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.
Either Way, I'll Break Your Heart Someday
The first time Lindsay spends the night at Cindy's, she is drunk and mumbling on and on about Tom's wedding: "Heather was a bitch tonight, but she did look pretty" and "Tom didn't even invite his family. Now, that would have been a real wedding reception." Lindsay is sprawled on the couch, her lanky form bending and folding at awkward angles so she can fit on the Cindy-sized furniture. She closes her eyes and breathes in deeply, inhaling the smell of her jacket, which she is pressing against her face, trying to block out the light. It smells like Chinese takeout, gunpowder, Martha and beer - just the way a cop's jacket should smell, just food and guns and pets and beer. She throws the jacket across the apartment and yells out "I'm the perfect woman!" while Cindy is standing against the wall with an amused smile on her face. The redhead doesn't move until Lindsay speaks again, five minutes later, when she says ''I'm the perfect woman" in a defeated voice. Then Cindy is lifting the Inspector's feet up and sitting on the small love seat until their shoulders are touching.
And Cindy wraps her arms around the older woman, and tells her "It's going to be okay." And even though Jill and Claire and Jacobi and everyone else she's ever met has already told her those five words, she really believes it this time.
It's not until a few weeks after Tom's wedding, after Lindsay finds out about her own personal stalker, that the raven-haired Inspector finds herself outside of the redhead's apartment. She stands in front of the door, debating whether or not to knock or walk away. When she finally makes her mind up, her cell phone clock says that she's been standing in this dank, dark hallway for nearly an hour. She raises her hand to knock (finally) when it opens and she almost falls across the threshold and into the arms of a blond-haired, baby-faced "fake" kidnapper. Cindy stares at her, her eyes asking the brunette what she is doing here. Lindsay stumbles over her sentences, suddenly finding out that she really doesn't have a good reason to be here and no, nothing happened and everyone is fine. She watches Jamie lean in to kiss Cindy goodbye and glances away and waits. She feels small fingers wrap around her wrist and then she is sitting in Cindy's horribly uncomfortable rock of a couch, and she doesn't know what to say.
"So, Jamie..." She leaves the sentence open-ended and Cindy cocks her head to side in wonderment.
"...Came over to have dinner?" Cindy offers, more like a question than a statement. Lindsay can feel their shoulder's touching again and she does her best not to turn to the right and show the reporter what else Jamie should have came for. There is a silence that settles into the room, until Cindy breaks the spell by starting to stand up the very moment Lindsay gathers enough courage to make a move.
"What are you doing?" Cindy asks apprehensively as Lindsay interlaces their finger gently.
"I'm going to kiss you," Lindsay replies quietly, before she leans forward and closes her eyes.
Lindsay quickly finds out that one of her top three favorite things about Cindy is her hands. When Lindsay is sitting on the couch watching the Cowboys on Sunday nights, Cindy sits next to her and throws her feet up into the brunette's lap as Lindsay drapes her arm across the top of the plaid eyesore. Lindsay's arm stretches so far across the top of the cushion that Cindy reaches up and plays with her hands, lacing their fingers together and moving her hands up the brunettes arms so slowly that Lindsay actually drags her eyes away from her precious football game to give Cindy her famous "I-hope-you-know-what-you're-doing" look. And Lindsay shudders when Cindy's hands - the softest and lightest and surest hands she's ever known - make their way under her tee-shirt and makes Lindsay want to shut the TV off and forget that she's making dinner for her redhead reporter and that if she let's it cook just a minute over, it'll burn. Because Cindy's hands are like velvet gloves, all silky smooth and glassy and cool. And they glide over Lindsay's stomach muscles like sliding across a sheet of ice. Her hands are one of Lindsay's top three favorite things, and they would be number one, but kissing the redhead is just a little better.
Lindsay forgets what its like to feel anything other happiness until Cindy's ex-boyfriend, before Jamie Galvin, shows up and tries to win back the redhead's heart. When she goes to pick up the reporter for lunch, she notices people whispering in close circles, like they're circling the bandwagons. Lindsay pays it no mind and fixes her mind upon seeing Cindy and kissing her senseless to make up for the long weekend they spent apart: Cindy in Napa Valley with her sister and Lindsay camped on her couch counting down the minutes until Cindy got back. She approaches the redhead's desk and sees her arguing with an impatient, older looking Jamie. Cindy's intern, Jenny, who worships the ground that the elder reporter walks on, grabs hold of Lindsay's jacket and pulls her over to the corner, dishing the dirt about Cindy's ex coming back into to town with one intention: get Cindy back. Reflexively, Lindsay's eyes darken and narrow in repulsion and she strides to Cindy's desk in four easy steps as Cindy's eyes go wide upon seeing the Inspector.
"Lindsay. Hi." Cindy is bumbling and the papers she is holding suddenly fly off in seven different directions, fluttering to the floor as old-man-Jamie turns and blatantly drags his eyes up and down the brunette's body. Lindsay rolls her eyes in disgust and looks at the reporter.
"Ready to go?" Lindsay asks through clenched teeth as she notices the unwelcome visitor is trying to grab Cindy's hand and plead for a second chance. Suddenly, her teeth aren't the only things clenched. Her fists tighten and loosen and Lindsay reminds herself that she can't hit the slimy bastard just because he's scamming on her girl and he's got his hands on her waist and he's pulling her towards him and - BAM! Lindsay is surprised when her fist accidentally finds his jawbone. The entire paper staff is whistling and cheering for her and even though Cindy is trying to be angry, her eyes are lit up with laughter. Lindsay's hand is throbbing in pain, horrible, pulsing pain, but Cindy takes the brunette's hand in her own and suddenly, it doesn't hurt anymore.
Cautiously, Lindsay enters her own kitchen, half expecting to see the walls covered in unknown food substances and flour coating the floor. What she sees isn't too far from her imagination: the breaded chicken is burning in the pan and sizzling like they're going to blow any minute; the breading mix is scattered across the island in the middle of the room; and Cindy is sitting on the counter with her head in her hands as the smoke coming from the stove billows out into the open air, threatening to set off the smoke alarms.
"I screwed everything up." Lindsay tries not to laugh, but the sound escapes from her mouth regardless and she ducks when the redhead throws a burnt piece of chicken at her, missing by a mile.
"It can't be that bad," Lindsay tries to say reassuringly, but one look around her convinces her otherwise. "Well, I mean, it could have been worse." She tilts her head to the side. "Right?" She asks as an afterthought. Cindy is frowning, and even though her entire house may possibly be affected by smoke damage, and she may develop a bad case of smoke inhalation, Lindsay really wants to kiss Cindy and make her smile again.
"Oh come on now," Lindsay says cheerfully and Martha barks in agreement. "I mean, look at the positives."
"What positives?" Cindy asks angrily. She's playing with her fingers, a sure sign that she really feels guilty about the dinner disaster.
"Well, for one, it's our anniversary and sure, we don't really know what it is we're celebrating, but we're celebrating regardless. And, we're both here, which is good, because..." Lindsay fumbles with the words to say. "Because we both like each other."
"That's all you have for positives?" Lindsay looks around the kitchen and smiles.
"Well, you didn't mess up the potatoes."
As if things could be anymore weather appropriate, Lindsay says to herself. She is sitting outside of her house, on the front steps, rolling a beer bottle between her hands, slowly peeling away the label. The rain is coming down hard and fast and she watches as it stings the pavement. Her feet are sticking out from under the porch overhang and by now, they're soaked. She wishes that she had the courage to stand out in the middle of the street and just let the rain hit her - fast and hard - so that she doesn't have to feel right now. She desperately wants the rain to mix with the tears running down her face, so that if anyone shows up - not that they would - she won't have to explain.
She hopes that Cindy feels worse than she does. She hopes that the redhead is wallowing in self-pity right now. She hopes that...Cindy would come back already. It's been two days since they got into a fight and its been raining for two days. It looks like it may never end.
"This is ridiculous," Lindsay mutters. Martha is lying next to her, and the loveable pooch lift's her head as if to say, "you just figured that out?"
"I should go find her and apologize, right?" Martha blinks at her. "I should go to her apartment and tell her that I'm sorry, right? It's the only way, isn't it?" Lindsay rolls her eyes and looks down. "I'm talking to a dog."
"Practicing your speech techniques Inspector?" Lindsay whips around and there is she: Cindy Thomas, smiling and soaking wet.
"Am if I am?" Lindsay casually stretches out and places her hands in her pocket, her eyes lingering on the redhead. "And why are you just standing there? It's raining, you know."
Cindy shrugs. "You didn't invite me in yet." Lindsay raises her eyebrow and Cindy is on her front porch in a flash. The reporter moves past Lindsay and heads into the house.
"Why are you still standing on the porch? It's raining you know." Lindsay can't help but grin.
One morning, when the girls gather in Claire's office for their daily meeting, Lindsay can instantly tell that Cindy Thomas is not having a good day. The usually energetic and harmless reporter is suddenly spiting fire and acting sullen. Jill gives Lindsay a look that clearly says "what did you do this time" but the brunette ignores it (she only gives her "laser beam" glare back, which doesn't count as acknowledgement) and continues to watch the redhead with amusement. Lindsay hasn't seen Cindy this angry since Martha ate her entire cover story about San Francisco's mob taking over Chinatown. But now, Cindy is sitting in one of Claire's chair and picking at her fingernails while Jill goes over her recent date disaster.
"What do you think Linds?" Jill's voice cuts into her daydreaming. The brunette looks up towards Cindy and finds herself staring into amused eyes.
"The polar bear did it. I'll be back," Lindsay says and is out of the room before anyone can say anything to stop her. She hurries to her desk and grabs the only thing she can think of that will make Cindy smile today. She passes Jacobi on the way out and he smiles at her, like he knows what's going on, and maybe he does. The man is old enough after all.
Fifteen minutes later, her long legs are striding through the paper's bullpen, looking for one person. "Jenny!" The intern turns towards the noise and she smiles when she spots the Inspector.
