TITLE: Jill's Very Bad, No Good Day (aka Slow Spinning Redemption)
AUTHOR: Misty Flores
Fandom: Women's Murder Club
Spoilers: Episode 112
Teaser: When you're the surprise upset, no one takes it well.
Notes: Follow-up to "You Shook Me". A little more angst and a little less sex.
- So we're dating then. - Right. How do we do that?
Jill & Cindy, You Shook Me
Sleeping together can be an uncomfortable tangle of limbs and snoring.
Jill is a snuggler. She's almost ashamed to admit this, because it's disturbingly out of character, to anyone who thinks they know her.
For some reason, she's terrified that Cindy will think it weak.
Aside from a drunken moment of accidental tenderness earlier in the week, Cindy has never spent the night in Jill's bed. Not since the first night. Not since it was established that what it was they were doing was simply meaningless sex. Nothing more.
The first night Cindy held her; it was a gesture of friendship. Jill took it as such, mind swimming with the surprisingly fantastic orgasm at the hands of her little reporter friend, and the curious absence of post-Luke emptiness that usually happened after a quick fuck.
The evening Jill had torn Cindy away from a crime scene after a squabble with Lindsay, they had tumbled into bed with liquor soaked breaths and sloppy fiercely wet kisses that drifted from mouths to between each other's legs. Imbibed, sleep came upon them too quickly to really make sense of the naked, tangled embrace. Waking up with a headache jack hammering in her temples, left arm pinned and asleep, a redhead snoring in her ear, Jill hadn't known what to think.
Staring down blearily at her young live-in lover, Jill had gaped, dumbfounded at the utter tenderness and annoyance that coursed through her, because it was too damned early for this sort of introspective shit, and Cindy wasn't supposed to spend the night. And then sleepy brown eyes blinked at her, and she was caught up in a stinky morning breath soaked kiss, that led to what she and Cindy always seemed to do nowadays when they were alone, and not just because they could.
She was addicted. Sex with Cindy Thomas had gone from surprisingly fantastic to mindblowingly erotic, and Jill had no idea when the shift occurred, because a regular fuck buddy usually got boring. Getting each other off was always just getting each other off, and sometimes, if one got lazy, and knew how to do it, it could happen on autopilot. Human vibrators: that was part of the rules.
Jill realized early on that Cindy was just absolutely amazing at breaking rules. As insecure and unsure she could be out of bed, once her back hit the mattress, she knew exactly what to do with her little hands. She was attentive and aggressive. She knew when to bite and when not to. She matched Jill kink for kink, and whether Jill wanted slow or fast, she knew how to keep the rhythm. She approached sex with the insane focus, excitement and attention to detail she had with everything else, and what made it all even worse, it wasn't just the sex.
She liked Cindy. They had a good time. In bed or out of it, Cindy was actually pretty amazing for an annoying little reporter. Her fascination with the crazy Japanese obstacle course show Ninja Warrior had been horrifying at first, until she made Jill watch, and now evenings were reserved for sitting on the couch, conspirators in their guilt pleasure, eating take out, and watching athlete after athlete tumble off walls and ropes, into murky water.
She got to know Cindy. She saw her grumpy and saw her sad, witnessed her bitchy moments when she didn't wash her dishes, or when Jill made too much noise and Cindy had a deadline.
It was a Cindy that Lindsay or Claire didn’t see. These sights, domestic and sensual, were for Jill's eyes alone, and as a result, they produced the oddest primal instinct. Jill could get possessive when actual feelings were involved. She knew that. She had been possessive with Luke. Fiercely so. And Cindy was a friend who she was also sleeping with. So if she had taken the time to actually think about it, it wouldn't have been SO out of left field, for those feelings to explode the way they had.
But there were no flowery declarations. Jill's possessive streak extended to Claire and specifically to Lindsay to a sometimes unhealthy degree. The four of them were this little family (but God help anyone who called it a club), and Jill understood that caring for Cindy was a part of that. It was only natural to feel responsible for her. It was like that even before she moved in with her.
