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.

Brick Walls
By mysensitiveside


Part 3

Jill listened carefully outside Cindy's door, trying to tell whether there was any sign of movement from within the room. She jumped, startled, as the loud and sudden ringing of her phone broke into the silence. Hurrying to grab it from the living room, Jill could only hope that the sound hadn't woken Cindy up.

"Shhhh!" she whispered harshly into the phone as she rushed to answer it.

There was a long moment of silence, and then Lindsay's voice, a quiet murmur of confusion, came over the line. "How can you tell me to be quiet when I haven't said anything yet?"

Jill snorted. "Sorry. It's just that I hadn't realized my phone was so loud. I should whisper, but you don't have to," she explained.

"Oh. Right. So how is she?" Lindsay asked, getting right to the point.

"I don't know." Jill shrugged helplessly. "She's been in her room all day, mostly sleeping, I think. I heard her moving around a bit early this afternoon, but it's been quiet in there for the last six and a half hours."

"Has she eaten anything? She should eat something."

"Shit, I forgot!" Jill lowered the phone away from her ear as she hurried into the kitchen, arriving just in time to see water boiling over the rim of the pot on the stove. "Dammit!"

"Jill? What happened, are you still there??" Jill could just barely hear the faraway sound of Lindsay's voice.

The blonde lifted the phone back up to mutter distractedly, "Potential kitchen catastrophe. Gimme a minute," before she placed it down on the counter and turned back to the stove. She quickly lowered the heat, but almost burned herself when she reached to remove the lid of the pot. Swearing, she reactively dropped the hot lid onto the floor, cringing at the clanging sound it created, echoing around the room.

So much for keeping the apartment quiet.

"God, this is a fucking disaster," she sighed to herself, shaking out her near-burned hand, and agitatedly running the other one through her hair. She peered warily into the pot, trying to tell whether or not the whole thing was ruined.

Remembering Lindsay, she picked the phone back up; it sounded like the inspector was talking to Claire on the other end, but Jill interrupted. "Hey Linz? You're with Claire, right? Yeah, can I just call back later? I'm working on the food issue. I'll be in touch about things later, once she gets up."

Jill turned back to her attempts at making dinner for Cindy. A light cough behind her caught her attention, though, and she turned around to find Cindy leaning against the doorway to the kitchen, wearing pajamas and a small, amused smile.

"Shit, I woke you up, didn't I? I'm so sorry! I was trying to be quiet, but I obviously failed miserably in that regard." Jill took a moment to simply look at Cindy. The redhead was still paler than usual, but looked a bit more like herself than she had the last time Jill had seen her.

"Hey, it's okay. I was already awake, actually."

Jill looked at Cindy skeptically. "Really? Or are you just saying that to make me feel better?"

"Really," Cindy assured her. "Kind of out of it, as tends to happen when I sleep too much, but awake nonetheless. I just thought that maybe I should come out and investigate the noise. What are you making?" Cindy's rumbling stomach betrayed her interest in the matter.

"Well, if I haven't killed it, it's supposed to fettuccini alfredo. I saw this recipe in a magazine the last time I went to the dentist, and the picture looked really good, but I think it was a little more ambitious than my barely-there culinary skills could handle," Jill explained.

Cindy shrugged. "Well let's give it a shot. Is it ready?"

At Jill's nod, Cindy got out some silverware as Jill prepared two heaping plates of pasta. It didn't look nearly as nice as the picture she'd seen, but Cindy seemed excited about the mere prospect of food.

Jill watched anxiously as Cindy took a first bite. The reporter paused for a beat at the first mouthful, before slowly swallowing and nodding her head. "It's... good," she managed unconvincingly.

Raising a disbelieving eyebrow, Jill took a quick bite of her own. The pasta was obviously overcooked, the sauce was too watery, and there was some flavor which Jill couldn't quite identify, but which definitely seemed like it shouldn't be there.

"Wow. That's awful," the blonde declared.

Cindy giggled, clearly in agreement. "It's a good thing I like you for more than your culinary skills."

"Screw this. I can't make you eat this," Jill laughed, relieved that Cindy was at least finding some humor in the situation. It felt good to hear her friend laugh. "Think you can handle waiting another fifteen minutes before eating?" she continued. "We can safely say that 'chef' was never meant to be my calling in life, but I can make a damn good grilled cheese, if I do say so myself. And clearly, trying to get extra fancy was not a good plan."

Cindy smiled. "You know, grilled cheese actually sounds a lot more appealing than fettuccini alfredo right now, anyway."

Once the food was made, though, Jill wasn't quite sure what to do next. Her plan hadn't extended past getting some food in Cindy's stomach, and Jill had never been very good at dealing with the emotional stuff, and she thought she'd been doing okay so far, but she didn't know how to make Cindy feel better, and she didn't even really know what was wrong, and while Cindy may have been asleep for the majority of the last twelve and a half hours, Jill had been too worried and restless to sleep much more than five, and...

Still standing in front of the stove, Jill took a deep breath and forced herself to resist the urge to panic. Cindy appeared to be oblivious to Jill's near-freak-out, however, and simply stepped up behind the blonde, reaching around her to grab some food.