"Inspector Boxer, to what do I owe the pleasure?" Lindsay is frantically shoving the chocolate bar into Jenny's hands and turns on her heels before calling over her shoulder: "Just tell her that it's her Valentine's Day present in advance."
Lindsay is sitting in Claire's living room, trying to avoid small talk with all these medical examiners, wondering why they are even at Claire's Christmas Party in the first place, when the host herself plops down on the couch beside her.
"Hey Miss. Antisocial. Why aren't you...socializing?" Claire is drunk - or on her way to being so.
"I am socializing," Lindsay insists. Claire snorts.
"No, you're not. That girl of yours, now she is socializing, but you honey? You are being the party pooper." Lindsay rolls her eyes.
"Well, she fits in. She does that, you know. She fits in almost everywhere." Claire turns her head to look at the Inspector, and notices that Lindsay is staring wistfully at the redhead who has everyone around her laughing and about to expel their drinks through their noses.
"I've noticed that, actually. She fits into your life too." Lindsay grins recklessly.
"She sure does."
"Know what I love best about her?" Lindsay turns, surprised, to look at Claire who isn't making eye contact with her. The medical examiner is looking at Cindy who is now wrapped in Jill's embrace. "She makes you happy. I mean, really, really happy."
Lindsay smiles softly. "She sure does."
Its New Years Eve, there's left than a minute until the New Year, and somehow, both Cindy and Lindsay managed to get out of being at Jill's annual party. Lindsay looks at Cindy, trying to steal a glance without the redhead catching her. But when the brunette turns to look at the reporter at the other end of the couch, Cindy is looking right back at her.
"What?" Lindsay asks, a shock reflex.
"What what? You were looking at me." Lindsay raises her eyebrow in Cindy's general direction. The redhead is burrowing herself under the blanket wrapped around her tiny frame. Lindsay can feel the reporter's fingers playing with her pant leg.
"I was going to look at you, but you were already looking at me," Lindsay corrects as she clenches and unclenches her toes. Cindy smiles innocently.
"You know about the New Year tradition, right?" Cindy effectively changes the subject as she slides her hands higher up Lindsay's leg.
"Which one is that?" The brunette focuses on keeping eye contact with Cindy.
"Whoever you kiss at midnight is the person you're supposed to kiss for the rest of the year," Cindy smiles and uses her "matter of fact" voice that Lindsay loves oh-so-much.
"I better go get Simon then?" Lindsay ducks when Cindy swings playfully at her head.
"No, you better kiss me." As Lindsay is leaning in, her cell phone starts to ring. A millisecond later, Cindy's almost vibrates off the coffee table. "Ignore them." No sooner are the words out of Cindy's mouth when the Lindsay's house phone rings. The two stare at each other before Lindsay daringly picks up the call, then ends it immediately.
"You said something about kissing?" Lindsay smiles and slides the telephone across the floor into the kitchen.
Lindsay is lying on her bed, the covers pulled up to her chin and her eyes shut tight. Cindy is saying something about a fever, and a cold is going around, but Lindsay isn't playing attention. She feels like she's on fire, but at the same time, if she takes off her covers, she is going to be freezing. She is not happy, and Cindy yelling into her cell phone isn't helping one bit.
"I'll have the articles in by 10:30, I swear. I will email them to you, I swear. I just can't come in!" There's a pause and Lindsay expels the breath she doesn't know she is holding. "I'm one of your top crime writers! Hell, I am your top crime writer. I've never taken a personal day and I just need today! Yeah, well, everyday is a press day!"
Lindsay rolls over and plants her face in the cool pillow. "Where is Jenny? Put Jenny on the phone! I said - thank you." Lindsay turns a little and looks at Cindy. The redhead has her back to the bed and is pacing around the room in a pair of boxer shorts and one of Lindsay's old "rock and roll" tee shirts. "Jen, it's me. Yeah, no, I'm fine." Lindsay smiles into her pillow and imagines that Cindy is flailing her arms about in frustration. "It's not me, its Lindsay. Yeah, she caught that thing that's been going around...like Bobby in the Art department had, yeah. He wants to know if I have to what? Of course I have to stay home! The woman I love is running a 101.6 degree temperature right now and..." Lindsay watches Cindy's shoulder's drop and reflexively shuts her eyes as she sees the younger woman turn to face her.
"I can't believe I just said that," Lindsay hears Cindy whisper. "What? Jenny. Jenny! Can you cover for me or not? Okay, good. Let me get you my notes, hold on." The brunette on the bed waits until the reporter is gone from the room, shutting the door quietly behind her. Lindsay stares up at the ceiling with a smile on her face. They haven't said the "l" word to each other yet, but Lindsay was biding her time for the right moment and now, thanks to her big ears, she knows for sure how Cindy feels. She sees the door handle turn and drops back against the sheets as Cindy enters the room. Silently, the redhead creeps across the hardwood floor and crawls into bed next to Lindsay, draping an arm around the brunette's waist. Lindsay pretends to smile in her sleep when Cindy presses a kiss to her overheated forehead.
For Cindy's birthday, Lindsay decides to take the reporter away from the hustle and bustle of the city and take Cindy out to her sister's house in the middle of nowhere. At the last minute, two days before the surprise trip, Cat calls her and tells her that "sorry Linds, but the kids got sick and we're not going to Disney World after all." Lindsay sighs and hangs up the phone with an angry slam. Cindy is sitting across from her at the breakfast table and looks up from her recent article calmly.
"And how is your sister?" Lindsay glares. "That good, huh? What was the call about?" She's about to make up a lie when Cindy's phone rings and she rushes out of the kitchen, where she is sure to lose the call. Lindsay flips through the phone book hurriedly and finds the number she is looking for, and she is off the phone before Cindy even walks back into the house.
Two days later, Cindy is sitting in the car with a pout on her face and Lindsay laughs at her through the open window.
"Will you get out of there already?" Cindy shakes her head and when Lindsay pouts, the redhead relents and exits the car cautiously. Lindsay grabs the bags out of the trunk as Cindy looks in awe at the hotel that the brunette booked last minute. Lindsay fumbles with the bag in her hand.
"Can you go check us in?" The redhead smiles and head into the hotel, then doubles back.
"What's the reservation under?" Lindsay smiles.
"Try Cindy Boxer." Lindsay is turning around as she speaks, and she misses the way that Cindy's eyes light up, but she catches the reflection of her own smile in the handle on her luggage.
Lindsay tries to stifle a moan as Cindy's hands travel slowly and purposefully up her long torso. The hands stop moving and Lindsay opens one eye, glaring at the redhead whose Cheshire Cat smile is enough to make Lindsay fall head over heals.
"Why did you stop?" Lindsay wriggles upward until she's sitting with her back against her headboard. Cindy glances away shyly and Lindsay's heart melts. She reaches out with long arms and pulls the younger woman onto her lap.
"I just want this to be I don't know special." Cindy's voice is small and faded. Lindsay can hardly suppress the grin sneaking onto her face.
"Why wouldn't it be?" Cindy turns to face the brunette, a look of confusion etched into her eyes.
"I honestly don't have a clue." As soon as the words are out of the reporters mouth, the redhead is leaning in and covering Lindsay's mouth, sucking the brunette into a world where she doesn't have to think about what's wrong and right and where she knows that as long as Cindy keeps her hands moving in the direction they're going now, she is going to be happy for a very long time.
The call comes late at night, when Lindsay is already dead to the world. Cindy is the one who picks up the receiver and listens to the person on the other line. Lindsay had tried to stay up and keep Cindy company while she finished a story due the next morning. But Lindsay got tired chasing down 3 punk witnesses will do that and she went to bed. She doesn't wake up until, oddly enough, she hears Cindy whisper "Oh my god." In a flash, Lindsay is in the living room, her tired eyes focusing on the silent reporter standing in the middle of the room. She can hear mumbling coming from the receiver, but her first instinct is to wrap the redhead in her arms, so she does.
"Cindy, what's wrong." Cindy is just standing, frozen to the floor, with one hand over her mouth and the phone pressed fiercely against her ear. Gently, Lindsay pulls it away and presses it against the side of her head, trying to pick up the conversation.
"Slow down, slow down." She listens for a moment more until she realizes who is on the other line. And what they're saying.
"Tell Lindsay," Heather says, her voice laced with tears, "Tell Lindsay that he didn't make it. Oh god, Tom didn't make it."
Lindsay suddenly can't breathe and she has to sit down, pulling Cindy to the couch with her. She can't tell whose holding who anymore, as Heather's sobbing becomes background noise.
She knows this isn't how it's supposed to be. It's not supposed to be this rough and angry and so full of hate. She's pissed and hurt and just wants her head to shut off for a little while, just so she can have a moment to breath and not have the world pressing down on her shoulder's for once.
This isn't love, this pure sex.
She clenches her eyes shut while the reporter under her tries to keep pace with the brunette. This isn't fair to Cindy, she knows. Her Cindy doesn't deserve to be treated like a nameless face, a passing, fleeting moment of happiness. Cindy should be her happiness, all the time. She didn't even wait, when they got into the redheads apartment, to take off her black dress, the one Tom always liked, before she had Cindy up against a wall, pressing into her like neither of them had ever done before.
Lindsay is crying as she rolls off of off Cindy and she buries her face in her pillow, ashamed.
"You still love him, don't you?" Lindsay doesn't answer her, and after a few minutes of silence, Lindsay can hear Cindy get off the bed. A minute later, she hears the door open and close softly. Lindsay cries herself to sleep.
Lindsay glares at her crappy cup of cop coffee and wishes it would change into something non-toxic. As soon as the wish enters her thoughts, the cup is picked up and replaced by a cardboard cup with a heavenly aroma. Lindsay looks up with a smile and stares right into the frowning face of her best friend; her best friend, who hardly ever leaves the confines of her morgue.
There is a slight stare down before Claire frowns at her. Lindsay is automatically defensive.
"What is your problem?" Lindsay makes it sound meaner than she intended, but Claire pays no mind and sits down across from the Inspector, in Jacobi's empty chair.