But … the extent to which she felt so protective and petty had been frightening. Because oddly enough, Jill found herself realizing that all of this, the domesticity and the casual affair, were comprised of moments that she didn't want the others to see. She didn't want Lindsay to see how beautiful Cindy could be when she nodded off over laptop, glasses crooked over her nose, eyes jerking open anytime her nose hit the keys. She didn't want Lindsay to ever understand what it felt like to tangle fingers into red hair and swallow down a tongue, groaning at the feel of Cindy's strapped on toy pushing into her so deeply. She hated the very idea of Lindsay ever coursing a thumb against sinfully soft skin or kissing the freckles across Cindy's nose, and she hated that Claire thought the idea was damned near inevitable. That all Lindsay needed to do was wake up and Cindy would be right there, still with that ridiculous crush, ready and waiting for whenever Lindsay stopped mooning over her married ex-husband.
She claimed Cindy before she was ready. She did it out of instinct. Out of pettiness. There were no carefully thought out conversations or declarations of feelings. She saw Claire's predictions coming true, and she hated herself for putting the thought in Lindsay's head, and instead of letting it happen, instead of stepping aside and considering that maybe this was something Lindsay might need, she grabbed hold of Cindy and staked her, branded her.
To hell with Lindsay. She needs Cindy too, and she has her. She had her first. Jill is in no mood to be big and selfless about this. She was sleeping with Cindy way the hell before Lindsay decided to wake up, and contrary to what Claire thinks, nothing is ever inevitable.
Now the promise of an uncomfortable conversation with both Lindsay and Claire lingers for tomorrow, and Cindy sleeps in Jill's bed for the first time sober, out of her own volition.
The very thought scares the hell out of her.
She wakes up with an obnoxious alarm clock buzzing in her ear, and an arm flailing against her mouth.
"Mmmph," she manages, before Cindy accidentally sinks her hand and her weight into Jill's stomach, earning a wheeze, before the snooze button is finally pressed, and her little lover collapses on top of her, red hair in wild disarray, nose squishing into Jill's left breast uncomfortably.
Flabbergasted, out of breath, and now with a surprisingly heavy woman collapsed on top of her, Jill wonders what the hell she's gotten herself into.
"It's 6:30AM," she rasps, wincing as she smells her own bad breath. Cindy just offers a muffled groan, short fingernails digging into her sides. Despite herself, Jill finds herself smiling. Digits come up to smooth red strands away from the pale face, revealing closed eyes and a scrunched nose nudging against her nipple. The sensation produces a slight shiver. "Come on."
Another groan, this one belligerent.
"Didn't you have an early deadline?"
That seems to do the trick. Lashes flutter, eyes open, and suddenly Jill winces again when Cindy uses her shoulders like a mat to do an impromptu push-up. "SHIT!"
She scrambles, shoving off her, nearly tripping off the bed, and Jill watches as she fumbles for her clothes, pacing around a room like a trotting horse.
"Fuck, I'm so late. I need five hundred words by ten-" She races for the door, suddenly pauses, and then turns back to regard Jill. After a moment, she darts forward, and with a quick lunge, smacks her lips against Jill's; a loud obnoxious kiss. "Sorry."
She darts out again.
Jill leans back against the pillows, smiling and overwhelmed and wonders if this is what dating Cindy Thomas is like.
They are supposed to do this together. It would be easier, Jill thinks, if they did this together, because she knows what Claire and Lindsay will say when she does this alone. She knows them, she's known them for years, and maybe if Cindy were beside her, if they saw them together, without hiding, they'd see that maybe it's not all just about fucking. If it was, Jill would have given her up to Lindsay without her mental hissy fit.
But Cindy has her deadline, and another crime story dropped in her lap that makes her unavailable, and Jill doesn't want to put this off any longer. She thinks Cindy sounds almost relieved when she gives her blessing over the phone for Jill spill the news, and that annoys Jill slightly.
"So what's up? You look nervous." Claire is blissfully oblivious, and Jill is grateful for it. It means things must be getting better at home. As much as Claire likes to mother them, Jill will always remember that Claire is just as flawed. Too many late nights have been spent in Claire's guest rooms, hearing raised whispers through thin walls to think otherwise.
She offers a smile, and swallows hard.
Beside her, Lindsay is wearing a grin, the type she hasn't seen in a while. Wishful thinking has Jill hoping it's because of a flirtation with Pete, a studly architect in a tie who introduced himself over a coffee and a muffin.
