Author: Misty Flores
Fandom: Women's Murder Club
Archiving: Ralst, my own site eventually.
Thanks to: revolos55 for the beta read!
Teaser: Cindy knows why the caged bird is really pissed off, when she's brought home to Lindsay's house to recover from her gunshot wound.
Notes: I'm wanking. I'm fudging with the time line. I’m pretending that Lindsay actually gave a damn after Cindy got shot. Just go with it. ;-)
Notes 2.0: Written for International Femslash Day.
When Lindsay Boxer, thin-lipped and crabby, showed up on the afternoon of her scheduled release date and told her she would be taking her home, Cindy Thomas was surprised, to say the least.
She had expected Jill, or Claire. Not Lindsay.
Not because she didn't want to see Lindsay, but Lindsay had been distant lately. She had been the first one to bail on her after she had been shot. She had visited only sporadically in the week that followed.
And of course, Cindy understood. She was slightly bitter about it, but she understood. Because Lindsay had Pete. Her perfect studmuffin. The guy who was apparently so good in bed Lindsay was totally okay with leaving her all high and medicated and sporting a hole in her chest, to go on a freaking date.
But it wasn't like Cindy had actually died or anything. And Lindsay wasn't ever going to suddenly break character and sit at her bedside, clutching her hand and telling her how much she never realized she really meant to her. The hurt (and jealousy, if she was going to be truly honest), was unreasonable. And stupid. And it made Cindy feel like a naive fifteen year-old-girl with a crush on her teacher.
Besides, the morning of her scheduled release from a hospital bed that felt more like a prison cell, Cindy was way more antsy just to get home than anything else. In the hospital, nurses watched her like hawks and 'frowned' upon after hours cell phone use and restricted her computer access. Doctors checked up on her with charts and her friends thought it perfectly reasonable to treat her like her brain had been shot instead of her chest. They also tried to treat her like she was twelve, and acted like she couldn’t think for herself, and Cindy Thomas was damn well aware of her own body's limitations, after all. She was pretty sure that neither Claire or Jill had ever been shot period, and not even Lindsay had been shot in the chest.
The hospital sucked. Home was better. Home in her shabby apartment where she could sleep off the exhaustion, and then throw out her codeine and bury herself in work and feel USEFUL again. Back to normal. Back to walking down hallways with Lindsay and solving cases and being the awesome Robin to Lindsay's Batman, pulling leads and finding murderers and not lying in a stupid bed thinking about near death experiences and second chances and telling brunette inspectors how she really felt, underneath all this friendship and murder.
So it was jarring, to be expecting a cab (because Claire had bodies pilling up, and Jill had court, and she didn't even ask Lindsay), and instead discover Lindsay, in her leather jacket and jeans, talking to the doctor and flashing her badge and looking at charts.
"Come on," Lindsay said, wheeling in the wheel chair that was the mandated exit vehicle for guests of the fine sterile establishment. "I'm taking you home."
Only Lindsay seemed to have the capacity to strike her speechless.
She did recover, however. She asked the hovering nurse to cancel the cab, and thanked her grouchy friend with a smile, one that Lindsay barely returned. The way she kept checking her phone told Cindy it had been a long day.
Lindsay grabbed hold of her elbow, carefully led her away from the mandated wheelchair, put her in her jeep, threw her bag in the space at Cindy's feet, and started the ignition. Even as they ventured in the opposite direction of Cindy's apartment, it didn't process in Cindy's still-medicated brain that when Lindsay said 'home' she actually meant her home.
Lindsay didn't speak. Cindy, rubbing self consciously at the bandage underneath her shirt felt quietly unnerved. Nudging the duffel bag with her foot, Cindy's curiosity got the better of her.
At a stop light, she pulled it to her lap, and when Lindsay arched a challenging brow, Cindy found herself opening it.
She blinked. "This is my clothes."
"No kidding," came the dead-pan response.
"Why are my clothes in your duffel bag?"
Lindsay put on her signal, and turned right.
They pulled in front of Lindsay's house, and without a word, Lindsay unbuckled her seatbelt and opened the door, sliding out and heading around the car.
Cindy Thomas stayed put, flabbergasted and not assuming anything, until her inspector friend opened the passenger door, lifted an irate eyebrow and like the worst nursemaid ever, said, "Well? Are you coming or what?"
The inner sanctum.