"Honey, it's not my problem I'm here about." Lindsay lifts her eyebrow expectantly and waits for the medical examiner to continue. "It's yours. When are you going to pull your foot out of your mouth and your head out of your ass? Cause honey, I had a hard enough time watching you be Miss. Moody before Cindy Thomas set foot into your life, and now, well now, I can't handle the both of you being grumpy and stubborn. Talk to her already. You both miss each other and you were being a world-class asshole of a girlfriend. So fix it." And before Lindsay can even get a word in edge-wise, Claire is marching through the precinct and through the double swing doors. Lindsay waits two seconds before she is out of her chair and on her way to the paper.
Cindy doesn't see her at first, but when the redhead looks up, their eyes lock and everyone disappears. It's just the two of them, staring silently at each other until Lindsay walks forward hesitantly and reaches out to touch Cindy, her hand coming to rest on the reporter's cheek. It breaks both of them down just one touch, and Lindsay knows that everything will itself out.
But then she opens her eyes and she's still sitting at her desk, watching the doors swing shut behind Claire.
People ask all the time: "What's your biggest strength?" and it's gotten to the point where Lindsay doesn't really have to think about her answer anymore. Which means, she's prepared when Cindy's replacement asks her that same question. What she's not prepared for is this Lois Lane wanna-be's next question: "What is your biggest weakness?" Lindsay stares at the girl and quirks her eyebrow before finally saying, "I'm human," and walking away.
She knows she should have said "my pride," but ironically enough, it's her pride that stops her from doing so. Because after all, it's her pride that's stopping her from apologizing to a certain redhead; it's her pride that is stopping her from picking up the phone and calling Cindy. Her pride is her biggest weakness, and Cindy is her second.
She knows, that if she were anybody else than who she is, she would be standing outside Cindy's door day and night, waiting until the reporter thinks she's suffered enough. But she's not just anyone. She's Lindsay Boxer. And if there's one thing Lindsay Boxer doesn't do, its apologize.
So it surprises her, when the brunette finds herself camped out in front of the redhead's door, staring at the glittering gold door numbers, trying to will the door open with her mind. She's staring at it so hard she doesn't see the reporter sidle up next to her.
"Knocking works," Cindy mutters darkly as she pushes past Lindsay and tries to open her door, juggling groceries. It takes Lindsay a second to recover before she moves.
"Yeah, cause you were home," she says sarcastically, knowing that's not what she wanted to say; not what she should have said. She lets Cindy, who is fumbling with her keys, struggle for a minute before the brunette takes out her key ring and opens the door herself. Cindy doesn't say thank you, but Lindsay follows her into the small apartment, which seems to have gotten smaller. Cindy drops the groceries onto the table and glares at Lindsay. "What do you want?" Lindsay opens her mouth, but she can't seem to say "I'm sorry." Cindy is standing with her hands on her hips, the look in her eyes telling the Inspector that the reporter is beyond pissed off. Lindsay knows better though. She knows that the redhead's hands are on her hips because she thinks it makes her look angry, and the look in her eyes really means that she's falling apart. But Lindsay doesn't move, doesn't say a word. The reporter gives a sigh and starts to put the groceries away, moving methodically around the kitchen.
"I met that crime reporter you have about my cases."
"Uh-huh," is the only response she gets as Cindy opens and closes cabinets.
"She uh, seems nice."
"She asked me a pretty bizarre question."
"Don't you want to know what it was?"
"Nope." Lindsay all but dives out of the way as Cindy opens the fridge.
"Well, she asked me what my biggest weakness was." Cindy turns and faces the brunette, the desire to know the answer herself burning in her eyes.
"I told her that my weakness was that I was human." Cindy scoffs and resumes putting the milk in the fridge, but Lindsay grabs her by the arm and swings her around again so that they're face to face.
"But that's a lie."
"What's the truth then?" Cindy asks in a whisper.
Lindsay looks into, searches, Cindy's eyes and smiles softly.
"You're my weakness," Lindsay breathes out, pride be damned.
This has been coming for a while, Lindsay thinks as she sits on the couch, ramrod straight, her arms across her chest defensively. She knew this was going to happen, because both of them have been dancing around it for so long; Cindy had not confronted Lindsay and Lindsay acted like nothing happened.
"Ignorance is bliss" was the rule the brunette followed. But it was about to bite her in the ass, and she knew it. It was only a matter of time.
"I ran into Heather today," Cindy is saying casually. Lindsay feels a pang in her chest at the thought of Heather and Tom. She tries to hide her expression, but the redhead is quicker and she sees the way the brunette's eyes darken in pain. Pain and longing.
"Screw you Lindsay." Cindy slams her coffee cup down on the table and makes a break for the door, heading into the living room. Lindsay jumps out of her chair, races after the reporter, but finds the redhead frozen in the living room. The Inspector waits, because she knows that Cindy had something to say, something that the redhead wants to scream at the top of her lungs and Lindsay is ready for it. She's ready to face the music.
But when Cindy turns around, all Lindsay is faced with are tears. They are trickling out of the redhead's eyes and slipping down her face, disappearing in the freefall to the ground below. Lindsay opens her mouth to speak, but Cindy beats her too it.
"What are you doing with me?" The silence is deafening. Cindy is waiting for an answer Lindsay won't give. "Nevermind," Cindy says after minutes of nothing. "I don't want to know."
But Cindy cuts her off. "I think you need " she takes a deep breath. "I think you need to stop and think Lindsay. You need to decide if you want to be in a relationship right now, and if you want to be in a relationship with with me. Because I can't do this Lindsay. And this may sound selfish, but " Cindy pauses and Lindsay watched, entranced at the number of tears rolling down the redhead's face. "I can't be with you, I can't be in a relationship with someone who wants to be with someone else." Lindsay's eyes narrow, out of habit, and she realizes she's crying as Cindy moves past her and into the kitchen, leaving Lindsay alone.
It's been two weeks of not speaking to Cindy. The brunette tiptoes around the apartment, skillfully avoiding the redhead at all costs. Every moment they spend together is tense and awkward and Lindsay knows that she's reaching her breaking point.
On the fifteenth day, she bursts into Jacobi's office, ignoring the fact that just a few months ago, Tom was sitting at the desk, and asks for a transfer a transfer to somewhere far away. He tries to get her to change her mind, begs her to stay, offers her a promotion, and threatens to call Claire before he finally tells her there is an opening in Las Vegas, Nevada. When he asks about Cindy, she shakes her head, warning him to not ask question.
On the sixteenth day, she sleeps in and waits until Cindy leaves for work. When she is sure that the redhead is gone for the day, she gets up and packs her things. She knows it's not fair, but she just can't stay.
"Don't give me that look," she mumbles at Martha. The dog just cocks her head to the side and gives Lindsay a small whine. Crouching on her knees, Lindsay rubs Martha's head affectionately. "Cindy will take care of you. I know she will," Lindsay whispers. And in less than four hours, she's found all her clothes and all her other things, and packed it all up into boxes. It takes her only six trips to get it all in the car. She knows she's a coward, but Lindsay can't think of anything else to do.
She says goodbye once more to Martha and starts the car. She hesitates only for a second before she pulls away from the curb. Making her way around the block, she drives by the apartment building one more time and thinks, for one fleeting second, about pulling back over. If she does it now, she can have everything unpacks and like it was before Cindy left for work. But instead, she pulls her sunglasses down on her face and slams her foot down on the accelerator, speeding away from the life and the girl she just can't handle anymore. She was never very good at staying; she was always good at running.
She takes her time getting to Vegas, moving across California slowly. It gives her time to think, about everything. She didn't leave a note, and her cell phone on the seat next to her tells her she has nine missed calls and four new voicemail messages none of them from Cindy. She refuses to answer her phone, refuses to acknowledge that she is running from life.
But she can't help thinking about that trip she took with Cindy. Even thought she hates that little red car, Lindsay drove "Maggie" the whole way, with Cindy in the passenger seat and the top down. There was hardly any wind, but when Lindsay pressed that gas pedal, she laughed at the way Cindy's hair whipped backwards and floated behind her.
Today, Lindsay doesn't have the windows down, let alone the top. She has the air on high, but she's still stripped down to her tank top and jeans.
She wants to turn around.
She wants the wind to carry her home.
She wants to show up back in The Bay and fix this stupid problem. She loves Cindy; she used to be in love with Tom. But what matters most is that right now, in this moment, she's in love with Cindy and only Cindy. And not just because Tom is gone forever. It's more than that.
But the wind is blowing her to Vegas, blowing her away from home, and she's just to tired to fight it.
It's been close to six months since she left, and sometimes when she wakes up in the morning, she can't get used to the empty side of the bed. She's not the type to move a lot in her sleep, so the other side of the bed, the side where Cindy should be, is untouched and cold. It should be liberating, but it's not. It's empty.
She gets up every morning, looks in the mirror and sighs. She doesn't look free, she looks tired and sad. Claire, who visits her once a month, tells her this but Lindsay is good at tuning out her best friend. Claire brings pictures of the boys, of Ed, of Jill and Cindy but Lindsay throws them into a drawer in her rented apartment and doesn't look at them.
She can't, not if she wants to be free.
She knows that she has to escape into a new world, one where people like Cindy don't exist and they never did and they never will. A world where sneaky reporters mind their own business and leave focused, content, brunette Inspectors alone.
When she wakes up in the morning, there is a heaviness pressed upon her, an abstract weight that holds down her smile and takes the light out of her eyes.
She thought (she still hopes) that Las Vegas, the city that never sleeps, would let her be free to start over. But she's never felt more trapped.
She knows she has to reality someday, and Jill's invitation is her reality. She can't say no Jill's getting married after all but as she drives back into the Bay Area, she wishes she could have. She could have said she couldn't get the time off, or that she has the flu. But Jill is one of her best friends, and she owes her this much.
But going to this wedding means that she'll have to see Cindy; the real, living, breathing Cindy, not the Cindy that Lindsay sees in her dreams.
"Life sucks," Claire had said on the phone. "But you made your bed, honey, and now you have to sleep in it."
And so, she's standing in the doorway of the church, barely on time. The blushing bride turns around at the creaking sound of the door hinge and gasps.
