this is not exactly encouraging.
Date number six had seemed so filled with potential. Charlie was a zoology professor at NYU. He had cute curly hair and soft brown eyes and his messages were engaging and funny. Erin had agreed to meet him for a Sunday lunch date at the aquarium. She’d arrived and there he was - tall, grinning, eager - and better looking in person than in his photos. Her heart had raced a little, maybe this one was going to turn into something!
They’d been slightly awkward with each other, but in a nice way. They’d laughed at each other’s jokes and he’d seemed super-excited about her work. It was in front of the penguins - his area of specialty - that the problems had begun.
She’d been charmed and amused as he pointed out the meanings behind the behaviour of the cute waddling creatures behind the glass. She’d laughed - okay, kind of loudly, she guessed - as he explained their mating habits. And in retrospect, maybe she should have noticed how he’d looked kind of embarrassed and started speaking a little quieter. It’s just that what he was saying was so adorable and hilarious that she’d followed her laughter with a flapping imitation of a sexually aroused penguin - complete with sound effects - and instead of laughing along he’d turned beet red, looked around at the giggling tourists next to them and turned away as if to distance himself from her presence.
Erin had shut up then and tried to sooth his ruffled feelings by forcing down her giggles and asking him as seriously as she could about their dietary requirements. Shyness could be…cute. It could still be okay. But in the restaurant afterward as she explained the story of how and why she’d missed out on tenure, he’d looked horrified.
“They saw video of you covered in slime and shouting about ghosts?” he’d lowered his voice. “My god, Erin, that’s terrible…”
Erin had just blinked at him. She’d remembered feeling that way once, but it seemed so long ago. The idea of having to regret an exhilarating moment like the first time she’d seen a ghost with other people who could also confirm seeing it…well, that just didn’t make sense to her anymore.
“Well, no, not exactly,” she’d explained, realising he’d missed the point of her story. “That’s what got me into the ghostbusters in the first place,” she’d smiled, suddenly flooded with gratitude all over again for the way her life had changed.
“But Columbia…” he’d shaken his head. “To lose tenure…to know that the whole academic world views you with ridicule. That must be unbearable!” He’d looked at her like she’d just admitted to having been diagnosed with tertiary syphilis. She’d realised then that maybe he’d just considered for the very first time that her reputation might, in fact, be catching.
“Ummm, yeah, but we saved New York City,” Erin had pointed out, slowly. “From a ghost apocalypse. I’d say it was worth it, wouldn’t you?”
Charlie had rushed to reassure her, but even as he spoke, a potential future had flashed before her eyes. Going to stuffy faculty dinners with him. Holidaying with his nice, proper friends. Holding in her goofy side because it made him embarrassed. She’d began then, with regret, the process of extricating herself from the date as quickly and politely as possible.
The mid-afternoon sun beats down on her now as she slowly wanders home, lost in her thoughts. She can feel sweat starting to break out on her forehead and her shoes feel too tight in the heat. Still, she feels strangely free, away from the air-conditioned aquarium and Charlie’s constricting presence.
Mentally she reviews her list. Non-conformist, she decides to add after some reflection. Maybe the old Erin Gilbert would have been happy with a man like Charlie, but the Erin Gilbert of 2016? She’s a freaking ghostbuster. She’s exactly the person she’s always been - the ghost girl, an outsider - only now she doesn’t ever want to be anybody else.
Her phone pings three times in quick succession. She glances at her messages.
Charlie: I feel like I blew that. You’re very beautiful. I’d like to see you again… Give me another chance?
Abby: Hon, we’re in the park if your date happens to be a dud. You know where!
Abby’s message is accompanied by a photo that appears to be a mid-air collision between Holtzmann and Kevin as they both leap for the same frisbee. Their bodies are a blur but Erin can make out Kevin’s look of shock and Holtz’s manic glee. The first message is instantly forgotten, as she switches tracks for the park.
It’s the first truly hot day of early summer, signalling the weather to come. Even under the trees where they’re lounging on a constellation of picnic rugs, it’s baking hot. Patty’s leaning back against Michael who’s here on a rare day off and giving her a shoulder rub. Abby has her head buried in a novel, while Kevin plays tug of war with Mike Hat, who as it turns out, is an extremely anxious three pounds worth of chihuahua cross who won’t let anyone else within two feet of him. Holtzmann thinks he believes he’s tasked with protecting his sweet dumb hulk of an owner. She knows from experience that’s a stressful job for anyone.
She’s lounging with her back against a tree and even though it’s supposed to be a rest day, she’s tinkering restlessly with a proton pistol belonging to Abby. Something in the firing mechanism keeps jamming.
“Hey. Hey Patty, am I hallucinating?” she asks, nodding her head across the park. Patty looks over and grins.
“Nope,” she confirms. Holtz leaps to her feet and goes to greet Erin, who’s materialised halfway across the green meadow in a light pink summer dress and holding what appears to be one million ice-cream cones.
“Ohmygod help,” she calls to Holtzmann as she gets near. The engineer snickers. Erin is clutching literally fistfuls of ice-cream cones. On the way across the park the heat has caught up and there are small rivers of melted ice-cream running down her forearms.
“You, madam, are just a sight for sore eyes,” Holtzmann salutes her. Erin’s flushed with heat and there’s a lock of hair stuck with sweat to the side of her face that she can’t reach for all the ice-cream, so Holtz tucks it back for her.
There’s a sticky exchange as Jillian rescues half the cones and they deliver the whole gooey mess to the rest of the gang under the trees.
“It was hotter than I thought,” Erin apologises, but everyone is delighted with the cool treats, even Mike Hat who has been accidentally catered for. Erin seems to sigh with relief as she takes a spot on the picnic rug. Holtz watches as she licks a long drip of ice-cream from the side of her cone and notices how Erin has decided to ignore the sticky streaks down her arms to focus on the task at hand. She’s a mess and it’s a beautiful sight to behold. “What?” she asks, when she notices Jillian staring at her.
“You’ve changed,” she blurts. Erin looks down at herself, confused. “From before. When we first met,” she clarifies. “When you ate bran cereal for breakfast every single day and everything you wore had buttons.” Abby and Patty both snort at the memory. Erin just nods slowly.
“I know,” she says. She smiles.
They try to interrogate her about her date, but Erin just shrugs and tells them he was super nice but not for her. Holtz suspects she’s not telling the whole story, but either way, she’s sort of glad it didn’t work out. Not because she doesn’t want Erin to find someone great - of course she does - but because it’s a lazy Sunday afternoon, the sun is out, and even though everyone else she loves has been there all along, when Erin’s not there…Holtzmann feels the lack of her.
And it’s funny how that happened. Because before she’d met Abby, she’d been a lone wolf for a long, long time. Somehow Abby had simply reached out and tugged her in like it was perfectly naturally to pull Jillian Holtzmann - mad genius and weirdo extraordinaire - right up close into her life. They became workmates initially, then friends and then roommates and then started a joint research project on Abby’s specifically peculiar area of expertise, which turned out to be the one area of science that could seriously hold Holtzmann’s interest. And that was how she eventually met Erin.
And so it happened that Abby had first of all been Erin’s only best friend and then Holtzmann’s only best friend and then Patty joined the gang and rounded out their rough edges and there they all just were. Click like a puzzle fitting together. Holtzmann had a chosen family that had chosen her back.
But there’s this other thing in the mix as well, that had snuck up more slowly, where she and Erin are also maybe now the best of all the best friends in this whole layer cake of best friends. And yet it’s outside of that too somehow in a way that’s hard to explain, but while Holtz does in fact wonder at the edges of it sometimes, it’s just this very clear and accepted thing where Erin is for her and she is for Erin and they both just know it without ever needing to say it out loud and so does everyone else.
Holtz wonders if it’s really this simple and yet magical for everyone else in the world, because she’s pretty new to this best friends thing - hell, she’s new to the friends thing for that matter. She didn’t grow up with slumber parties and braiding each other’s hair…not that she’s braided Erin’s hair, but she would if Erin asked her to. The thing is though-
“Why are you staring at me?” Erin asks. Holtz jerks.
“I’m not,” she argues. “I’m just staring into space.”
“Fine,” Erin scoots over, ice-cream finished. “Can you stare into some space that’s not in the middle of my face? Because it’s weird.” She accompanies this statement by lazing back and using Holtz’s lap as a pillow. This puts her directly in the way of Holtz’s ability to fix weaponry, so she gives up and lies back herself, letting the laziness of the warm air allow her to drift. Some thoughts are best not followed all the way to their conclusion, she’s found. What she knows is that right here, like this, Holtz is the happiest she’s ever been.
When she drifts back, Erin’s sitting up and everyone’s looking flushed and wilted with the heat which is suddenly oppressive.
“Okay, that is just way more than enough nature for me,” Patty announces. “I want some air con and like…five margaritas.”
“I don’t think I can move,” Abby groans. “My limbs are all melted.”
“Mike Hat needs some more lemonade,” Kevin agrees. Erin tries to suggest that maybe cold water would be better for him, while Kevin looks at her like she’s kindly but insane and they slowly pack up their picnic and steel themselves for the glaring hot walk across the park.
They’re two thirds of the way there, when Holtz sees it. She unbuttons her shorts instantly and drops them.
“What are you doing?!” Erin gapes. Holtz grins, grabs her arm and wearing just her tank top and boxer shorts she takes off at a run.
“C’mon, you guys!” she calls back to the others as she races towards the huge sculptured fountain, cascades of water shooting out of horses mouths and into a bright white moat. Erin balks as they near it.
“This is not a sanitary idea!” she protests. Holtz looks, just barely, before she leaps. The water is clear and deliciously cool.
“They seem to be doing okay,” she splashes down, gesturing over to a group of elementary school aged kids splashing in the shallows. “Oh my god, yay!” she yells, exhilarated as the cold water splashes over her head, practically sizzling off her heated skin. She pirouettes and tilts her head back gleefully. Erin is watching her and laughing. Holtz reaches out a cool wet hand and the physicist kicks off her shoes and steps in after all, shrieking as Holtz immediately pulls her under the fountain, dress and all.
There’s a gang of tourists pointing and taking photos of them. She hears some one say aren’t they ghostbusters?! So that’s a sure bet that some of those photos will eventually wind up in the papers or the gossip mags. The wilted parents of the splashing kids are sniggering at them too but looking, well...jealous, Holtz is pretty sure. She doesn’t care either way. Erin can’t stop laughing for some reason, her hair drenched, her mascara running and her pink dress plastered to her body.
“Hey, hey Holtz,” she’s doing some weird flapping motion with her hands at her side and kind of hopping and pelvic thrusting, water splashing up around her bare legs. “Have you ever seen a horny penguin?”
Holtzmann laughs so hard she falls backwards and splashes down into the moat and almost drowns.
JFC I hope there aren't any actual particle physicists reading this because if so, I have just killed them with my meaningless and illogical faux physics and they are now ghosts that will require busting before they rage haunt me for my abuse of science. I'M SORRY DEAD PHYSICISTS. YOU WERE SO YOUNG AND BEAUTIFUL.
Oh jeez sorry this has been taking forever. Life! So busy! So many things! Also, ohmygod I love you guys. The stories you are writing just now. You are delicious, adorable, super-hot, super-smart human beings. I love this fandom. You guyssssssssssss...
“So I was thinking…” Holtz drawls, leaning on her elbows over her workbench. She pauses, waiting for Erin to look up from the textbook she’s editing from the lab couch.
“Is that a first for you?” Erin refuses to raise her eyes at all. “I mean…I know you’ve got like, a super-computer up in there, but actual thought processes, they’re a thing for you now?”
Holtz knows she’s referring to the bandage she’s currently sporting on her left forearm, which may be due to an incident with a blowtorch that may or may not have been caused by her attempting to employ said blowtorch while also busting out a sick breakdance move. She decides to yet again skip over having this conversation with Erin, side-stepping it for the third time since her injury this morning.
“I was thinking we should go on a double date,” she grins widely as she succeeds in getting Erin to finally look up.
“Uh…” the physicist has the faintly panicked look she gets when she’s trying to find a way out of something but can’t quite figure out how. Holtz presses her advantage before she can recover.
“It’ll be perfect,” she enthuses. “You were saying tinder was time consuming. This way you can get to check out whatshisname - bachelor number eight - while simultaneously hanging out with me,” she announces grandly, spreading her arms out wide. For some reason Erin does not immediately jump at this awesome chance.
“But who’ll you bring?” she stalls, chewing distractedly at her lower lip. Holtz shrugs.
“Lila,” she offers, nonchalantly. Erin tilts her head to the side, examining her.
“Lila, like last week Lila?” she asks. At Holtz’s repeat shrug, Erin’s jaw drops. “A second date? You’re actually seeing some poor girl a second time?” Jillian gives her her best wounded glare.
“Erin Gilbert,” she defends herself. “I am a complex individual, with many deep and complicated feelings-“ she starts. Erin scoffs.
“She was that good in bed, was she?”
“Oh my god, she’s a gymnast,” Holtzmann’s grin is out of control. Erin holds up her hand to stop her.
“I do not want or need to know,” she protests. “But why is a double date necessary if you just want to sleep with her again? I mean, let’s not pretend you’re really trying to get to know her or anything,” she rolls her eyes. When Holtz doesn’t say anything a faint streak of colour appears across Erin’s cheeks. “Wait…are you?”
“She’s an emergency room physician,” Holtzmann says. “She’s…interesting. You’d like her.”
“You like her,” Erin accuses, her voice slightly high pitched. She pauses, sucks in a deep breath. “Okay fine,” she agrees. “Let’s do it. Double date it is.”
Holtz was right with her hunch about this particular plan. There is something super fun about getting to head out the door with Erin, both dressed up for a date. Okay, well, with Erin dressed up for a date, and Holtz wearing clean underwear and no protective goggles anywhere on her person.
“Really?” Erin had asked her, when she finally knocked on Holtz’s door only to find her in her same multiply layered outfit she’d been wearing all day.
“Oh please,” Holtz had grinned. “I already know she wants to sleep with me, baby girl!” She’d gripped the edges of her jacket and twirled for Erin, who had rolled her eyes and headed for the front door and out into the warm night air.
Now they’re out in the street Holtzmann steals a sideways glance at her co-date and does a double take. Erin looks amazing. Again. Her dress is black and simple with a significantly lower neckline than Holtz is used to seeing on her. The part of her brain that can’t help but sit up and take notice of an attractive woman gets immediately snagged on this fact and judders to a holt.
“You look great,” she manages, trying to neutralise the slightly physical reaction she seems to be having to Erin’s wardrobe choices.
“Thanks,” Erin mutters, automatically. She hasn’t noticed Holtz’s sudden discombobulation, thank god. Jillian raises her eyes skyward. “What’s Lila like?” Erin asks out of nowhere. For a whole five seconds, Holtz’s brain goes, who?
“She’s cool,” she breathes. “Funny, smart, hot. All round babe.”
“Great,” says Erin shortly. Holtzmann looks over at her friend, careful to keep her eyes above her neck.
“Are you nervous?” she asks.
“About Lila?” Erin sounds wary.
“Ummm,” Holtz pauses, “about your date?” Erin shakes her head slightly.
“Not really,” she huffs out a breath. She meets Holtzmann’s eyes. “I mean…this is number eight, right? I’m getting a lot of practice at this,” she sighs. “Which means based on our current statistical trends, you’re going to get laid - again - and I’m going to have a super nice conversation and go home alone.”
Holtz laughs and links her arm through Erin’s.
“You didn’t have me as a wingman before,” she grins. “Plus, that dress? That dress is definitely going home with someone,” she lets her eyes go wicked. Erin elbows her in the ribs but at least she’s smiling.
They’re the first to arrive at the restaurant so they take their seats, side by side and wait for their dates. Lila arrives first. She’s ridiculously pretty, her long dark hair curled slightly more than Jillian remembers from last week, her pants skin tight and her silky top sleeveless. Holtz gets up and kisses her cheek, the faint hit of her perfume giving her flashbacks to their recent night twisted up in Lila’s sheets. Lila clings slightly to her body before she steps back, then greets Erin with a warm smile and a swooped in kiss to her cheek too before taking her seat opposite Holtzmann.
“So nice to see you again,” Lila says to her with a smirk. “I…really didn’t expect that.” This she directs to Erin, with a disarming look that clearly says ugh, this guy, am I right? Erin laughs.
“She’s the worst,” she agrees. Lila smiles back easily, but Holtz sees her size Erin up a little more closely.
“Sounds like you’ve been friends a long time,” she observes. It’s not really a question but Erin answers it anyway.
“Only eight months and nine days,” she says without hesitating. Lila blinks and Erin lowers her eyelashes. “Uh, I’m a physicist,” she explains. “I…kinda have a head for numbers.”
“That’s…kinda hot,” Lila says, with genuine appreciation in her voice. Erin actually blushes a little. A faint smile appears on her lips. Holtzmann clears her throat loudly and her date grins back at her innocently. She’s starting to remember Lila a little more clearly all of a sudden.
“Hello, Erin?” they all turn at once to see the tall, dark and handsome man that’s arrived at their table. “I’m Will,” he says. He kisses Erin’s cheek, then politely shakes hands with his other dining companions. “Wow,” he says, “three gorgeous dinner dates,” he smiles. “I feel like I’ve won the jackpot.”