"Now that looks good," Cindy commented happily, before uttering a contented sigh as she immediately took a healthy bite out of the sandwich.

The meal that followed was held mostly in silence, other than a bit of stunted small talk. Excluding the previous night, once they'd returned from the crime scene, Jill couldn't recall a single time since she'd known Cindy that the normally talkative redhead had been so withdrawn and quiet. It was disconcerting, and Jill didn't quite know how to handle it.

She stood to clear the dishes, but Cindy's soft voice caused her to freeze in place.

"I met her in high school," Cindy began, mumbling around her finger as she chewed distractedly on a fingernail. "Her family moved nearby before freshman year, and we were in the same English class. I got to know her when we were assigned to do a project together on A Tale of Two Cities, and we bonded over our love of books."

She paused, and Jill finally eased back into her chair. Cindy's fingers tapped agitatedly on the table, but Jill reached out and silently wrapped the nervous digits in her own hand. Cindy clutched tightly onto Jill's hand and looked up briefly to meet Jill's eyes, but then lowered her gaze again as she stared at the tablecloth in apparent fascination.

"She was my first girlfriend."

The blush that ran up the reporter's cheeks was the only indication that Cindy was aware of the fact that she had just outed herself. Jill blinked, but willed herself not to outwardly react in any negative way, even as her heart sped up at the revelation. So Cindy dated women. Jill wasn't sure whether she was really surprised, so much as vaguely hurt that Cindy hadn't brought it up before.

Regardless, it wasn't the time to get into it, and Jill, fingers still entwined with Cindy's, simply began to run her thumb soothingly over the back of Cindy's hand. Cindy glanced up at the movement, relaxing visibly at the sight of Jill's supportive smile.

With a deep breath, Cindy continued, "We were young and naïve, and were so sure that that was it, you know? One and only. I loved her, I really did, but..." She shrugged, but the professed nonchalance seemed forced. "College happened, and we just drifted apart. I didn't see her for a while, but then the summer after junior year, I happened to randomly run into her. She was just...so different from the girl I'd known."

Suddenly, Jill felt Cindy's hand rip away from her own as the redhead stood up abruptly, pushing herself away from the table and starting to pace in agitation. Jill's brow creased in concern, her heart aching for her hurting friend. She wanted nothing more than to simply make Cindy feel better, but she didn't know how.

"It sounds stereotypical, but she'd done the whole 'running with the wrong crowd' kind of thing, and..." Cindy paused, choking back a sob. "God, she was such a mess. My Lydia was still in there, but she was hidden beneath this new mess of a girl."

Cindy wiped roughly at the tears that seemed to suddenly appear on her cheeks. Jill stood up, still unsure what to do, but simply wanting to be closer. She held still, though, when Cindy immediately shook her head and took a few quick steps backwards.

"It took me almost the whole summer of badgering her," Cindy continued, her voice shaking a little, "but I eventually got her into a rehab program. Last I knew, she'd been doing better. She's supposed to be living in Seattle; she's supposed to be doing well. She's not supposed to be here, Jill, she's not supposed to be dead!" Cindy's voice grew increasingly hysterical, and Jill felt her heart break at the undisguised pain behind the bloodshot, watery brown eyes before her.

Jill stepped forward once again and simply reached out towards Cindy, unable to speak past the lump in her throat. Cindy tried to retreat again, only for her back to collide with the wall behind her. "No-no-no, don't hug me," Cindy pled. "Please don't hug me. If you hug me, then I won't be able to stop crying."

Ignoring her, Jill extended her arms to wrap firmly around the reporter. Cindy struggled against her at first, but Jill refused to let go, and Cindy soon gave in, her own arms grasping desperately onto Jill as she buried her face in the crook of Jill's neck. Jill could feel hot tears soak into the collar of her shirt, but she simply held Cindy tighter.

When her arms began to ache with the effort of practically holding Cindy upright, Jill eased the two of them down onto the floor, sitting with her back against the wall and a bundle of redhead cradled in her lap. She lightly swayed Cindy back and forth, muttering soft words of comfort into the thick mane of red hair beneath her lips.

Jill didn't know how long they sat there, but eventually Cindy seemed to run out of tears. Jill pressed a light kiss to the top of Cindy's head, only to pull back slightly when she felt the form within her arms stiffen.

The next flurry of movement happened so quickly, Jill barely had time to react. Cindy suddenly shifted, pulling her face away from the blonde's neck and leaning forward to press her lips against Jill's. Shocked, Jill gasped, and Cindy took advantage by briefly pushing her tongue between Jill's parted lips.

The kiss was hard, wet, desperate, and sloppy. It was possibly the most intense kiss Jill had ever received.

As soon as Jill began to kiss back, though, Cindy immediately pulled away and, without once meeting Jill's eyes, returned to hiding her face in Jill's shoulder. Jill was left to simply blink in bewilderment, unsure whether the kiss had actually happened or whether she had just imagined the whole thing. The lingering tingle and slight taste of salty tears on her lips left little question, though.

If she hadn't known what to say before, Jill really didn't know what to say now, so she simply leaned her cheek against the crown of Cindy's head and closed her eyes as exhaustion suddenly overtook her. Figuring out anything else would just have to wait.

To Be Continued

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