"Well, if it isn't my favorite gun-slinger," Jill exclaims as she wraps Lindsay in a warm hug, just the kind of hug Lindsay needs. "Don't tell Jacobi I called you my favorite, okay? He'll get jealous," the blond whispers in her ear, glancing at the oblivious man waiting by the doors patiently to walk Jill down the aisle.
"Ready to..." His voice trails off as he turns and catches sight of her in the doorway. "Hey Lone Ranger." He leans over to give her a hug when the music cue starts.
"I'll sneak in after you," Lindsay whispers, pushing Jill towards the door. "Go get 'em." She waits until Jill is halfway down the aisle before she moves into the church. Sneaking up the side, she moves to sit down when she sees Cindy for a minute. For a minute, she can't breathe, can't move. Cindy smiles to someone sitting next to her and Lindsay feels the dam in her heart break. But then a hand sneaks up and rests lightly on the shoulders of her redhead. Life really does suck, she thinks to herself as she Cindy smiles even wider - at someone other than her.
She knows its not her territory anymore; knows that she gave up and ran away with her tail between her legs; knows that she couldn't hack it. But at the reception, as she sees that guy's hand resting on the small of Cindy's back, she can feel the fire in her eyes.
But she's not jealous.
"He's a nice guy you know." Claire sidles up next to her. Lindsay grunts in response. "He owns a coffee shop," Claire continues. "Jake, that's his name, his place got robbed, and she was coming down with a cold, so they gave her the story, and they've been dating since then."
"Oh yeah? When was that? Two hours after I was gone?" she asks heatedly.
"No, more like two months." The brunette spins in her chair and comes face to face with an angry redhead. "What do you care anyway?"
Lindsay can't say anything. Her mind is screaming at her to say "hi" or "I'm sorry" or "nice dress" or "please take me back," but she just stares at the reporter, with her mouth hanging open.
"I, uh...hi." Cindy frowns.
"Listen, this is Jill's wedding, and I'm not going to cause any trouble, so I'm just going to say this one thing: after this wedding, you better go back to wherever the hell you ran away to..."
"Vegas," Lindsay interjects stupidly.
"Whatever. Go back and stay there." Cindy marches away in a huff and Lindsay turns back to her best friend with a smile.
"Oh no. Whatever you're thinking, no," Claire tells her firmly. Lindsay just smiles and glances over at Cindy who is wrapped in Jake's arms. She frowns slightly.
But she isn't jealous.
She rents a small apartment three blocks from her old place, calls her boss in Vegas, tells him she's taking an extended leave of absence and waits. She figures, if she hangs around long enough, Cindy will stop screening her calls and maybe talk to her, and, if she's lucky, dump that loser Jake and take her back. So she waits and waits and waits. It isn't until she's been hanging around for a couple of weeks that Cindy shows up at her door, furious.
"What is your problem? Why are you even here? Don't you have a life to get back to somewhere else?" Cindy asks before Lindsay can even open her mouth. She knows she must look ridiculous: she has bed head, she's wearing mismatched socks, cutoff sweats and a old Cowboys jersey, holding half a bagel in one hand and trying to chew and swallow the other half at the same time. And, like the idiot she is, Lindsay just smiles, making the redhead in front of her even angrier.
"I took...some time off." Lindsay manages to say through her full mouth of food.
"What are you trying to pull? I'm with someone and I'm very happy and you can't do anything about it Lindsay Boxer, so quit trying!" Lindsay tries not to laugh at the way the redhead's arms flail around in circles, threatening to drop the cup of coffee the reporter is holding in her hands.
"Did it ever occur to you that maybe I'm not here for y..." Lindsay looks twice at Cindy's hand and feels her whole world unraveling: there, on Cindy's left hand, on her ring finger, was a sparkly, shiny diamond. "What the hell is that?"
Cindy looks at the ground and Lindsay thinks for a moment that maybe the reporter is ashamed. "Its an engagement ring."
"Who did you steal if from I mean?"
"It's mine." Lindsay flinches.
"You're getting...married? Since when?"
"Since last week," Cindy mutters before giving Lindsay one last pity look. Lindsay can only stare at the redhead's hand until Cindy isn't there anymore, and she's alone in the hallway.
Lindsay is asleep on the couch, the TV still on and Chinese takeout cartons littering the coffee table when someone knocks on the door. The brunette keeps her eyes closed, hoping that the knocking is just a dream, but there it is again: loud, obnoxious knocking.
"Hold on!" she yells as the knocking gets louder and louder. With a growl, she rips open the door.
"Hey. Hi. How ya doing?" Claire asks cheerfully. Lindsay glares at her until the medical examiner reaches behind her into the hallway and hoists a body off the floor.
"If you killed someone, I don't want anything to do with it." The lighting in the hallway is horrible and Lindsay, through her tired eyes, can only see shadows. Claire moves past her, dragging the body with her, and dumps it unceremoniously onto the couch the Inspector was recently occupying. Lindsay's eyes adjust and she realizes Cindy Thomas is sprawled out on her furniture and Claire is trying to sneak out the door.
"Oh no you don't!" Lindsay notices the redhead flinches at the loud noise. Claire just smiles cheekily.
"Jake's out of town "
"Coffee convention," Cindy mutters from the couch.
"Right. And," Claire continues, "Jill has enough on her plate, and I've got kids at home." Before Lindsay can protest, Claire is out the door. The brunette turns back to her couch with a sigh.
"What am I going to do with you?" Cleaning up her mess, trying to avoid the redhead's penetrating gaze, she grabs some blankets out of the closet. "Let's go. Stand up." But the redhead just groans and shakes her head, then stretches out her hands, signaling for Lindsay to help her up. Grudgingly, Lindsay relents, only to have Cindy pull her down.
"What are you doing?" Lindsay demands, trying to stand back up.
"I hate you," Cindy whispers in her ear.
"I know," Lindsay says seriously, looking into Cindy's eyes.
"I hate you," Cindy repeats. "I hate you, but I miss you." The redhead's eyes drift from Lindsay's' and move down the brunette's face. "I miss you so much."
Then, Cindy's mouth is on hers and Lindsay is getting lost in the kiss. Cindy tastes exactly the way Lindsay remembers her: cinnamon and just a hint of Susie's sangrias, and Lindsay's hands fit just where they did before. It's almost like nothing has changed, but Lindsay knows, as clothing is removed piece by piece, everything from this point is going to be different.
Lindsay does the dutiful thing and goes to Cindy's engagement party, enough though she could be doing something else, like drowning her sorrows in the bottle of Jack under the sink, especially after her "one night stand" with the redhead, who won't even look her in the eyes. Instead, she sits in a corner in Claire's living room and downs ice water after ice water.
"Why is it that, whenever you're at a party at my house, you just sit on the sidelines?" Lindsay smiles at her oldest friend.
"I'm just observing."
Claire scoffs, but her facial expression softens. "Honey..."
"Don't 'honey' me Claire," Lindsay almost shouts. "I'm a big girl and I can sulk if I damn well please to, okay?" Claire looks taken aback for half a second before she smiles.
"Well then, I guess I won't tell you that you can't win her back by sitting around and crying in your drink. Sulk away, by all means." Lindsay grabs the medical examiner as she starts to stand up.
"You want me to get her back?"
Claire smiles and nods. "Me too!" Jill pipes up, coming over to stand next to Lindsay. "We've been rooting for you guys since day one," Jill says, motioning between herself and Claire. "He's a distraction. A very good looking distraction," The blond says matter-of-factly.
"She's going to marry him," Lindsay deadpans, her eyes fixed on the redhead.
"You're doing it again," Claire sings out.
"Doing what?" Lindsay asks, tearing her eyes away from the smiling bride-to-be.
"Going all 'Hopelessly Devoted to You' on us." Lindsay glares at her two best friends.
"Stop wallowing Sandra Dee, and get her back." Jill smiles and goes to find her husband. Lindsay looks at Claire, downs her glass of water and tries to plan how to win back the redhead once and for all.
She's pacing back and forth in from of her car as wedding guests file into the church, cursing herself for waiting this long to win back the love of her life. But she's Lindsay Boxer, and she's an idiot.
"You're going to wear out those heels." Claire is suddenly at her side, Jill tagging along.
"I feel like a double agent." Jill grins at Lindsay's confused expression. "I'm her maid of honor, and I'm trying to ruin her wedding."
"We are not," Lindsay stops pacing. "I repeat: we are not trying to ruin her wedding. We are merely making sure she knows she's marrying the wrong person."
"Potato, po-ta-toe." The three women make their way into the church, and Claire stands guard while Jill and Lindsay head towards where Cindy is getting ready. The blond flashes Lindsay a "go get 'em slugger" grin and goes to stall Jake.
"Here goes nothing," Lindsay mutters, opening the door. Her breath catches in her throat. "Wow."
Cindy jumps and whips around - all encased in white - relaxes when she realizes who it is, and then glares. "What are you doing in here?"
"How did you even get in here? Does Jill know that you're in here?" Cindy asks hysterically.
"Don't marry him." Cindy stops hyperventilating and stares at the brunette with her mouth open in shock. "Please don't," Lindsay begs. "Because...because I've been a complete idiot and leaving you was by far the stupidest thing I've ever done and..."
"Stop. Just...don't do this. You have no right to come in here..."
"I know, I know." Lindsay runs a hand through her hair. "And I know you deserve so much more than me, but I love you so much, more than anything and I...I freaked out when I thought, when I knew I was losing you. But I need you to give me a second chance because I know that I'll love you forever and even longer. I left and I assumed you would wait and I was wrong to think that."
"I did wait, but then you...and he's a nice guy and..." Lindsay crosses the five feet between them and takes Cindy's face in her hands.
"I'll wait for you, forever." Cindy closes her eyes and sighs. Lindsay releases the redhead and leaves before the reporter can see the tears welling up in her eyes. Fifteen minutes later, Claire grabs her hand as the "here comes the bride" music begins to play. But it's not Cindy that comes down the aisle.
"She called off the wedding," Jill whispers as she strides past. Lindsay mutters a silent "Thank God" and smiles at Claire. But her smile fades after a few minutes when she realizes that Cindy didn't just call off the wedding: she took off.