Somehow this sets the tone of the evening; there’s a lot of overt flirting at this table. Lila’s playing footsy with Holtzmann by the time they’ve finished their entrees. Will is warm and funny and he seems at least as enamoured with Erin’s dress situation as Holtzmann is. Potentially Lila is too, to Jillian’s great amusement and Erin’s faint befuddlement.
When their mains arrive, Holtz rolls up her sleeves to dig in. Lila leans across the table and swiftly captures her wrist.
“Oh my god, what have you done to yourself?” she examines the bandage on the engineer’s forearm.
“Eh, it’s nothing,” Holtz shrugs. Lila doesn’t let go, her fingers lightly caressing her skin.
“She burnt herself with a blowtorch this morning,” Erin announces, her voice a little stiff. “While being an idiot.”
Holtzmann tugs her arm back from Lila’s gentle grasp and turns to look at Erin beside her.
“As I remember it, you loved my idiocy,” she says evenly. “I seem to have a pretty good mental image filed of you dancing with me. You only got all uptight and cranky about lab rules after I caught myself on fire.”
“Weirdly enough, I don’t like you getting hurt!” Erin huffs, the argument Holtz has denied her all day, finally spilling to the surface. “Is that so terribly hard for you to understand?” Her gaze is both sharp and faintly wounded all in one and Jillian feels something within her chest twinge a little. It’s still weird for her to negotiate this new situation of having people caring for her all the time.
“Hmm, sounds like someone could benefit from the attention of an emergency physician,” Lila hums lightly, aiming to break the sudden tension. “Want me to uh, check you out later?” she offers teasingly, her tone warm.
“Thank you,” Holtz replies, her tone heartfelt. “But I got my own Dr. Gilbert here, resident expert in Holtzmann injuries,” she bows in Erin’s direction. She’s not really any better at apologies than she is at accepting care, but she sees the rigidity in Erin’s body ease a little as she goofs. “I mean, would you look at how neat and perfect and adorably OCD this bandage is? It’s like a piece of art,” she shows it to the table. “I love it so much I’m going to keep wearing it forever, until my arm goes gangrenous and falls off, because that is how grateful I am for her expert care.”
“Shut up,” a small laugh sneaks out at the edges of Erin’s mouth, before her eyes go wide. “No, but seriously, you’re keeping that bandage dry and letting me change it for you every second day. Don’t argue with me-“ she holds up a hand as Holtz starts to argue with her.
“O-kay,” she agrees with a faux-reluctant sigh. She and Erin exchange small sideways smiles at each other and when Jillian looks up, Lila is tilting her head to the side, looking from one of them to the other. She raises her wineglass.
“To…best friends,” she toasts, her tone somewhat wry. They all toast. Holtz nudges Erin slightly as they do, making her smile bigger this time.
“So Erin,” Will starts in, as he butters his bread roll. “I uh, well, you know I should admit that I couldn’t help but google you after we matched on tinder. And I gotta say, I feel seriously outclassed here,” his eyes twinkle at her. “I mean, you’ve got a doctorate, you’ve published a book, plus we all know you saved the city…” he waves his hand briefly to include Holtzmann in this before gazing at Erin again. “You’re an incredibly impressive woman.” The man practically has hearts in his big dark eyes. As he should, Jillian smirks, propping her chin on her hand and watching them.
“Oh please,” Erin waves her hand faintly embarrassed. “You’re not the only one that can google, Mister Renowned Public Defender, Published In Several Major Legal Journals,” she says in a deep voice, then smiles at him. He grins, crookedly. Even Holtz recognises he’s cute.
“Right, but those guns you shoot?” he leans forward a little. “With like…the pink lightning bolts? That is - forgive me - seriously sexy.”
“Oh!” Erin’s smile gets bigger. “Well that’s all Holtzmann,” she lays her hand on Jillian’s arm, squeezing lightly. “She makes all our weapons,” she boasts. “Last year, when that little dweeb started to activate the ley lines and all the ghosts started appearing, Holtz literally managed to take the portable proton pack - which she invented, by the way - and reformulate it from the size of a small wheelbarrow into a handy wearable backpack - fully enclosed portable nuclear reactor included - and replicate it for a team of four…and she did it all in our lab above a Chinese restaurant in just five days.”
“Wow,” says Will, impressed. Lila’s running her eyes all over Holtz too, her foot teasing up her calf again. Holtzmann is aware of this fact but she’s somewhat distracted by the interaction to her left. Will leans in toward Erin once more. “I’ve seen some of the footage online,” he gazes at her. “The way you move with those weapons, when you’re taking out ghosts…it’s a beautiful sight.”
“Thank you,” Erin lays a hand on her bare upper chest, smiling. “I mean, the real truth is, it’s fun. Right Holtz?” she turns to Jillian again. “Oh my god, like that thing three nights ago-“ she starts laughing almost at once, which starts Holtz off cackling as she remembers it too. Erin tries to explain the story to their dinner companions, but her eyes are already filling with tears as she giggles harder. “We were in a m-“ she tries, “a muffin factory-“
“Muffin!” Holtz sings in a hysterical tone and Erin just loses it.
“Mooooffin!” she manages to wheeze operatically between gasps of laughter. Holtz reaches out to grip her shoulder, opening her mouth to try and add something, but nothing comes out but another fit of laughter, which only spurs Erin on harder, tears leaping from her eyes.
“I think they’ve lost it,” Will says to Lila after a moment, his grin amused and yet somewhat bewildered. Lila watches with an odd smirk as Erin and Holtz fall about in helpless laughter unable to even begin to explain their joke.
“Yup, a lost cause for sure,” she says lightly. She rests her hand on Will’s sleeve. “So public defender, huh?” she smiles. “Tell me more.”
By dessert, Lila and Will are engaged in an in-depth conversation about Spanish Cinema. Erin and Holtz are squabbling over a plate of baked cheesecake - which they’d stupidly decided to share - because despite the neat division Erin had measured off, Holtz keeps dipping her fork to Erin’s side.
As their plates are cleared, Lila makes a big show of yawning and announcing she has an early start in the E.R in the morning and Holtz suddenly comes to the realisation that this display is not for her benefit. As they all split the check and reconvene outside the restaurant door in the dark street, there’s a faint pause as all four of them smile and consider each other.
“So,” Will says. “I’m heading for Chelsea,” he says, pointing vaguely at the street behind him.
“Oh great, I’ll share your cab,” says Lila, despite the fact that they all know from earlier dinner conversation that she lives in Bushwick.
Will kisses Erin’s cheek, takes both her hands and looks at her with warm regret.
“It was an absolute honour to meet you,” he smiles. She nods and smiles back. Lila meanwhile is hugging Holtz lightly. She pretends to kiss her cheek but uses the moment to mutter in her ear.
“Get a clue, Jillian,” she murmurs. “I mean, seriously.” She leans back and gives Holtz a look that’s equal parts exasperation and affection. She disappears into a cab next to Will, leaving Erin and Holtz standing side-by-side on the sidewalk.
Holtz turns and looks at her. Erin’s mouth - like her own - is hanging slightly open.
“So,” Holtz says, scuffing her feet. “I guess maybe I should have changed my outfit after all.” She’s not used to striking out. Erin starts to laugh.
“Wanna get a drink?” she asks.
The night air is still warm, so they end up wandering the pier with gelato instead. There’s groups of brightly coloured teenagers lounging and couples on dates. Everyone seems relaxed and lazy in the heat. Snatches of music float out across the river.
Erin and Holtz drift along the pathway, reliving their evening and laughing.
“It’s you, Erin,” Holtz observes suddenly. Erin looks at her blankly. “You’re the one knocking them back. Will was all in…that guy's panties were in knots. If you’d jumped him across the table he wouldn’t have minded,” Erin laughs, but Jillian persists. “You’re not striking out, you’re knocking them back,” she realises. Erin’s quiet for a while, stealing a spoonful of Holtz’s watermelon sorbet, looking out over the river as they walk.
“He was gorgeous,” she says eventually. “I just think…when I find what I want, I’ll know it.” Holtz stops and stares at her.
“Right, but just sex though?” she asks. “That guy would have worshipped you.” This idea makes her feel something twist in her lower belly, especially when Erin’s eyelashes flicker and she leans her head back, her throat curved, to look up at the sky and sigh.
“Yeah, I screwed that one up huh?” she looks at Holtz helplessly. Then a laugh escapes her. “Our dates went home with each other. Oh my god, Holtz…we cannot tell Abby and Patty.” She links her arm through Jillian’s as they walk on.
Holtz agrees with her. She imagines their friends’ faces and she can see their expressions clearly. They look a lot like Lila’s had, outside the restaurant. Get a clue, Jillian, she hears again. Erin’s bare arm is warm against her own. Her skin is incredibly soft. I mean, seriously. Erin looks at her, her eyes sparkling with laughter in the golden streetlight and something absolutely devastating clicks into place inside her.
The next ten minutes are a blur. She hears herself laughing and joking and playing along with Erin but inside her it’s become very fucking quiet.
“Holtz?” she hears. Erin is smiling at her. “You know what’s weird? Even though we both struck out, this has been the best date I’ve had in ages.”
“Same,” Holtz manages, squeezing Erin’s arm. “Come on, hot stuff,” she forces her tone to be light. “Tonight you're coming home with me.”
You guys...thank you...you kill me. Sorry I've been shit this week at responding to comments OR commenting on your fics. I've been crazy busy. But just know I love all your words and you're freakin' gorgeous and jeez, I wish this wasn't taking so long to post! Sorry and thank you... <3
“So how was your date with Holtzmann?” Abby asks Erin. The physicist is just taking a sip of her coffee as they sit in the window seat of their favourite cafe the next morning and Abby half-expects her to do a spit-take at her phrasing. But Erin just swallows her mouthful and smiles goofily.
“It was really nice,” she says with warmth. “We had dinner at Ampersand and ended up trying that new gelato place down by the pier? Ugh, so delicious…” she enthuses.
“Sounds romantic,” Abby observes, raising her eyebrows questioningly. Erin bursts into laughter.
“No Abs, that was me and Holtz,” she smirks. “The lawyer guy was great - super handsome - but maybe too…” she screws up her nose trying to think of the right description… “too sycophantic? Or something? Like too into me, somehow?”
“He really liked you? Ugh, what a jerk,” Abby deadpans. Erin rolls her eyes.
“No, I just…he was like you’re amazing,” Erin does a deep man voice impression. It’s exactly the same one she does when she makes fun of Kevin or tries to imitate the mayor. “I guess maybe I like a bit more spark? I don’t know…like someone who’s a better flirt or a tease or something?” She looks to Abby for understanding. Abby just shakes her head.
“How bout Holtz?” she offers. “How was her date?” she clarifies after a beat. Erin blinks. Then she shrugs.
“Oh, she was fine,” she says vaguely. “I mean, I didn’t get the impression she really cared about Holtz, so whatever.”
“So…but Holtzy…wait-“ Abby pauses, frowning. “So what you’re saying is that Holtzmann turned down a hot casual piece of ass to hang out at the pier with you? I mean, what, was she sick?” She’s hamming it up, she knows it, but Erin just narrows her eyes.
“God, Abby, I’m not terrible company you know, jesus. We had a really great night,” she smiles that same slightly goofy smile again.
“So what’s the list look like now then?” Abby asks. She really wants to know. “Last night sharpen the criteria at all?” Erin looks thoughtful. She looks like she’s going to say something, but then she changes her mind and sips her coffee again instead. Their waitress arrives with their breakfast and they dig in.
“Do you remember Laura Czechowicz?” Erin asks a few minutes later. Abby puts down her fork. Now they’re finally getting somewhere.
“Of course,” she says. “I saw on facebook recently she’s made professor at Princeton now.”
“Right,” says Erin. She takes a deep breath and looks Abby in the eye. “I think…I think I was probably in love with her, for a while” she says. Abby thinks this is supposed to be a big confession. She nods and tucks into her poached eggs again.
“Well yeah,” she says. “I mean, you guys dated for like two years.” This time Erin really does do a spit-take.
“What?!” she splutters. “No we didn’t! We were just friends.” Abby looks at her with raised eyebrows. “We were,” Erin protests.
“Erin, honey,” she frowns. “You know I love the lesbians. As if I would care if you were bi or whatever. I mean sure, you were a bit weird about it back then but you don’t have to lie to me now, for god’s sake.” Erin shakes her head.
“I’m serious,” she says. “Laura and I weren’t dating. We were never- it was never like that.” Abby stares at her.
“Oh my god… Oh my god,” she splutters. “You spent half your weeks at her apartment!” she gasps. “You wore each other’s clothes! You touched and flirted with each other non-fucking-stop!”
“I know,” Erin stares down at her plate. “I remember.”
“You weren’t sleeping with her?” she pushes. Erin shrugs.
“No. I mean…we…well…”
“I guess, I mean, we would sometimes drink too much and kinda fool around,” she says quickly.
“Just on like…Friday nights,” she mutters. “And Saturdays. And then sometimes on Sundays when we were just really hungover as well.”
“Erin Rachel Gilbert, you dated that woman for two years,” Abby points her finger at her face.
“Oh god, I really did, didn’t I?” Erin groans in sudden realisation. “Oh no, that’s why she hated me, isn’t it?”
“You broke her freakin’ heart,” Abby confirms. Erin stares out the window.
“I really…god, I really was probably in love with her too,” she sighs. “What a disaster. I mean…to be honest, it was all just a really confusing time. But everyone experiments in college though, right?”
“Erin, we were postgraduates. You were twenty-six years old.”
“Ughhhhhhhhhhh,” is Erin’s full response as her shoulders slump.
“Eat your fucking eggs,” Abby tells her. “God, seriously.”
They’re quiet for a while. Abby thinks of Holtz and the way she casually wraps her arm around Erin’s shoulders whenever they’re sitting. Of the way Erin wears Holtz’s MIT sweater at least three times a week. Of their little conversational jibes and the way they look into each other’s eyes and begin to laugh out of nowhere for no apparent reason at all.
She thinks this is probably all becoming clear to Erin as well. That she’s finally waking up to the reason why everyone she dates is just too tall, too dark haired, too bland, too male, too not-the-person-she’s-actually-in-love-with.
“So I think I’m going to add it to the list,” Erin says quickly, interjecting into Abby’s thoughts.
“I mean…not as an essential criteria. Just as a…variable to consider.”
“You know…” she says, inspecting the bottom of her coffee cup. “Just…female? Like not even ‘female’ but ‘maybe female’? Just…go on some dates with some women as well, and just see?”
Abby stares at her. She imagines Erin heading out on dates with strange women. She thinks about Holtzmann, who she’d heard tinkering around in the lab early that morning, singing.
“Are you sure?” is all she can come up with. Erin frowns.
“Not entirely. Why…? Do you think it’s a bad idea for some reason?” she looks anxious.
“I just-” Abby pauses. “I mean-“ She’s not good at this. It’s Rowan at the edge of the apocalypse all over again and all she has is soup. “It’s just…you know, women are different when it comes to dating,” she flails. “There’s emotions. They get…attached.”
“That is not true,” snorts Erin. “I mean, please, just look at Holtz!”
They’re on a bust, involving a ghost that’s been haunting a huge Italian bridal store. The owner has been used to her for a long time, having inherited her from the previous store owner. He calls her ‘the mother-in-law ghost’ and since she’d been largely harmless and in a way added to the prestige of the place, he’d never been too worried. But this morning when he’d walked in to find half his dresses in shreds and slime everywhere he’d made the call.
It doesn’t take too long between the four of them. The ghost takes on the form of one of the store mannequins, dress and all. Patty steps neatly on the train of the dress and snags her still, before leaping back just in time as the other three blast the ghost with proton rays until she disintegrates into a shower of blue sparks, leaving them ankle deep in ectoplasm. Erin never thought she’d be so grateful that gumboots have become such a star feature in her wardrobe.
“Wow, would you look at these?” Patty pulls a long white dress off the rack to consider. It’s a feat of lace and silk and covered in sparkles with only a hint of green slime.
“Oh god,” groans Abby. “She’s only been dating Michael for five months and she’s getting all misty eyed at wedding dresses.”
“Baby please,” Patty puts the dress back firmly. “He wishes. I’m not the marrying type.”
“Really?” Erin asks her. “I think he’d marry you in a heartbeat.”
“Yeah,” Patty smirks. “That man is signed, sealed and delivered. Buuuuuuut my parents got divorced when I was nine,” she sighs. “That shit is not pretty. I am not about to get my ass pinned down that way.” She stops, pulls out another long white satin slip. “This would suit you though,” she hands it to Erin who takes it in surprise.
“Who am I marrying?” she laughs.
“You tell us,” Patty grins. “You seem the traditional type though.”
Erin screws up her nose at that. She holds it up to her body anyway.
“It’s actually kinda beautiful,” she says, wistfully. She looks up. Abby is gazing at her fondly. Holtzmann on the other hand, seems to be choking. Her face is bright red as she turns away, coughing loudly. “What’s the matter Holtz?” Erin teases. “Just remembered gay marriage is legal now? You can’t escaaaape…” she sings, dancing the gown toward her friend. Holtz dodges her and backs away, frowning.