Months ago, Cindy stood in this very living room, feeling proud and cocky and so excited it was embarrassing, because she was in. She had somehow convinced Lindsay Boxer that she was worthy enough to be in her house, somewhere she knew for a fact no reporter had ever been, much less a junior reporter who had just been bumped up to the crime desk and seemed to only annoy Lindsay to death.
Maybe the hero worship had died (not really) and maybe now she understood that Lindsay wasn't just this really hot, ball-busting inspector who didn't talk to reporters (even though she talked to her, had talked to her from the moment they met). That didn't change the fact that Cindy, weak and in pain and somehow still unable to stop the thoughts that came lightning fast, found herself quietly thrilled by the fact that Lindsay had seen fit to bring her here.
The soft moment of bubbly giddiness faded in favor of genuine panic. All the near-death second-chance introspection had only succeeded in making things fuzzy, and Cindy had quite firmly decided that Lindsay did not need to know a thing about that. Lindsay was happy. For the first time in forever. With a man. With Pete.
So why was she not with Pete and here with Cindy instead, letting her into her home and holding a duffel bag of what turned out to be her things?
"Is this okay?" Lindsay stood uncomfortably in the center of the living room, looking down on her with obviously worried dark eyes.
It occurred to Cindy that she had yet to say a word since Lindsay had closed the door.
"Oh," she breathed, and sunk down on the sofa, exhausted beyond belief. "Yeah," she managed, and tried for a smile to reassure her suddenly insecure friend, despite the fact she was flabbergasted herself. "Thanks."
Shifting on her heels, Lindsay slid her palms in her back pockets and glanced around the living room, as if she were seeing it for the first time. She leaned forward on compulsion and straightened a frame sitting on the end table. The picture was of Martha.
Cindy couldn't help a small smile at Lindsay's expense.
"You know you didn't have to," she continued, raspier than she intended. Strands of brunette curls bounced across a leather clad shoulder, coal dark orbs shifted in her direction, and Cindy smiled, bittersweet at her friend's unconscious beauty. "Bring me here," she elaborated, when Lindsay didn't respond. "I would have been fine on my own."
Lindsay seemed absorbed, mind working a mile a minute behind the long stare she was giving Cindy. "I know," she said finally. "But at least here I can keep an eye on you. Make sure you take your meds and stay in bed like the good doctor ordered."
Cindy couldn't help snorting at that. The good doctor indeed. "Believe me, I'll handle myself. I want to get better." Anything to get over the itchy burn in her chest, the hollow pain and the urge to smack the idiotic doctor every time he told her how 'lucky' she was. Yeah, really lucky, to get shot in the chest by a freak gunshot wound in the middle of a crowd, choking on your own blood. She was as lucky as a damned leprechaun.
"Right," she heard, and glanced up to see a disbelieving expression on a beautiful face. "I would have taken a day or two-"
But her phone rang, and Lindsay grimaced automatically in reaction, unbuckling the phone from her belt and glancing quickly at the screen.
Despite the fact that she was recovering from a gunshot wound (and certainly felt it), Cindy was unable to keep from asking, "What is it?"
Lindsay shot her a hooded, suspicious gaze.
"I'm just asking!" she muttered, feeling irritated. "Geez."
"You're staying put," Lindsay said firmly, hands moving to her hips, sliding the phone back in her belt. "I bought some food. Cans of soup and stuff. You know where the TV is." She hesitated, and sounded almost apologetic as she continued, "But I..."
"You gotta go," Cindy said, nodding immediately. "I get it."
Lindsay looked grateful, and despite the pain, Cindy smiled. "Is there anything I can do?" Please, she thought.
"No," came the short response. "I'll be at work, but you've got my cell phone number."
"Of course," Cindy nodded. Programmed into her phone as 'Lindsay' only a day after they met.
"And… you know… Martha's here."
The dog in question was already settled gamely beside her on the couch, tail wagging, chin happily placed on her thigh.
"And…" Lindsay waved her hand, as if presenting the house, and offered an adorably shy, frustrated glance. "The place is yours."
Cindy wasn't sure if Lindsay really meant that. If there was anything about Lindsay she did know, it was that she was an extremely private person. The fact that Cindy was here at all... it was huge.
Bigger than huge.
She blamed the sudden tears in her eyes on the stupid medication.
"Thanks," she said, as sincerely as she could, and was rewarded with a delicate smile across thin lips. "You honestly don't have to worry about me."