"I attract midnight visitors like rats," Lindsay mutters to herself as she opens the door to her apartment. For a second, she lets herself imagine that Cindy is out in the hallway, finally coming home to her.
"Hi." It's not Cindy.
"Jake, what are you...is that blood?" The man in her doorway looks down and nods. "Well, come in," Lindsay says after a moment of silence.
"I got into a bit of a fight down the street and I remembered that you lived here and..."
"She's not here Jake," Lindsay says, noticing his eyes searching the rooms. "She hasn't been here either," she adds. His head drops.
"I thought she might..."
"Come here to me? She didn't." Lindsay doesn't try to hide the bitterness in her voice. Jake gives her a humorless smile.
"She said once she was going to leave. We fought about her dog Martha..."
"My dog," Lindsay interrupts sullenly.
"Right, your dog. It was a stupid fight, but she had her bags packed and I asked her where exactly she thought she was going." Lindsay nods along with the story as she wraps Jake's hand in a paper towel. "She said she was going to find you, going to head out to Vegas and find you. But I wasn't afraid that she would leave. I wasn't scared because of that. What scared me..."
"Hold still, " Lindsay grimaces as Jake's blood starts to coat her fingers.
"Sorry. What scared me was that she wasn't even serious. She wasn't serious about leaving me, because she had given up on you. Seeing that hope fade from her eyes, that was what I was afraid of."
Lindsay turns from Jake, trying to hide the pain clearly written on her face, but he reaches over, bloody hands and all and grabs her slender fingers.
"Don't give up on her too."
Claire calls in the early morning, just as Lindsay steps out the shower: Cindy's home. Dressing quickly, Lindsay rushes to Claire's house as Ed is bringing the boys to school. She bursts through the door and pulls up short when she sees the redhead on the couch, gripping a cup of tea and staring at the floor. Lindsay is speechless for a minute.
Cindy looks up, but doesn't meet the brunette's gaze. She whispers "hello" is response and sips her tea gingerly. Lindsay watches the redhead's movements in amazement, intently, as if she's a mirage who will disappear.
"Are you staying?" Lindsay asks bluntly, not catching sight of any bags.
"I...I don't know." The Inspector watches Cindy's face pale and her eyes go wide. In an instant, the redhead is off the couch and bounding towards the back of the house. Even though Claire's eyes are telling her "no," Lindsay follows the reporter anyways. She finds the redhead crouched over the toilet bowl and the brunette immediately drops to her knees and gather locks of auburn hair in her slender fingers, pulling them away from Cindy's neck and face.
Thank you," Cindy mumbles when she's finished. Lindsay moves from her knees and settles on the floor against the wall.
"I know you're angry at me, I just didn't figure you'd be repulsed by me," Cindy doesn't laugh. "Sorry, that wasn't funny" Cindy whispers something inaudible and Lindsay leans forward, asking her to repeat herself.
"I said, I'm two months pregnant. With Jake's baby." The hand that is reaching for Cindy's, crawling across the linoleum bathroom floor, stops suddenly. "It's morning sickness. I get sick a lot," Cindy says matter-of-factly.
"Oh." Lindsay's not sure what she should say. She wants to reach out and grab the reporter and just hold her, so she does. Cindy still fits perfectly in her arms and the redhead immediately buries her head in the brunette's strong shoulder and her body shakes in Lindsay's arms.
"Is that all you have to say?" Cindy asks after a minute.
"Does Jake know?" Lindsay hears herself ask. Cindy nods. "Oh," Lindsay says again.
They sit still for a moment, Cindy tucked into Lindsay's side, breathing steadily in time with the brunette's heartbeat.
"Are you staying?" Lindsay asks again. "Are you coming home? To me?"
"I'm pregnant with my ex-fiancé's baby. I throw up every morning and probably will for another month or two. After that, I'll be moody and crabby and angry and demanding. I'll crave ice cream at two in the morning and I'll probably cry a lot. Hell, I might even..."
"Are you coming home?" Lindsay asks, tightening her hold on Cindy.
"Did you hear a word I said?"
"Yes, I did. Are you coming home?" Cindy looks up at the brunette and sighs.
"What about Jake? And the baby? And the morning sickness?" Lindsay smiles.
"Just come home."
Cindy smiles shyly and tucks her head back into the crook of Lindsay's neck. "Okay."
Lindsay opens her apartment door quietly. She checks her watch - 10:30pm - and knows she needs to be quiet so she doesn't disturb Cindy's sleeping schedule. At six months, Cindy is being strict, almost obsessive compulsive, about how much sleep she gets, Lindsay muses. Tripping over a "crib-in-a-box," Lindsay grabs for the couch. She sees the kitchen, dimly lit up and strains her ears when she hears the slightest indescribable noise coming from the room. Unclipping her gun and glancing at her bedroom door, she creeps along the wooden floor and presses herself against the wall, ready to spring out onto the intruder.
"Da da da dum, do do do doo." Cindy is standing in the kitchen, in an old t-shirt, dancing in circles and humming, mixing something in a big bowl.
"Do do do do, do de da. Da da do dum, day." Lindsay smiles and moves into the doorway, leaning against the wall gently, putting her gun back in its holster.
"Do de do do." Cindy spins around and catches sight of the brunette, almost dropping the bowl in her hand as one automatically flies to her heart.
"Don't do that! You scared me..."
"Hi to you too darlin'," Lindsay smirks, crossing the tile floor gracefully and sweeping Cindy up in a circle, depositing the brownie bowl mix onto the counter as she dances the redhead around the room. "That was a nice song," Lindsay adds.
"What are you doing?" Cindy asks, her eyes sparkling.
"You sing, I'll lead," Lindsay replies with a smile, spinning the smaller woman in her arms and dipping her.
"Gosh, you're such a romantic," Cindy gushes as Lindsay grins.
"I'll be here all night baby."
"Well then," Cindy says, closing her eyes. "Do do do doo, da da da dum..."
Lindsay can hear the screaming from the hall, the yells drifting in and out as the doors are pushed open and closed. Heather, of all people, is sitting beside her, letting the brunette squeeze the feeling out of Mrs. Hogan's hand.
"Are you sure you don't want to..."
Lindsay cuts her off with a wave of her hand. "It's really better if I stay out here." Heather can't help but grin.
"If you say so." As soon as the words are out of Heather's mouth, the door opens violently and Jill storms in their direction.
"Boxer! You better get your ass in there before she hits someone." The blond drops down into the uncomfortable hospital chair. "I'm going to be an aunt." Jill sits up straight in realization. "You're going to be a mom!" She says accusingly, pointing her finger into Lindsay's face.
"Am I late?" Jake asks, coming to a running stop besides them, breathing heavily.
"You're right on time," Heather says brightly. Jake flashes her a thank you smile unconsciously and does a double take.
"Hi," he says softly. Heather blushes.
"Boxer!" Claire comes barreling out of the swinging doors. "Oh, hey Jake. Lindsay, she wants you, like, right now. You too Jake."
The two brunettes eye each other, Lindsay staring at the coffee man warily.
"I'm invested," He tells her reassuringly. Lindsay smiles briefly and nods in the direction of the hospital room. By the time they make it to Lindsay's side, the redhead is almost completely exhausted, her auburn hair plastered to her forehead.
"What the hell took you two so damn long?" She asks through gritted teeth.
"It's good to see you too honey," Lindsay says cheerily. As if she knows how nervous the brunette is, Cindy grabs Lindsay's hand reassuringly and squeezes.
"I'm the one who's supposed to be freaking out right now, okay?" Jake laughs and Lindsay smiles gratefully.
"Push!" The doctor yells and in one final, strangled gasp of breath, Cindy is crying in relief and Jake is grinning like a madman. "It's a girl," the doctor says with a smile, passing the baby to Jake first. He smiles at the newborn before handing her off to Lindsay's waiting arms. She gingerly cradles the small baby and tries to clear her tearing eyes.
"It's a girl," she whispers, kissing the redhead's temple. "It's our little star." Cindy smiles tiredly.
"Our star," the redhead repeats. "Aubrey Jacob Boxer-Thomas."
Lindsay can't help but laugh. "That's a mouthful."
"Aubrey means 'noble' and Jake is her father's name. We can call her A.J." Lindsay smiles softly at the brunette man at the end of the hospital bed and passes her daughter - her daughter, she muses - to Cindy.
"A.J. Boxer-Thomas it is then." Our star, Lindsay adds silently.
It takes a trip to the bank and just one little loan, but the necessary papers and keys are in the brunette's hands and she's jumping up and down like a little kid at Christmas. Three-month-old A.J. is in the backseat, giving "Mama Lindsay" a toothless smile while Cindy glares at Lindsay from the passenger seat.
"Can't you just tell me where it is we're going?" Lindsay chuckles and A.J. gurgles.
"And ruin all the fun? No way honey." Cindy glares and crosses her arms over her chest, Lindsay subtly pats her hip pocket and reaffirms that the key is there. She wants her plan to go off without a hitch, and not having her key would probably be a cause for ruin.
"Please Lindsay?" Cindy pouts and Lindsay can't look at her.
"A.J., tell your mama that she can't pout every time she doesn't get what she wants."
"A.J., don't listen to your mother." Cindy shoots back. Lindsay pulls the car to the side of the road and smiles brightly at the redhead. "This isn't Claire's house," Cindy says thoughtfully.
"But you're getting out anyways."
"Yep." Cindy remains where she is as Lindsay gets out of "Maggie's" replacement, "The Box" and opens the backseat, going to unbuckle A.J. "Are you getting out, or are you just going to sit there?" Lindsay digs around in her pocket as Cindy gets out of the car. "Here." The brunette tosses the key to the redhead.
It takes a minute for it to sink in before Cindy realizes what's going on. "Seriously?" The redhead jumps animatedly. "Like honestly? It's ours? It's ours! A.J., it's house!" Lindsay leans against "The Box" and laughs. A car pulls up behind her and Jill's husband Tanner gets out, lugging boxes from the backseat.