“You’re gonna- you’re gonna get slime on it,” she grumbles, looking extremely uncomfortable. Erin lifts the dress a little higher and frowns.
“Do you want to get married, Holtz?” she asks curiously. She wouldn’t have thought so. The engineer’s mouth falls open and for five full seconds she looks lost for words. Then she screws up her face and waves her hand dismissively, a sound like a scoff escaping her. Patty is laughing.
“Pretty sure you’re supposed to at least go down on one knee before you ask Holtzy that,” she cackles. Erin cocks her head and considers Holtz, who must hate the idea of marriage even more than Patty does, judging by her fiery flush and thoroughly perturbed face.
“Are you kidding me?” Erin smirks. “Not in this much slime.” She blows Holtz a kiss and puts the dress safely back on the rack.
It’s been just over a week. Jillian isn’t avoiding Erin. Not really. She couldn’t if she tried. Not just because they live on the same floor of the same building, or because they bust ghosts every day together but because Holtz is Erin’s person.
She seeks her out in the lab every day, hovering around checking out Holtz’s projects and trying out her own theories. Some of them are even work-related. This was always how they rolled, only now Holtz finds herself uncharacteristically tongue-tied, her childhood stutter barely held under wraps as Erin leans in, touches her arm, beams at her.
She takes shotgun in Ecto-1 whenever Holtz drives and squeezes into the back with her when she doesn’t. Both options ruin her focus, but at least if Patty’s the one doing the driving she’s less likely to crash the car because Erin laid her hand on her thigh to get her attention.
She curls up close to her on the living room couch when they watch tv with the gang, only now when Erin’s even slightly touching her, Holtz finds she can’t keep still, squirming, foot tapping, acutely aware of her need to swallow every forty-five seconds. Erin pinches her side and tells her to quit it. She tries. By the end of an episode her muscles are screaming.
She starts to flee to her lab in the evenings instead, but Erin more often than not drifts out eventually to join her, book in hand, lazing on the couch adjacent to her workbench. And the thing is that six months ago Jillian had put that couch there for her in the first place, only now she wishes she hadn’t…because six months ago Erin was still sitting upright in her neat tweed suits when she read on that couch, not reclining in full with her feet thrown up on the back of it, wearing cute shorts and a t-shirt that Jillian is pretty sure is hers, and ohmygod there’s just legs and legs forever and Holtz nearly solders her own thumb to the table when Erin looks up at her lazily and smiles.
And how the actual fuck did this happen? Because one minute Erin was Erin - Holtz’s favourite person to get slimed with - and then she was Erin, the woman whose mere physical existence seems to hold some kind of magnetic charge that pinpoints her at the very centre of Holtz’s universe. And sure, Holtzmann has always flirted with her - since the very moment they’d met - but from early on that had been rearranged as a fun, sweet, side dish to the real deal that was their friendship. Their best friendship, because how the fuck was Jillian supposed to know the difference? She’d only ever had one other best friend to compare it to - hell, she’d flirted with Abby too - and now Erin is her person, so how can Jillian survive being in love with her on top of that?
It is a monumental, ridiculous, spectacular disaster.
“Oh! Hey,” Erin pops her head into the kitchen where Holtz is scrounging for food. “Missed you at dinner,” she says, lightly punching her shoulder. “I was worried you were stuck in some dumpster somewhere,” her smile is incredibly bright. Holtz casually pulls her yellow glasses down for protection.
She feels bad. She had ignored five texts from Erin, all checking in, talking about dinner, making jokes, then sounding mildly concerned. And Holtz just couldn’t with Erin’s sweetness, her goofiness, her casual claim on Holtzmann’s whereabouts. It took Patty sending her a “Yo, I’m hungry and Erin’s pacing, sup?” text before she mentally kicked herself and sent their group thread a pic of her pile of treasure against a dumpster with her thumb up in the foreground.
Erin’s leaning against the kitchen counter now, observing her.
“You okay Holtz?” she asks. For a second Jillian wants to be honest, shake her head, bury her face in Erin’s neck, grip her close. This is the problem, see, with falling in unrequited love and losing your ability to talk to your best friend all in one hard hit.
“Mmhm, yep,” she says distractedly instead. “Going out huh?” she asks. She seems to have developed a mild anxiety response to seeing Erin in a dress. She wishes terribly that the physicist was still wearing the same soft t-shirt that had both clung to her and fallen loose on her body in a way that had driven Holtz from the fire station that afternoon in the first place. She knows what the dress means. Erin shrugs.
“Yeah, you know…tinder again,” she confirms. “Are you sure you’re okay? You seem-“ she pauses, cocking her head and Holtz does not want to have this conversation.
“Tired’s all,” she ducks away and leans into the fridge, pulling out a beer. “Tell me about your date,” she manages a grin. She knows it’s slightly manic but it’s the best she’s got because she doesn’t really want to know but of the two conversations, this one seems safest. Erin shifts slightly against the counter. She tugs Holtz’s beer lightly out of her hand and takes a sip before handing it back to her.
“Umm,” she says. “Art historian. Works at MOMA. Seems cool.”
“Hot?” asks Jillian, because honestly, she just needs to get used to all this if this is what her life is going to look like now. Erin nods slowly, pensive. “What’s his name?” Holtz asks dutifully, since the physicist is being oddly stilted. Erin pauses. She takes the beer back from Holtz again, their fingers brushing.
“Lucy,” she says, and takes a large swallow, her face slightly flushed. Holtz frowns.
“Is that short for…” she can’t think of anything that makes sense. Erin takes another sip, shakes her head, hands the beer back to her.
“Just…Lucy, I think. I mean, I guess. She doesn’t look like a Lucille and she’s not like, from the South or anything, so probably just Lucy but I don’t know, because I didn’t ask her and I haven’t met her yet but I’m about to so maybe then I’ll find out. If I ask her that.”
As Erin babbles uncomfortably, Holtz feels herself freeze. Her heart is hammering in her ears but her limbs don’t seem to work. She realises Erin is quiet now too, looking anxious, wanting reassurance.
“I-” her voice comes out a croak. “I didn’t realise that was an option for you,” she says, then lifts the beer and drains half of it in one go.
“Um,” Erin squeaks, “well, it wouldn’t entirely be the first time,” she says. Holtz blinks. She knows her mouth is open but she can’t seem to make words. Erin makes a show of looking at her watch. “I’m gonna be late, so-” she quickly swoops in and kisses Holtz’s cheek lightly goodbye and flees, leaving Jillian with a faint impression of her soft apricot scent and the warmth of her lips and goddamnit if her legs don’t feel shaky.
Holtz is in knots. It’s been four hours and Erin is still not home. And honestly, one of the things she finds cute about Erin is her conservative bed time, almost always in her pyjamas by 9pm when Holtz is just starting to amp up. Sometimes the physicist will try and match her, staying up working on joint projects, but by 9:30 her features start getting blurry and she’s yawning and hazy and mildly, beautifully weird. Holtz likes to try and keep her later because of how softly hysterical she becomes, giggly and spouting nonsense and jesus christ, how long has she had these feelings for her?
“You okay, Holtzy?” Patty is also a bit of a night owl. She’s in her pjs though, as she wanders into the living room and takes in Jillian who is sitting on the couch stripping wires, with a pile of weapons on the coffee table, the TV on, her laptop open and three discarded books plus an engineering journal scattered around her feet.
“Dandy,” Holtzmann replies, putting down the wires and picking up a pistol, grabbing at her tools to undo the charging pack.
“Really?” Patty asks, sitting next to her. “Because it looks to me like you’re trying to use a soup spoon on a minor nuclear weapon.” Holtz swears and puts them both down, picks the wires back up again, focusses fiercely on pulling them loose from their rubber casings. She’s distantly aware of her friend watching her.
“Want a drink?” Patty offers simply, without prying. That’s one of the reasons Holtz adores her. She nods. Patty stands up and when she returns, she’s got two glasses of whisky.
“I fucking love you,” Holtz says, clinking her glass against her friend’s.
“I know baby,” she says lightly. “I love you too. Don’t blow the house up, okay?” They drink. “Hey, so uh, where’s Erin tonight?” she asks after a long pause. Holtz takes a large gulp of whisky, nearly draining her glass.
“On a date,” she says shortly. Very surreptitiously, Patty glances up at the clock on the wall.
“Oh,” she says simply. After a beat, she gets up and heads into the kitchen, returning with a couple of beer chasers. “This looks terrible,” she says, nodding at the television where an infomercial is blaring in the background. Holtz hasn’t even noticed. Patty flicks channels until she finds a documentary on deep space exploration. She sits back beside Jillian, settling in. Slowly Holtz lets her hands still. They sit for what feels like forever, quietly draining their beers, the soft droning of the commentary a soothing backdrop to images of supernovas and galaxies, spinning.
Holtz hears the front door open and close again. It’s like her heart restarts. Patty does a lightning fast stretch.
“You know, I think maybe I’m super tired, reckon I’m gonna head to bed, night Holtzy,” she’s up and gone before Erin even hits the top step.
“Oh!” Erin says, as she catches sight of Holtz glued to the couch, trying to control her face in some way that seems casual, or at least not desperate.
“Howwasit?” she says, super smoothly. Erin nods, wanders closer, leans her hand on the back of one of their armchairs, doesn’t sit.
“Nice,” she says, nodding again. “She was really, really great.” Holtzmann swallows. Erin’s smiling a little. “It was like hanging out with a really good friend,” she says. “Really fun, really comfortable…” she drifts off.
“Did she- did you- did she kiss you?” Holtz wants to punch herself in the face. Erin bites her lip.
“Yeah, she did,” she says softly. “But it felt like…you know…nice, but…”
“No spark,” Erin says regretfully. “Like maybe if I kissed Abby?” she said. “No tension, no chemistry…I guess maybe I’m just actually pretty straight after all,” she shrugs. She seems to want to escape, to not push the conversation in any way at all. “Anyway, I’m wrecked. G’night…”
Holtz watches after her, wanting to stop her, call out, ask her every question under the sun, kiss her breathless, point out the glaringly obvious. A sample size of one is terrible fucking science, Gilbert.
The solution to Holtz’s love problem comes in the most surprising package: Erin gets a boyfriend.
It happens quickly. Erin goes out on a tinder date. She comes back so late that Holtz can’t even grill her. She goes on a second date, and then a third. She doesn’t come home that night.
Holtz knew it was coming. Saw the glimmer of excitement brewing, the little sparks coming off Erin, the little sideways looks of concern Abby and Patty were sending in her own direction. She couldn’t stand it, so she didn’t wait up. She went to a bar, found a cute girl, screwed her in the club bathroom then let her take her home where she passed out drunk in her bed and had to apologise in the morning. But at least she didn’t wait up.
She and Erin make it home at the same time the next morning. Erin’s grinning and glowing and Holtz is so hungover that she’s shaking, but hey, they both got laid, so her best friend gear kicks back in and they drink coffee in the kitchen together, hazy and weird with sleep deprivation. Erin fries them eggs, while Holtz tries not to puke and by the time she’s keeping food down, something has shifted.
“You had a good time?” she asks Erin. Erin just nods, beaming. Her hair is a mess and it looks like there’s a faint hickey on her neck and Holtz is in love with her but this is her best fucking friend and she’s getting laid and looking happy and goddamnit that’s good.
By the time Abby and Patty make it downstairs, the two of them are slumped together on the couch, pale and exhausted but Erin’s head is on her shoulder and they’re bickering at each over whose turn it is to make more coffee. The other ghostbusters look mildly confused but palpably relieved.
And it’s better this way! That’s what shocks Holtz. Because the thing - the fear, the gaping chasm that opened up when she realised her feelings for Erin - suddenly it’s gone. Not the feelings, those she’s stuck with, but the safety has been returned. Erin’s got a boyfriend, a 6’3 neurosurgeon called Al - who Holtz even meets, shakes his hand, grins at, doesn’t hate - and now Jillian can’t do anything with all those feelings. She doesn’t have to. She can shove them in a box in the back of her brain and get back to what she knows she can’t fuck up: being Erin’s friend.
It’s been three weeks and they’re on a bust at a motorcycle dealership. It’s somewhat dangerous, what with how the ghost is a Hell’s Angel - perhaps more literally now than he was in life - in a shop full of roaring hot metal.
Holtz has never enjoyed a bust more - so many cool toys! - and she’s cackling like a maniac as she races after a ghost controlled bike, ducking and weaving and aiming her proton wand for his legs. The huge showroom is a candy land of gleaming chrome machinery, hot oil, burning rubber and she’s almost lightheaded with glee. Until he goes for Erin.
She sees it happening in almost slow motion. The ghost is leering, gunning his engine, pointed right at the physicist who’s grappling with her dropped weapon. Holtz has no time to think, she just bolts, racing across the oil slick concrete, all but throwing herself over the top of a bike to shove Erin to safety. They land in a pile of bodies just to the side of where the ghost-ridden roaring motorbike lands and Holtz spins onto her back and blasts him furiously with the ghostchipper. He disintegrates with a roar and Holtz throws herself back against Erin as the bike crashes down and slides along the floor, just barely missing taking off her left foot in the process.
“Oh my god are you alright?” It’s the store owner, Crystal, who they’d sent away for safety. Holtz ignores her, turning to give Erin a hand up. The physicist looks a little dazed but otherwise unharmed. “That was…so fucking cool. Oh god, sorry, that’s probably not okay to say…are you okay? Holy fuck, that was awesome…”
Crystal is in her early thirties and extremely pretty with pink hair and slender arms covered in tattoos. She’s breathing hard from the adrenaline and looking at Jillian like she’s Jesus. Holtz grins despite herself while Erin frowns, clinging to Holtzmann’s arm for balance as dusts herself down.
“That was incredibly dangerous,” Erin glares at her, putting her hands on her hips. “We asked you to stay out of the way. Do you have any idea what it would do to our business insurance if we accidentally killed a civilian?”
“Civilian!” Patty crows in the background. “Since when did we become the military, baby?! Give her a break.” Crystal looks sheepish.
“I was in the office,” she protests. “I watched it through the glass. It’s bulletproof, because well-” she gestures around at the merchandise. Holtz surveys it with her.
“I think I missed my calling in life,” she says. “Imagine one of these gone nuclear,” she murmurs reverently. Crystal grins. She’s spectacularly attractive.
“Maybe I can do you a deal?” she says.
“No fucking way,” Erin says firmly. Holtz bursts into a scattergun of laughter.
“Whaaaaaaaaat?” she protests. “Come on baby girl, can’t you imagine us arriving at busts on a Holtzmanned version of this?!” she gently prods one of the more impressive fallen bikes with her boot.
“Yes,” Erin confirms. “And it ends in fiery death.”
“Ah,” says Crystal, screwing her nose up. “It’s always the girlfriends who say no,” she shrugs sympathetically. Erin’s eyebrows shoot up.
“We’re just friends,” she says coldly. “Can’t I not want her to die anyway?” Crystal’s smile returns.
“In that case…” she cocks her head at Holtz, “care to come into my office and settle your bill?” Holtzmann turns and smirks as she follows her across the showroom floor, watching the deliberate sway of her hips.
Twenty minutes later she rejoins the group with her hair mussed and a crooked grin. The other ghostbusters are just finishing up reloading all their gear. Patty laughs and punches her shoulder.
“Pffft, get it girl!”
Abby rolls her eyes with good humour but Erin has her arms folded. She looks tense and distinctly unimpressed.
“Holtz! You can’t just hook up with our clients. That’s incredibly unprofessional,” she hisses. Holtz just shrugs at her nonplussed. Erin huffs. “We’ll get a reputation,” she warns. Holtz snorts with laughter, because that’s fucking hilarious and Abby throws up her hands.
“Jesus, Erin, give it a rest! Holtz can make out with whoever she wants. It is not your call.” She slams the boot of the Ectomobile and as she marches around to the passenger seat Holtz distinctly hears her muttering something about having your cake and eating it too.
Erin looks over at her, her shoulders suddenly drooping.
“Thanks for saving my life…by the way,” she offers, her voice low. She looks oddly crushed. Holtz reaches out and squeezes her shoulder.
“No problem kid,” she replies. Suddenly Erin moves forward and tucks herself into Holtz’s outstretched arm so they’re hugging. Startled, Holtz holds onto her, tries not to breathe.
“Ugh,” Erin pulls back. “What is that? You smell like patchouli…seriously, Holtz, oh my god…”
Holtzmann can’t stop laughing as they drive away.
Another month passes. And it’s shocking, how easy it is. Sure, it’s hard when Erin disappears to see Al - as she does at least three nights out of the week - but for the most part Holtz feels okay. She hangs out in bars more than she used to, but when the ghostbusters are together, they’re still together. And Erin and Holtz…well they’re still Erin and Holtz. Everything is surprisingly fine.
And okay, so maybe sometimes Holtz gets actual physical chest pain when the light hits Erin in a certain way, and maybe she has to focus pretty strongly on just keeping her breathing steady whenever Erin remotely touches her in any way at all, but those things are minor and just a side effect of the whole being-in-love thing and if that’s the worst love can throw at her then really it’s fine. Holtz has suffered worse things in her life.