In response, Lindsay pulled a prescription bottle out of her pocket and pointedly placed it on the coffee table. "Use my bed," she said explicitly. "Get some rest. I'll call you if I run late."
"Don't bother," Cindy drawled, fully aware that if there were any breaks in Lindsay's current homicide investigation she would not be calling in at all. "I'll be fine." To enunciate her point, she patted the head of the lumbering animal still ensconced in her lap. "I've got company."
Lindsay once again stared at her, and then backed away from the living room, heading out of the house and off to do what Lindsay did best.
More than anything, Cindy wanted to go with her.
Her editor became a human being long enough to tell her to 'get some rest' and then promptly gave her three assignments that she could do in between weaving in and out of consciousness.
Cindy was actually happy about that. Even if the medication was supposed to knock her unconscious, it did little to stop her brain from rampaging on. The result was a convoluted assortment of dreams that both freaked her out and befuddled her.
In half of them, she was just shot and killed. One time, she ventured into Hades afterwards in search of Persephone, who looked a helluva lot like Jill with long hair. There was also an inappropriate sex dream about Lindsay that, when she woke up, made her even more uncomfortable because she was in Lindsay's bed.
When she was awake, she was bored out of her mind. Too tired to read, too exhausted to watch television, she could only lie in Lindsay's bed, stare at the ceiling, and scratch at Martha's nape, until she drifted off into her euphoric dreams yet again.
And still, it boggled her that out of her three closest friends, it was Lindsay who had elected to bring her home. Because, really, who elected Lindsay the nursemaid anyway? She made a horrible patient, but worse was Lindsay herself. She distinctly remembered two months ago witnessing Lindsay fighting the flu and sounding raspier than usual (and not in a sexy way). Even though her nose was beet red, and her eyes were eternally watery, she refused to stay home until she had passed on her sickness to an ungrateful Jacobi, and was forced to by Tom, who threatened her badge. Cindy remembered stopping by the house that day to walk Martha, and nearly dragging Lindsay back into her bed, force feeding her chicken soup, and actually snapping at the good inspector to stop being such a baby and take her damned Nyquil.
That made Lindsay's veiled threat in the form of a voicemail that Cindy 'better be taking it easy' seem hypocritical and annoying.
Awake and lucid long enough only to notice the missed call and resulting voicemail, Cindy had actually been sorry she had slept through the ringing. Lindsay was obviously after something if she called to say she wasn't coming home until late, and Cindy was desperate to know what it was.
Hearing the patronizing threat, however, Cindy was not sorry that she had drooled on Lindsay's pillows.
Torn from slumber when a body flopped onto the bed, Cindy awoke with a yelp in her throat, and a wince of pain, jerking so fast she immediately got dizzy.
Barely visible in what little light was in the room; Lindsay was now scrambling off the bed.
Rubbing at her eyes and trying hard to push past the medicated haze she was enduring, Cindy glanced at the clock.
It was after three AM.
"I'm so sorry," rasped the shadow of Lindsay Boxer. "I forgot you were in here."
Of course she did.
Exhausted, half asleep, and uncaring of what it would look like, Cindy lifted up the blankets, revealing an empty side, and flopped over, giving Lindsay room to lie down.
"I drooled on your pillows," she announced thickly, when a minute later, Lindsay sank into the offered space.
She was out before she could hear Lindsay's response.
She shivered awake at six AM, hugging the corner of Lindsay's queen sized bed. Lindsay had stolen all the covers, and Martha, not one to be left out, had wedged in between them and spread out sideways, nearly shoving her off the mattress as a result.
Lindsay's back was to her, but the exhausted (and toasty) inspector was audibly snoring.
It was a bad sign that Cindy actually thought that was cute.
Her chest ached from the uncomfortable position, and although she was still dizzy, Cindy's mind was already working, as if her brain was grateful to be released from the fog of her doctor's prescription, digging deep for whatever it could have lost in her hours of slumber.
Martha, sensing her return to the living, whined.
Grimacing, Cindy swung her feet over the side of the bed, and bracing herself, pushed up. Panting through her nose, she gritted her teeth, and pressed her palm against her chest, trying hard to regain her balance when a sharp pain spiked.
Casting a suspicious glance behind her, she limped out of the room, grateful when she reached the kitchen. Lindsay's kitchen, which looked remarkable and pristine and like it was never used.
Martha followed, pink tongue lolling out and glancing up expectantly.
Lindsay's better half let her butt do a little wriggle, and then ventured a few steps to the door, offering a pathetic sounding whine.
