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.

Kiss Me Not Goodbye
By Demeter


Jill had sworn to herself that the next time, she'd unplug the phone on the first ring.

Not that she'd ever do it, because knew she'd feel too guilty afterwards. The thought was pointless anyway, when by the time she was awake, Lindsay would already be out of bed and half-dressed. Tonight was no exception.

"Don't worry about it, it's okay." Lindsay's voice was still heavy with sleep, but there was also an unmistakable sentiment that made who the caller was clear. As if Jill hadn't known anyway, because no one else would call them at this time of night, unless it was about a dead body or an earthquake. "I'll be there in twenty."

After hanging up, she stayed there in the same spot, sitting on the edge of the bed, her slightly slumped posture a dead giveaway to how exhausted she was. Jill scooted over on the bed, until she was beside her lover, wrapping her arms around her from behind, silently offering support. Although she couldn't let Lindsay go without saying: "We are going to talk about this someday."

"Someday sounds good," Lindsay mumbled, leaning into the touch for too brief a moment, before she got up. "See you tomorrow."

Almost as an afterthought, she leaned back down for a fervent, desperate kiss that made Jill want to pull her back into bed again, make her forget about the phone call; but as every time, she let go.

Because they had made a promise. Within the club, there was no breaking a promise.

Even if sometimes it was damn hard.

Jill stroked Martha's fur absent-mindedly as she wondered what she'd tell Lindsay when that day arrived. She didn't want to come off as selfish and jealous, especially when there was really nothing to be jealous of. It was just that she was worried about Lindsay. And Cindy... Jill had been worried about her from the moment it had been clear that they all had been wrong, and Kiss Me Not had set his eyes on the young reporter. She had never stopped being worried since that day.

They were lucky, considering. Which didn't mean that there wouldn't be any remaining scars, just not on the outside.

Kiss Me Not was behind bars now, but neither of them had really let him go.

For sure, Lindsay hadn't; while he'd meant failure to her before, it was now guilt. The same guilt that made her answer every single call at night, trying so hard to do the impossible--to undo everything that had happened. Of course, she couldn't do that, no matter how many nights she ran to Cindy, wanting to save her not from a sadistic madman this time, but the memory of his touch.

It wasn't like Lindsay ever tried to keep anything from Jill. She new all about how those nights would progress--talk, hot milk with honey or a glass of wine, always ending the same, with Lindsay holding her--because that would be the only way Cindy would ever get some decent sleep.

Jill sighed which made Martha look at her with wary interest. "It's okay, girl."

Sometimes she felt like she and Lindsay had become the adoptive parents of a 25-year-old. Cindy's mom had arrived only briefly after she'd learned about her daughter's kidnapping, but Cindy had inexplicably brushed her off, claiming that she was fine and didn't need any help.

You could be fooled--she had gone back to her job after only a few days of sick leave. Colleagues had covered her story, but she had offers on the table for writing about her experience as the hostage of a ritual killer, and she'd been invited to not just one talk show. She had accepted some of those invitations.

Cindy could put on a smile on demand, but it was the nights when the mask cracked.

Lately, Jill had been harboring doubts if they were really able to deal with the fallout. And that made her feel even worse.

"You must think I'm awfully weak."

Lindsay didn't think that there was a shred of weakness in anyone who had spent as much time in Kiss Me Not's company as Cindy had and come out alive. In fact, she was the only one they knew of who had survived.

"Crap," she said somewhat harshly, not even regretting it when she felt Cindy flinch. With this subject it was important to take a stand. "Come on, we've been over this. You fought the bastard. And you did a damn good job. You know all that."

"I could only do that because I knew... I knew without a doubt that you'd be there in time."

And see, that's something I didn't know. I couldn't know. Lindsay remembered it all too clearly, her body tensing up at the memory even now. She never tried to push it aside; it seemed only fair since she should have gotten there so much sooner.

"We've been over this, right?" Her voice was softer now, but maybe it was only because she was so awfully tired. "Try to sleep."

Cindy obediently relaxed against her, once again reassured that she wouldn't wake up to the sound of his voice, his touch and smell. There had been nights when she'd needed almost half an hour to unwind from the nightmares, each of them; it wasn't as bad anymore, but there were still nights when she couldn't make it through alone.

Lindsay seemed to be the logical choice, she had been the one to cut through the rope, to end the horror. Or so she'd thought, because a part of it had never ended. And as long as Cindy needed her, Lindsay would be there, even though she was aware it put her in a no-win situation. And it wasn't fair to Jill, either, but she couldn't stop it.