It’s a Thursday night and she’s been out scavenging for hours. The dumpsters were both filled with incredible finds (an intact vintage scuba helmet!) and completely disgusting (dead rats.) By the time she gets back to the fire station, it’s late, and she stinks of garbage. She ditches her entire outfit straight into the washing machine and streaks to the bathroom. Her shower is long and thorough and by the time she’s done, she’s immensely satisfied with herself for her productive outing, her horde of treasure and for successfully staying out of the too-empty house on one of Erin’s Al nights.
She dries her hair, gathers it at the back of her head with a single tie and dresses in a pair of boxers and an old loose t-shirt she stole from the clean laundry pile that says University of Michigan so is either Erin’s or Abby’s (it’s Erin’s…she knows it’s Erin’s, but whatever) and heads for bed. She’s almost at her room when to her surprise, Erin’s door cracks open and the physicist looks out at her.
“Hey,” Holtz calls softly, trying not to wake the others. “I thought you were out.” Erin nods, then shakes her head, then her face crumples. “You okay?” Holtz reaches her quickly. Erin opens her door wider and Holtz steps into her bedroom, searching Erin’s face. Her eyes are red rimmed and her nose is shiny.
“Got dumped,” she mumbles. She does some kind of movement that is a kind of combination of shrug and eye roll and slump at the same time. Holtz hugs her. Can’t help it. Erin shudders in her arms just once. She clings for a moment and then steps back, which is kind of a relief. They’re both dressed pretty similarly and frankly, it’s unnervingly intimate.
“Ughhhhhhhh,” Erin swipes her face, turns and blows her nose dramatically. “I’m okay,” she sighs. “Kind of mad?” She gestures to her bed and Holtz sits.
“I’m not even sure,” Erin frowns. She picks up a bottle of water by her bed and takes a long drink. Holtz watches her throat as she swallows. “He said I was emotionally unavailable,” she winces, “among other things.”
“What things?” Holtz wants to punch him.
“He wants like…a good little wife type, I think,” she rolls her eyes. “Reading through the lines, that is. One who’s not as busy as I am, one who fits around his own schedule better. One who gets slimed less? I don’t know. Ugh…” she sighs. She crawls past Holtz and lays down on the other side of the bed, burying her face in the pillow. Holtz’s heart cracks a little. She lies down next to her, on her back, her hands tucked behind her head.
“I always hated him,” she says. Erin lifts her head. She laughs, despite herself.
“You liar,” she accuses. “You played hoops with him!”
“That’s because he’s a foot taller than me! It was funny!”
“You played chess with him that time too. That was so…boring for me, by the way.”
“Well, I won,” Holtz reminds her. “So that was exciting. Also, proof that he sucks, by the way.” Erin turns on her side to look at her. Her t-shirt is dark blue, looks soft. Holtz wonders whether the apricot scent comes from her lotion or her shampoo. Imagines finding out. Stops imagining. Swallows.
“He doesn’t actually suck,” Erin says softly. “He’s a nice guy,” she looks down at her fingers. “And he’s right…I wasn’t…as invested as he deserved.”
“But you…you liked him,” Holtz recalls. She stares up at the ceiling, wishing the lights were off, because it’s hard seeing Erin like this…close, present, raw.
“Yeah,” she says. “I did. But it wasn’t enough. Then again, it’s never enough is it?” A faintly bitter note colours her words. “I mean jesus Holtz, how many dates did I turn down just to meet him? I think maybe there’s something wrong with me,” her voice trails off. Holtz turns to look at her. Erin’s eyes are swimming again.
“Erin, no…” she can’t help reaching out, her hand gentle on Erin’s arm, squeezing.
“I just keep thinking…what if I’m just not built that way?” her voice cracks. “What if I’m just not made for love?”
And it’s so ludicrous, Erin with her dancing mischievous eyes and the goofy ways she moves her elegant limbs and her sweetness and her giant brain and her soft curved lips and Holtz is tracing them with her thumb before she even notices she’s reached out. They’re achingly soft under her touch. Erin’s breath hitches, her eyelashes flickering. The moment stretches and stretches in the quiet between them. Then Holtz kisses her.
Everything goes still.
They’re barely moving. Just her mouth, softly touching Erin’s. For a moment, everything hangs suspended. Then a soft whimper. Erin’s. And Holtz tastes her. That breath hitch again and Holtz’s hand slides around her jaw. Erin’s shivering now. Holtz goes to pull back but Erin leans into the kiss. Their tongues are sliding into each other’s mouths, exploring deliberately now. A little sound of want chokes out of Erin’s throat and suddenly they’re both gone.
Holtz slides her hands into Erin’s hair, pulls her closer. Their bodies collide and Erin’s hands slide up the back of her shirt, touching heated skin, clutching for purchase, grasping her closer still. Holtz pulls back from her mouth, kisses her throat, pushes her onto her back, presses her down into the mattress with her body, tastes her skin.
Erin drags Holtz’s t-shirt up over her head. Holtz tucks her fingers into the waistband of Erin’s pyjama shorts and pulls them down, then off. They kiss that way, half-dressed, half-naked, little desperate sounds keening from Erin’s throat, Holtz’s bare nipples dragging against Erin’s t-shirt, her breathing ragged and it’s barely been minutes but Jillian slides her hand between their bodies and cups Erin between her legs, can’t help herself, wants to know. And Erin is mouthwateringly, desperately soaking wet already and so soft and Holtz doesn’t ever want to stop so she uses her other hand to shove Erin’s t-shirt above her breasts and fills her mouth with them, licking and sucking at her nipples while her keep fingers sliding and pushing and Erin’s making sounds Holtz has never even dreamed about.
Holtz loses herself. Minutes pass, hours, seconds, nothing but Erin.
Erin's back arches, suddenly and hard and she cries out sharply, her body trembling frantically against Holtz’s mouth and fingers. But instead of releasing the coiled tension between them, it’s like something snaps inside her. Her eyes are wide as she pushes herself shakily up on one elbow and stares at Holtz like she’s never even seen her before. Holtz stares back, eyes huge, heart yammering in her chest.
Erin pulls her into a ferocious kiss, hard and desperate like she’s trying to climb inside her skin. Jillian is shivering now, her whole body on fire, and she struggles for focus but Erin’s mouth keeps moving - at her throat, her nipples, her belly - her boxers are shoved down and Holtz’s head snaps back as Erin’s tongue slips against her, sloppy, no finesse, all heart and hunger and nothing, nothing, has ever compared to this.
Jillian is lost long before she even comes.
“E- Erin!” the name flies out her mouth unsummoned even as her hips crash back on the mattress. Erin shifts up and then Holtz is cradling her and Erin is crying softly and Holtz doesn’t know why.
“Holtz,” she weeps. “Holtz.” Jillian holds her and then wraps her tighter and they don’t say a single other word.
It’s maybe 4am when Jillian half-wakes. The room she’s in is dark and she’s wrapped around a woman’s naked body in a bed that is not her own. She's already sighing and readying herself to sneak out for home when she breathes in the scent at the back of the woman’s neck and freezes. Erin.
She’s still wrapped protectively around the physicist, spooning her, one arm across her chest, her hand above her breast. She can tell by Erin’s breathing that she’s not asleep. Panicked, for a moment Holtz imagines feigning sleep herself. But it's too late.
“Holtz…?” Erin’s voice is incredibly tentative in the darkness and there is nothing, nothing Holtz can think to say to her. She presses her lips to Erin’s bare shoulder instead, letting her mouth open on her skin, tasting her.
Erin gasps, jerking against her and Holtz comes all the way awake. Does it again. Hears Erin moan. Feels herself catch fire. Makes love to her again, a phrase she’d never ever thought before about two bodies moving against each other in the dark, but as she slowly fucks Erin while still spooning her tightly in her arms, there’s just no other way she can describe it.
Erin’s trembling as she comes down and Holtz finds she can’t let go of her. Erin tries to turn in her arms to face her, but Holtz doesn’t shift, keeps clutching her, the heat and shape of her best friend's body familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. She feels like maybe she’s having a heart attack. Erin stays put, lets Jillian squeeze her tight long after her breathing has settled and then she starts to fidget.
“Holtz,” she whispers in protest. She strokes her hand gently down Holtz’s clenched arm. When Jillian doesn’t loosen her grip, she carefully prises her hand from her chest, kisses each finger softly, murmurs her name again, “Holtz…”
Jillian is definitely having a heart attack, might be dying in fact, and it’s this knowledge only that allows her to let Erin gently unpin herself and turn in her arms to face her.
Her eyes adjust to the dark and she can make out her friend’s semi-parted lips, her eyes seeking hers. She can see Erin’s expression is soft.
“Holtz-“ she breathes again, then stops. They’re pressed together so closely, hips into hips and Erin deliberately entwines their legs together, lets their foreheads touch. “God, Holtz-” Erin kisses her, presses in closer, bends her head to kiss her collarbone, tentative at first, goes to move down her body but Holtz grabs her in tight again, her emotions gone loopy, haywire, overloaded and she can’t take more, so buries her face in Erin’s neck.
It’s just that her hips betray her because goddamnit, she’s had her fingers inside Erin and yes she’s terrifyingly in love with her but every fibre of her body is responding to how hot that is and Erin reads her desperation correctly, slides her hand between their bodies, touches her, slips inside.
Erin fucks her slowly and honestly Holtz would almost be embarrassed by the sounds slipping out her mouth but she doesn’t have the breath for it. She doesn’t want it to end because then Erin will stop and then- then… God, but it’s too- and she’s so riled up- and she comes desperately, fingers digging into Erin’s back, biting into her shoulder so hard they’re both crying out.
Jillian is still shuddering when Erin draws back to look at her and fuck it if the room isn’t starting to get worryingly light, so she kisses Erin again and again, focusses on the way her lips feel slightly swollen, the way her hands are clutching Holtz’s hips. But eventually Erin pulls back, bites her own lip, looks at her.
“Holtz?” she starts. "Are-" Jillian kisses her again. Stops her.
“C-can we…just sleep…for a bit?” she manages. Erin pauses for a long moment. Then nods. Lets Holtz pull her back in. Leans her head against Jillian's shoulder. Breathes quietly for a long time, their arms slung around each other. Slowly falls back asleep.
Holtz waits. Listens to Erin breathe. Then she carefully disentangles herself from the sleeping physicist’s body, grabs her clothes and sneaks hurriedly out the door.
EMMY AWARD WINNER KATE MCKINNON ERRRYBODY!
There are a few key problems with pulling her patented morning-after move that Holtz didn’t fully consider at the time that she was sneaking out of Erin’s bedroom and she finds them out disturbingly rapidly.
The first is that quietly closing a woman’s bedroom door and tiptoeing away does not quite impart the same level of relief when your own place is all of ten steps down the corridor. Leaning back against the inside of her door, heart pounding in her ears, Holtzmann realises she’s going to have to try harder this time. She pulls an assortment of clothes onto her body and chucks more into a duffel bag. She needs to get out, lay low, lick her wounds, put herself back together, so she can…she can…oh god, really no way to finish that thought right now. Holtz zips up the bag and goes for the fire pole.
The second problem she discovers is that she’s a freakin’ ghostbuster. She’s barely made it out the front door and less than five hundred metres down the street when the ghost emergency alarm signal sounds on her phone and she freezes in her tracks. Patty’s pistol has been playing up and Holtz has only just fixed it and if something goes wrong she’s the only one who knows how to unjam it and no matter what epic level of fucked up she’s just achieved, she can’t abandon her friends to danger and goddamnit. She grits her teeth and turns back for the fire station.
The third problem smacks into her just as she opens the front door to head back inside and slams right into someone coming the other way. This particular problem is that the woman who Holtz just did a runner on is her very best friend and roommate who knows her way too fucking well. Erin is standing in the doorway, her hair a beautiful mess and her face a complex mixture of hurt and angry and that’s before she clocks the duffel bag Holtz has slung over her shoulder. Her mouth drops open and that’s when the fourth and fifth problems with running out on Erin Gilbert come racing down the stairs behind them and shove them out the door in a rush.
“C’mon, c’mon!” Abby hustles them. “This one came direct from the mayor’s office. Get this one in the bag and hello increased funding!” she crows.
“Ghost invasion at the police station!” Patty prods Holtz in the back with her own proton pack, chucking it to her. “Ghosts versus po-pos and we are gonna get right in the middle of that sandwich!” she declares.
Both women rush by them, popping open the garage door, throwing bags into the Ectomobile.
“Hope you remembered to pack your jumpsuit when you were racing out the door,” Erin mumbles at her, her eyes bright with barely held back tears as she pushes by her and climbs into the backseat next to Abby. Holtz slumps into shotgun, letting Patty drive.
The police station is in chaos. The NYPD are running and aiming guns at every fucking thing that moves. One of their own had gotten briefly possessed and trashed an office. He’s wrapped in a blanket recovering and being attended by an EMT, but everyone’s twitchy, statements flying. They seem both relieved and suspicious of the ghostbusters’ arrival.
They eventually report three ghosts - then four - all distinct, all malevolent. Patty and Abby take over, getting descriptions, building layouts, conferring with each other for a plan. Erin stands with them, ostensibly involved but really just glaring into space. Holtz shuffles her weapon from one hand to the other, can’t look away, can’t bring herself to step forward.
“Are you guys good?” Abby shoots them a sharp, searching look. Both women nod reluctantly and they’re on their way, weapons out, heading down the corridors.
They take out the first ghost within minutes when it tries to throw a soda machine at them. The second takes them on a chase through the cafeteria where the third tries to ambush them with a hail of hurled cutlery. Despite everything, they’re a tight unit by now and there’s barely a misstep as they whirl in unison and blast the fast moving apparitions with smooth, sharp success.
The fourth ghost was last sighted in the women’s locker room and so despite their initial blaze of glory, that’s where they wind up on a stake-out, perched on the benches, surrounded with a view of the lockers and not much else.
Abby and Patty are still high with their success and the parade of beefcake gratefully delivering the ghostbusters a steady stream of coffee and pastries to thank them.
Erin sits next to Abby on the bench, hugging her knees to her chest and looking anywhere except Holtzmann. Her jaw is clenched.
Holtz stays standing, shifting her weight from foot to foot, antsy with anxiety and adrenaline, wanting to smash down another ghost ASAP and then get the fuck out of there. She twirls her proton wand back and forth like it’s a baton and drags her eyes back from Erin for the twenty-seventh time in the last minute and a half. Eventually, Abby and Patty wind down enough to notice something’s amiss.
“You okay honeybun?” Abby asks Erin. The physicist just nods, quick and jerky. Abby reaches out and squeezes her shoulder. “Ugh, breakups,” she sympathises. “You’ll feel better soon.”
“Yeah, I’m sure,” Erin says sharply, her glare darting as far as Holtz’s shoes.
“Oh my god,” Abby suddenly says, staring at Erin. “Tell me you didn’t!”
“Didn’t what?” Erin flinches and Holtz nearly drops her weapon as it twirls. Abby’s jaw drops.
“You went back for one more?” she asks. “Seriously?”
“What are you talking about?” Erin stares at her. A small laugh bubbles from Abby.
“That 100% mouth-shaped bruise on your neck?” she points. “Which you absolutely did not have yesterday evening when we talked, after you broke up with Al?”
Erin claps her hand to her neck and looks mortified. This time her gaze does shoot to Holtz, their wide eyes meeting for just a split second before Erin rips away her gaze.
“I- I didn’t go back-” she starts. “I-“ she flails helplessly. Bang! A linen skip across the room falls sideways as Holtz shoots a pink ray at it with her sidearm. Everyone jumps.
“Holtzmann, what the ever living fuck?” demands Patty.
“Thought it was a ghost,” Holtz says. “I stand corrected,” she salutes in the skip’s direction.
“Could you be a little more careful?” Abby sighs. “We’re in a police station for christ’s sake.”
“Ma’am,” Holtz nods at her. Abby huffs. Then she turns back to Erin.
“If you didn’t go and…farewell Al,” she says meaningfully, “then who on earth gave you that giant hickey?” Erin flushes deep red and just shakes her head, refusing to say. Patty bursts into laughter.
“Ohhhh yeah,” she grins. “Our baby girl knows where it’s at. The best way to get over someone is to get under someone else, am I right?”
“No!” Erin protests. “That’s not-”
“Honey seriously,” Abby frowns. “I mean, no judgement, you go get your comfort wherever you need to-“
“Work out your frustrations on some hot young thang’s willing body-” Patty interjects with a smirk. Erin’s shaking her head.
“It wasn’t like that-” she starts.
“- but going and hooking up with someone just because you’re hurting?” Abby frowns. “You could have just come to me to talk, or to…or to…Holtzy…” her voice peters out mid sentence. Her head snaps up and she looks over and takes in Jillian’s rigid shoulders, the jerky way she keeps swinging her proton wand around. She looks back at Erin, flushed and miserable. “Oh,” she says softly. “Oh shit…” Patty takes one look at her face and her grin fades.
“Oh…no way,” she looks from one woman to the other. "You boned Holtzy?"