Cindy actually hesitated. "Listen, buddy. I would, but..." Another whine. "Seriously. Your mom would kill me."
Martha barked. Cindy deflated. "You are my kryptonite," she informed the dog gravely. Resigned, she spied a leash hanging with some extremely unused aprons. "Let's go," she said.
Twenty minutes later, she staggered in to find a coffee kettle whistling and a glowering inspector seated at the kitchen table.
"What part of 'take it easy' was so difficult to understand?"
"Morning!" she said, as cheerily as she could, despite the fact that she couldn't hide the wince that came when she bent down to unclip the leash from a happy Martha's collar. "I didn't want to wake you."
That didn’t help. Long, slender fingers wrapped around her wrist as curled fingers lifted under her chin. Dark eyes inspected her furiously. "Am I gonna have to handcuff you to the damned bed?"
Lindsay Boxer's accent got so much deeper when she was upset.
Cindy suspected Lindsay would not want to know that. "Is there coffee?" she asked hopefully.
Lindsay stared in angry silence. Following Martha's lead, Cindy adopted what she hoped was a charming grin.
"The doctor said no caffeine." But the arm dropped, and Lindsay instead reached for a glass of juice she had already poured. "Drink this."
Maybe the walk was stupid. Cindy could barely settle down in the chair without flopping over like a sand bag. "Thanks," she muttered, and raised the glass to her lips. She was suddenly exhausted.
The whistling of the kettle stopped. Cabinets opened and closed roughly. The dull thud of a mug landed on the counter.
"So um... how's Pete?"
The attempt at conversation was ill met. Lindsay's thumping only got louder. "I haven't seen him in a couple days."
"Oh." Cindy suddenly felt idiotic. Of course she wouldn't. Cindy was here. Lindsay had been working all day... working on a case. A big one. "You know, I'm really okay, Lindsay. I don't have to stay here-"
A coffee mug slammed down on the table, making her jump, and wince in reaction. Lindsay glared at her. "You can't even stay in the damned house when I tell you to."
Well, if Lindsay could point out the obvious, so could Cindy.
"If I stayed in my own place I could have my own bed and I wouldn't feel the need to say no to the sweet, sweet dog that needed to go out."
"If you stayed in your own place, you'd be back at the Register by now, seeping blood and being damned stubborn," Lindsay growled, and took a swig of bitterly hot coffee, wincing in reaction.
"I didn't ask you to bring me here," she snapped, meaner than she intended.
That flippant statement stalled the conversation, as Lindsay's mouth twitched, and her eyes grew hooded, dark. "There's the door." Lindsay waved a hand toward the entrance, staring her down like a disgruntled pit pull. "Good lucking getting one block if you can't even walk the damned dog without getting winded."
So apparently, she had hurt Lindsay's feelings. Feeling suddenly like an asshole, Cindy's shoulder's slumped. Her eyes drifted to her juice. "Look, all I'm saying is I'm not an invalid. Maybe I would be able to help. Maybe I need to help." Dark eyes drifted toward her, then looked away.
Cindy blinked, startled when she realized that Lindsay was now actively sulking.
"Lindsay, I’m sorry. It means a lot that I'm here." She just wished she knew why she was here.
"How's that thing?"
Lindsay's eyes suddenly lifted, index finger pointing to Cindy's chest.
"That thing? You have the worst beside manner ever," she replied helpfully. "Are you usually this charming in the morning?"
Lindsay ignored her. "Do you need help changing it or anything?"
Really, who could resist such a sweet and generous request?
"I'm good," she remarked dryly, sipping her juice like a five-year-old. "Thanks."
They dissolved into grouchy silence.
"So I guess you're feeling better," Cindy heard, and lifted her eyes to see Lindsay now fiddling with her coffee cup. "If you were up and around."
"It hurts more than I thought it would." The admission was honest, and Cindy's small smile was pained. "But yeah. I guess that means I can go home, you know?"
Lindsay's eyes jerked to hers. "No," came the flippant response. "The doctor said a least a week at home."
The frustration built up all over again. "Shouldn't that be my decision?"
"Then go." Lindsay swallowed another gulp of coffee. "I'm not forcing you, but I am telling you. You stay, you get better, you get back into the swing of things when you're ready. And the doctor clears you for it. You go home? Good luck talking to any of us."
The meaning was clear. "You're black-balling me?!"
"I'm taking care of you."