It was paying her dues, for each minute that Cindy had endured, equipped with nothing but the will to survive and a foolish belief in her inept friend.

Oh yes, Lindsay owed her, and she would for a long time to come.

"We could get away for a few days. Just the two of us."

Judging from Lindsay's expression, Jill could have just as well suggested they'd quit their jobs and run away to a remote island, Which these days doesn't seem to be such a bad idea anyway.

"Last time I checked, the pile of files on your desk wasn't any smaller."

Last time I checked there was hardly any night you weren't exhausted enough to simply fall asleep next to me. If you were there at all.

Not like Jill would say it aloud, at least not now at 6 am. When they were both tired and that conversation could go in either direction. Instead, she got up, walked around the table to stand behind Lindsay's chair, letting her hands fall lightly onto her lover's shoulders. "You went right back to work."

"So did Cindy."

Jill's hands stilled for an almost imperceptible moment, then she resumed the massage, fingers finding knots that showed her clearly just how much weight of the world Lindsay carried on her shoulders. God, how she wished they'd just had more time for just a little decompression like this. And maybe it was selfish, but this was not how Jill had imagined life after Kiss Me Not.

Her fingers dug a little harder, eliciting a sigh of pure pleasure from Lindsay. She leaned down to brush aside strands of dark hair and kiss the exposed skin. The idea was just too tempting, call in sick today and spend a stolen day together. It wouldn't happen, she knew. She'd live for the moment; it was nothing new.

She let her hands slide down Lindsay's shoulders and around, but Lindsay backed out of the touch before it got any more intimate. "I need to go in five minutes," she said. "Don't tempt me."

"I wasn't going to," Jill lied. Lindsay raising her eyebrows was all the confirmation she needed that her bluff had been called. "Okay, maybe, just a little. I... I miss you, Linds."

"I'm right here."

"You got here half an hour ago."

"When you said we were going to talk 'someday', I didn't think you'd mean this morning." Lindsay shrugged into her jacket.

It wasn't a good moment; Jill was very aware of that. Somehow, she couldn't bring herself to care much, though, and she had realized that she couldn't stay silent much longer. "Maybe today's as good as any day."

"Did you just listen to me? I said I need to go in--now less than five minutes. I get the feeling that won't be enough."

"You're right. How about for starters, you did a great job rescuing Cindy from that madman, and you're the best friend anyone can wish for--but you can't be her mother and therapist on top of it!"

Already reaching for the door handle, Lindsay let her hand fall to her side, turned around and leaned against the door. Jill had expected the glare for suggesting that Lindsay Boxer couldn't do everything at once, but she was struck by the disappointment. It made tears spring to her eyes, and damn it, she had planned to approach all this carefully and as objective as possible, and it just wouldn't work.

"Is that all?"

"You're doing this like you're paying a debt!"

"And what if I do? Look, I shouldn't be telling you this, but since you won't let it go--okay, here it is. He had this chain saw, and threatened to cut off her hands, like in that fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm. He didn't get that far, thank God, but he cut her wrists, and kept telling that he'd make it last. So yes, I owe her." Lindsay had left her place by the door and started pacing.

Jill, shocked by the images evoked, stood frozen in the same spot.

"He gave her drugs to slow down the blood loss. Then, hallucinogens. Can you imagine how terrified she must have been?"

It was probably a rhetorical question, but Jill answered it anyway. "I guess not." She felt the tears hot on her face.

"Neither can I. We were lucky, Jill, but not lucky enough. We were late. So if there's anything I can do to make it better now, I can't turn away." There was silence for a moment, before Lindsay added, "I thought you'd understand."

Then she was out of the door, and Jill realized that the feeling of wanting to call in sick had just grown stronger.

The pillow still smelled faintly of Lindsay's shampoo, and Cindy pressed her face against it, breathing in the scent. Gradually, her breathing calmed and her heart slowed down to its normal rhythm.

She hated herself, like every time the morning after.

It wasn't fair to Lindsay, or Jill--then again--what had happened to her wasn't fair, either. Cindy was grateful for each night she could make it through without falling apart, without thinking that he'd won anyway.

It wasn't fair that all of this had come to her when she'd just felt accepted, 'in', member of 'the club'.

Cindy remembered how proud she'd been--but there wasn't much pride left when all you could do was try to survive. She couldn't talk to the shrink, because it all seemed so freakish in the light of day, surreal. No way in hell she could have talked to her mother who had still kept the first articles Cindy had written for her High School paper.

She hadn't really wanted to show anyone how badly she felt, but the first night Lindsay had slept next to her, close, she had actually felt like she could breathe. And she'd wanted that feeling again.

