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At the End Of The Pain
By Demeter


"I'm so sorry," Lindsay said with a trace of vulnerablity in her voice that only an experienced observer would detect. It made Claire look up from where she was crouched beside the young woman who had most likely survived the worst moments of her life - though not without losses.

"I can imagine--"

"No! You have no idea what you're talking about! You -- you don't know how I feel!"

"Excuse me, I--"

"It's all your fault! You killed my baby!"

Lindsay looked like she'd been struck which, sadly, would have been a possibility if the woman who'd uttered these hateful words hadn't been as weak as she was. Hurt, traumatized, definitely not in her right mind, Claire could see all that. Still she hurt for her friend who wasn't completely unharmed either and had most likely saved the woman's life, but tell that to either of them now.

The damage was done.

"No," Claire said softly, but firmly enough. "That isn't true."

It was too late. Job done, to protect and to serve, Lindsay had already turned around and gone to deal with the blow on her own.

The hostage situation in the bank had been resolved quickly, but not quickly enough for Sharon Jensen who lost her baby anyway. It would be a while before she'd be able to value the fact that she hadn't lost her life too, and that she had Lindsay to thank for it.

Claire sighed as she took another look outside where Lindsay had been sitting in the porch swing ever since they had arrived. That had been their compromise; she'd go home with Claire, but only if she'd be left alone.

It was chilly outside, but Claire suspected that Lindsay didn't even notice. Or maybe it was just something she accepted as part of her punishment.

Well, she hadn't said anything about not inviting Jill and Cindy for a coffee break.

"It was really stupid trying to set her up on a blind date with Simon, right?" Jill said somewhat wistfully, taking a sip of her coffee. They both watched, rather unabashedly, because it was good to see that even on a day like this, the world was righting itself just a little bit.

And it wasn't just that.

"Yes, it was," Claire said. They smiled at each other. "I was on the wrong track, too, obviously."

Cindy hadn't taken no for an answer. She'd simply gone out onto the porch, sitting next to Lindsay in the swing. Surprisingly enough, there had been no protest forthcoming on Lindsay's side. They'd stayed silent for long moments, then Cindy just took Lindsay's hand.

Claire wondered if either of the women were aware of all the emotions exposed at that moment.

All those words unspoken, they echoed loudly.

A beautiful song, she thought, and then almost laughed at herself. Look who's getting soft in her old age.

Lindsay had so many things going for her - she was damn good at her job that was more a calling than a profession to her, a great friend, a person as good as they came - but she also had a remarkable potential to self-destruct that had had Claire worried sometimes in the past few years. Just maybe, she could start to relax where that subject was concerned.

Cindy got more than she bargained for when she was welcomed into 'the club', but it seemed she was handling it well.

"I keep thinking that maybe there was some moment... that I missed. That if I hadn't, I could have gotten her out soon enough."

Cindy's hand tightened for a moment, before she spoke. "Eight people, Lindsay. You had to think of all of them. It's sad that she lost her baby, but you know it isn't your fault. Right?"

Lindsay turned away from the questioning gaze, glancing at their joined hands instead. What it meant, made her want to smile. It made her want to cry. She didn't do either thing, kept battling the emotions further away.

You don't know how I feel.

"You know, sometimes, those semantics really piss me off. To lose a baby, it sounds like you've somehow misplaced it, or lost it because you were careless. Like you've misplaced your keys. Or - miscarriage. Like misdemeanor."

"I'm sorry. You're totally right about this. Our language sucks that way."

The worst had been the wall of silence she'd been greeted with. No one knew what to say, not wanting her to feel worse - if that had been possible at all! - not knowing what would make her feel better. Tom had dealt on his own, not that they'd been talking much at that point. The beginning of the end had been, most likely, when the ghost of Melissa Paquin, Kiss Me Not's second victim that they knew of, had moved into their attic. From there, push came to shove.

"I nearly died," she said, surprised that she'd actually gotten the words out. For years, she had refused to even think of it. "I think I paid my dues for anything I might have done wrong."

The grip of memory loosened some, the warm touch of the hand in hers a much-needed anchor to the present. Maybe, there was the promise of a future in it too.

When she looked up, Lindsay was surprised to see tears glistening in Cindy's eyes.

She smiled a little self-consciously. "Look at me. When I found out about the club, I thought it would be one big adventure. It's not. It's important. It feels right. But the worst is to think I might have never met you, and it didn't even have anything to do with the dangerous job you have. And today--" She stopped when her voice broke.

Lindsay reached out to lay her hand against Cindy's cheek. Cindy remained absolutely still under her touch, but there was a question in her eyes.

"You know what? I think I'm the lucky one." Lindsay leaned forward to kiss her lips softly.

Much of the silence she had brought upon herself because she'd made it clear to everyone that she didn't want to talk, that she was fine, beware if anyone got too close. And she was really lucky that walls never scared Cindy away. She went right for them.

Lindsay got up from the swing, pulling Cindy with her. "And now we should go inside, before our nosy friends get the camera out."

"But it is a special moment, isn't it?"

They went back inside where Jill and Claire were hopefully waiting for them with a pot of strong, hot coffee.

"It is." Interlacing their fingers again, Lindsay found she was not in a hurry to let go. Ever.

This is where the pain ends.

The End

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