"You're treating me like I'm five."
"You got SHOT IN THE CHEST, Cindy!" The shout burst into the small kitchen like an explosion, and it made Cindy jump. "Do you get that? Do you understand that you could have died? That you did die? For thirty seconds? Your heart actually stopped. And now you're weak and pale. So stop treating this like it's a damned paper cut and get better so we can use you."
Use her. What a fitting term.
The itch in her chest agreed. The walk had made her woozy, her stitches burned, but god-dammit, Lindsay was keeping her from something. That was the only explanation. "You need to tell me what's going on."
Lindsay's lips quirked, but she didn't answer. Instead, she took another swallow of coffee, and drained the rest in the sink. "I brought home some soup from Papa Joe's," she said instead. "I'll heat it up for you before I go. Claire's checking in on you at ten. Go to bed, Cindy."
"You're seriously not going to tell me."
Lindsay didn't answer. Cindy inhaled deeply, but at least the burning result was a welcome distraction.
She slept through Claire's visit, but the evidence of the medical examiner's attentions was impossible to miss. Cindy had woken up wearing a clean, sweat-free shirt, and a sparkly new bandage expertly applied. There was also a voicemail from Lindsay, who sounded harried and tired and announced she wouldn't be home until late, but would try to check in. She didn't, however, miss Jill's call, late that afternoon.
"Why did she bring me here?"
Jill was quiet, and then issued a deep throated chuckle. "You two are exactly alike," she remarked, and Cindy rolled her eyes, picking at the chicken soup that had been waiting for her on the stove top. "Are you incapable of just lying in bed and getting hooked on a soap?"
The thought made her curl her mouth in disgust. "I went online and watched South Park."
"Of course you did," Jill answered, sounding distracted. "Cindy, seriously. You had a gunshot wound to the chest. You need to rest. Claire said you were out like a light this morning. She had to manipulate you like a puppet."
The thought was embarrassing. "I drooled on Lindsay's pillows."
"She told me," came the amused response.
"Did she tell you she threatened to blackball me if I left her house?"
Jill paused. "That does seem excessive."
Cindy groaned, and pushed away her soup. "You know, if I could stop my brain? I would. But the medication that dumb doctor gave me just makes feel like I'm on a ship and I'm high and seasick to boot. And the stitches hurt, but... it's manageable. I'm awake. I'm lucid. I'm crawling out of my skin. And soaps drive me crazy. I get really annoyed. The writing is horrible. And Lindsay just has basic cable. Which means I can watch Happy Days reruns or something called 'It's Me or the Dog' on Animal Planet."
"Fascinating," Jill said dryly.
"Try excruciating," she mumbled. "So I'm grouchy and bitchy and being driven out of my mind, and Lindsay holding me captive in her house is not helping. It's making me paranoid. It's making me suspicious."
"Suspicious about what?"
"She's stayed out late all night. She came home exhausted. She hasn't seen Pete once in the past three days and you couldn't shut her up about him before. She's got that LOOK in her eyes that happened when Agent Ashe was around, and I know that means something. I know you guys are working on something big."
"That's quite a leap, Lois Lane." But Jill's voice was way too purposely casual.
"And you're evading. What's going on? Who's to say I can't do anything here? I've got a phone. I've got a computer. I can do something!"
"Down girl." Jill's voice was laced with amusement. "I'm under strict orders not to let you near this one."
That was idiotic. And frustrating.
"I can help," she pointed out again. "Whatever it is, this is bothering her. It's bothering you. It must be bad. And knowing all that, I can't just sit here locked up in Lindsay Boxer's house, doing nothing but watching The Price is Right and gagging over cheesy love scenes on The Bold and the Beautiful."
Jill went silent.
"If you don't tell me I'm going to snoop," she promised. "I'm going to call everyone and annoy them into submission."
"Good luck. After all these months, we've built up a tolerance."
"Jill," she started, serious now. "What is it?"
"Stay out of this one. When you're ready, we'll tell you."
"That's not your call to make."
"Lindsay seems to think it is."
"Lindsay doesn't own me."
"No, but she knows you."
That gave her pause. "What does that mean?"
"Seriously, Cindy. Get some rest."
Cindy was starting to hate that sentence. And she was starting to hate Lindsay.
Black stitches stretched across her pale skin like a spider, and the sooner she could move, the sooner she could work, she could move past it.
Cindy needed to work. It was not a luxury. It was a welcome focus for her mind.