“Holtz,” Erin stands up. “That wasn’t- that’s not-”
“I,” Holtz announces, “am going to go bust a freakin’ ghost.” She takes three strong strides toward the door when - bam - a locker to her left smashes open and she ducks as a tall thin ghost streaks out, ricochets off the locker opposite and then gets blasted by Holtz’s proton wand as she whirls around and shoots it before it can reorientate itself. “Well, that was anticlimactic,” she mutters, re-holstering her weapon. The bust is over.
There’s paperwork to complete, lines of people wanting to shake their hands, a few cops wanting selfies with them to show their kids. Holtz disappears early on and Erin feels both of her friends’ eyes on her when she doesn’t go after her. She holds it together all the way through Jennifer from the mayor’s office and her usual spiel and through the awkwardly silent car ride home.
Patty runs straight up to Holtz’s lab, then her room, but Erin doesn’t even need to wait for her to return to know that Holtz isn’t there.
“I’m gonna go call her,” Patty’s frowning. “I don’t care what’s going on with you two…I just wanna know she’s okay.” She has her phone out as she heads back up the stairs. Abby looks over at Erin where she stands very still in the middle of their living room.
“Are you okay?” she asks simply. Erin throws up her hands.
“No!” she clenches her fists at her sides. “She’s behaving like such a jerk! And I just- god, I really hate her…I hate her so much right now!”
“Okay,” Abby nods. “Yup.”
“And you!" Erin adds. Abby blinks. “You knew, didn’t you? That I…that…I love her.” The words are barely out before her hand flies to her mouth and she bursts into tears.
Abby leads her over to the couch, sits her down, pulls her into a hug, pats her back while she cries. “I want Holtz,” Erin sobs, then hiccups loudly. Abby smiles. Rolls her eyes above Erin’s head.
“Yeah you do,” she agrees, still patting her. Erin pulls back, glaring at her through her tears. Abby reaches over to the coffee table, grabs the kleenex box, offers it to her. Erin’s frown barely wavers while she blows.
“Why wouldn’t you tell me something like that?” she sniffles. “I mean, that’s really something I probably should have known about, don’t you think?” Her tone is accusing.
“Well,” Abby stifles a laugh. “I figured you’d work it out on your own when you were ready.”
“Well I didn’t! And I wasn’t! And by the time I knew about it she was already kissing me and I wasn’t prepared and then I didn’t know anything at all anymore and I should have known better than to sleep with her because she’s such a fucking jerk!”
“And we’re angry again…” Abby tries to keep tabs.
“Of course I’m angry! She treated me like one of her one night stands! She couldn’t wait to get out of there…didn’t even want to talk to me, literally packed her bags and ran! And she’s…” her voice breaks… “she’s my best friend…”
“Okay, and now we’re back to tears…” Abby hands her a fresh tissue, then reaches out and squeezes both her shoulders. “Honey. Listen to me. Holtz is not your best friend. I am your best friend. You don’t want to bone me. You are in love with Holtz, and that’s okay.” Erin starts crying afresh.
“It’s not okay! It’s not! I didn’t know…I didn’t know love would feel like this…and now I don’t think I can be without her, and god, I hate her so much!”
“Oh sweetheart,” Abby gives up. She alternates between squeezing her hands and dishing out tissues, while Erin weeps and rages and weeps again. Eventually she goes and makes her a cup of tea, brings it back. By then, Patty’s returned.
“She’s okay,” she says carefully. Erin looks up at her, wrung out and red-eyed.
“Where is she?” she asks flatly. Patty avoids her eyes.
“Erin, I think she just needs a little bit of space, you know baby, she’s just a little-“
“She’s kinda…I guess she’s sorta…at her uh, friend…Lila’s.”
Erin goes upstairs after crying herself out. She wants to sleep more than almost anything, but she pauses when she reaches the top of the stairs. She can’t stand the thought of getting back into her bed - the one she woke up in this morning, naked and alone - so she pushes Holtzmann’s door open instead.
The moment she steps inside, she closes her eyes. It smells like Holtz. She unzips her jumpsuit and ditches it on the floor, then crawls into Holtz’s unmade bed and buries her face in the pillow. She can’t remember when she first started to associate Holtz’s scent with comfort and security, but the feeling overwhelms her now.
To help herself relax she tries to pick apart the scent, name its components. There’s the faint hint of warm honey that she recognises as Holtz’s favourite shampoo. Erin borrowed it once in the shower and spent the whole day looking for Holtz behind her shoulder as the soft scent wafted around her while she worked.
There’s the slight salt of what she knows now is Holtz’s skin. She shivers despite herself, as she remembers the shape of Holtz’s collarbone under her lips. Holtz has beautiful collarbones. She knows that last night was not the first time she’d had that thought. Nor was it the first time she’d been aware of the warm pink curve of her lips, or the startling softness of her pale skin.
She’d found Holtzmann strange and unnervingly beautiful from the moment they’d met, but she’d ignored it and pushed it down deep as she’d found her life begin to deeply entangle with the other woman’s. Holtz was her colleague, her compatriot in battle, her roommate, her intellectual equal, her co-business-owner and her increasingly closest friend. That was a lot.
Erin had thought of love as something that knocked you off your feet when you first met someone. She’d never thought it was something that could sneak through you so quietly and thoroughly that you’d get your breath swept away after almost a year of being in each other’s pockets, but that was exactly how love had happened for her.
Holtz had reached out and touched her with gentle hands and eyes full of intensity and it was as if Erin had simply blinked and her vision had cleared. The person she’d loved all along was right there in front of her - in her bed, kissing her breathless - and the second she’d tasted Holtz’s mouth Erin couldn’t get enough of her, wanted more, just wanted- Erin couldn’t ever remember wanting like that in her life before. Heat floods through her body at the recollection.
And now she’s just screwed, because the whole while she’d been carefully dating her way through her list of sensible parter criteria she’d been simultaneously falling six feet deep in love with the most unrelationshipable human on the planet.
Holtz flitted from girl to girl and bed to bed and never let anyone pin her down for more than a night or two. Erin had seen her do it, seen her avoid prolonged and awkward eye contact from across the bar as some longing woman stared mournfully at her and Holtz gave her a devastating wink and nothing more. And now Erin was just another one of them.
“Asshole,” she murmurs, burying her face further into Holtz’s pillow, hugging it against her body and eventually falling asleep.
Five days pass. No one is adjusting well to Holtzmann’s unofficial leave of absence. As far as HR processes go, the ghostbusters are kind of lacking. Abby supposes that the text she receives that just says - Abs, I just can’t…. Call Christine at Tall Tech if you need repairs. Call me if emergency. I’m sorry - is about as much of a stress leave application as she’s going to get.
She takes Patty’s proton pistol to Tall Tech out of interest more than anything. Christine is curvy and pretty and harried with customers at her appliance repair business, but her eyes go wide as Abby lays the pistol on the counter.
“What the-?” Christine picks it up, turns it around, notices the cheerfully pink radioactive signs Holtz has emblazoned over the power source and very carefully places it down on the counter. “Nope,” she says. “Nope, nope, nope.”
Abby asks her if she knows a Jillian Holtzmann and the telltale blush is all she needs to know. Christine has a change of heart, looks determined, says she’ll do what she can with the sticking firing mechanism. Abby heads for home.
Business is quiet, luckily. Busts are lacklustre without Holtzmann’s blazing energy and Erin is so woefully glum it’s like trying to bust ghosts with Eeyore as backup. Patty and Abby bust alone after that despite Erin’s halfhearted protests.
After a whole week of this, Abby’s had enough. It takes some investigating, but she’s determined.
The door opens after her knock and - yet another - startlingly pretty woman looks out at her and breathes a sigh of relief.
“Oh thank christ!” she greets her, on sight. “I figured someone would eventually come claim her,” she opens the door wide and gestures inside where Holtz is hunched over what was probably once Lila’s dining table, fixing what Abby recognises instantly as Patty’s proton pistol. The weapon drops to the table as Abby walks in and Holtz’s eyes go wide. She’s pale and peaky looking and stares at her old friend blankly with what Abby knows is her self-defence face, wary of attack.
“Oh, Holtzy,” she says softly. “C’mere honey…” Holtz’s look of surprised relief as Abby hugs her instead of yells at her makes her heart crack.
They go and sit in a little scraggly park near Lila’s apartment. The summer is fading but the day is still bright. Abby examines Holtz in the sunlight. There are dark circles under her eyes.
“We miss you,” Abby tells her. Holtz scoffs. Coughs. Scratches her arm.
“Imisseveryone,” she mutters. “Also my tools,” she says clearly. Abby smiles.
“So come back,” she says simply. She watches Holtzmann’s face fall. Abby takes in a breath and broaches the topic head on. “Erin-”
“Hates me,” Holtz interrupts. Her tone is flat, convinced of the worst and not up for arguing. Abby pauses. She wishes she’d sent Patty for this. Her history of talking down lunatics is not strong. Then she remembers, digs into her bag and pulls out the notebook instead.
“Nope,” is all she says. “She doesn’t. You need to read this.” Holtz takes it warily and cracks it open.
“What am I looking at?” she asks, as she recognises Erin’s handwriting.
“Erin’s list,” Abby tells her. “She’s been writing it as she’s been dating. Trying to define who it is she wants to be with.”
“She should have followed it,” Holtz says dully. “Saved herself the trouble.” Abby rolls her eyes.
“Oh my god, just read it will you?”
Holtz obeys. Abby watches her.
“Erin has terrible taste,” she grumbles. “Sounds like a total dork.”
“Sound like anyone else?” Abby smiles. Holtz pauses a long time. Abby knows she’s headed toward the end of the list. Erin has scribbled the date before each addition, the chronological progression of her thoughts as clear and precise as the scientist she is.
“She won’t find all this,” Holtz says pessimistically. “She’s casting a very narrow net.”
“Jillian,” Abby says, at the end of her rope, snatching the notebook out of her hand. “Erin wants someone who understands and gets her, someone ferociously intelligent - preferably a scientist - who believes in her. She wants someone unconventional and brave and adventurous, who makes her laugh. Are we ringing any bells yet?” Holtz just looks at her.
“Abby…I see what you’re trying to do here, but-”
“Female?” Abby reads over the top of her. She gets to the last few entries. “Someone who’ll be like my best friend,” she stares pointedly at Holtz. “But with crackling hot chemistry - ugh, this is kind of gross for me, but I assume you know what she’s talking about here.” For the first time Holtz’s mouth quirks a little. There’s a far off look in her eye that makes Abby a little squeamish but at least she’s getting through. Then Holtz’s face falls again.
“I ran out on her,” she says flatly.
“Why?” Abby digs. Holtz gets to her feet. Looks left and right, sits back down. Crosses one leg over the other. Bounces her foot rapidly.
“Igotscared,” she mutters. Her foot bounces faster and Abby barely holds back from kicking at her boot to make it stop. “I want her…a lil too much, Abs,” she confesses. “And you know it, Patty even said it - Erin was just…confused and hurting and breaking up with Al and I took advantage of that, and I shouldn’t have because she’s my friend and Iloveher.”
“Holtz,” Abby says slowly. “You couldn’t take advantage of Erin if you tried. I know you’d never do anything to deliberately hurt her.” She knows if she acknowledges the threat of tears in Holtz’s eyes she’ll lose her, so she looks away as Holtz blinks ferociously.
“She’s so angry with me,” she glares furiously at the ground, dissolving the glimmer in her eyes through sheer will power. Abby takes a big breath for patience, waves the notebook at her.
“Erin tried to figure out who it was she wanted to be with. Then she basically did a character sketch of you. For two pages. She might as well have drawn a picture of your fucking face. Don’t you think there’s a possibility she might forgive you, if you asked?”
For a moment Holtz looks like she’d rather jump naked into boiling radioactive waste. She looks at Abby finally.
“It’s just…Abby…this isn’t just some girl, you know? It’s Erin Gilbert.” Holtz breathes out Erin’s name like it’s Marilyn Monroe, Marie Curie, Justin Bieber and Barack Obama all in one. Abby stares at Holtz’s wide-eyed expression, thinks of the nerd she’s known since she was ten years old with skinned knuckles and a retainer that makes her lisp, of Erin as she saw her this morning in a food-stained quantum mechanics sweater, a crooked ponytail and pronounced eye wrinkles after another night’s lack of sleep.
“Jesus christ,” she says. “You’re as bad as each other. Look,” she shoves the notebook back in Holtzmann’s hand, flips the page over on Erin’s list, shows her the final entry, dated almost a week ago. It’s very short, neatly underlined and extremely precise:
You guys. I adore you. Like, I really really do. I'd just like to point out how very many other things I need to be doing that aren't writing fic right now but it's taken over my brain so I just had to get this out so I can DO THE OTHER THINGS OH GOD.
“I was thinking,” Abby says. “We should go out tonight. Just…dinner, drinks, hang out, you know?”
“I don’t know,” Erin screws up her face. “I’m not really in the mood.”
“I think it’d be good,” says Patty. “Maybe just, y’know…get out of the house for a bit? Or at least off that couch?” She nods at Erin who - okay, fair point - has spent the whole last week curled up on the lab couch. Working upright at her desk involves a level of fortitude she just can’t summon right now.
“I think I’m on a roll here,” she argues. “You guys go without me.” Abby and Patty exchange a look.
“Sweetie…we know you’re hurting right now,” Abby starts, “but you really need to stay with us here. Just…get some fresh air, be around some other people.”
“You look terrible,” Patty adds.
“Thanks, Patty,” Erin frowns. “That really helps.”
“Sweetie, it’s all going to be okay. Holtzy-”
“It’s been ten days,” Erin interrupts. “So I think we can all stop pretending and just admit that maybe she’s not coming back.”
“There is no way,” Abby fixes her with a ferocious glare, “that Holtzmann isn’t coming back. So you can forget that idea, right now.”
“Whatever,” Erin mumbles. “I don’t care.”
“Oh cool,” says Abby. “For a while there I was thinking that it was because you were upset about her not being here that had prompted to you to stop changing your clothes or or washing your hair or leaving the house, but now that I know that you don’t care I feel totally relieved.”
Erin grimaces at her, picks her textbook up again to hide her face and tries unsuccessfully to block everyone out. After a few minutes Abby goes out and comes back with a mug of tea which she places in front of her as a peace offering. She squeezes Erin’s shoulder softly on her way back to her desk.
It’s mid-morning and sunlight floods its way through the lab. Erin looks up and finds herself gazing at Holtz’s workbench. It’s so weird seeing it static. Nothing has moved there in days, let alone been danced with or set on fire. She remembers how overwhelmed she’d been when they’d first started working together, how she’d internally lamented, wondering if she’d ever be able to concentrate again. Now she finds it too quiet, too dull.
She hears the front door open and close. Kevin returning from his coffee run. She doesn’t look up again until a few moments later when out the corner of her eye she sees a figure paused still a few feet into the lab. And then she feels herself stop breathing. Holtzmann.
She’s wearing something perfectly ridiculous, her hair is bright and wild and held back by her goggles and for a second it’s like she’d only left for a few minutes before popping back - that’s how familiar she feels. But there’s an uncharacteristic tentativeness to her presence that feels alien. Her gaze is fixed directly at Erin, her eyes so blue they seem electric.
“Holtz!” Abby almost shrieks. “Thank god.” Holtzmann’s gaze lifts to the other ghostbusters and takes in their relieved faces. A small smile crosses her lips for a moment.
“Hi guys,” she says, her voice soft. Then her gaze fixes back on Erin. “C-can I…talk to you?” she asks.
“Please,” Patty answers for her. Erin shoots her a betrayed look and doesn’t respond.
“We uh, we were just going out anyway, to…get…” Abby hesitates, “…soup. So…we’ll catch up later, okay, bye.” She and Patty are out the door in less than half a minute, leaving Erin and Holtz alone in the fire station together. The room is so silent Erin thinks she can hear her own heart beating.
Holtz hasn’t budged an inch and Erin finds she can’t look away from her. She can’t believe she’s been gone so long, can’t believe she’s back. She resents how beautiful she looks. How it makes her hands shake finally seeing her.
“Erin,” Holtz says softly. The physicist draws her knees up to her chest.
“There’s nothing you can say, Holtz,” she says flatly. She feels frozen solid. Holtz watches her.
“Okay,” she says. And then she’s moving closer and Erin hunches into herself, hugging her knees closer to her body. Holtz comes right up in front of her, sinks to her own knees on the floor before the couch and presses her forehead against Erin’s shins. Her soft curls tickle against Erin’s forearms and Erin feels something inside of her splinter. Holtz doesn’t move or speak for a long time, just kneels and leans into her. Tears prickle Erin’s eyes.
“You’re wearing my t-shirt,” Holtz says quietly after a while.
“No I’m not,” Erin lies.
“You’ve been sleeping in my bed,” Holtz says into her legs. “Abby told me.”
“No I haven’t.”
“She sent me a photo,” Holtz tells her.
“Well it’s wrong,” Erin says ridiculously.
“It’s a good photoshop,” Holtz says. “Definitely looks like you.”
Minutes pass and Erin feels her breathing speed up and then slow again. Holtz is here. The weight of her head against Erin’s body grounds her. She finds she wants to entwine her fingers in the soft mop of blonde hair before her. She doesn’t.
