DISCLAIMER: Women's Murder Club and its characters are the property of James Patterson, 20th Century Fox Television and ABC. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Written for the cliché fic challenge 2008 on passion_perfect. The cliché is, kind of, telepathy/soulbound. Thanks to bcharmer23 and mercurychkita for the beta! inspectorboxer loaned me 2 sentences for this. Thank you!
CHALLENGE: Written for the first International Day of Femslash.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
The Ghost of The Truth
Jill looked up to see Lindsay standing in the doorway, a rueful smile on her face.
"Took you long enough." She was aware of the slightly accusatory tone creeping into her voice, but Jill couldn't help herself. The way Lindsay had basically fled from the hospital room earlier had puzzled and irritated her. She had assumed there'd be some sort of explanation. There always was. Just sometimes, with Lindsay, it was... complicated.
She watched her friend step into the room, closer to the woman in the bed. Watched her lean down to brush a strand of hair from Cindy's face, and kiss her forehead, just like Claire had before.
"I'm sorry," she said, and strangely, it seemed like it was meant for Jill just as well.
Then she straightened, and without any other word, she turned and left.
"Wait!" Jill jumped up from her chair to follow her, but when she yanked the door open, Lindsay was nowhere to be seen. She couldn't just call after her in a hospital at night. What the hell had this been about?
Her heart leapt into her throat when Cindy screamed.
Lindsay didn't even realize she was speeding, until the car horn blared; then she slowed down the vehicle, taking a deep breath. Of all the stupid things done today, she really didn't need to get herself killed. And why was it so important to get home and on a date with a man who'd take off to Cambodia in a week? Nevermind. Denial worked fine; she was good at it.
It had helped her through the awkward moments in her kitchen the morning after; it would help tonight. One more week that she could use him as an excuse, and Pete, who knew what his motives were, but since they weren't going to see each other again after next Tuesday, it didn't even matter.
The headlights of the oncoming car came out of nowhere, startling her for an instant, before she yanked the steering wheel right to avoid a collision.
There was a crash, not as bad as she'd feared, the momentum of it sending her car straight into a contruction site. It was quiet for a moment, and then the ground beneath her gave way.
An instant later, Jill found herself on the edge of the hospital bed, trying with moderate success to free Cindy from the clutches of her nightmare. Mindful of Cindy's injury, she held the younger woman who was still shaking, eyes wide, barely able to speak.
"What was that about?" she asked, when Cindy had finally calmed down enough to tell her.
"It was just a nightmare. Lindsay was here a few minutes ago, she's fine." Then why did this feeling of unease that had her stomach in knots, not vanish? Silly, Jill told herself. One of her best friends had been shot. She had reason to be upset, right?
And if Cindy was more frightened than Jill had ever seen her, the same fact was the easiest explanation for her as well.
"You don't have to be." Jill eased her back into the pillows gently. "It's a pretty normal reaction." She stroked her hand down Cindy's arm, their fingers interlacing, hoping to help her get back to sleep, but no such luck.
Cindy looked up at her pleadingly. "I know it's... stupid, but could you maybe call Lindsay? I'd feel better."
Jill gave her a reassuring smile, all too ready to violate hospital procedure. She didn't tell Cindy that she'd feel better as well after that call. She only got the voicemail, though. There was no way Lindsay could have made it home already.
It was merely the lack of any alternative, or so Jill told herself, when she punched in Claire's number.
"Jill? What happened?" Claire sounded wide awake. None of them had really managed to unwind yet.
"I'm sorry to call this late, but -- have you heard from Lindsay?"
"Why are you asking? She should be enjoying her date right now." There was just the tiniest bit of scorn in Claire's voice.
"She was here a few minutes ago, and left so abruptly, it was strange. I thought--"
"Hey. Hey, wait a minute, that's impossible. I was behind her most of the drive; Lindsay didn't turn around."
Jill cast a quick smile at Cindy who was watching her worriedly, not quite able to cover up the unease. "That's weird. Wait, I'm going to call her again."
"You keep me posted?"
In the end, it was Claire who called Jill back, to tell her what she had found when she had driven all the way back. In the background, Jill could hear sirens, and she cast a helpless look at Cindy who was watching her intently.
