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Chicken (Tortilla) Soup for the Soul
By Inspector Boxer


"I hurt."

"I imagine so."

Claire tried to muster up a sympathetic expression but she could only manage a smirk. ADA Jill Bernhardt was lying face down on her spare bed, like a jumper who took a header off a five story building.

Except a jumper probably would have been in better shape.

Jill's already pale skin was practically translucent save for the slight tinges of green and gray. Her white blonde hair was sticking straight up in clumps and she hadn't changed out of her baggy red sweats in two days. The scent of eucalyptus hung heavy in the air. There was a small trash can full of blue tissues next to the nightstand. Claire clucked her tongue. "I told you to get a flu shot."

"Shut up." Jill's voice was muffled by the comforter.

Claire grinned. "I have to go to work."

Jill finally flopped over on her back and looked up at her friend with bloodshot eyes. "You're leaving me?"

"Don't whine. It's not attractive." Claire reached across her to grab the ends of a fleece blanket. She dragged it over her friend's shivering form. "It's Monday. Lots of dead bodies piled up over the weekend."

"I wish I was one of them." Jill crinkled her nose at how congested she sounded.

"That's dramatic."

"I'm an attorney. I'm supposed to be dramatic." Sighing, Jill shifted until she was sitting up in bed. "Thanks for taking care of me these past few days."

"Nice to have a live patient for a change." Claire ran her fingers through Jill's disordered bangs, chuckling as her friend's eyes crossed. "Cindy said she'd pop by."

Something funny flittered in the center of Jill's chest at the mention of the petite reporter. "She's coming by here?" her voice was almost a squeak.

Claire gave her a knowing look that was completely lost on the other woman. "She said she'd bring you some chicken soup."

"I can't see anyone looking like this."

"I've seen you looking like that for two days," Claire reminded her as she shouldered her purse.

"That's different," Jill said as if that explained everything.

"How so?"

"You're…" Not Cindy Jill's mind helpfully supplied. "A doctor," was what she managed out loud.

The smirk reappeared. "Get some rest, Jill. She'll be by around lunch."

"Whoa." Cindy tucked a loose strand of red hair behind her ear, her nose wrinkling at the invisible wall of vapor rub she seemed to have smacked into. She bit her lip when she finally noticed Jill tangled in the blankets, almost lost in the thickness of them. Quietly she approached the bed and knelt next to her friend. For a moment she guiltily took Jill in, her sleeping features relaxed and almost child-like. With a sigh she set the bag containing Jill's soup on the nightstand, edging aside a half empty box of Puffs and a mostly full bottle of Nyquil.

She turned back to Jill for one last look. It had been almost a week since she'd seen the assistant district attorney. Not since she'd covered the Atwater case in court. They were supposed to get together for dinner on Saturday. Just the two of them. It was the first time they had ever made plans together outside the "club" and then the flu had to come between them and a nice steak and good beer. It wasn't fair.

Cindy started to stand then almost toppled over when a warm hand gripped her own. She looked down into bleary eyes and smiled. "Hey, you."

Jill unconsciously ran a hand through her hair. She'd showered after Claire left, nearly passing out in the stall for her trouble. The important thing was that she'd brushed her teeth. "Hey," she croaked then winced as she shifted into a sitting position.

Cindy eased down on the bed, still holding Jill's hand. She could feel the fever in the touch. Or maybe that was her own reaction, she mused with a tiny sigh. "You sound terrible."

"Gee, thanks. I bet I look worse."

Cindy smiled. "You look fine. You look like you showered in fact. You didn't do that because I was coming over did you?"

"Why would I shower for you?" Jill asked too quickly then coughed.

"You tell me, councilor." Cindy reached over and grabbed the bag. "I brought you some of Papa Joe's chicken tortilla soup."

"I didn't know Papa Joe's had chicken tortilla soup," Jill replied as she watched Cindy with interest.

"It's not on the menu. He finds me charming so he made it for me… for you."

"A man who finds you charming… a person can't walk five steps without smacking into one of them."

Cindy grinned. "Actually a lot of men find me very irritating. Go figure."

"Too smart," Jill countered. "You ask too many questions."

"I'm so pretty I'm scary."

That made Jill chuckle as she accepted the Styrofoam bowl and spoon. The spicy scent of the soup was strong enough to temporarily clear out her sinuses. She took a deep breath. "Thanks," she croaked.

"You're welcome." Cindy watched as Jill took her first tentative sip.

"Whoa. That cuts through," Jill drawled. "That's the first thing I've really tasted in days."

"It'll help with the fever," Cindy promised. "Sweat it out of you."

Jill chucked the spoon over her shoulder, making Cindy twitch in surprise. Then the lawyer began sipping the concoction directly from the bowl.

Cindy grinned at her friend's antics. "Lindsay says hello."

"She is such a chicken shit," Jill griped between tastes. "She teases me for puking at the sight of a dead body but she won't go near someone with the flu. It grosses her out."

Cindy smiled. Her friend looked adorably miserable. She wanted to wrap her up and hug her close. Anything to make that misery go away. "So the next time she gives me the laser vision I should just sneeze on her?"