“I’m sorry,” Holtz says quietly. “I’m sorry and I love you and I can’t do this and I want to come back and I’m sorry.”
“Okay,” says Erin. She hadn’t known she was going to say that until the word fell out her mouth. “I mean…what?” Holtz pulls back a little. She meets Erin’s eyes, drops her gaze, gently reaches out and wraps her hands around Erin’s ankles. She takes a deep breath and looks up at her.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry for everything. I’m not good at this stuff. I’m a fucking disaster, Er. And I love you - far too much to do this thing that I always do, to you - and I will do anything at all within this physical realm - and also the next, and even the one after that - if I can just…be close to you again and I can be a good friend to you, you know I can. Please…I just want to be here, with you, again and have not have fucked everything up, because I love you-“
“You mentioned that,” says Erin, feeling dizzy.
“We were good, before, weren’t we?” Holtz asks tentatively. “Before I complicated things?”
“Y-yes,” Erin stammers. “But-”
“Because I don’t know what it is, with me and…girls. I just…you’re not a girl you’re Erin and you mean everything and I think that’s more than anything else I’ve ever …or will ever in my whole life again…and I’m just not wired that way, maybe, I think,” Holtz speaks rapidly, almost monosyllabic and Erin struggles to keep up.
“And you’re sleeping in my bed and wearing my t-shirt and that makes me think that maybe you also…and that’s just…woah. But maybe, Erin, if…if we’re good, and we’re careful, we could have what we had before and not let it go up in flames…don’t you think?” Holtz’s eyes are pleading.
“You want to come back,” Erin says quietly. “And to…go back. For us to be friends.” Holtz nods. “And you…love me.” Holtz nods again, Erin sees the glimmer of tears in her eyes. “But you…don’t want…”
“I want,” she says vehemently. Their eyes meet and Erin swallows. “But the other…the friendship. It’s sustainable. I want to sustain…when I’m with you.” And Erin gets it. She breathes deeply for a moment, watches the dust motes dance in the sunlight, looks at her friend’s steady gaze.
“Okay,” she says quietly. And she would be lying if she didn’t admit that a part of her is relieved. All this time she’s been caught between all or nothing. Nothing was gut wrenching, but all is terrifying. And here Holtz wants to offer the middle ground. Safety. Holtz back beside her again, their little team within a team. The Erin and Holtz bubble. Erin’s exhausted. She’s been in love, she’s been betrayed, she’s been abandoned, she’s lost her person. The whole thing has been bewildering and disorientating. She wants back in. “Okay,” she says again, deciding.
A tear spills down Holtz’s cheek and she scoffs loudly at it, swiping her cheek. And Erin smiles. Holtz smiles back.
“Friends?” she asks, her voice cracking with earnestness. Erin smiles wider.
“Friends,” she agrees. She reaches out one hand to lightly punch Holtz’s shoulder, as platonic as can be. Holtz grins giddily at her. It’s like the fucking sun. Seconds tick by. “Holtz,” she says. “You should maybe-” she gestures.
“Oh, right,” Holtz lets go from where she’s still gently gripping Erin’s bare ankles in her hands. She clears her throat. “Yes. Good,” she sits back on her heels and nods.
To Abby’s and Patty’s credit they don’t ask too many questions when they come back. They note the careful truce and the renewed softness between their two colleagues and the fact that Holtz has brought her bag back with her and they don’t question it.
It’s not until that night when they’ve finished their shared pizza and Holtz has gone back up to the lab to catch up on work and Erin says something about going to bed that Abby grabs her wrist.
“Alone?” she asks. “To your own bed again?” Erin nods quickly. “Well that’s good, I suppose,” she muses. “Taking thing slowly, after all.” Erin hesitates.
“We’re…not taking anything anywhere,” she says softly. “We decided we wanted to protect our friendship, rather than try to push it…anywhere else.” Abby stares at her for a long time.
“That’s a mutual decision, is it?” she says finally. Erin evades her eyes. Nods. Abby looks at her harder. “Maybe Holtzy just needs some more time-” she starts.
“Nope,” Erin enunciates. “She took her time,” she says firmly. “She’s very clear. And we’re better as friends anyway,” she speaks with as much conviction as she can gather. Abby stares at her a bit longer, then reaches out and squeezes her shoulder.
“Alright honey. You’re both completely fucking crazy, I hope you know that, but whatever you need to do, you have my support. Okay?”
“Thanks Abs,” Erin says, sincerely. She turns to head for bed.
“But Erin,” Abby looks at her seriously. “Try not to end up fucking? We can’t handle much more of the sex-and-crying rollercoaster around here, okay? It’s bad for the business.”
“We’re not going to have sex again!” Erin exclaims, her skin feeling hot. “That’s pretty much the whole point.”
“Alright, great then. Enjoy not doing that.” Abby waves her off to bed.
“You’re staring at me.”
“No, I’m not.”
“Holtz, you are.”
“I’m…glad to see you again,” the engineer grins. Erin finds herself grinning back. It’s their first day back in the lab together.
“Fire,” she says absently, still smiling at Holtz’s smile.
“That beaker is on fire.”
“Oh, shit-” Holtz jerks her gaze away and goes about extinguishing the small chemical fire rearing up to the left of her workbench. Erin giggles, watching her. Then she catches herself and grimaces. When Holtz turns back, she straightens her spine a little from her seat at her desk.
“You have to not do that anymore,” she says. Holtz looks dubious.
“Stare at me.”
“Oh, right…” Holtz blinks. “Yes. Okay.” She nods rapidly. “Cool.” The next time Erin feels her eyes on her, she looks up and Holtz has her eyes crossed dramatically.
“Great, thanks, that’s much better.” It doesn’t entirely stop. Erin feels her gaze all the same, but every time she looks up Holtz is overly focussed on something else, just a brief flicker of her eyelashes giving her away. It becomes a distracting challenge to catch her at it so she can tell her to stop.
It doesn’t help that Erin wants to look at her too, or that both Abby and Patty have headed out on individual missions, leaving the two of them alone in the lab. Partway through the morning Holtz reaches over and snaps on some music. It’s Wilson Phillips. Her shoulders start to sway. Erin smiles. She’s missed this. Then Holtz starts to really let loose, throwing her back into it and her hips. It’s definitely…distracting.
Holtz dances over and grinning, tugs Erin out of her chair, even as she’s protesting and pulls her out to dance with her. And it’s stupid but it’s been so long and this was how their friendship worked and it’s so good to feel happy again and so Erin lets herself stop thinking and just lets go. The track ends and they’re pink cheeked and breathless and Holtz is-
“You have to stop staring at me.”
“I’m sorry!” Holtz is laughing and protesting at the same time. “You’re the one who dances like that, I can’t help it!”
“Abby is worried we’re going to end up fucking.” The words are out her mouth before she can stop them. Holtz’s jaw drops and she jerks it closed again quickly.
“We’re…not,” she says. She does not sound sure.
“No, we’re not,” Erin agrees firmly. She feels slightly sweaty. “We are grownup adults,” she declares. Holtz nods seriously.
“The adultest,” she states. She’s slightly flushed herself. Erin sighs.
“Okay, maybe we need some ground rules.”
“Probably?” Holtz screws up her nose. She does not sound excited about this. “I take it you mean more than just ‘no sex’?”
“No things that might lead to sex,” Erin clarifies. Holtz hums.
“Right. Sure. So…no kissing,” she decrees. Her gaze lingers briefly on Erin’s lips as she says it. Erin presses her mouth into a fine line. This conversation is harder than she thought.
“No kissing,” she agrees, working hard to keep her voice even. “No…hugging,” she says. Holtz’s face falls.
“Really? We’re huggers though. I mean…we’ve hugged like, easily a thousand times without having sex afterwards.”
“I don’t mean forever,” Erin argues. “Just while we’re kinda…settling in.” Holtz is still frowning.
“What about limited hugs? Like I could just squeeze you real quick cos you did something kickass or you had a bad day or something? Just like…none of the full body contact ones where I’m also secretly sniffing your hair.”
“You did that?” Erin is taken aback. Holtz screws up her face.
“Like maybe only 970 of the times we’ve hugged,” she says. “But I mean, I won’t! We could hug, but I won’t inhale,” she promises. Erin is laughing, but Holtz’s face is earnest.
“Okay,” she relents. “No…cuddling, either,” she waves a finger at the engineer.
“Right…cuddling…yeah we really did that, huh?”
“Probably too much,” Erin admits. “Like when watching TV and stuff?”
“This sucks,” Holtz says plaintively. “I don’t get close to you just because I want to have sex with you.” Erin stops breathing entirely at her use of the present tense. “I do it because I care about you and because you smell good and you’re warm and you’re really soft and…okay I see your point.”
“Mmhmm,” Erin squeaks. She clears her voice. “And maybe no more lying on each other’s beds.”
“Or sitting on them,” Holtz is gazing at her. “Or standing next to them. Probably not safe either.” Erin bites her lip. Nods. “No lip biting,” Holtz amends. Erin’s mouth falls open. Holtz winks at her.
“Definitely no winking,” Erin croaks. They’re standing really close.
“Okay,” Holtz says, staring again.
“Okay,” Erin stares back. She blinks. “Okay, good chat. That helped. Thanks,” she flees the room.
A month goes by. They don’t have sex. So that’s a win. They keep to the ground rules, but it never stops feeling weird. Because if they’re all watching TV together, then how do they sit? They can sit next to each other and not touch, but then where does Erin lean when her head gets heavy and where does she hide her face if the movie is scary and where does Holtz throw her legs when she’s sick of sitting upright? They swap configurations but Patty just complains when Holtz invades her personal space too much and Abby and Erin aren’t really touchers that way, so it’s not any more comfortable lounging next to her.
There are other confounders they don’t talk about but adapt to quietly, like how Erin eventually comes to understand it would be helpful to the situation if she made sure to generally wear a bra under her t-shirts around the house now and Holtz largely cuts bump’n’grind from her dance breaks, or at least remembers not to gaze at Erin when she does it.
For the most part, they’re kind of okay again. Hard things happen. Girls hit on Holtz at busts, at bars, in cafes. Erin tries not to react and Holtz never reciprocates when Erin is there to see it. Al asks to see Erin. They go for coffee and Holtz manages not to quiz her on it when she gets back. Erin makes sure to mention in front of the whole gang, how nice it was to see him, how he seems happier with the woman he’s dating now.
It’s late in the afternoon and after a bust that morning they’re all back in the lab. Patty’s studying, Abby’s editing a journal article and Erin and Holtz are working on blueprints to improve their ghost transfer device.
“Well hello, sailor,” Lila wanders right on in to the lab, sauntering towards Holtz. Erin is squished in next to her as they check each other’s equations so she feels Holtz jump.
“Lila!” she sounds startled. “How’d you…what are you doing here?”
“Some stud muffin let me in,” she smiles at her. “You only hire good looking people in this establishment or what?” Lila’s smile switches to Erin. “The beautiful Dr. Gilbert,” she greets her warmly. “How are you?”
“F-fine thank you,” she stutters. She notices again how gorgeous Lila is and how well she dresses, wishes irrationally she wasn’t having a tweed day.
“Managing to keep this one in line?” Lila cocks her head teasingly toward Holtz and Erin swallows.
“What are you doing here, Lila?” Holtz interrupts. She sounds genuinely confused. Lila smiles.
“Came to see my favourite nuclear engineer,” she shrugs. “I’m on a day off and realised I almost miss you around the place. Thought I’d come see where the action happens, take you out for a drink?” She pauses. “Is that a Faraday cage? That is so cool!”
Holtz stands up. Erin notices she’s smiling. She takes Lila on a tour around the lab, showing off her gadgets. The two of them keep cracking up. Erin can’t stop staring. Abby also greets Lila warmly, but Patty seems stiff. She shoots Erin an eye roll of solidarity when Lila turns away.
“Okay, come on, take a break will you?” Lila says. “It’s happy hour somewhere?”
“You should go, Holtz,” Abby pipes up when the engineer hesitates. “You’ve worked like a hundred hours this week for god’s sake.”
“It’s fine,” Erin interrupts as Holtz looks over to her. She quite clearly wants to go. “I got this.”
“Erin, you are a pearl among women,” Lila smiles at her. Erin smiles back stiffly. She sees Lila lay her hand on Holtz’s arm as they disappear out the door. Her smile fades. Something inside her that’s been stretched too tight the whole time Holtz has been back, finally snaps. She feels the emotions inside her uncoil throughout her body and she stands up, marches over to her own desk and picks up her phone.
“Alright Erin?” Abby asks her.
“Mmm yup,” Erin responds. “Super.” She scrolls through her phone, searching.
“What…what are you up to?”
“I just realised,” she says, selecting a message and typing furiously, “that it’s probably been enough time now that I should probably start dating again, you know? I mean…Holtz and I are friends again, that’s all been totally put to bed now, clearly, so I should start to move on.”
“No!” Abby cries out. “I mean…wait…like, a little bit maybe?” Erin stares at her. “You know that Lila and Holtz are just friends right? You know that don’t you?”
“Mmhm, sure,” Erin nods shortly. “I’m sure they really are,” she says tightly. “But Holtz and I aren’t dating and I still have tinder on my phone and this guy…uh, Seth, he seems super, um…tasty.” She presses send on her message. “He told me to hit him up for a drink any time, so maybe if we’re taking date breaks right now then I think maybe I’ll go get dressed for dinner.” Her phone pings almost instantly. “Oh look,” she waves her phone. “He’s in.” She nods at Abby. “So I’m out.”
“So how’s your cute tweedy science loverrr?” Lila asks Holtz as she slides in opposite her with a beer. Holtz takes a large gulp of froth.
“She’s fine. She’s wonderful. She’s…not my lover.”
“Riiiiiight,” says Lila. “So that thing where she was sitting in your lap just now, that was your being friends again?”
“She wasn’t sitting in my-”
“And the bit where she was staring daggers at me merely for existing in the same space as you, that was just a life threatening case of resting bitch face?”
“What? No she wasn’t-”
“Jillian. What the fuck are you doing?”
“Nothing! I’m not doing anything! I’m looking after a friendship that means way too much to me to-”
“Babe. You have friends. You have Abby and whatserface with the amazing clothes and Mr Muscles at the door and you have me.”
“You?” Holtz looks dubious.
“Why the fuck else would I be here?” Lila reaches over and clinks her glass against Holtz’s. “I mean, aside from the fact that you slept on my couch for a week and a half and I was busting to know how all the lez drama worked out,” she shrugs. “And, mayyybe also because Abby texted me to tell me she and Patty couldn’t get in the middle of it, but someone needed to slap some sense into you.” Holtz chokes on her beer.
“That is just… …Seriously? Aren’t friends supposed to be, like…supportive of your choices or whatever?” Holtz looks bewildered. Lila scoffs.
“Oh honey, no,” she shakes her head. “That’s parents. Friends are people who call you on your shit and tell you when you’re being a dumbass. Who ask you questions like what the fuck, Jillian?”
“You are in love with that woman! Like, it was gross, I thought you were going to literally die on my couch you love her so hard. And judging by all the climbing into your lap she’s doing, she’s not exactly thriving off this ‘just friends’ charade either.”
“She’s fine…we’re fine!”
“I don’t understand you Jillian Holtzmann. You’re not scared of this stuff. I’ve seen you. You swaggered right up to me and charmed my pants off like a cocky goddamn asshole who does it every day of the week. How is this any different?”
“It’s not just sex, okay?” Holtz huffs. “It can’t be just sex with Erin. And I just…I can’t do relationships so-”
“Why the hell not?”
“Because I can’t! Because it means being there for someone all the time! It means spending all your days and nights together! It means they get to have a say in your choices and worry about you being hurt and also they can hurt you and I could hurt her,” Holtz’s eyes are wide.
“You’ve already hurt each other,” Lila points out. Her phone pings beside her and she pauses to read a text. She blinks, puts her phone aside and continues. “You forgave each other and moved on. You’d do it again if you had to. And-” she holds up a finger, stopping Holtz from interjecting, “you already spend your whole damn lives together. You’re already in this - have been doing all those things you just said - for like a year now.”
“But it would be different…”
“Yeah…different like you’d get to fuck too. A lot, judging by those eyes she gives you. Ohmygod are you blushing?! I didn’t even know you could do that!”
“It would be different-“ Holtz bursts out, “because we’d have to be everything! Friends, girlfriends, lovers, partners. I would have to be enough!”
Lila stares at her. She puts down her beer. It’s quiet for a long while.
“Is there something you want that Erin doesn’t have?” she asks eventually.
“No! How could there be? Erin is…Erin is perfect.”
Lila nods slowly.
“Jillian. Why don’t you let Erin choose for herself whether or not you’re enough for her?”
“She…” Holtz takes a gulp of beer, “she wrote this list…”
“Abby told me. She said it was like must be a cute blonde nuclear engineer, should wear yellow goggles, be a genius freak at fingerbanging.”
“That is-” Holtz coughs, “not true. It was a whole pile of big things and I’m not sure if I can be all of them.”