"How... I mean--"
"The ambulance is on the way." Claire's voice was thick with tears. "Jill. It doesn't look good."
"I'll meet you in the lobby in -- how long until you get there?"
After they'd hung up, forcing back her own shock, Jill pondered how much to tell Cindy. She was only just recovering herself. But if Lindsay didn't make it -- She aborted the thought instantly, the pain it caused leaving her breathless.
"Honey, I need to go meet Claire." She took Cindy's hand in hers and squeezed gently. "Lindsay. She had an accident."
That made Cindy bolt upright and then wince in pain. "She'll be okay, right? Jill?"
The grip of the fingers clutching hers became slightly painful, but Jill didn't mind. It helped her focus. "We don't know yet. I--" She couldn't bring herself to repeat Claire's words to her. "I'm sure she will be."
Jill got up, but Cindy refused to let go of her hand. "Don't lie to me! The dream I had--"
All of a sudden, Jill felt very cold inside. It couldn't be. There had to be a logical explanation. Very gently, she extracted her fingers from Cindy's. "I won't lie to you. I'll get Claire and we'll come right back to you, okay?"
Cindy nodded, the fear clearly written over her face making her look even younger. Jill hated to leave her, but she needed to talk to Claire outside the room.
Lindsay had never come back, but if she hadn't - what was it that Jill had seen?
She arrived in the ER just as they brought Lindsay in, in a flurry of hectic, yet organized activity. Jill staggered. There was so much blood - how could a person ever have a chance to survive like this? Medical personnel blocked most of her view, but she'd seen it soak Lindsay's clothes, her hair matted with it. It doesn't look good was lacking as an euphemism.
A light touch to her shoulder made her jump, and she turned around to see Claire. She'd never seen her friend this terrified, and that alone scared Jill to no end. She wanted to know the truth - and she didn't. And it wasn't her choice anyway, because she couldn't focus enough to listen.
So Jill watched as Claire's mouth moved, listing injury after injury... but no words made sense. There was only the image of Lindsay... broken and bleeding. Until Claire raised a hand and very slightly slapped her cheek.
"Hey! What are you doing that for?"
Claire sighed. "Because we need to go see Cindy now, and try to stay as sane as possible when we tell her - because I don't think she can."
Jill shuddered at the memory of those moments earlier in the hospital room, from Lindsay's strange appearance, to Cindy being jolted out of her nightmare by her own scream, and she felt her eyes filling with tears. "She - came to say goodbye."
"No." Claire shook her head vehemently. "You are exhausted, we all are, you didn't even notice you fell asleep and that's what happened."
"I was wide awake!"
"No. There's got to be another explanation." If Claire knew any, she didn't elaborate. "Let's go to Cindy now and try not to scare the hell out of her." There was a moment of hesitation in which she probably thought to apologize, but then she moved forward to embrace Jill. The message came through just as well.
Cindy's parents arrived, and were understandably not happy to find their daughter wide awake and in tears with complete strangers in the room they, even though it wasn't put so clearly, saw responsible for Cindy's condition.
Neither of them had the energy for a pointless argument, so Jill and Claire said goodbye to Cindy, hugged her carefully with the promise to keep her updated on Lindsay, and let themselves be chased from the room.
In the waiting area, they got some vending machine coffee that tasted of burnt beans. They sipped the bitter brew knowing they needed to. Whatever they could make it through this night.
Claire finally talked about what she'd witnessed.
"Maybe the construction site wasn't properly secured. I'll check into that." Jill felt the anger flare inside, not at a as yet anonymous somebody to blame for this mess, but herself, because, was this all she could say when in fact, the fear was eating her up alive?
They all knew about Cindy's mild superstition and had teased her about it - other than that, all of them dealt in facts. Jill had never believed in the supernatural; that's why she had gone to law school, because she believed that it was possible to separate the world into wrong and right, true and false. No ghosts in between like the ones haunting her now.
"Shouldn't somebody call Pete?" Jill was vaguely surprised to find her inner objection against this. He had a right to know, didn't he? It was just the - again, ghost - of a feeling that this was something between the four of them. From her vision, or hallucination, to Cindy's dream, and the fact that Claire had been the one to find Lindsay.