Trapped in a house and barely able to move, Cindy wrote her articles and let herself stew.
Feeling petulant, she began to make good on her promise to snoop, and ventured room to room, sneaking out snippets of Lindsay's life like treasures. She dug through her drawers and looked through photo albums. She went into her desk, and dug through Lindsay's medicine cabinet and did everything she shouldn't have done when she was a guest in Lindsay's house, and she didn't feel bad about it.
In fact, looking at pictures of Lindsay's father, and articles carefully clipped of his arrest and release, seeing old wedding pictures of her and Tom, it just all made her more mad.
She and Lindsay had their differences, but when it came to their work, she had always thought they were the same. It was why Cindy had chosen Lindsay. Why she had relentlessly pursued the brave Inspector even if she was rebuffed time and time again. She needed the story, just like Lindsay needed the killer, and they made a damned good team.
She thought Lindsay understood. She thought Lindsay felt that too, the spark that came from meeting someone who was just like you, who finally understood the need to see things out, finish them. Who let their work take over their lives and thought it was okay because some things were just BIGGER.
What was she doing here? Why was she here, cooped up in a house that wasn't hers, blocked from her contacts under the penalty of a badge?
When she finally discovered, after a slow roam down the hallway, a rope hanging from the ceiling, she was too furious to even think about boundaries.
Curiosity overcame exhaustion, and despite the burning itch in her chest and the dizzy sensation that fogged her brain, she pulled on it, inching up the ladder that came down under the watchful eyes of Martha, who wagged her tail uncertainly as she watched her disappear into the attic.
When Lindsay came home, Cindy was seated at the kitchen table, looking pale and tired, and picking at sections of a peeled, but uneaten orange.
Martha had settled on the tile, lazy and comfortable enough to reveal that she had been that way for a while.
Cindy's sore throat closed up when Lindsay saw her.
She was still furious, but deeper still, her heart broke. Her chest ached, not just because of her stitches, but because she was finally seeing who Lindsay really was. Who she could be. She was staring into the eyes of the woman who had lived her life for the Kiss-Me-Not Killer, in a way she had never fathomed before.
"How was work?" she asked, and it sounded so domestic and not at all what she was feeling.
Unnerved, Lindsay said nothing at all. Black boots faltered, and dark eyes beheld her uncertainly, because Cindy was staring at her in a way she hadn't ever stared at her before.
The result was the uncomfortable sort of quiet that had existed between them ever since Cindy had gotten shot.
"I made some pasta." Cindy motioned lightly toward the stove. "It's got chicken bouillon and tomato sauce, with potatoes."
"It smells good." Lindsay, forced into polite formality, edged closer. "But you know, I'm supposed to be taking care of you."
"Holding me hostage, more like."
Lindsay's head dropped, she exhaled in frustration. "Cindy, I'm not in the mood to have this fight again."
"Why am I here?"
"Because I want you to get better."
"I can get better at home."
"Then fucking go, Cindy."
"And you'll blackball me, right?" A small, sad smile twitched onto Cindy's lips. "I need to tell you something."
At least Lindsay understood she was serious. The chair leg squeaked on the floor, and Lindsay settled into it, looking almost afraid. It was strange to see. Lindsay had never been afraid of her. Afraid of not being able to shut her up, maybe. "Okay," came the quiet rasp.
There was no other way to say it. "I went into the attic. I was bored, and I went looking." Rich brown eyes glanced up, locked with hers intensely. "Have Jill or Claire seen it?"
Lindsay's gaze left hers to venture to the table. "You shouldn't have gone up there."
"I know I shouldn't have," Cindy answered, and her fingers were crusty with orange. "You know they talk about it. The time when you completely lost perspective. When nothing else mattered to you but finding him. It wrecked your marriage. It nearly wrecked your friendship with Jill and Claire, because you accused them of giving up."
"I don't need the same lecture from you."
"There's a lot of things I don't understand about you, Lindsay. But did it ever occur to you that maybe this one? This one, I would have got?"
Startled, Lindsay glanced up. Bitterly, Cindy picked at her orange.
"It would have been worth it. Wouldn't it? To catch him. It would have meant everything, if you could have just taken him down too."
Because she got it. She did. Standing in that room, she was overwhelmed with the stench of something horrible. Something overwhelming, and consuming, and it was the reason she had felt like she knew Lindsay even when she didn't. Because if there was something she understood, it was to have an attic, Lindsay's literal manifestations of something she just couldn't let go.