“Abby says you are. Every single one of them. And she knows you better than anyone. Except maybe Erin, Jillian, who also sees that you are everything she’s ever wanted." She takes a drink and when she looks up again she pauses. "Are you…are you crying?”
“No,” Holtz swats her hand across her eyes so hard it’s like she’s slapping herself. “No. I think…I…holy shit…I need to go talk to Erin.”
“Yeah you do, buddy. There you go… Oh! And you should do it fast, by the way. Abby just texted before, told me Erin’s gone on a date.”
Holtz goes pale.
“Yeah. She misread this whole thing with me and you apparently, so now that’s happening.”
“What? Text her back! Ask her where she’s gone! I have to find her!”
“Babe. It’s not a wedding you gotta stop here. You’re not gonna go chasing her to the airport to stop her from getting on the plane. It’s just a tinder date.”
Holtz grabs her own phone, presses a couple of keys.
“Abby!” she shouts into the phone. “WHERE IS THE DATE?! I have to stop her!!!”
Lila splutters out a laugh, takes a mouthful of beer and watches her. Holtz shoots her a panicked look and hangs up.
“Abby doesn’t know!” she croaks. “She says he’s some local guy, that Erin was on foot, going for dinner.”
“Holtzmann, that’s okay-”
“Yes! Because that only leaves like maybe forty or fifty places it could be! Come on!” She stands up, grabs her jacket. Lila stares at her.
“You are seriously kidding me-“
“It’ll be faster if we split up,” she grabs Lila’s arm, tugs her up and pulls her toward the door.
“We’re…really doing this.”
“Lila. The love of my life is on a date,” Holtz spins around on the sidewalk outside the pub. “With someone else. What if they fall in love, like right now, tonight and I’ve missed my chance by two whole hours?! I can’t risk that!”
“You said you were my friend!”
“Oh jesus. Okay fine. You go East, I’ll go West.”
Seth’s a really nice guy. He’s boyishly handsome, has twinkly eyes and he’s super polite. He seems to like her despite the fact that Erin’s distracted and maybe not on top of her game exactly because of how all she can think about is Lila’s hand on Holtz’s arm and Holtz’s smile and-
“Sorry,” she apologises again. “Can you repeat that last part?”
Seth gives her a good natured smile. They’re both sipping wine and their desserts have just arrived.
“Erin,” he says kindly. “Are you…alright? I mean, I don’t know you, but you seem…”
“Fine! I’m totally fine. You were saying…”
“Erin!” Her head snaps up as she hears her name being yelled. Suddenly Holtz is there and she’s knocking Erin’s fork out of her hand, the brownie flying onto the tabletop.
“Holtz! What are you doing?!”
“Stop!” Holtz cries. “Stop the date! Stop everything!”
“What’s wrong? Did something happen-?”
“Yes something happened! I- I met you, that’s what happened!” Holtz pushes aside the plates and glasses and sits on the edge of the table, gazing at her imploringly. “And I know, I know we said that we would just stay friends but it’s been too late for that since the moment you walked into my lab-”
“Uh, hi, I’m Seth…” there’s a cough from the other side of the table. Holtz turns, reaches out and shakes his hand.
“Holtzmann,” she says. “Hi.”
“Holtz, what are you doing? I’m on a date! You were on a date-”
“I wasn’t on a date!” Holtz bursts. “Lila is my friend. She helped me find you!”
“I think she’s getting a drink at the bar. Giving us some privacy.”
“This isn’t privacy, Holtz! I don’t understand what you think you’re doing-”
“I’m declaring my love for you,” Holtz says. Her eyes are wide. She looks terrified. Erin shakes her head.
“I…you…you already told me that. But you also said you didn’t do relationships and you wanted to keep our friendship and that you couldn’t-”
“Erin Gilbert,” Holtz pushes off the table, turns Erin’s chair slightly and drops to one knee before her. Erin gasps. Holtz looks down at herself and then up at her, and quickly corrects to kneeling on both her knees. “No, not…that’s a little too, I mean, jeez, early days-” she splutters, rubbing her jaw. “But I guess, I see why people do that now. I feel like I’m begging you here…and maybe I should, and I will and I am…”
“No, please, let me just…”
“I sort of am getting the impression,” Seth says from across the table, “that maybe, I should just…go…”
“Seth, buddy, sorry, can you just shut up for one second,” Holtz gives him a sideways glance. “I’m trying to do something really complicated here and if you could let me concentrate a second that’d be-“
“Oh, sure, no problem, that makes sense, I’ll just…” he apologises and edges his chair back. Erin looks from one to the other. Her date gives her a small shrug and nods his head back to Holtz, who’s looking up at her with wide eyed determination.
“You’re my best friend,” she says, “and I am thirty-two years old but I have never been in love before. Not like this. And it scares the bejesus out of me, but I…I want you and I want to try. And I think…I think I can do this. I don’t know for sure,” she says honestly, “because I’ve never ever tried to before, or even really wanted to try, but I think…I think maybe we’ve already been doing this,” she says firmly. “We’re already…there. You’re my person, Erin Gilbert.”
Erin’s eyes are flooding with tears. Holtz grabs for her hands in her lap, misinterprets her tears and starts to look desperate.
“Erin,” she races on. “Don’t you see? We’re already there. I mean…if you want to be. Because you’re already the person I look for, whenever I walk in the room. We already talk all day, every day. And we - until we made all the stupid ground rules that I hate - we already acted like g-girlfriends. And that’s what I want. I want you to be my girlfriend. Not just my best friend, even though I want you to stay that as well. I want exactly what we’ve always had, except that I’d get to kiss you every time I thought about it - which is all the time, by the way - and we’d have tons of super hot sex, because holy shit…that sex we had…I mean did you also notice that it was incredible? Because holy shit Erin - and we’d wake up together all the time and I’d get to see your bed hair again, preferably while you’re naked - and I’d tell you that I loved you every single day, if you’ll let me, and I’d legit get to call you things like baby, and Er bear and my boo - because, get it? - and-”
“Holtz, shut up. Just…please, please stop talking-” Erin is spluttering with laughter through her tears. Holtz doesn’t budge, her eyes still wide. “Jesus, Holtz…just-” Erin leans down, slides her hand around Holtz’s head, pulls her in and kisses her. Holtz chokes out a little sound of relief from the back of her throat and kisses her back, her hands clutching at her forearms, pulling her in close.
“She said yes!” Seth shouts to the suddenly silent restaurant, Lila whoops from the bar and everyone around them bursts into applause. Erin is laughing against Holtz’s lips and she pulls back but all she can see is Holtz’s eyes and the absolute manic blaze of joy in them.
The walk home is a blur. They’re holding hands and smiling so loudly that they barely talk at all, because they’re holding hands and it feels both absolutely crazy and perfectly normal all at the same time.
Erin turns and smiles at her over her shoulder as she puts her key in the front door and Holtz feels the bottom drop out of her stomach. They step over the stoop and Erin turns to her before the door even swings closed behind her, the clear want in her eyes flaring the very moment they’re alone.
Holtz reaches in like it’s a dream - she can kiss Erin Gilbert now - her hand tracing her jaw and into her hair, gripping the back of her head a little possessively as she presses in, so that her mouth lands on Erin’s lips just as they part in a gasp.
Erin’s back hits the door as it closes and her hands are gripping Holtz’s leather jacket, pulling and pulling needing her closer and Holtz is pressed in against her body, kissing her mouth furiously, but it’s already not enough. She uses her grip in Erin’s hair to tug her head to the side so she can press kisses against her neck and the choked, needy cry that escapes the physicist nearly makes Holtz’s legs give way. She bends her head lower, sucking and biting kisses across her chest and Erin’s skin is searing hot under her mouth.
“Hello? Anyone there? Oh-!” Abby’s voice rings out from the top of the stairwell before she quickly retreats back. “Okay good, that’s really great you guys!” she calls from just out of view. “Super happy for you…try not to end up doing it in the stairwell okay?”
Holtz is tempted to ignore this suggestion but Erin pushes her away with a gasp of laughter and they straighten their clothes quickly before heading up the stairs like guilty teenagers. Holtz takes hold of her hand halfway up and Erin smiles and smiles and that’s how they arrive into the living room, where Patty and Abby are sat bolt upright on the couches, with identically raised eyebrows.
“Soooooooo…” Abby says with a sly grin as Erin and Holtz cling to each other’s hands with matching smirks. “Anything new with you guys?”
Holtz and Erin exchange glances. Holtz shrugs and with her mouth twitching, Erin shrugs back.
“Nope,” Holtz tells them, letting go of Erin’s hand to wrap both her arms around her waist and pull her close. “Same old,” she says, pressing a soft kiss against Erin’s cheek, smiling so wide she looks borderline insane. Erin’s fingers are already intertwining with Holtz’s where they press into her side.
“Nothing happening here,” Erin agrees. They all smile widely at each other and Patty starts to cackle. “But we’re probably just gonna, um, go to bed now,” Erin hedges.
“Real tired,” Holtz tries. Abby snorts and Patty grins real wide.
“You know, Abby, there was that…bar we were talking about checking out…”
“Yup. And tonight sounds like a real good time to go. Like…right now. Really feeling like a margarita…”
“Oh! Sure. Yeah,” she nods. “Thin walls. House is all yours guys…go nuts.”
“Don’t nobody need to be around for that!”
“Guess we’ll save the champagne toast for another night!” Abby’s voice rings out after them as Erin has enough of their teasing and tugs Holtz up the stairs.
Holtz’s bedroom is the closest down the hall so that’s where they wind up. Erin's bed is probably at least made but that's at least ten steps too far to make just now.
“Nice being allowed back in here,” Erin comments slightly wistfully, looking around at the reassuringly peaceful chaos that makes up the engineer’s bedroom as Holtz steps briefly away to turn on a lamp.
“The no bed rule sucked,” Holtz agrees vehemently as she comes back, entangling one of her hands with Erin’s and sliding one of them around the back of her neck.
“Think you can make it up to me?” Erin murmurs, her eyelashes lowering. Holtz shivers.
“Hell yes,” she breathes, pulling Erin into a kiss so thorough the physicist momentarily forgets to breathe.
“Are you sure?” she pulls back, taking a gasp of air. “Because I was really in a lot of agony there for a while.” Holtz considers her, a slow, wicked grin taking over her face.
“That’s nothing,” she slides one hand slowly up Erin’s ribcage, teasingly skims above her breast and keeps moving, listening to her breath catch, “compared to what I’m gonna do to you now I’ve got you.”
Erin whimpers, lurching into another kiss, starts tugging at Holtz’s jacket, pushing it off her shoulders. Then she goes for her vest, then her tie, then her shirt.
“Jesus, Holtz…why are there so many clothes-” a note of desperation enters her voice as she fights with Holtz’s buttons. A smug expression crosses the engineer’s face as she reaches around the back of Erin’s neck, takes hold of the zipper at the top of her dress and slowly pulls, her fingers tracing bare skin all the way down.
“I win!” she boasts, as Erin’s dress loosens and slips down her shoulders. Erin fixes her with an eye roll, drops her arms and lets the whole thing fall to the floor around her feet. Holtz goes very still. “N- new rule,” she manages. “Definitely bed. Bed should be a thing. Right now. Very now.”
Her fingers battle Erin’s to help her undo her own pants as she shrugs her shirt off her shoulders and then Erin’s pushing her back and down into the pillows, pinning her into the mattress with her body.
“Woah,” Holtz says, her mouth falling open. “I think I kind of like toppy Erin.”
“Really?” Erin shifts up so she can look down to take in the view. “Cos you look kinda like you hate it,” she bites her lip to keep it from quirking. Holtz is wide-eyed and practically drooling, her hands splayed out limply beside her head.
“I’m…I’m a little bit overwhelmed,” she admits. “I mean…it’s you and you’re wearing incredibly sexy matching lingerie - which, by the way do you always do that, or is it a date thing? - and you’re literally straddling me right now so frankly the fact I’m even breathing is kind of a miracle.”
Erin’s breath catches as Holtz’s hands come to life, stroking their way from the flare of her hips down her thighs.
“I’m pretty sure you’ve seen women in their underwear before Jillian Holtzmann,” she observes. “Lots and lots of them. And then lots more,” she adds wryly.
“Never this beautiful,” she says softly. Erin scoffs and Holtz sits up beneath her so they’re face to face, Erin in her lap. “And never after I’ve told a woman that I’m in love with her and that I want her to be my girlfriend. So yeah…I’m kinda…feeling the nerves here,” she swallows, leaning back on her hands. Erin stares at her and Holtz suddenly feels very exposed. She squirms. “Did I just kill the mood?” she asks. “Because I can go back to doing ladykiller Holtzmann again if you’d prefer-”
“No,” Erin breathes. “It’s incredibly sexy. I feel like I get to see a whole other side of you that all those other girls didn’t. It’s such a turn on...” she murmurs. Holtz groans.
“Deer in the headlights Holtzmann? That one’s just yours. Lucky you,” she reaches up and brushes a lock of Erin’s hair back behind her ear. Erin shivers, turns her cheek into Holtz’s palm, kisses the inside of her wrist.
“I do feel lucky,” she whispers. “It's hot knowing you care about making me feel good.”
“Right,” Holtz frowns in concentration, tracing her fingers down Erin’s neck, over her bra and trailing down her abdomen, touching her like she’s something fragile, precious. Watches her tremble again. She’s never felt this thrown in bed with a woman before. She swallows, “that’s at least good, I guess…”
Erin nods rapidly. She seems to be holding her breath, Holtz feels the tension in her body, realises Erin is barely holding herself back from grinding down.
“W-what would you be like, if you were being ladykiller Holtz now with m-me?" she asks, the last word coming out in a gasp as Holtz pulls down on her hips, encouraging full contact. She can feel how wet Erin is and her arousal and confidence spike together. She smirks.
“I’d have you pinned right now and be saying something like baby girl get ready, I’m gonna blow you apart…” she husks dramatically, her lips against Erin’s earlobe. “Oh my god. Tell me you didn’t just shiver, Erin Gilbert,” she accuses. Erin squirms in her lap.
“I’m sorry. You’re just very- …it shouldn’t work but it does,” she rolls her eyes at herself. “So,” she pulls back to gaze at her, “do that…just do it the Holtz when she's with Erin way,” she says.
Their faces are only an inch a part and Holtz gazes back, soaking up the view of her best friend, the woman she loves, sitting semi-naked in her lap. Her breath catches. And then she flips them, pressing Erin down into the pillows, her wrists neatly pinned above her. She gazes down at her seriously and presses her lips softly to her ear.
“Baby…” she murmurs. “I wanna make you feel so good,” she presses her thigh between Erin’s, making her shift and open. “Gonna go so slow…” she presses an open mouthed kiss against the physicist’s throat and Erin’s eyes roll back. “Gonna eat you out for hours,” she licks her way in little laps along her clavicles as Erin chokes on her own spit, “the way I've been daydreaming about for months. So soft you think you’re gonna die,” she whispers.
“Holtz-” Erin’s back is arching, her voice agonised. "Please-" Jillian lets her thigh press in, just slightly, feeling the wet kiss of Erin’s panties against her skin.
“And then-” she holds her body still, refusing Erin the friction she's chasing, “I’m going to fuck you all night, the other way I've been dreaming about: so hard and in so many ways you’re gonna forget your own name. Then-”
“Holtz,” Erin's eyes are half-lidded and fierce. “Holtz, I love you but if you don’t shut up and put your money where your mouth is, right the fuck now, I swear to god-”
“Right,” Holtz snakes her hand under Erin’s shoulders, unsnaps her bra with one hand and pulls it off down her arms. “Mouth on the money,” she tugs Erin’s underwear down her hips, drags them off, leaving her naked, a clear trail of slick moisture tracing the inside of her thigh. Holtz's mouth is suddenly parched at the sight and for a second she freezes again, until Erin moans her name and she reaches in and kisses it right off her lips, nuzzles her throat, tastes the shape of her nipples with her mouth.
Erin’s having none of it, her hands kneading at her shoulders, pushing her down.
“Not…” she gasps, “the moment for foreplay-”
Holtz pauses, thinks about teasing her some more but the blaze in Erin’s eyes stops her. For once in her life she does what she’s told.
Guys...I'm sorry finishing this took a million years. Life, jesus.
Thanks y'all for playing and for commenting and for saying hi. It's been so much fun! Have I mentioned recently how much I love this fandom? Thank you for all your excellent works...there's a few pieces out there that have blown my mind with your talent.
So much love <3
When Jillian wakes up, the first rays of sunlight are drifting through the blinds, long lines of golden light tracing over the sheets and the curves of the bodies beneath them.
She’s barely even dozed between sex and excitement and god knows she could do with a few more hours of sleep but her eyes alight on the woman held loosely in her arms and she’s wide awake all over again.
Erin Gilbert. The physicist looks uncharacteristically peaceful when she sleeps, a faint twitching of her eyelashes the only sign of the razor sharp brain whirring away inside her. Her hair is splayed in every direction, her lips kiss-swollen and slightly parted, love bites scattered across her bare shoulders. Holtz grins.
