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AUTHOR'S NOTE: Betaed by Revolos55. Thank you!
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Barely Awake
By Demeter


I had expected Jill and Claire to be here, but when I arrived at the hospital, it was only Cindy sitting on her bed, her neatly packed things beside her. "You're here, good. I'm all set and so ready to blow this joint."

My surprise - who am I kidding? Panic - must have shown on my face, because the easy smile slipped from hers.

"I hope you are okay with this. Jill said we'd have some things to talk about."

I'm gonna kill her.

In the past few days I had of course visited Cindy, but never alone; only when I knew that Jill and Claire would be around, which would allow me to hide safely in the background. Literally, and otherwise. So I wouldn't have to answer any burning questions. No matter what Jill had said that night or how much I had thought that she was making sense, I still wasn't sure.

The more time passed, the less likely it was that I'd talk to Cindy. Jill knew that damn well, hence this little set-up.

"We do?" I just said, and could tell from her instantly-annoyed expression that it hadn't been the right thing to say.

"You know Linds, I tried to make sense of it. Of course, you only had a very little time together, but when you couldn't even spare ten minutes to stay, that hurt."

Even though her voice had been level, those words still felt like a slap to the face. One that I deserved, I was aware of that. It didn't lessen the sting.

I just stared at her for a moment, at a loss for what to say. This was going... not well.

"I'm sorry," I tried, my slightly quavering voice giving me away. I didn't want to discuss this now. I didn't want to go over the same old crap I had told Jill. It was in the past. I wanted to keep it there, not let it seep through the rifts in my well-practiced repression. No.

Cindy held my gaze. Hers was thoughtful. "I talked to Jill, you know. You have to promise me you won't be mad at her, because you know how I am when it comes to getting people to talk, and this time, I had -- Lindsay!"

When it sank in what she was saying, all blood seemed to drain from my face; it felt like the ground was giving way under me. I spun around, ready to walk out and never look back. Almost.

"Please," she said softly. "Can we talk about this at my apartment? Because I still need someone to drive me home, and I hope you're not mad enough to leave me hanging here."

"I'm not mad at you. She had no right to do that. Who else did she tell?"

"No one." Then there was silence, and she stepped behind me, laying her hands on my waist lightly. "Just me, because I said I might just take the job offer I got on the East coast, since there's nothing really holding me in San Francisco anymore."

"You - what?"

"But I'm not going," Cindy said. "Because I like living in a city where no one bats an eye when I kiss a woman. I've got a good job I, when I really think about it, don't want to quit anytime soon, and I found some great friends. And I might just have found another reason."

I still didn't say anything, my mind just overflowing with too much of the same thought over and over again - I can't.

"That asshole, Lindsay, he didn't win. Think about it. You're hunting serial killers. What do you think he'd do when faced with someone like Kiss-Me-Not?"

"Piss his pants?"

The laughter came naturally, but the leftover tears were just as close. And I had a reason. Maybe I'd never dare again to be this honest. "I don't want to love you. Everybody I loved has left me. Everybody."

"Then I'm going to be the odd one, the one who doesn't go away. I love you, Lindsay."

The ground wasn't just giving way, it disappeared altogether with those words.

"A few years down the road, you might even believe me."

I turned around, staring down into her open, honest face. I wanted to say how good that sounded, 'a few years down the road', the promise of a future, but I couldn't speak over my throat going tight. My vision blurred and cleared again, the warmth of her touch the only thing holding me together.

A coward at heart, Lindsay Boxer.

I finally reached out a shaky hand, laying it against her cheek. "I think we have established by now that you are not the problem here."

"Neither are you," she whispered. "Take me home now?"

Maybe, this was really just a good metaphor for starting over.

The End

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