The orange peel felt rough against her fingers, and she ripped it apart, sounding weaker than she felt. "You know, I'm not broken, Lindsay. When I told you I wanted to help you find him, I meant it. You can't cut me away from this, as much as you want to. Because I'm like you. I can't stop. I'll find a way to finish it, even if it kills me."
She already was, because she was alone in a house with Lindsay's demons, but had been given nothing to fight with. No information, just a complete lack of help, because god-damned Lindsay Boxer was trying to protect her and she SHOULD have known better.
Silently, she regarded Lindsay. Maybe she was taken aback by the cool rage simmering in her eyes, and maybe it didn't make sense, because she had been shot, but Cindy didn't care.
"The Kiss-Me-Not Killer's name is Billy Harris," she heard, and her mouth parted in an unconscious gasp. Lindsay's eyes were on her, studying her carefully, looking drawn and tired, but honest. "He kidnapped a woman. I didn't tell you because I knew you'd need to be a part of it, and you weren't ready."
"That wasn't your choice."
"I know that now." Lindsay pushed off the table, and held out her hand. "Come on."
They went back into the attic, Lindsay's strong hands on her waist, careful with her as they moved up the ladder, Lindsay holding her the entire way, keeping her steady.
Once inside, she was breathless, and Lindsay kept holding her, pressed up behind her as they just stood and looked. At pictures. At newsprint. At everything that was Billy Harris and everything that had consumed Lindsay Boxer.
"You know, I asked Ashe to let me off this case," Lindsay murmured, a low voice in her ear, palms gripping tight on Cindy's shoulders. "I asked him to let me let it go. He said no."
And now here they were. Dizzily, Cindy reached up and pressed a palm to Lindsay's fingers, wrapping tight, until fingers tangled and she stepped forward, towards the wall that contained Elaine Lewis.
A look back, and she discovered Lindsay's eyes watering, palm stretched out, fingers connecting over the expanse of the floor.
"You don't have to let it go," she said hoarsely. "We'll finish it together. The four of us."
It may have been reckless to press against Lindsay, open her mouth against hers and kiss her deeply, but it was honest.
And the way Lindsay's palms smoothed around her shoulders and enveloped her afterwards, holding her so tightly her chest ached and she panted silently, that was honest too.
Her ethics had blurred. The lines between reporter and cop had most definitely shifted.
She hadn't expected to kiss Lindsay. It hadn't occurred to her that it was something that was okay to do, because there may have been a time and place that would have been right for them. But not yet. Not here. Not in these circumstances.
It didn't seem to matter. Lindsay hesitated only slightly before arms slid around shoulders and a brunette head dipped to hers.
When they kissed again, tongues had tangled, sliding intimately against each other until there was panting, and wordless moans. Until fingers fumbled at the ties of Cindy's black stretch pants, and long fingers moved fast between her thighs, forcing her knees to buckle, holding on to Lindsay for dear life.
Lindsay fucked her in the attic, and maybe it wasn't the place for it, but maybe it was. The itchy burning in her chest was ignored, and Cindy's focus instead was on her fingers underneath Lindsay's shirt, her mouth pressed against Lindsay's lips, her chin, her eyebrow, the feel of her hips rolling underneath Lindsay's touch.
When Lindsay collapsed on top of her, she rolled off immediately, ever aware of the injury that had led Cindy here. But hot breath still came hard and fast, as Lindsay curled into her side, and Cindy, eyes wide and chest heaving, wrapped her arm around Lindsay's shoulders and glanced around the room, into the face of every woman Lindsay would have gladly given her life for.
Five minutes later, after a gentle, out of place kiss, and no words, Lindsay got a call, and she had to go back to work. Cindy Thomas thought nothing of calling an old contact and friend and asking for a highly illegal favor.
After years of haunting Lindsay, the pieces came together fast.
Lindsay let her out of her house, and she came back into the bullpen with a folder of sketches Billy Harris had done when he was a child. Lindsay discovered her connection, discovered a dead body in the bed they had shared, deposited the very day Cindy was out of the house, and then Billy Harris took Lindsay's father.
Through it all, Cindy felt weak. She leaned on Jill for support when no one was looking, stared after Lindsay when Lindsay went to get her father and to finish this once and for all, and withstood Claire's relentless questioning about her injury.
They didn't talk about what they had done. There were no questions about where they stood, or relationship bullshit. There was no place for that.