"I love it when they come to conclusion that they actually own the house," he says with a knowing smile.
"Well, it's all thanks to you Mr. Real Estate man." Lindsay bounces A.J. in her arms as Cindy enters the house. "Welcome home A.J.," she whispers in the baby's ear.
Lindsay is, for a lack of better words, confused. She's sitting at her desk, eyes narrowed, brow furrowed, staring at Jacobi's office door because she doesn't know what else to stare at.
On her way back to the precinct, she had passed Susie's and was surprised to see "The Box" parked in front. She had slowed down and saw Cindy walk out of the front door, eight-month-old A.J. bouncing on her hip, flanked by a smiling Jamie Galvin. The Inspector had almost driven her car onto the sidewalk when she saw Jamie lean in and kiss the redhead on the cheek as he tickled A.J.'s stomach.
I hate him, Lindsay says in her head, sitting at her desk, ramrod straight. Her phone rings and she grabs the receiver violently. "What?" she can feel the person on the other line flinch.
"Wow Boxer. Grouchy much?
"Sorry Jill, I just "
"Thought I was someone else apparently." Lindsay semi-relaxes. "I'd hate to be them. And you know, you seem like you're wound a little too tight. Maybe Cindy could " Lindsay slams down the receiver as said redhead enters through the double doors. She has A.J.'s tiny hands in her and is walking the tiny brunette across the precinct floor, smiling at all the uniformed officers. Lindsay can't help but smile at the sight of her daughter her daughter trying to walk on her own.
"Hey you." Cindy says with a smile, leaning in for a kiss. Lindsay turns her head and feels Cindy's lips touch her burning cheek. "What was that?" Lindsay reaches down and swings A.J. up into her arms.
"What was what?"
"You just gave me the cheek." The look on Cindy's face is adorable: a mix between anger and confusion.
"What were you doing with Jamie?" There, its out in the open and Lindsay knows she's jumping past rationality and right into conclusions. Cindy's face shifts.
"Oh, honey "
"Don't honey me. What were you doing with him? Are you " Lindsay voice drops. "Are you sleeping with him?"
Cindy just stares, her face blank, before she smiles and laughs. "Baby. I'm not sleeping with anyone but you."
"But I saw "
"Me, congratulating him, on his recent engagement," Cindy says, as she smiles and lets A.J. reach forward and grab her fingers. Lindsay feels like an idiot.
"Oh, I uh "
"Oh sweetie, it's okay. I know how you feel about him and you were confused."
"Yeah, confused." Lindsay looks away sheepishly and then flashes a brilliant smile at Cindy. "How about that kiss now?"
It's been waking Lindsay up in the middle of the night for at least a week now: a nagging feeling. It takes her the first couple of days to figure out what the feeling is, and when she does, she's not happy about it. On the fourth night, when Lindsay bolts awake and glances around the room, she realizes that what she's feeling is fear. She's afraid.
She doesn't know what she's afraid of at first: that takes another night. And then she realizes she's afraid of being a mother; afraid of failing her daughter; afraid have failing Cindy. On the eighth night of waking up in a cold sweat, Lindsay stealthy leaves her bed and travels the ten feet down the hall soundlessly to stand in her daughter's doorway.
"What's wrong?" Cindy is suddenly by her side, eyes tired and hair wild. "Its three in the morning Linds."
"I was just watching her sleep," Lindsay says in a whisper, her arms folded across her chest.
Cindy stays silent for a moment, her eyes darting back and forth between the sleeping child and the restless Inspector. Gingerly, she slides her arms around the brunette's torso and rests her head against Lindsay's arm, not quite tall enough to reach the other woman's shoulder.
"What's wrong," Cindy repeats, "with you?" Lindsay is silent for a minute, her body tensed and her mind racing. "Hey." Cindy pulls her attention. "Get out of your head and tell me what's wrong."
"I'm scared." Lindsay admits after a moment of silence.
Cindy doesn't move. "Of what?"
"What if I can't do this? What if I can't be a mom? What if I fail her, or you? What if..."
"What if you don't?" Lindsay closes her mouth and waits for the redhead to keep speaking. Cindy moves around to face Lindsay, sliding her arms around Lindsay's waist. "Honey, I've seen you with her, I've seen the way you look at her and the way she looks at you. The only way you could ever fail her is if you decide one day that you don't love her. You can do this, I know you can. We've made it this far." Cindy grabs the brunette's chin up and locks eyes with her.
"I know," Lindsay says with unshed tears in her eyes.
"We've made it through ex-husbands, kitchen fires, boyfriends, engagements, jealousy, fights, you running away, me running away, and A.J. waking up in the middle of the night. We can do anything, the two of us. You have nothing to be afraid of, because we're going to do this together, you and me."
Lindsay nods and buries her face in the auburn hair. "Nothing to be afraid of," she whispers to herself.
Lindsay likes to compare Cindy's anger to lightning and thunderstorms. As the redhead stalks across the kitchen, her eyes ablaze, Lindsay sits on the sidelines and watches in amusement. That is, she's amused until Cindy turns her attention from Jake to Lindsay. The fiery redhead is pointing and making hand motions and its all the two brunettes can do to keep from being "accidentally" hit in the head.
"Babe, you've got to understand " Lindsay is cut off by the sheer force of the glare she gets from Cindy.
"Don't you dare try to explain this to me. I gave you specific instructions and you blatantly jus threw them out the goddamn window!" Lindsay's easy grin evaporates off her face in shock, and Jake refuses to look anywhere but the ground.
Lindsay stares at Cindy, the mother of her child, and can't help but imagine how thunder rumbles every time the reporter takes a threatening step and lightning flashes when her eyes narrow.
Cindy is a storm of fury and rage and Lindsay kinda sorta finds it wicked sexy.
The raven-haired Inspector forgets, just for minute, what Cindy is yelling about (something about A.J. not taking a bath) and watches the redhead in amazement. Her mother had always told her that thunderstorms and lightning weren't scary, they were romantic. They were grand gestures and meaningful conversations.
Natural wonders were always romantic to her mother, and always another reason to play outside for Lindsay. But in that instant, as Lindsay watches her girl storm through the kitchen, things changes. And in an instant, Lindsay feels the same way her mother did.
And Lindsay falls even more in love with Cindy, falls hard with the way that Cindy seems to flash around the room, lighting up the darkest corners and shaking the world with her words.
Cindy is like a thunder and lightning storm. Lindsay decides, from that moment on, she loves storms for more reasons than puddle splashing.
Lindsay realizes that she's a very insecure person, and this thought occurs to her on a daily basis. At the park, right now, watching three-year-old A.J. play in the sandbox, Lindsay wonders of the little girls truly loves her as much as she loves her redheaded mother.
If Cindy knew she was thinking this
"Mama?" A.J. is standing in front of her now, her curly mane of raven hair peppered with sand and a smile that could break her heart in an instant.
"Hey pretty girl, whatcha got?" Lindsay pulls the small child into her arms with ease and the raven-haired inspector smiles at how easily her daughter fits into her arms.
"A tovel!" Lindsay laughs at the pride in A.J.'s voice.
"Nice job kiddo. Want to play for a little while longer? We have to meet mommy soon," Lindsay says with a glance at her watch. The redhead was going to meet them at the diner so they could celebrate Cindy's recent promotion.
"Mama? Mama, down." The three-year-old is wiggling in her arms, so, reluctantly, Lindsay releases her and watches with a grin as the toddler rushes back to her sand fortress.
"Its so great that you're here with her," a voice says from her left. Lindsay turns and comes face to face with an older woman, around Cindy's mother's age. She smiles wide and nods.
"The bonds between mother and child are very important, as are the bonds between father and child." Lindsay's grin falters slightly, but she thanks the woman anyways.
"A.J.!" Lindsay looks up at the sound of Cindy's voice, as does the toddler in the sandbox. A.J. immediately runs for towards the redhead and Lindsay starts to follow with a wide smile.
"Dad-da!" The raven-haired Inspector stops short when she notices the brunette man standing next to Cindy. She can't help think about what that woman said as Jake swings his daughter around in a circle: the bonds between a child and father.
And the seeds of doubt have begun to sow.
Lindsay crosses her arms defiantly. "No." A.J. pouts, jutting out her lower lip, making it tremble slightly. Lindsay can feel her resolve crumbling.
"I said no," she whines, but reaches up and snags the purple stuffed elephant and drops it into the cart. Little hands strain from the carriage seat.
"Mama." The pout is in full force, but Lindsay won't break this time. She thinks. She hopes.
But before she has a chance to break again and hand the over-priced, cotton-filled animal to her daughter, a manicured hand, one that Lindsay does not recognize, plucks the offending object in the air and hands it to the now smiling four-year-old.
"You were going to give it to her eventually. Right?" Lindsay looks into the smiling face of Heather Hogan.
"Eventually," Lindsay says coolly, trying to hide her shock at the bulge in the blonde's stomach. But Heather notices and places on hand on her stomach gently.
"I was going to tell you " She trails off when she sees Cindy come down the aisle, a box of dog biscuits in her arms.
"Heather!" The redhead smiles. "And Jake." From behind Heather, the brunette man appears out of thin air and hoists A.J. out of the carriage.
"Daddy! Daddy!" Her daughter bounces in her father's arms, smiling so wide the grin is going to fall off her face any second. The Inspector zones out, watching the way that A.J.'s eyes lights up every time Jake tosses her higher and higher into the air. With an elbow to the side, she finally gets in the conversation only to hear it wrapping up.
"I think we're going to name the baby Tom, if it's a boy," Heather is saying, her hand resting lightly on Jake's wrist. "And of course, he would be A.J.'s little brother."
Lindsay, trying hard not to seem violent, grabs A.J. from Jake's arms and heads down the aisle, trying not to think about how she is being so selfish, hoping to hide her daughter away forever.
Her cell phone rings at the same time her computer alarm goes off, at the same time A.J. decides to press all the buttons on the microwave which shouldn't be within reach of her anyway, Lindsay muses at the same time the house phone goes off.
