DISCLAIMER: Women's Murder Club and its characters are the property of James Patterson, 20th Century Fox Television and ABC. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: For aubztastik, who prompted with the lyrics to "Skyway Avenue" by We The Kings.
SPOILERS: Takes place post-finale. Will eventually contain lots of angst.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
The world in front of her was swimming.
Cindy closed her eyes against the swirl of shapes and colors, only to snap them back open when that face -- that normally warm and caring face, now turned pale and lifeless -- appeared behind her eyelids. She could vaguely hear voices around her, apparently trying to talk to her, but her mind felt too muddled to make out any actual words.
She felt herself moving, unsure of how it was happening until her brain finally registered the firm hands holding onto her, propelling her away from the crime scene.
Cindy had never had a real panic attack before, but she had a feeling it might be something like this -- the ringing in her head, the dizziness, the pounding in her chest, the struggle to get enough air... Cindy was pretty sure that she knew a panic attack when she felt one.
She felt helpless to stop it, though. Could only feel the mounting panic, rising up around her. She struggled to keep the contents of her stomach inside her, keep the panic-fear-heartbreak-confusion from spilling from her throat, already raw with the effort to hold back the threatening tears.
It made no sense. She (Cindy couldn't even bring herself to think the name, to make it real) wasn't supposed to be here.
Not in San Francisco. Not lying on the cold, dirty ground.
Not like this.
Cindy jumped at the feel of cool skin against her cheek. She blinked, her eyes finally becoming aware of her surroundings. She was sitting in the passenger seat of a random police cruiser, hugging her knees to her chest and facing outwards through the open door. The hand on her cheek belonged to Jill, crouching in front of her and trying to get her attention; the fuzzy forms in front of her transformed into the concerned and scared faces of her three friends.
"Cindy? Honey? I'm going to take you home, okay?" Jill's voice was soft and calm, even as her eyes frantically searched Cindy's face.
"I'm coming with you." Claire and Lindsay spoke simultaneously, clearly leaving no room for argument.
Cindy could only nod her head, allowing Jill and Claire to ease her onto her feet, as she vaguely noticed Lindsay going to talk briefly with Tom and Jacobi before joining them at Cindy's car.
The ride back to the apartment was silent. Claire held her hand in the backseat, as Jill and Lindsay kept glancing back at them in the rearview mirror.
Cindy forced herself to breathe deeply, keeping all her attention focused on the external, the tangible -- the whirr of air outside the car, the texture of the car seat beneath her, the feel of three pairs of eyes watching her -- instead of all the questions running desperately through her head.
Once back in the apartment, the four of them silently made their way to the living room.
Claire didn't release Cindy's hand, choosing to offer what small amount of comfort she could. Or maybe it was simply that Cindy was gripping so tightly that Claire couldn't have let go, even if she wanted to.
Sitting down on the couch, Cindy took one look around her friends' near-identical expressions, full of questions and concern, and then locked her gaze on the opposite wall. She didn't know what to tell them. Didn't know whether she'd be able to make her vocal chords operate correctly anyway.
"Cindy..." Lindsay's voice broke hesitantly through the silence.
Cindy simply shook her head, not even allowing the inspector to finish her question. No matter what Lindsay wanted to ask, Cindy knew that she couldn't handle answering quite yet. She dropped Claire's hand, sinking her head down between her knees and clasping her hands over her head.
How much time passed in stillness, Cindy had no idea, but eventually she felt a slight shift on the couch as Claire stood up. Presumably, she went to stand near Jill and Lindsay, as the movement was soon followed by quiet murmurs, the sound muffled by Cindy's forearms, held tightly against her ears.
In defiance of her body's immobility, Cindy's mind simply would not keep still. Just a stream of questions, not even allowing herself any time to think about the answers.
When was the last time Cindy had seen her? What had happened? Why was she here? Why was she--? Why was she dead?
When was the last time Cindy had seen her? What had happened? Why was she here? Why was she dead?