But Pete is only in town for two weeks and Lindsay declares a rushed romance not worth the effort.
"Must be big news."
"It's about Cindy," she tries, but doesn't get much further, because Lindsay snorts and puts her drink down.
"Oh no," the gorgeous Inspector starts. "She's kicked you out. What'd you do?"
"She didn't kick me out."
"Then she's about to," Claire surmises, and flashes a sympathetic grin. "I told you not to be bringing those boys over at all hours."
"I'm not bringing guys over," she protests, feeling her cheeks flush, because really, what the hell? Promiscuous okay, but does everyone think she's a slut? "Cindy is not kicking me out."
"Well, is something wrong?" Lindsay's jovial face drops immediately, and in its place she gets the concerned, intense stare that accompanies her 'guard dog' mentality she employs with Cindy Thomas. "She's not in trouble, is she?"
"Depends on how you look at it," she mutters against her breath, and presses her lips together, eyes down on the tabletop.
"Jill, now you're scaring me," she hears, and glances up to see two sets of brown eyes on her, concerned and questioning.
Inhaling, she lifts her head, and finally just says it. "I'm sleeping with Cindy. We're… dating."
At first, she's sure she just said it in her head, and not out loud, because no one says anything. Lindsay just continues to stare, uncomprehending, and Claire looks like she's just smelled something vile.
"That's it," she continues, feeling the heat invade her face again, and forces herself to remain calm. "That's all. I just thought you two should know."
"How long?" Claire's come to life, leaning forward with a hard glint in her expression.
"What?" she asks dumbly.
"How long have you been sleeping with Cindy?"
Resisting the urge to look at Lindsay, Jill answers calmly, "Since a few weeks after I moved in."
"You've been sleeping with Cindy for four months and you're just now telling us?" Claire's voice has gone high and angry, and Jill finds herself reacting with an angry glare.
"I'm sorry, Mom," she snaps, shoulders straightening. "I wasn't aware it was your business."
"You're sleeping with Cindy." Lindsay's voice is softer than she expects, and Jill has to bite the inside of her cheek to keep the guilty expression from surfacing. Her head twists, meets Lindsay's dark stare.
"I'm dating Cindy," she corrects softly, and she doesn’t want to see the quiet devastation. She wants to think Lindsay's interest in Cindy was simply her own jealous paranoia, but she's not imagining this. Not the way the brown eyes avert, or the sudden tremble of Lindsay's thin mouth, or the flat look of betrayal that flashes through Lindsay's face before her friend can cover herself and put it away.
She breaks the stare.
"Jill Bernhardt, if you were 'dating' Cindy Thomas seriously, it wouldn't have taken you four damned months to tell us." Claire's voice is angry. She's looking between her and Lindsay and there's a whole other unspoken conversation in the room, because in Claire's mind, she had already reserved Cindy for Lindsay. She was Lindsay's meant-to-be, and Jill knew that, and Jill had still interfered with her carefully nurtured PFLAG friendly plans.
Still, the tone of Claire's voice is insulting. "What's that's supposed to mean?"
"You know damn well what it means." Lindsay remains quiet, too quiet, but it doesn't stop Claire. "Why the hell did you seduce that girl?"
"Claire…" Lindsay begins softly.
She's unexpectedly hurt by the picture Claire is unintentionally painting, because yes, she may have seduced Cindy Thomas, but it wasn't LIKE that. And that's how Claire sees it.
"Cindy is twenty-six," she spits, voice rising despite their location. "That's not exactly a girl." She's trapped, with Lindsay beside her and Claire across from her and her heart bumping exceedingly fast. "She's an adult. She can make her own decisions, and she chose me."
It came out wrong. So very wrong. She doesn't help it by including Lindsay in the glare, and as the words sink in, she sees Lindsay wince, head sink low, palms pushing against the table.
Her phone beeps conveniently. Fumbling, Lindsay reaches for it.
"That's Jacobi," Lindsay says flatly. "I gotta go." Without looking at her, she promptly rises from the bench, leather clad shoulders pushing through the morning crowd in the direction of the exit.
Her insides clench, and Jill's eyes fill unexpectedly with tears. She blinks them back immediately.