Some of the soup sprayed out of the bowl as Jill laughed at the image. She wiped her mouth and glared at Cindy who was watching her with that innocent little expression she had mastered. "Brat."

Cindy reached out and wiped a drop of the soup off Jill's cheek. The attorney's eyes softened as their gazes met and for a long, electric moment neither woman moved.

"Anyway," Cindy said suddenly. She got to her feet, moving away from the temptation that had gripped her in a vice like hold. "I need to get back to the Register. I just wanted to check on you. Bring you the magic soup." She stuffed her hands nervously in her pockets.

Jill watched her, understanding completely where the sudden onset of nerves in the reporter had come from. She was dealing with a good dose of them herself. She was just too tired and achy to fidget with them. She smiled knowingly.

Cindy licked her lips, feeling more than slightly exposed under Jill's gaze. "Right. Going now." She backed up and bumped into the nightstand. She snatched up the box of tissues she'd knocked over and set them down before retreating once more toward the door.

"Cindy," Jill said quietly.

The redhead stopped just past the doorway.

"Stay for a little while?"

It was suddenly mildly harder to breathe. Jill had that effect on her, Cindy admitted. She had since the first time they'd met. She always wound up babbling and making an idiot out of herself whenever they were alone, yet, she strangely couldn't wait for every opportunity to have the attorney all to herself. "Jill…"


Cindy sighed and shook her head. "Not fair. You're giving me the puppy dog eyes. And you've got this whole sick, feverish thing that only makes the puppy dog eyes that much more potent."

Jill fought valiantly to keep a smile off her face.

"Fine." Cindy gave in and dropped her bag on the floor before going back to the bed and slouching onto it. "Happy?"

"Very," Jill practically purred just to watch the redhead blush. The moment was ruined when she coughed, however. It was painful, a burning ache flaring at the back of her throat in reaction.

Cindy rubbed her back sympathetically. "Ouch."

Jill handed her the remains of the soup and slumped back down onto the pillows, her coughing jag having taken a lot out of her. She watched as Cindy set the bowl aside. "Do you really have to go back to work?"

The reporter smiled guiltily. "No. I just…" She stared at her friend for a moment. "You make me nervous," she confessed.

"I thought Lindsay and her laser vision made you nervous."

"They do," Cindy admitted. "But for different reasons."

Jill slowly smiled. "You afraid I'm going to start cross examining you?" she asked in a raspy voice.

"Maybe." Cindy glanced down at her clasped hands before her gaze returned to Jill's blue eyes. "Maybe it's because you're so pretty you're scary."

Jill's breath caught and the flu had nothing to do with it. She hadn't expected Cindy to be so open and honest. Not now. Not yet. They'd been dancing around whatever was developing between them for weeks. With Luke out of the picture she'd started to notice every little thing about the redhead. Ever so slowly they'd been gravitating toward one another, but Jill was caught off guard by the simple sentence. For a lawyer who liked to be prepared for every possibility she felt blindsided.

"I should probably leave now," Cindy said when silence beat back at her for several long, uncomfortable seconds. She stood then hesitated when Jill grabbed her hand.

"Wait," Jill whispered. "I want you to stay."

Cindy looked at their joined hands then back up at Jill's features waiting to see what would happen next.

"I didn't think I could be any more pissed than I was Friday night when I got sick and had to cancel our dinner Saturday," Jill began.

The reporter swallowed hard when Jill's thumb began stroking her wrist.

"But right now I would give damn near anything to kiss you and I can't."

Cindy blinked once. Twice. "You… want to… kiss me?"

"I know I'm pretty congested and I probably am not as easy to understand as usual, but yes, that's what I said."

Cindy blinked again unable to do anything more. "I…"

"Look, Thomas," Jill said, falling back on what she usually called the reporter in public. "I like you a little too much to give you the flu, even though I guarantee you'd enjoy the delivery method."

Cindy licked her lips then took a deliberate step back toward the bed. She watched in satisfaction as Jill's eyes widened. "I'll risk it," she murmured a second before claiming the blonde's mouth in a whisper soft kiss.

Later Jill would wonder if she'd merely gone to sleep or if that simple, glancing touch had been enough to make her pass out from holding her breath.

When she came to Claire was looking down at her, a piece of paper swinging back and forth between her friend's thumb and forefinger. "Hi," Claire said smugly.

"What happened?" Jill asked, glancing around for Cindy.

"You tell me," Claire drawled.

Jill noted it was now dark beyond the windows. Had she dreamed the whole thing? Had Cindy's kiss only been a figment of her imagination? The thought made her feel sicker than the flu ever could.

Claire handed her friend the piece of paper. "All I'm going to say is… if she gets sick you're taking care of her." With that she left the room, chuckling.

Puzzled, Jill opened the note.

If one kiss from me makes you pass out then I can't wait to see what will happen if we decided to take this further.

And I want to. Take it further, I mean.

You owe me a steak, a beer, and a kiss. Get well soon so I can collect.


Jill smiled as she traced the letters in Cindy's name. Cindy Thomas was going to be in so much trouble when she got better. She'd get her steak, her beer, her kiss and a hell of a lot more.

She glanced over at the bowl still sitting on the nightstand. "Huh," she mused out loud. "Apparently chicken soup is good for the soul."

The End

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