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By My Side
"It's here," he said.
They sat in silence for a few moments, she, pondering the dimensions of what this one case had done to them, he, openly watching her. It was an odd mix of feelings he had for her, something that wasn't likely to change in the near future. Pride to have one of the best working for him, again. Confidence in their friendship, a touch of the love they'd once shared that remained.
"Could you please wait here?"
He read in her expression, longing, fear, simple exhaustion.
"It's going to be fine," he said, giving her a reassuring smile before he exited the car.
He told the woman who was opening the door to him the reason for his visit. She smiled a little wistfully. "Come with me."
As he followed her down the long hallway, Tom Hogan was once again struck by the quiet in this place. It might feel safe to some, pressing to others. What was most foremost on his mind was how very out of place he felt. Contemplation and prayer didn't have much space in his workplace. Yet, he had prayed for this moment to happen, and he was glad it finally would.
They found her in the library, and Tom couldn't help thinking that this was an appropriate place to be. Stories still spoke to her. You could never deny your past.
She turned around at the sound of his voice, her eyes widening briefly. "Tom. You haven't been here in awhile."
Somehow, he felt the need to apologize. "I'm sorry. How are you doing?"
She shrugged, her expression telling that she didn't give it that much consideration. "Why are you here?"
"I brought a visitor," Tom said, barely able to hide the smile. In his job, being the bringer of very good news was also not common.
There was a flash of panic in her eyes. "I don't talk to anyone, remember? You brought Jill and Claire? Tell them I'm sorry. I just can't."
"It's about a case. I'm asking you to."
"I'm not working on any cases anymore, Tom. Just leave me alone, will you?" Her voice rose, and the other woman who was standing at a respectful distance, raised her eyebrows.
"Just trust me."
Cindy shook her head, her eyes brimming with tears.
It wasn't until after the funeral that Cindy lost it. She didn't rage against the unfairness of life, she didn't cry. She just sat in the corner of the room, not moving or talking. It was as if it would take too much of an effort, one she wasn't capable of any longer.
Having been abandoned, she abandoned herself.
First, Jill had thought they should leave her alone, deal with her grief her own way, but when time passed, she realized they had a serious problem that wasn't about to be solved among friends, no matter how hard she and Claire tried, especially while they were still battling with their own pain.
Lindsay was gone. There were no words in the world to console Cindy, so Jill simply sat next to her, taking her cold hand into hers, and she cried the tears that Cindy couldn't let out. She had lost one of her best friends.
Cindy had lost everything.
Calling that ambulance felt like betrayal somehow, but they were desperate, didn't know what else to do. Claire knew that Jill was having the same fears. The moment Cindy got out of her state of absolute immobility, her only wish might be ending it for good. They couldn't risk that. She didn't think either of them could take going to another funeral anytime soon.
So she did make that call.
Cindy didn't seem to care either way.
"Your God lost me a while ago. I have no use for Him."
With some satisfaction, Cindy noticed the young nun flinch. She wasn't offended enough to leave her alone though. Cindy decided she hated her, for her persistence, her confidence in her beliefs, whatever. It was the easiest solution. Hate was one of the few things left that reminded her she was still alive, could still feel. It reminded her that she would have to find a final solution, and soon, so it was welcome.
"So your beliefs are not mine. That doesn't mean we can't respect each others'."
"Do you respect mine, really?" Cindy asked bitterly. She didn't need to clarify. She was sure that the sister had read her file, knew of her disintegration after her lover's death.
"I know you're in pain because you lost someone you loved. What's not to respect?"
"Why are you even here? You're not a shrink? Not that they had anything helpful, but I don't care for finding religion."
The other woman considered her words. "What is it you want?"
Cindy closed her eyes for a moment, lost in a dizzying mix of pain, grief and longing. She wanted to be with Lindsay again. There was only one way to achieve it.
"What I really want is for you to leave me alone."
She got her wish, but the young sister came back the next day.
"Look," Cindy told Tom as they sat together in the visitor's room. "I've just barely got my feet back under me. So whatever you need me for, forget about it. It's not like I owe the department anything."
"You don't belong here," he said bluntly.
"Don't you dare. This is my home now. Don't dangle any prizes in front of me, I'm not interested. It might be hard to imagine, but I'm happy here." She looked away quickly. 'Happy' might have been an exaggeration. It belonged to another time. How about she'd found a reason to go on from day to day? That was more than she could have hoped for in a long time.
"Okay," Tom said with a shrug. "I see I can't convince you, I kind of expected that. So I brought someone who might." He got up and turned to the door. "I think I'll leave you two alone for now."
"What are you--"
For a few seconds, Cindy was convinced that the whole Tom's visit sequence until now was nothing but one of those cruel dreams she kept having. When she realized that it wasn't, the room started spinning, and she was sure she was going to faint. She opened her mouth, but couldn't form any words.
"Hey. I'm glad to see you, too," Lindsay said.
She closed the space between them with a few strides, but was hesitant to touch as if she, too, couldn't believe that Cindy was more than a very realistic delusion. The spell lasted for a moment longer, then she enfolded Cindy in a tight hug.
"What are you doing in this place?" she asked with genuine confusion. "Jesus."
Cindy laughed and cried at the same time. "Where else would I go?"
Lindsay shook her head, but her eyes were bright too, and she obviously didn't have an answer either. Answers could wait, anyway. Cindy just held on tighter, their embrace warm and real an all the reassurance she needed for now.
"You're going to leave us," the sister said. There was no accusation in her voice, just a matter-of-fact statement. She smiled.
"You sound rather happy about that," Cindy teased.
"I'm happy for you. For the miracle that happened."
Cindy didn't tell her that it wasn't so much a miracle as lots of luck that made the FBI finally catch the man who'd been the main reason for Lindsay to have gone into the witness protection program, and shatter his organization.
Then again, maybe it was just that: A miracle.
A knock on the door preceded Lindsay into the room. Cindy noticed with some amusement that the presence of the sister seemed to make her slightly uncomfortable, but still, she kissed Cindy quickly on the cheek for a greeting.
"I sure am." Cindy hugged the sister goodbye, then she entwined her fingers with Lindsay's. "Let's go."
She turned once more to see the sister smile at her, and understanding between them.
It was time to go home.
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