"Don't," she hisses, the minute they're out of Lindsay's eyesight, because she knows what Claire is going to say.
"How can you do this to Lindsay?" Claire says anyway. "You know she was finally getting to the point where she could maybe-"
"What, finally give a crap?" Jill's inner lawyer breaks in despite herself. "I wasn't aware that she had some sort of layaway plan on Cindy. And I didn't see the 'Property of Lindsay' sign magic marker-ed on Cindy's forehead."
Claire's nostrils flare angrily. "You know damned well Cindy was nuts for Lindsay Boxer. All she needed was time."
"She had a crush," she insists hotly, more uncertain about that than she wants to be. "And she's over it."
"And you're so sure about that," Claire replies, clearly sarcastic. "That's why the minute Lindsay started showing interest; you panicked and peed on the girl."
Fuck. "That's not it, Claire."
"Do you love her?"
The question comes out of nowhere.
"God-dammit, Claire," she breathes, threading fingers through her bangs in an effort to do SOMETHING.
"It's been four months!" she snaps. "We're not there yet."
"It's Cindy Thomas," Claire spits, eyes flashing. "And you've been bragging non stop for months about your ten thousand one night stands and boy toys and the joys of being single."
She has. She knows it. Most of it's been lies. A cover up for every night she's gone out with a man and come home to Cindy, but there's no good way to explain that to married Claire.
"So because it's not love I can't possibly be serious."
"So it is serious."
She doesn't answer at first. Then, "Claire, Cindy and I are adults. What we do, what we have done? It doesn't matter if it's casual or serious or whatever, because it's between us."
"Then why the big announcement?" Claire just stares. "You know what I think?" she begins suddenly. "I think you seduced Cindy thinking it'd be an easy casual thing, and then it wasn't. And when Lindsay finally came out of her trauma induced Tom-fog, you panicked because you realized that they might have a chance in hell."
Maybe Claire hadn't actually meant it to sound like she and Cindy didn't, but… God. "Claire."
"Tell me it wasn't casual until just this week," Claire demands, voice low and flat. She leans over the table and arches a brow. "That up until now, you had a perfect fuck buddy, no strings attached, and you weren't perfectly happy with that."
She isn't aware she's actually close to crying, until an intrusive tear slips down her cheeks. She feels the moisture, and nearly chokes in surprise.
"I know you sleep around. I'm fine with that. When you cheated on Doctor Luke I didn't judge you. None of us did. Everyone makes mistakes. But I thought you knew when to draw the line, and Cindy? That's a line. Not just because of Lindsay, not even because of me. But because she's one of us. Even if you were just sleeping with her and didn't tell us, fine. But this? Grabbing hold of her just so Lindsay can't? Congratulations," Claire says flatly. "You've got yourself a relationship, Jill."
I hope it was worth it, is the unsaid statement, as Claire slaps a ten down on the table and moves off the bench.
Her phone rings. It's Cindy. She presses ignore.
As expected, Lindsay Boxers stays away.
In any other situation, Jill Bernhardt wouldn’t accept that. She's been known to camp out on Lindsay's porch, endure bitter cold and a sore butt just to wait for a smile from her close friend. She's been known to press a kiss against those firm lips when Lindsay's been feeling blue, and a couple years before, during a divorce and before Doctor Luke, they had done more than that.
Because she loves Lindsay. As flawed as Jill is, she knows and understands Lindsay's demons more than anyone else can, because there are just some things about yourself that you just have to learn to accept. Work around.
A potentially bad decision on a drunk night when Jill was desperate for release had started an affair with a young woman that Jill had admittedly known was crazy about Lindsay. Cindy Thomas was the worst potential fuck buddy for ten thousand complications, and not just because of Lindsay. She was young. She was a reporter (and Denise HATED her). They lived together. She was admittedly unsure of what they were doing. There were no defined rules, and the lines they had drawn kept getting rewritten in sand.
It doesn’t change the fact that whatever this was, now it's more. And Jill wants it. What's more? She doesn't know how to let it go. She's bases her facts on evidence and although Cindy has never vocalized her own intentions regarding what they do or where they are, the fact remains that in a moment of weakness, Jill gave her an out. She could have chosen Lindsay. She didn't. Whether or not Cindy meant it, particularly when the usually sharp reporter has obviously no clue that her previously one-sided feelings for Lindsay may in fact be reciprocated has nothing to do with it.
