DISCLAIMER: Women's Murder Club and its characters are the property of James Patterson, 20th Century Fox Television and ABC. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
When the Chips Are Down
"Make me laugh when the chips are down."
Lindsay had said this as one of her ground rules for being in the "club," the one that Cindy had wanted so desperately to be in and now that she was, she didn't feel like she deserved it. But she remembered that Lindsay had said this, because she had a tendency to hang onto every word that the inspector uttered, and on most occasions it took everything she had not to whip out a notebook and start archiving them.
Cindy was a reporter. She didn't know things about crime no matter how much she wrote about it. She didn't know what it meant to be the first on the scene of a murder, or to have to tell the victim's family that their loved one was dead, or to face death everyday just by having an occupation. Well, maybe she knew about that last one a little. People didn't really like reporters much. She didn't know legal terminology, or what was acceptable procedure and what wasn't, or how it felt to have to stare into the eyes of a killer, knowing that all of the hard work put into a case rested on your shoulders, and your conviction. She wasn't a medical expert, and she couldn't determine cause of death just by looking, or stomach an autopsy, or stare down at a victim for hours on end. She just wasn't these things. What exactly did she have to offer to the group?
These women had been friends since God knows how long. Cindy felt out of place, like she didn't really belong. A square shoved into a circular opening, and it was tight and uncomfortable. She felt exactly like what she was: the new kid. She had to earn her chops. Did she even know how?
And now she was here, in a nearly deserted police station after hours with a very upset and somewhat volatile Lindsay Boxer, not really sure what to do about the situation. This wasn't her fault, of course. The inspector was in this state when she got here. Well, she was nearly in this state. Actually, she was right on the verge. Oblivious to it, Cindy had begun spouting off excitedly about the case Lindsay was working on, when the fact that the brunette wasn't listening finally crept into her brain. Lindsay was sitting at her desk, hunched over with her head rested in one hand, staring down at files with an unfocused gaze.
"Lindsay?" the reporter had called. Dark eyes flicked upward, burning a hole into her. The expression was unreadable, and for a moment Cindy had considered just excusing herself and letting the cop alone for the night. Instead she asked: "Are you okay?" She expected Lindsay to ignore her. She expected her to blow up, to go off on a rant, to kick her out. What she didn't expect was for her to burst into tears. Which is exactly what she did.
Startled by the sudden outburst, Cindy jumped back a bit, staring down at the brunette, shoulders shaking and hard, pitiful sobs coming from her. Then she came to her senses. Lindsay wasn't going to bite. Not now, at least. Taking a deep breath, Cindy stepped forward cautiously, taking a seat in a chair next to the desk. She extended her hand slowly, hesitating for a moment before she tentatively placed it on one of the broad shoulders. It wasn't rejected. Slightly more confident, Cindy rubbed a sweater-clad back, letting her hand play over the strained muscles gently. Lindsay seemed comforted by it. After a few minutes, she quieted down. The two of them sat there in silence, and when the sniffles died away Cindy placed her hand back in her lap.
"Are the chips down now?" she asked quietly. Lindsay lifted her red-rimmed gaze to the reporter in confusion.
"I'm sorry?" she croaked.
"Well you're crying, so I'm guessing that the chips are down," Cindy explained. The inspector stared at her for a minute.
"Yeah, I guess they are," she said finally. Cindy nodded.
"I'm not sure I can make you laugh. I'm not really very funny. I feel like trying would only make you sadder." Despite herself, Lindsay cracked a grin.
"That's okay," she assured her. They were silent for some time again while Lindsay continued to gather herself.
"I know you probably don't want to talk about it. Not to me, anyway. But I know this really good ice cream shop. It always makes me feel better when my chips are down," Cindy told her. Normally, Lindsay would have refused. Today, she just wanted someone to be there.
Wordlessly, Lindsay stood, offering a hand to Cindy, who looked confused but took it anyway. Lindsay linked their arms together, grabbed her coat and keys, and started a journey towards the door. Cindy kept up with her the entire time, and for once Lindsay didn't have to listen to a thousand questions. When they reached the door, Lindsay looked down at her.
"Thanks for not asking; for not being a reporter for once." Cindy smiled a little.
"Thanks for letting me not be one." Lindsay nodded and they continued out the door.
"They have chocolate chip cookie dough at this place?" she asked.
"Of course. But peanut butter swirl is so much better," Cindy replied.
"What? No way!"
As they bantered the whole way to the ice cream shop, Lindsay's mood significantly improved. And Cindy realized that even though she wasn't a cop, or a lawyer, or a medical examiner, or even a reporter sometimes, she could still be a friend. And as long as she was sure to keep offering that to the "club," she could handle things her own way when the chips were down.
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