She wants Erin to wake up, wants to hear her voice, see her smile, taste her skin, watch her come again. She wants her to stay asleep so she can admire her privately, in detail. She wants to get up and work together, business as usual, only this time with teasing touches and stolen kisses. Holtz wants every kind of morning - sleepy and tender, hot and dirty, rushed and routine - all of it, right now, so badly she can’t pick.
She compromises by dropping a kiss into Erin’s mussed hair and gathering the sleeping physicist in closer, turning slightly so Erin’s face is nestled into her shoulder. She feels Erin shift, stretch slightly, then freeze, her breath catching. She feels the butterfly kiss of Erin’s eyelashes against her skin as her eyes open.
“Holtz…” she murmurs, “you’re still here.” There’s a faint note of relief evident in her voice. Holtz feels her heart stutter and she slips down from the pillow until their faces are aligned. Erin’s sleepy eyes meet hers.
“Yeah,” she says seriously. She runs her fingers through Erin’s tangled hair. “I am.”
Erin’s smile eclipses the sunrise.
They’re on a bust in an outdoor gardening store. They can’t get a grip on who or what the ghost is because it zips in a chaotic streak of green light, rapidly possessing one object after another. A wheelbarrow races toward them at speed, sending Abby flying into a shelf of azaleas. Patty yelps as she ducks a flying set of garden shears. Erin cowers behind a huge terracotta planter box, aiming her proton ray wildly and uselessly firing as several large spades are hurled toward her and clatter to the ground, just missing her head.
It’s then that a huge rhododendron shrub rears up out of its pot, its knotted roots acting like a hundred small legs. The branches whip at Holtz, lashing at her shoulders, grabbing and twisting in her hair. The other three race toward the struggling engineer firing wildly, but the possessed tree rears up and throws Holtz bodily into the goldfish pond with a huge splash, curling branches around her arms and holding her under as she thrashes.
Everyone is yelling at once, while Patty and Abby blast at the tree with their proton pistols. Erin sees white. She looks around wildly before grabbing up a fallen shovel, turning it on its edge and smashing it right through the trunk of the tree, splitting it in two. As the green flash of light hurtles for an escape it gets caught in the two proton beams and disintegrates in a burst of blue sparks. The shattered tree loosens into falling branches.
Holtz sits up in the pond, gasping for air and spitting water. There’s pond weed in her hair and livid scratches on her neck but she’s pink cheeked and wide-eyed and alive. She takes Erin’s hand and pulls herself out of the pond, water gushing from her jumpsuit as she steps out onto the concrete path.
“That was badass,” Patty’s eyes are wide. “Erin split a motherfuckin’ tree in half. Babe hulked out for you,” she tells Holtz. Holtz’s face splits wide in a grin, even as she coughs up more water. She doesn’t budge as Erin pulls twigs out of her hair, runs her fingers over her neck, checks her for other injuries.
“We’ll need to clean these-” the physicist frets, tracing her fingers worriedly across the edges of the scratches. “God knows what kinds of weird organisms are in this water. Probably fish germs.”
“Cool,” Holtz enthuses, wiping at her face. “Maybe I’ll develop super powers. Like spidey-senses but with gills.”
Erin laughs but she has sudden tears in her eyes and Holtz cups her face, still grinning.
“I’m okay,” she says. “Hulk girl.” She sees the close call reflected in Erin’s eyes and pulls her in against her wet body and kisses her.
Patty whoops; it’s been over a month since they started dating and this is the first time they’ve kissed in front of the other ghostbusters. Erin’s hands make fists of Holtzmann’s wet jumpsuit as she kisses her back, self-consciousness the furtherest thing from her mind as she reassures herself her girlfriend is alive. Soggy but alive.
“You taste like a fishpond,” she grimaces as she pulls back.
“Quit trying to steal my fish-spidey powers Gilbert,” Holtz accuses.
“Alright, c’mon gaybusters,” Abby looks equally amused and squicked out by the sight of her two best friends touching mouths. “We came, we busted, let’s go get our check.”
“But that’s crazy!” Erin spits. “The electromagnetic reversal of the leptons will only scatter the boson sections, not dissolve them! That’s so reckless! It’s like throwing ghost parts all over Manhattan!”
“Michigan, baby,” Holtz corrects, pausing long enough to point her pliers toward her. “If your theoretical ghost dismemberment were to happen, it’ll be in Michigan.”
“It’s not theoretical!” Erin frowns. “I have all the numbers right here!” she gestures at her whiteboard with both her arms.
“That’s not proof,” Holtz says stubbornly, picking up her soldering iron. The conflict doesn’t slow her down a smidge. If anything, she’s working faster. “It’s all just theory until we put it into practice. That’s what this upgrade is for.”
“Are you kidding me?!” Erin cries. “If I can write the equation for the speed of light right here, in simple inarguable hard data, you won’t believe me unless I build a circuit board from scratch and switch on a lightbulb? How about 2+2=4? You need me to show you that with blocks?”
Holtz puts down her soldering iron with a clatter. She’s on her feet and moving and Erin is standing her ground until suddenly she’s pressed up against the whiteboard and Holtzmann is kissing her furiously. She chokes out a cry of surprise and Holtz pulls back a couple of millimetres.
“Have I ever told you how sexy you are when you’re in snooty self-righteous professor mode?” her words are heated breath on Erin’s lips. “Ugh-“ she pulls her in for another kiss, fingers twisting in small circles in the centre of Erin’s t-shirt.
“What are you doing?” Erin gasps, wanting to be angry but the heat is rushing elsewhere at the ferocity of Holtz’s kiss.
“Imagining you’re in tweed again, Dr. Gilbert,” Holtz smirks. “Undoing your buttons,” her fingers trail, “untying your tiny bowtie…”
“You’re ridiculous,” Erin aims to sound huffy but it comes out breathless instead as Holtz’s fingers slip under her t-shirt and slide up her ribcage.
“And you love me, so who’s ridiculous now?” Holtz has Erin’s t-shirt tugged up halfway over her head before they hear the sound of Abby and Patty on their way up the stairs. Erin shoves her t-shirt back down at lightning speed and scrambles for the whiteboard marker she’d dropped when Holtz had grabbed her. Holtzmann leaps back to her workbench, innocently swinging around a wrench. Erin turns around to her calculations only to discover half of them are smudged into illegibility from where her back was pressed.
“Holtz!” she cries accusingly, just as the other ghostbusters arrive in the lab, hands full of takeout for lunch.
“What’s she done now?” asks Abby.
“Erin is clipping back my wings so my true creativity cannot soar,” Holtzmann jumps in first. Erin’s jaw drops. She can still feel the heat from Holtz’s lips against her throat.
“Holtzmann is insisting on endangering innocent people in Michigan,” she narrows her eyes. Abby pops a spring roll into her mouth, crunching and looking on amused.
“Naw, barely three months in and the honeymoon is over,” she cracks, elbowing Patty. Patty snorts.
“Are you serious? Look at them-“ she jerks her head at Holtz who’s smirking and dancing and building her lethal machine regardless, then over at Erin who’s clutching her marker ferociously, her cheeks flushed. “This is just foreplay for these nerds. Always has been.”
“Oh gross,” Abby grouses. “Why’d you have to put that thought in my mind?”
Holtz barks out a laugh and Erin scoffs but as they all swarm around the food for lunch and Holtz’s fingers pause to trail up her spine, she knows Patty’s right.
Erin has always looked spectacularly beautiful like this. There’s a red flush mottling her chest and neck, her blood racing beneath her hot skin. Her lips are parted, her mouth forming words that never come, just sounds that are more breath than syllables, more moans than consonants.
Her eyes are squeezed shut, her fingers hooking into Holtz’s collarbones, bracing herself against her chest as her hips roll to meet Jillian’s thrusts. Her legs are wrapped around the engineer’s body and Holtz can feel her heels digging into her back, pushing her deeper. There’s nothing but sweat between them as they clutch at each other’s bodies, the friction between them driving each other higher. It’s Holtz’s favourite way to fuck.
Erin’s eyes open on hers, the blaze in them almost sending Holtz over the edge. She finds herself pushed up and then down onto her back before Erin straddles her hips again. She watches her girlfriend’s face in hungry awe as she reaches back and guides herself back down onto the strap-on again, sinking firmly down onto Holtz’s hips and sinking her teeth into her lip as she readjusts to the new pressure.
There’s a pause then as they gaze at each other. Holtz knows she’s slack-jawed with lust, dizzy with love, and she’s pretty sure it’s not dignified. Erin breaks out in a small laugh, her eyes dancing.
“Like something you see?” she asks sweetly, slowly rocking her hips forward and Holtz dies. Dead. Right there. The pressure, right where she needs it. The view above her. The teasing in Erin’s voice, slightly gravelly from their sex marathon. A strangled moan is her only response. “Mmmpf,” Erin gasps in agreement.
“C’mere,” Holtz manages and Erin leans down, kisses her. Kisses her again. They get lost in sensation, open mouths, breathing each other in. Then Holtz slowly pushes her up and Erin leans back, bracing herself on her hands behind her and begins to move, Holtz writhing her hips into every thrust.
Erin’s crying out as the new shift in position hits her in just the right spot. Holtz has always been good at multitasking and while her left hand clutches Erin’s hip for purchase, her right slides down Erin’s body until her thumb is rubbing circles against Erin’s clit, just the way she’s learned her girlfriend needs it when she’s this close. The position is awkward, but she doesn’t need to sustain it for long because Erin’s whole body locks down, a strangled cry escaping her as she loses it fast, her hips jerking without rhythm, her back arching and thighs shaking and Holtz almost comes just watching her.
It takes a minute for Erin to unclench her body; she’s a shuddering, sweating, delicious mess. She winces as she lifts herself off and collapses against Holtz’s side. The engineer unstraps the harness and kicks it away to pull Erin flush against her. They’re both breathing hard, bodies slick with sweat.
“Water,” Erin groans and Holtz grins, sitting up to grab the bottle on her bedside table, watches as Erin’s throat curves back as she drinks thirstily, before handing it to Holtz.
“No wonder the others kicked us out,” she grins hazily as Erin rests her hot face on her shoulder.
“I’m not that loud,” the physicist protests. Holtz laughs, brushing her damp hair back from her forehead.
“Are you kidding? Starting to think two blocks away wasn’t enough. Any minute Abby’s going to text us to cut it out,” she flinches as Erin pinches her side.
It’s only their second week in their new apartment and there’s something luxurious about loud, lazy Sunday afternoons in bed without having to worry about traumatising their colleagues/roommates. Abby and Patty hadn’t exactly kicked them out but ten months of Erin and Holtz intermittently succeeding and failing at keeping their sex life quiet had gotten increasingly fraught.
Eventually Abby had sat them down and pointed out that the business was thriving, their government grants increased, Holtz’s patents were paying off and goddamnit they could all afford to at least risk renting their own apartments again like grown adults. Especially those of them who could do with a little privacy for god’s sake.
Holtz had tried to hide her sadness. She’d loved living like a family, not to mention that the idea of living in a whole different building to Erin after being used to having her down the hall was a blow. She’d been shocked and elated when Erin had shyly shown her a light filled eighth floor apartment around the corner from the lab and awkwardly suggested that maybe they…share it. Holtz had gripped her around the waist and spun her in circles while the real estate agent had averted her eyes and examined the paperwork and Holtz signalled her agreement with a thorough, back-bending and deeply wet kiss.
“Regretting moving in with me yet?” she teases Erin now, sliding her fingers down her back, making her arch like a cat. She still can’t believe that sensible, cautious Erin Gilbert would instigate a bold move like this. They haven’t even been together for a year and Dr Gilbert was nothing if not a slow and careful list maker and planner.
Erin shakes her head with a small smile and moves above her to kiss her throat, fingers trailing down her chest.
“Not yet…” she lets her fingers brush over Holtz’s nipple, hovering lightly, watching it harden under her attention. “How about you?” her fingers squeeze lightly, smile turning crooked as a small moan catches in the back of Holtz’s throat. “Commitment phobia got you running scared?” She grips a little harder, just the way Jillian likes it.
“T-terrified,” Holtz’s voice is slightly shaky, but they both put that down to the unintentional roll of her hips.
“Yeah?” Erin replaces her fingers with her lips and Holtz moans louder. And it’s funny, just how unafraid she is. After all her running, all her fear that she couldn’t do this, had never tried, didn’t know how…with Erin, it’s just easy. Because she wants this, like the air she breathes. As Erin’s lips dip lower, teasingly down her abs, she can’t even remember how it feels not to be in love with her, not to feel loved back.
Erin’s head dips lower and as her tongue takes a long, slow, meandering lick Holtz feels as well as hears the physicist’s hum of appreciation. Fucking Erin never fails to leave her soaking wet and she’s been worked up and wanting her ever since they’d been up that morning making pancakes together, Erin wearing just Holtz’s oversized t-shirt and nothing else. The weather had been slowly heating up again and their apartment was warm as the sun poured in through the big windows. They’d cooked and made coffee together, Holtz pressing Erin up against the counter to kiss her, groaning as she’d slid her hand under the shirt to find nothing but warm bare skin. She’d been on fire since then, because ten months of getting to touch her best friend - her still new girlfriend - is nothing. They’d eaten at their new dining table, Holtz making completely unsubtle eyes at her until Erin had laughingly finished up their already late breakfast from her lap, her mouth tasting like maple syrup. They’d gone back to bed immediately after.
And now Erin’s hands are sneaking back up her body to tug and soothe and pinch at her nipples and stroke her sides while her soft tongue slips against her, dips inside her, circles her clit in long lazy luxurious patterns and Holtz is worked higher and higher until she begins to feel explosions starting behind her eyes. Her toes are clenching and her back is arching and as the light teasing of Erin’s tongue remains ceaseless the explosions only build and she comes and then comes again.
As Erin wipes her wet face against Holtz’s trembling thighs and slides up her body to kiss her again and again, until their legs are tangled together and Erin is pressed against her, Holtz encouraging her movement of her hips against her thigh, kisses getting breathier, turning into gasps again, Holtz knows, as clearly as she’s ever known, that now she’s found her person, she’s never letting her go.
“Do you know what’s weird?” Lila asks, leaning in over her club soda and eyeing Holtz’s beer enviously.
“No one’s looking at us.”
“What do you mean?” Holtz frowns, looking up and scanning the room. “She is,” she nods her head toward a redhead over at the bar, lining up shots with her friends.
“Yeah, but in an aw cute kind of way, not in a fuck me, I’m gonna go home with her way.”
“Uh-” Holtz eyes her friend’s body and cocks her head. Lila throws her straw at her.
“I’m six months pregnant, I’m not a beast! Besides, no one’s checking you out either.”
“Okay that is not true,” Holtz’s jaw drops. “When I was buying our drinks this girl smiled so hard at me I almost yelled I have a girlfriend before she even walked over.”
“Yeah, but did she walk over?”
“Pffft,” Holtz waves her hand. “Unimportant.”
“This used to be our local sure thing. We both used to come here and have girls falling all over themselves for either one of us. What have our lives become?!”
“Our lives are awesome. You’re busy cooking my impossibly beautiful biracial godchild with Will and I’ve got Erin Gilbert,” she grins. Lila shakes her head.
“Ugh, that’s why no one’s trying to pick us up. I might be obviously someone’s baby mama but no one in the entire world is going to hit on you when you have smug practically-married written all over your ridiculous face.”
“Either that or people think I’m your wildly attractive baby daddy and you’ll explode in a hormonal rage if anyone tries to hit on me,” Holtz smirks.
“Oh sure,” Lila gets to her feet with a groan. “I’m gonna go pee again. If anyone tries to hit on you while I’m gone, I’ll give you fifty bucks, then call Erin.” She edges sideways out the booth. The redhead from the bar is there just as Lila turns to go.
“You guys are so cute,” she beams. “I mean, good on you both for leaving the house!”
Lila shoots her a horrified but victorious look and Holtz slumps back in the booth clutching her chest and laughing. She salutes Lila, knowing she wouldn’t trade her life now for every damn girl in the bar.
Summer’s in full swing again and the ghostbusters have claimed their favourite corner of the park with too many picnic blankets and several baskets full of food, drinks, books and a frisbee that Holtz may or may not have added a couple of high tech quirks to.
Kevin’s maybe sorta boyfriend (no one’s sure) is trying unsuccessfully to make friends with Mike Hat, while the tiny dog growls ferociously any time his fingers reach anywhere near him - or Kevin for that matter. Kevin himself is placidly munching on watermelon, breaking off small cubes for the tiny beast beside him.
Patty’s reading a huge hardcover book while Michael rubs her feet and Abby is curled on her side texting someone secretively on her phone.
Holtz is leaning back against a tree, Erin’s head resting in her lap. The physicist’s book has fallen aside and she’s drifting in and out of a doze in the heat. Holtz strokes her hair, then toys absently with Erin’s fingers of her left hand. There’s a very new, very shiny ring on her fourth finger. She sees Erin’s lips curve in a smile as Holtz traces her fingers over the sparkly rock there. Without opening her eyes Erin pulls Holtz’s hand to her mouth and presses it to her lips.
Holtz rests her head back against the tree and gazes across the green grass. She remembers the summer before, thinks about all the things that have changed and all the things that haven’t. It’s everything, but it’s also nothing at all. She closes her eyes, smiles, lets herself drift.