Lindsay is waiting for her by her car on the end of a very long day. For all her fierceness, her best friend wears her heart on her sleeve and the look of hurt vulnerability that shadows over her striking features makes her breathless.
Gripping her briefcase tighter, Jill takes a moment for herself, and then moves to the car, waiting for Lindsay to speak.
"You could have just told me," Lindsay blurts, shifting uneasily on booted feet and pushing off of Jill's car door.
Jill exhales slowly. "You're right, I should have. For a while, I wasn't sure there was anything to tell."
Her friend studies her, brown eyes flickering with depth. "So the other day, when you told me that she had a crush on me."
"That was true."
"You were sleeping with her."
"Also true," she concedes.
"You made me look like an idiot, Jill."
"Why?" Her tone is so even she feels almost outside of herself. "All I said was not to go overboard. I didn't tell you to ask her out. Cindy has her own mind and she makes her own decisions."
Apparently, logic doesn't suit Lindsay Boxer. "Don't lawyer me with this, Jill." The other woman looks suddenly furious. "One day you're telling me that Cindy's got a crush on me and the next you're announcing that you've been sleeping with her for months. What the fuck is wrong with you?"
And that's the question of the day. Unable to help it, Jill's eyes suddenly sting, and she stares into the face of her best friend, and can no longer be calm or assertive.
"I don't know," she admits, suddenly soft. "I didn't tell you because at first it seemed like there was nothing to tell… I thought I could let her go, Lindsay. Hell, for you I'd do anything-"
A shiver goes up Lindsay's spine; she's insulted. "You know what? Don't do me any favors."
"Lindsay." The word comes out choked.
A finger gets pushed in her face. "If you hurt her?" Lindsay enunciates, hard and angry, "I will be pissed. Do you understand that? This isn't just some random guy I'm going to just listen to you brag over and let you cheat on or step over. This is Cindy."
"I know its Cindy," she snaps, eyes glittering at the threat. "I know exactly who she is, I live with her, remember?"
Lindsay does remember. The finger comes down, and those dark orbs grow even darker. The shoulders slump and she looks away.
"You could have just TOLD me," Lindsay says hoarsely, shrugging and shaking her head. "Hell, I would have been happy for you."
But the good Inspector is walking away now, away from her car, leaving her behind.
Over the course of the day, Cindy has called four times, and texted three.
Jill has not returned a single call or text.
She inserts the key into the apartment door, and pushes it open to discover her young lover actually pacing, teeth gnawing on her bottom lip. Upon sight of her, brown eyes widen in relief and narrow in anger.
"What the hell?! You're ignoring me now?" Cindy bursts, steering around the couch to meet her halfway, seconds before she actually faces Jill up close and sees her expression. Her face freezes. "What happened?"
Jill takes the time to look, really look, into a young face, with freckles covered by foundation and wide brown eyes fringed by mascara dyed lashes.
She struggles with her words. "Nothing," she says finally, and attempts to move out of the way. "I've just had a bad day."
Slender fingers descend on her wrist, keep her from moving. "Jill."
"Cindy." She's frustrated. She wants to get away from her, and yet she can't. Cindy isn't moving. "It's just been a long day."
"You didn't call me back. Not once. Claire calls me and acts like she's part of the Spanish Inquisition, and Lindsay bites my head off the second I call her for a lead - what did they tell you?" Her Irish anger is showing, in the hard tone of her voice, the angry curl of her lips.
She feels that loyal urge to protect her friends. "Nothing."
"I should have been there with you."
"Cindy," she stops her, and offers a tired smile. "It's none of their business."
"Well, maybe it's mine," Cindy continues, obviously stuck on this. "What exactly is their problem?"
Feeling tired, Jill offers a smile that is both muted and bittersweet. "Maybe they wanted you to end up with someone else."
"Maybe I don't give a fuck about what they want," Cindy snaps, her youthful energy rising in her blazing eyes, before her tenderness takes over, and suddenly she's staring up at Jill again. "God, you really have had a really crappy, no good day, have you?"
Her palm rises to Jill's face, and it's tender and sweet and nothing like anything Cindy's ever done before.