Being pulled in fourteen different direction, Lindsay can't even hear herself think. Making a move to answer the house phone, she trips over a remote control car that Jake bought A.J.
"Goddammit!" A giggle from behind her makes her stop dead in her tracks. "Shit," she whispers.
A.J. is sitting in the middle of the hallway, rolling the newly learned around. "odamit."
"No, no, no, no, no." Lindsay sinks to her knees in front of the toddler and stares into A.J.'s face. "You can't say that word, because Momma doesn't want you to know that word, alright pretty girl. Alright?" The toddler giggles some more as the telephone rings louder and louder.
"Ahhh!" Lindsay grabs the phone and unplugs it from the wall.
Later, when Cindy comes home, she finds Lindsay and A.J. out in the backyard, kicking around one of Martha's beat up soccer balls.
"I tried calling you," Cindy tells the brunette when her two girls finally tire out. Lindsay glances over at A.J. and smiles.
"Odamit! Odamit!" Cindy looks shocked, but Lindsay is smiling.
"We pulled all the plugs out of the wall. Technology sucks." The brunette turns over in Cindy's arms and smiles.
"Did she just say 'goddammit?'" Cindy asks, ignoring Lindsay's bait to start the "technology sucks" argument.
"Odamit!" A.J. screams from her place on the couch.
Lindsay whinces. "Jill taught her that."
The piece of paper in A.J.'s hand brings back all of the doubts that Lindsay had buried in just one instant.
'A gift' her daughter called it. The little girl had smiled and handed it to her Momma with such pride twinkling in her eyes that to hide her despair took so much of Lindsay's self control.
It's a picture of A.J. holding hands with her family Cindy on one side, Jake on the other. Lindsay's picture had been crammed into the margin-space with Martha.
"There's Mommy and Daddy, and look Momma, there's you with Martha!" The four-year-old is so exicted about her accomplishment, and Cindy saves her from having to say anything.
"That's so great A.J.! Let's go hang it on the fridge. Within seconds, Cindy is back at Lindsay's side with a frown on her face.
"What's your problem." Lindsay isn't looking at her though, and is already thinking about an excuse she can use to go back to the precinct. "I'm talking to you."
Lindsay looks up and flashes a smile. "Nothing. I've got a case to look over real quick, so I'll be home in a little while, kay?" She's halfway out the door when Cindy calls to her.
"Don't do this. Do not shut down." The statement isn't a plea, it's a demand.
"You have too much to lose Lindsay Boxer." Lindsay shuts the door behind her.
She doesn't look a thing like Lindsay, but the brunette didn't really expect that. What Lindsay still doesn't expect, even after five years, is how much A.J. looks like her father.
But what kills Lindsay is the smile. Every time A.J. smiles, Lindsay can see why Cindy fell in love with Jake. The way the little girl's face breaks open wide every time she grins makes Lindsay smile. Every time.
And that hurts.
Lindsay wants to be able to look at her daughter her daughter and not have to flinch when that sweet smile stretches across her face. A.J. is too young to notice the way Lindsay stares a little too hard; too young and too much in love with the brunette to stop and worry about the frown lines crinkling around dark, burnt wood eyes.
But Cindy notices. Cindy has noticed, for some time now. The redhead watches the way Lindsay gets farther and farther away from the little girl.
It should be breaking A.J.'s little heart.
Instead, it's breaking Cindy's. Because Cindy knows what happens next, she's seen this act one too many times. She knows how Lindsay Boxer works and this is just Phase 1. Phase 2 involves tears and heartbreak and packed suitcases and doors slamming in finality. Phase 2 will end in awkward explanations and tearful screaming matches over the phone and nights spent in bed with her daughter, trying to explain to her sweet, innocent baby girl, why Momma left. And Cindy will sit back and try not to get to tangled up in the train wreck that is Lindsay Boxer.
Cindy smiles for now, because she wants every good moment while she has it.
A.J. smiles for now, because Momma just told a funny joke.
Lindsay stops smiling. Phase 2, Cindy notes, might come sooner than expected.
A.J. is sitting on Lindsay's bed, swinging her feet that don't quite touch the ground yet. At eight years old, Aubrey Jacob Boxer-Thomas is as inquisitive as Cindy and as instinctive as Lindsay. She has her father's eyes and smile, and Cindy's lack of comprehension when it comes to the raven-haired Inspector.
"But I don't get why you want to leave," the young girl says, her voice filled with emotion and her eyes welling with tears. Lindsay sneaks a glance at Cindy in the doorway, and notices that the redhead's eyes are asking the same question. Lindsay sighs as she puts another shirt in her suitcase, only to have A.J. pull it back out again.
"I don't want to kiddo, but I just "
"If you don't want to, then why are you?" A.J. demands, glaring at her mother with hurt eyes, cutting her off in a way she thought only Cindy was capable of.
"I love you so much, you know that, right?" Lindsay drops to one knee and lifts the young girl's chin. She stares into amber eyes replicates of Cindy's eyes.
"No you don't," A.J. says seriously, jumping off the bed and running into the hallway, her feet heavy on the hardwood floors. Desperately, Lindsay looks to Cindy for help, but the redhead only moves back to her position in the doorway.
"Will you explain to her why, please?" Cindy doesn't move.
"I'm not explaining anything to her. She's a child, and she wants to know why her mother is just deciding to pack up and leave." Cindy breathes out through her noise. "Goddamn it Lindsay. I hope you know what you're doing. It isn't only me you're leaving this time." The redhead pushes off the doorway and into the bathroom, slamming the door, hoping Lindsay doesn't see the tears streaming down her face. Cindy is breaking and Lindsay is leaving. The cycle never stops.
Slowly, Lindsay approaches A.J.'s room and looks in at the girl who has fallen asleep on her bed. Her face is tear-streaked and her fists are gripping the sheets terribly, but Lindsay can't help but smile at how innocent she looks. Someday, the world is going to break your heart, she thinks to herself. I hope you're stronger than me.
Lindsay pulls the door shut behind her when she leaves and tries to forget the sound of Cindy crying softly and the way A.J. looked when she was sleeping.
She ends up on Jill's couch, spending her days running on nothing while Jill and Tanner try to keep Tanner Jr., Lizzie and Luke from giving "Aunt Lindsay" too much of a headache. She tries to avoid questions like "Where's A.J.?" and "When is Auntie Cindy coming over?"
She goes to work and comes home feeling empty every night. She has no one to blame but herself. And Jill tells her that too.
"You have no one to blame but yourself."
"Thanks for that great insight Jill, 'preciate it." The lawyer throws a folded pair of socks at the brunette and sighs when Lindsay just lets it hit her.
"What were you thinking, seriously? You had such a good thing going and then "
"And then I had to go and be me and ruin it all? I know."
"Look, I'm you're best friend, okay. But you're being an idiot and this isn't the first time you've done something like this. Want to know what the difference is though?" Jill asks, not giving Lindsay a moment to respond. "The difference is this time, you've brought A.J. into it, her feelings, and it's not going to be so easy to win both of them back over."
"Look at you," Lindsay says, completely ignoring Jill's rant. "You're domesticated and you have three kids. You have a family and your life is just so it's so complete."
"And you think your life isn't?" Jill asks, the anger in her voice giving her away.
"I used to think so, but I've been noticing, over the years that, it's not." Lindsay can't look at Jill, afraid the blonde will hit her or begin to scream. "I'm doing what's best for A.J. If I'm gone, she might have a chance to have a great life, her and Cindy and and Jake." She can feel the couch shift next to her as Jill sighs and leans over to kiss her forehead before going to bed.
"I love you Lindsay Boxer, but you're a goddamn idiot."
Lindsay rolled over in her bed, the smell of burning toast and burning coffee permeating the air. Laughter is rolling in through her open bedroom door and she pulls the sheets tighter around her body and sighs. This is bliss.
Then the alarm clock goes off and Lindsay slams a heavy hand down on the snooze button, shutting her eyes tight at against the violent rays of the early morning sun. This sucks. Frowning at the numbers on the clock, she slowly makes her way to the kitchen and flips on the coffee machine, only to remember she never set it up last night.
She pushes power on the TV and notes, with disgust, that the forecast for today is what the forecast has been for the last seven months since she left home overcast and rainy.
The brunette stops and wonders for a moment: will she work up the nerve to go back to her home her life - and ask, no, beg for Cindy to let her come home; beg Cindy to try again, even though she doesn't deserve it.
But the clouds in the sky, threatening to break open and spill her tears onto the streets of San Francisco, tell her that today isn't that day, she should wait until tomorrow.
She ends up, with Martha, outside of her house, staring into her living room, watching A.J. watch TV. She stands motionless as Cindy her Cindy walks into the room and scoops the young girl up like she was a feather.
She thinks, for a split second, that Cindy is looking at her, staring at her in wonderment, but the brunette blinks and the moment is gone.
Must have been the clouds in my eyes, the Inspector muses, continuing her run in the early morning Bay fog. I just want to go home.
Cindy calls her in November, late at night, just as she's about to settle in for the night.
"Meet me at the park in twenty minutes," is the only thing Cindy says before hanging up, leaving the befuddled Inspector only five minutes at most to look somewhat respectable. When she shows up, early even, Cindy is waiting for her on the abandoned swing set. The reporter says nothing but moves over to the grass and flops down on her back, staring up at the stars. Lindsay obligates, and lays down next to her.
"Don't talk," Cindy warns Lindsay. The brunette lies in silence and stares up at the star-filled sky, tempted to lace her long fingers with Cindy's strong ones.
"I " Cindy opens her mouth, but only says one word. "A.J. misses you. She wants you to come home."
It takes all the brunette has not to jump into the night sky and scream for joy at the top of her lungs. "I want to come home," she admits softly. "I know that I've "
But Cindy is cutting her off quickly. "Don't. Just don't do that. I know you know. I don't need you to tell me." Cindy rolls over onto her side, staring into hazel eyes. "I need you to tell me that you won't do this again. I need you to tell me you're coming home and you're never leaving."
"I'm never leaving," she whispers. Cindy nods doesn't smile and settles against Lindsay's shoulder, her head resting comfortably in the crook of Lindsay's neck.