The couch shifted once again, and a light hand landed on her back, rubbing slow, soothing circles. Cindy remained bent at the waist, but forced herself to lower her arms and turn her head to the side. She hadn't heard anyone leave, so was surprised to see that Jill was the only one left in the room with her.
As if reading her mind, Jill spoke softly, "The others wanted to stay, but their cars were still down at the- Downtown. I told them they should go home. I hope that's okay."
Cindy nodded. "How did they get back there? Did you leave?"
"No," Jill replied quickly. "No, we called Jacobi. He came and picked them up."
Cindy frowned in confusion. She had apparently been completely unaware of a lot of things happening right around her.
"What time is it?" She finally sat up again, though Jill's hand barely missed a beat, still tracing idle patterns across her back.
"Shit, really?" A lot more time had passed than Cindy had thought. "Shit, I have to go to work. So do you!" Cindy looked fully into Jill's face for the first time in hours, only then noticing the bags under her friend's eyes. Jill looked like a tired mess, and Cindy was probably about ten times worse, she imagined.
Cindy began to stand up, but Jill's quick hand on her shoulder eased her back down. "We're both taking a sick day today. Lindsay and Claire promised to smooth over any issues with potentially disgruntled bosses."
"But I... I should... I need to work. I need something to focus on. Something to do!" For Cindy -- only rarely able to enjoy sitting still for very long -- a day of inactivity sounded particularly terrifying in this instance.
"You need to sleep, Cindy," Jill replied gently. "You're in no condition to get anything done right now."
Jill seemed to sense Cindy's continued agitation, though, since she went on, "At least try to rest for a few hours, okay? Then maybe you can work from home. Keep yourself busy."
After a beat, Cindy nodded, absently biting down on her lower lip.
She was startled when Jill reached out to her, cupping Cindy's chin in her palm and lightly using her thumb to free Cindy's lip from between her teeth. "Careful, there. Looks like you might almost be ready to break the skin."
Cindy blinked. It was only at Jill's words that she even noticed the way her lip was throbbing with the force of her bite.
"Right." For once, Cindy couldn't really think of anything to say. "So, okay. Sleep. You will too, right? You look like crap."
Jill laughed, and the sound was enough to bring a small smile to Cindy's lips. "Well gee, thanks Cindy. I guess I can always count on you to just cut through the bullshit and tell it like it is."
They stood up together, and it occurred to Cindy that Jill hadn't asked a single question about that night, even though she must have been dying to. She'd have to tell Jill at some point how much she appreciated it. Not now, though. Sleep was starting to sound increasingly appealing.
Still, she felt the need to say something about the situation.
"Jill, I..." she began haltingly. "I know you must...must wonder what the hell is going on. But I just. I can't. I can't talk about it. Not now. Not yet."
"Hey, it's all right," Jill soothed, once again reaching out a hand to Cindy's cheek, brushing away two stray tears. "I understand. Whenever you're ready."
Again, with her throat feeling uncomfortably tight, Cindy could only blink back the tears and nod with a jerk of her head. She turned towards her own room and took a few steps before turning back.
Jill hadn't moved; she was simply watching Cindy carefully.
Cindy took a deep, steadying breath before she managed to push out any words. "Her name's Lydia. Lydia Baker. I don't know if she had any ID on her, or whatever, so you can tell Lindsay. I don't know if it'll help, but..."
"I'm sure Linz will appreciate it. We'll find him, Cindy. Find out who did this."
Jill's earnestness was clear. Cindy knew that, even without understanding any details, Jill was already prepared to give this one everything she had. It meant something to Cindy, and that was enough for it to mean something to Jill. The knowledge of that deep loyalty made Cindy's heart beat a little faster.
Once again feeling like she was about to cry, Cindy attempted a smile (though it probably came out looking more like a grimace) and turned back towards her room. She closed the door behind her and stood leaning against it for a minute, before allowing herself to collapse into bed, hoping desperately for a night without dreams.
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