The action confuses her; frightens her. "Do you really want this?"
Cindy blinks, uncomprehending, hand still against her cheek. "Want what?"
"I'm still the same person you know, Cindy," she begins, suddenly rambling. "I'm the girl that fucked up on Luke. I'm the one who banged a defense attorney on my desk. I'm still afraid of commitment and I don't want to get married. I still don't want kids, and I still don’t want to define where this is going."
There's a terrible moment, when Cindy puts her hand down, and crosses her arm, rolling back on her heels as she takes in the information and processes it.
"Okay," she says finally, nodding lightly. "So that's what you don't want. What do you want?"
The question nearly does her in. "It shouldn't just be about what I want," she manages. "You deserve more than that."
Cindy absorbs that, looking young and wise, and exhales through her nose, cocking her head as she studies her. "Okay," she says bluntly. "This is what I want. I want you to take my calls, if you can, and when you can't, I want you to return them. I want you to be okay with me not wanting to define everything right away because I'm 26 years old and not looking for marriage or babies. And what I really want is just to be able to put my arms around you when you've had a bad day, and try and make you feel better. Because that's what you do when you're friends. And when you're dating."
It's different from every other relationship that Jill has been in, because Luke wanted marriage and he wanted babies, and he wanted co-habitation and everything outside of her comprehension.
Cindy Thomas seems to be happy with just her.
"Jill?" Brows rise in challenge. "Think you can handle that?"
"Yeah. I'm good with that," she manages, because she is okay with that, and then Cindy's arms come up around her, and a warm body presses tightly against hers. Jill's eyes close helplessly, and arms slip around Cindy's shoulders, and her nose inhales the familiar scent of her roommate and lover. She holds her tighter than she means to, and the way her heart trembles takes her by surprise, but for the first time since this morning, she feels loved in spite of herself and her flaws.
Maybe even because of them.
Soft lips brush gently across the corner of her mouth. "I'm sorry you had a bad day," comes the whispered murmur.
Her lips quirk and she sighs. "That's okay." The corners of her eyes crinkle as she pulls back slightly and lays a palm across Cindy's cheek, thumb across her mouth. "It's getting better."
Claire comes into her office the next morning, wearing an expression that is quietly neutral.
"Cindy Thomas has quite a temper," she says as she closes the door.
Heart awkwardly in her throat, Jill puts her pen down. "I know."
Claire's smile is small. "So it would seem. She really let me have it. Said she didn't know what I said to you but it made you upset and you were both in this 'relationship'," she punctuated that with air quotes, and Jill found herself blushing. "And she was a) not twelve and b) quite capable of making her own sex related decisions." The other woman sighed, and crossed her arms, observing Jill sagely. "Apparently you were the only one who understood that."
Jill glances at her desk.
"I owe you an apology," Claire begins, settling across from her, brown eyes warmer than they were the day before. "I asked you a lot of questions and I neglected to ask the only one that was important."
Feeling vulnerable, Jill eyes her. "What's that?"
"Does she make you happy?"
It's a loaded question, but Jill has memories of the night before, and a loving embrace. A long bath and the simple feel of Cindy Thomas stretched against her, holding a wine glass above the bubbles and laughing as Jill rubbed soapy suds over her wet skin.
"Yes," she admits. "She makes me happy."
Claire looks at her, studies her with a doctor's observation, and then smiles. "Okay."
"Okay," she repeats, because there's been too many questions to come out of it that easy.
"Yes," Claire nods firmly. "Okay. You make her happy. She makes you happy. I've got no business interfering with that. No one does."
Maybe just one person. Jill swallows hard, and tries to ignore the tightness in her chest. "But Lindsay-"
"-will get over it," Claire interrupts smoothly, rising and leaning over to press a gentle kiss to Jill's temple. "And who's to say she deserves it more than you?"
A flush of bittersweet empathy invades her, but something distracts her. "I make her happy?"
Claire just smiles a quiet grin, and with that, heads for the door. "Meeting at four. I've found something and I want everyone to hear it."
Thunderstruck, Jill just sits, unable to concentrate on her paperwork, until the chirp of her phone ringing distract her from her sudden introspective thoughts.
The caller ID read Cindy Thomas.
She answers it.