Claire smiled at her gently, because she'd probably see through Jill even if she weren't wearing her heart on the sleeve all the time. Behind that smile, Jill could sense the pain, and she took her friend's hand.
"Let's wait," they said almost in unison, laughter rising and being choked back, because it wouldn't have felt right.
"There's nothing he could do here at the moment anyway," Claire said, and it sounded sensible. Not that either of them was able to do anything - but it wasn't the same.
Jill leaned back in the uncomfortable chair, took another sip of the coffee that was now stale and half cold. She didn't know what scared her more, the image of Lindsay, hanging on to life by barely a thread... or the whisper of goodbye, told to her from the realm of illusion and dream.
She kept nodding off for seconds, slivers of nightmare images following her from that world to this, making her jerk awake. Every time, she'd cast an anxious look at Claire, and Claire would shake her head. No word yet. Which had to mean something good, right? They weren't giving up. Neither was Lindsay.
Jill wanted to believe that whatever she had seen was because she'd been exhausted; it was the easiest explanation. Lindsay had done something not so smart tonight, and her mind had deemed it necessary to find an excuse for her friend; that was probably all there was to it.
And still, what if Cindy hadn't asked her to call?
A shudder ran through her, all the way to her spine.
Her mind refused to go there.
Later, Cindy's mom came to see them and apologize. "I'm so sorry, we didn't realize what was going on. It's just that we--"
It was getting too close, too emotional. Claire was cutting her off as politely as possible. "We understand, Mrs. Thomas."
"You were all there for her when Cindy got shot." Her eyes filled with tears. "Thank you."
And that had been less than 48 hours ago. Jill wondered when life had become something out of a Dali drawing, surreal and terrifying.
Her fear was taken to new heights when the doctors arrived to talk to them, Luke, and a colleague of his. They looked nearly as exhausted as Jill felt; their gazes serious. She didn't dare to breathe.
Outside, the day was just beginning to dawn, a thin line of reddish pink in the clouds signaling the rising of the sun. It made Jill think of blood.
Then, Luke's companion gave them a small, but meaningful smile.
Jill leaned forward and began to cry, the warmth created by the touch of a hand on her back the only point of focus.
After some time, when she was mostly certain she'd be able to keep herself together now, Jill looked up at Luke, relieved to find that the past they'd shared; or the ending thereof, wouldn't taint this moment.
In fact, she noticed that Luke seemed rather puzzled, as he took a seat beside her. "I won't lie to you, it was touch and go, but we've got her stable now."
Jill smiled through a blurry veil. "Thank you," she managed.
"Just tell me, how did you know where to find her?"
"It was a matter of minutes," he said quietly.
Cindy was peacefully sleeping when they arrived. "If we wake her now," Claire commented, "we'll risk the nurse's wrath. Worse yet, she'll jump out of that bed and demand to see Lindsay."
The image made Jill smile, and she had to admit that it was a likely scenario. In fact, she hardly could stop smiling since they'd been given the news. Lindsay would have a long road of recovery before her; and of course Cindy also had a serious injury to get over - but they'd make it. They both would; and wasn't that enough reason to get a little giddy? "So, we do what? Tell her parents and write her a note?"
They did just that before they were allowed to see Lindsay for a brief time in the ICU. For all the relief they felt, it was still a shock to see her in the midst of all this medical equipment, tubes running everywhere.
Jill ran her fingers over her bruised knuckles just once, a gesture that was revealing in its tenderness, but she didn't care. Then she stepped back to give Claire some space.
A moment later, when they were outside again, Jill was well aware of her friend's questioning gaze. She shrugged, smiling ruefully. "I promise that if I need to talk about it, you'll be the first one I call, okay?"
"Sounds fair," Claire agreed. "So - how about a shower and some food, and we'll come back in a couple of hours?"
Jill leaned forward to embrace her, and they both held on tightly, staying like that for a long moment.
It was only now when she realized that what she'd seen before, hadn't been a goodybye. It had been a cry for help - and they'd been there in time.
It was all the truth she needed for today.
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