When it was over, it was quiet. Lindsay had let Pete go halfway across the world, and had offered him no firm commitment, but a definite 'maybe'. Her father had a relapse after she saved him, but seemed to stubborn his way through it, and because Cindy was back at work and no longer dizzy, she moved out of Lindsay's house.
It was surreal, to be here, after all this time.
One month later. Thirty days of friendship and smiles and not speaking of what they had done. Thirty days of soft smiles and looking the other way when Lindsay spoke about Pete. Thirty days of murder investigations and dinners together and pretending like Cindy had never seen this at all.
And then Lindsay called her, one Saturday morning, and asked her to come over.
And here they were, in a stalled sort of quiet that happened when two friends unexpectedly made love and weren't sure how to deal with the aftermath.
"You never told me why you brought me here in the first place," she ventured finally into the silence.
She was seated cross-legged under the remains of the wall dedicated to Elaine Lewis, thumbing the tip of the bottle of beer she had been given, rubbing idly at her shirt, just above the patch of red skin that still itched, even though the bandage, and the stitches, had been removed.
Across the room, Lindsay plucked another piece of newspaper from the wall, folding it carefully and managing a bittersweet smile when she pointed out Cindy's byline. Cindy toasted her lightly in response.
"You never told me why you stayed when you didn't have to."
Appropriately vague. Touché.
Cindy's eyes went back to her bottle, until wooden floor boards creaked, and she found boots entering her peripheral vision, and a tired, dimpled inspector looming down at her.
The hand stretched out.
Looking up, Cindy discovered an unsure expression, and it became clear that Lindsay wasn't sure if Cindy would take whatever she was offering.
Cindy reached up, let their palms fit together. A telling tightening of Lindsay's mouth revealed relief, and Cindy winced at her soreness as Lindsay's strong grip pulled her up, until they were fitted together, chin to collarbone, thighs brushing thighs.
Exhaling raggedly, Cindy's fingers curled over a cotton wrapped bicep, and she glanced at the dismantled room. The light streamed in, and it didn't seem to matter.
"Jill told me how antsy you were," Lindsay began, suddenly speaking, tone full of explanation. "When you were getting released from the hospital. She told me you were hurt that I didn't come by as often as I should have."
Feeling suddenly naked, Cindy glanced away.
"It affected me more than it should have. Seeing you like that. You should know that." Lindsay's thumbs were now moving gently over her shoulders. "Things were… complicated. I didn't expect… I mean, I had Pete…"
"You still have Pete," Cindy reminded her gently.
Lindsay's mouth pressed together grimly. "Do you know what frightened me more than anything? You got shot in a random… press gathering. It wasn't because you were an idiot who ducked the scene like you always do. Or went on some crazy mission to find evidence for me even though I told you not to. You were just doing your job, and it felt… safe. And that's when he got you. Some stupid kid who didn't know how to use a gun, with wild shots, managed to get you right here."
Her palm settled just under Cindy's cleavage. The warmth of it seeped beneath her shirt, and made her breathing ragged.
"When I knew it was Kiss-Me-Not," Lindsay began in a low voice. "I knew what it would do to you. I remembered what you said one time, about reopening the case, just a day after you knew me. We didn't know the links. We just knew he was after me. And seeing you get shot one time was one time too many."
And there it was. Lindsay's reasons. Her own messed up mentality that told her she couldn't handle Cindy getting shot again. Not when she could control it.
Cindy felt the vestiges of that anger, but it fluttered away at the press of Lindsay's fingers slid from her shoulders to her chin, thumb tracing her lower lip lightly.
"I shouldn't have tried to cage you," Lindsay admitted gruffly. "But I panicked. I didn't know what else to do."
"Is that why I'm here now? An apology?"
Lindsay sighed, lifted her head and glanced about the room. "No. That's not what this is."
"I can't promise to never get shot again."
Somehow, that made Lindsay smile softly, just like she knew it would.
"There'll be other serial killers," Lindsay lobbed back.
Her mouth tilted in reaction, an odd response to anyone but Lindsay.
A thumb drifted against her palm, and her eyes fluttered closed in response.
"As long as we're honest," she mandated.
It was decidedly cheesy, but Lindsay knew what she meant.
"I'm glad you saw this," Lindsay said, but what she meant was 'I'm glad you understood'.
"I'm glad you brought me here," Cindy responded softly, and what she meant was, 'I understand. And I love you.'