Someone up there someone in the sky is looking out for her.
It's like a bad dream: the ominous ringing of the phone, the dull heartbeat, the cold sweat. Just like the last phone call, Cindy answers it. Just like the last phone call, the redhead breaks down in the living room, clutching the phone desperately.
It's not Tom this time.
This time, it's Cindy's father. And hours after the phone call, with Cindy passed out from crying herself exhausted, Lindsay is explaining to A.J. poor, ten-year-old A.J. where Granpa went.
She calls it Heaven. Heaven is where Gramma and Granpa Boxer are; Heaven is where Uncle Tom is; Heaven is where Granpa Jacobi is. A.J. understands and ends up wrapped in Cindy's embrace, snuggled into the couch.
Lindsay watches her girls sleep, and marvels at how peaceful they look.
Heaven may be "up there," but Heaven is lying on her sofa right now too.
Heaven sleeps in her bed, but Hell is standing at her door right now, his smile gone and his eyes dim.
"Lindsay, I " His words die in his throat.
"What's wrong?" Even if she can't stand him and the way he has such a hold on her, he is A.J.'s father, and that means something.
That's when the floodgates of Hell break open, right there on her front porch.
No," she says, over and over again. "Absolutely not."
The argument wakes Cindy who stumbles to the door with bed-head and a lazy frown. "You're going to wake A.J.," she whispers fiercely. "Jake?"
"He wants her," Lindsay growls, his eyes narrowed at Jake. For his part, he stands on the porch, in the single-bulb light and fiddles with his fingers, looks down at his shoes.
"Wants who?" Jake looks up, and Cindy gets it.
"You will leave this house, right now. And if you ever come back here, Jacob Conner, I will kill you myself." Cindy's eye glisten and Lindsay feels her heart swell with something like fear and pride. "You cannot take my daughter away from me."
"Not from you! From her!" Jake all but screams. His hand, pointed at Lindsay, is shaking. "She left you. She abandoned you. I never left you. I never, ever walked away from you." His voice drops. "She doesn't deserve you.
"Jake," Cindy says without pause. "Get the hell off my porch."
She slams the door shut and stares up at Lindsay.
But Lindsay is already gone, already standing in the doorway of A.J.'s room, already planning everything that could go wrong.
"Does he have a case?" Lindsay asks Jill for the fifth time in an hour.
Jill shushes her.
"Does he?" Finally, Jill spins in her chair and sighs. "Oh God, he does, doesn't he?"
"He's got science on his side, but we have human interest," the blond tries to explain. "No jury is going to hand over a thirteen-year-old girl living with her two mommies because her dad decides, late in the game, that he wants her. Absolutely not."
Cindy's head pops in the doorway. "What's taking you two so long?" She catches sight of the somber expressions and her smile fades. "What's wrong?"
"He has a case," Lindsay whispers, her long fingers twisted into the hem of her t-shirt. "That coward has a case. Just because Heather left him and took Tommy with her," the Inspector rants. "It doesn't give him the right to come in here and wreck someone else's family."
Cindy's words fall on deaf ears as Lindsay turns and paces around Jill's home office. The reporter watches, exchanging worried glances with Jill. "Lindsay, baby, stop."
"I can't let this happen," Lindsay mutters, striding out the door, through the kitchen and into the backyard, the need to see her daughter splashing around in the pool with the kids; with Jr. and Lizzie and Luke enjoying life. Her mind races through the last thirteen years: all the things they did and the times she messed up and the way she loved loves her daughter.
"Just enjoy the picnic," Cindy whispers, lifting up on her tiptoes to speak into Lindsay's ears.
Lindsay nods and tries to smile, but the sun cuts into her vision and instead of a warm Independence Day feeling, it burns her insides.
And makes her worry.
The little hand in hers is warm and just a little sweaty so Lindsay readjusts her grip and clings on tighter. "Mom," A.J. giggles. "I'm not going anywhere."
Rolling onto her side, Lindsay grins. "Well, I'm just making sure." She lies back down up her head upward. "Did you see that one?" she asks, pointing one long arm.
"No! Was it a shooting star?"
Lindsay smiles. "Yeah, didn't you wish on it."
"Damn. I missed it."
"Watch your mouth."
"You're the one who said it first," A.J. argues. Lindsay doesn't take the bait, because she is Cindy's daughter after all, which means she can talk for hours; talk enough to drive Lindsay absolutely nuts, and she's Jill's goddaughter, which means she can even argue while she's talking incessantly.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah." The Inspector tilts her head back and watches the stars dance across the full moon. It's a moment of respite for them both: Cindy on assignment in Boston gave them no curfew and no real food in the fridge so they ended up with Chinese takeout and an impromptu star-gazing lesson courtesy of Aubrey Jacob Boxer-Thomas.
She wants this moment to last. Soon, A.J. will be in high school and she won't want to 'hang out' with either of her moms and things like this learning the constellations and eating pork fried rice out of greasy cartons will be the past.
For now, she grips A.J.'s hand a little tighter and laughs a little harder.
Jake is on the front porch again when they get home from the department softball game. Lindsay stops in the driveway, the car half in, half out and Cindy goes to ask her what's wrong, but she sees him and she keeps her mouth shut.
A.J. says nothing in the backseat.
"What is he "
But A.J. cuts her off. "I called him."
Lindsay blanches full on pales and feels like she wants to throw up. She knows they've been arguing lately, because A.J. is fifteen and it's what she's good at and Lindsay is stubborn and hardheaded, but this this is low.
And A.J. cuts Cindy off too. "He's my father, alright? He's my dad and I get to decide when I see him and today, I want to see him." She hops out of the car. "So deal with it."
"Aubrey Boxer "
"Jeez Mom, don't you ever get tired of all those hyphens?" She slams the door shut and Cindy slumps back into her seat and covers her eyes with one hand.
Lindsay's already out of the car, slamming the door shut just as hard as A.J. did, striding up the stairs, across the porch and grabbing the back of A.J.'s collar, hustling her inside before either her or Jake can say a word.
"You don't ever talk to your mother that way, do you understand me? If I ever catch you speaking to her like that again, I'll make your life a living hell, is that clear? She's your mother and she deserves your goddamn respect." If A.J. is old enough to make decisions about Jake by herself, Lindsay reasons, she's old enough to be yelled at like an adult.
If she's old enough to blatantly disrespect her mother, then she's old enough to be treated like an adult.
A.J. is fuming Lindsay can almost see the steam coming out of her ears. "Who do you think you are?" she screeches.
"I'm your mother."
"No you're not!"
And Lindsay feels the world stop, and the ocean the tears streaming down her face opens up and swallows her whole.
"Is she still living with Jake?" Jill's question is soft but it still cuts through Lindsay's already bleeding heart.
"Yeah," she replies wearily. She's tired tired of fighting Jake for A.J.; tired of fighting A.J. for Cindy's sake; tired of fighting Cindy because she's the only one left to yell at.
"The judge didn't say "
"I know what the judge didn't say Jill," she snaps. The judge didn't say Jake could get full custody, or any custody, but he didn't say that A.J. couldn't choose either.
The door to Papa Joe's opens and Cindy comes inside slowly, her head buried in her notebook and Claire trailing behind her, steering her in the right direction. For a moment, she looks up and her eyes lock on Lindsay's and then she smiles slightly, because Lindsay's eyes are apologizing for this morning the yelling and yesterday the yelling and the day before the yelling.
"Did you talk to her?" Cindy doesn't even get a chance to sit down.
"When is she "
"Lindsay, don't," Cindy warns. Because Lindsay isn't going to like the answer. She's not going to like the fact that her daughter doesn't want to come home, because she thinks that her mother Lindsay is pushy and sometimes a bitch and manipulative.
Lindsay won't like that at all.
"But I've got this for you."
The ocean around Lindsay stops raging and she's dropped onto the shore safe and sound. Because it's a note, written in A.J.'s chicken scrawl, with her name on the top.
"Dear Mom," it says, as she reads it out loud. "I want to apologize. For saying you're not my mom and for thinking it and for being too much of your daughter to stay in the same room as you. I'm sorry that I can't come home right now. I just have to think. I still love you, A.J."
It's a start.
Lindsay never imagined her life this way. When she was younger, just starting out on the force and she had just met Claire and Tom would shoot her glances over their desks, she always just thought that she'd find someone and be moderately happy.
She didn't expect Cindy Thomas or her daughter their daughter.
She didn't expect the white picket fence dream and the dog and the crazy Thanksgiving dinners.
She thought it was either Tom or dying a lonely old maid with a couple of cats.
"Honey?" Lindsay calls out, biting her tongue because she sounds like a housewife.
"Where'd you put the new bottle of ketchup?"
"It's behind the pickles," not-Cindy's voice comes from doorway. Lindsay spins around, hand reaching down for the phantom limb she carries, the gun she has locked away in the safe in her study because Cindy hates it when it's hanging around unsafe.
A.J. is standing in the doorway with her backpack slung over one shoulder and a duffel bag at her feet.
"It's right," she points into the open fridge, past the giant jar of pickles that no one likes, "there."
"Thanks," Lindsay breathes out.
"I got the mail too," A.J. tells her, dropping it down on the kitchen table and she hops up onto the counter.
She looks like her mother, leaning back against the cabinets with a smile just like Cindy looked at her old house, right after she burned their anniversary dinner. She half expects A.J. to start complaining about ruining the chicken.
"Thanks," she repeats.
Cindy comes stomping into the kitchen, frustrated with a story she can't finish. "Did you need me or were you just going to yell until I " she stops talking. "Hi."
"Hey Mom," A.J. says with a smile that looks just like Jake's and Lindsay doesn't flinch, because suddenly she's moving across the kitchen in two long steps and grabbing A.J. off the counter and squeezing her so hard that A.J. grunts a little and Cindy just chuckles.
"Alright, Mom." But Lindsay doesn't let go. "Mom, seriously. I need to breathe."
But Lindsay holds on, because her daughter is home and her wife is smiling and this isn't the life she expected, but it's the one she got and she wouldn't trade it for the world.
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