The worst was when she relived being tied up in her dreams; he'd made those restraints so tight that, at a certain point, she actually couldn't feel her hands anymore, and she'd wake, heart pounding, until she realized it had been another nightmare.

Lindsay had gone above and beyond the call, just like she always did.

Just what would happen when she realized that there wasn't much more she could do?

Cindy hugged the pillow close again, hoping guiltily that day wouldn't come too soon.

"You did find the right words to say. Maybe they were just not so good at six in the morning."

Jill reached into the skull-shaped candy jar again, picking another Hershey's Kiss. At this rate, they could add another clothes size for her to the long list of aftereffects of Kiss-Me-Not's last appearance. And that was not the least funny.

"It's all true," Claire tried again. "Lindsay's feeling obliged, but there are some things she can't do for Cindy, much as she wants to."

"I wish I could do all these things, but I guess none of us really can. I still feel like a selfish bitch."

"Believe me, you are not." Then Claire was silent for a moment. She was attentive, and listening, and that already made Jill feel better. Though, if Claire didn't have an advice, you knew it had to be really bad.

"I think it would all be better if we just got a break, you know? Get away for a few days. Who am I kidding? A weekend would be heavenly. It's not like any of us could get more days off at the moment."

"So you were going to ask if Cindy could move in for a weekend? I think that's doable. You're also aware how that isn't exactly solving the problem?"

Jill flashed her a grateful look. "It's a beginning. Thank you. Now we only have to get Lindsay and Cindy warm to the idea."

She would have known without Claire's gentle smile that it wouldn't be easy--in either case.

Cindy was late. For some reason, Jill was relieved about that. Deal with Lindsay first, win her over before Cindy arrived; it seemed like a good plan. She was nervous. It got a little better though when Lindsay took her hand under the table, giving her an apologetic smile. Right; Lindsay Boxer could say so much without a single word.

Jill felt slightly hopeful,- but only until she began, "Linds, I was thinking--", and Cindy came rushing in, busy, smiling, and as always, lately, a tad too bouncy.

"Hey, what's up?"

Jill took a deep breath. "I don't know how, but I've actually talked Denise into giving me a day off on Friday."

"A day off?" Cindy asked, seemingly amused. "Are you sure you're okay?"

"Very much so--it's because Lindsay and I will be heading out of town for the weekend." Oh, well, the timing could have been better. She noticed how Lindsay quickly checked to gauge Cindy's reaction first, before she turned to Jill and smiled.

"That's right. We can even take Martha."

There was something to be said about Lindsay feeling guilty, Jill reflected, somewhat relieved. She'd probably hear it later that she didn't even ask, but it wouldn't be an issue, here at the table.

Cindy was silent. Claire smiled warmly, saying, "That's really good news," and Jill flashed her a slightly panicked look.

"I've got some, too. I think," Cindy surprised them. "You know the book offer I told you about? I'm going to do it."

"You're sure you want to go there?" Jill felt just as much concern as she saw reflected in Lindsay's eyes.

Cindy shrugged. "The shrink keeps telling me to write things down--and if I don't--the same folks will go visit him in prison and make that same offer. I think I'm more entitled to make money from the whole mess."

The idea of Kiss Me Not writing a book about his murders made Jill sick. She forced a reassuring smile. "Definitely better if you do it. Will you... be okay?" Not just writing about the horror, but leaving it aside for a while so we can go without you leaving messages on Lindsay's cell phone all day?

"Sure," Cindy said quickly. "Don't worry about me. I'll be fine."

"And those of us who don't have the luxury of getting away for a weekend, can at least make do with a nice dinner," Claire added. "You're always welcome."

"That's nice, but you don't have to babysit me. I said I'll be fine."

Claire shrugged. "You can always change your mind."

"I'll be busy. Speaking of which, I'm sorry, but I can't stay. I need to call someone back on that book."

'Worst liar ever' was still a suitable description for Cindy Thomas.

Jill tried hard not to have a guilty conscience; Lindsay would have enough of that for the two of them. And wasn't it true? All of them deserved to move on after Kiss Me Not.

"Don't you worry. I'll have an eye on her," Claire promised.

Which should be good enough for Lindsay, too. After they had talked about Jill's hit-and-run announcement of their vacation, they'd be good to go. And that sounded almost too good to be true after the weeks that lay behind all of them.

She couldn't really relax until they had arrived at the hotel and their suitcases unpacked. Lindsay had finally seen her point; or maybe she was still feeling guilty because of the argument they'd had; in any case, she had gone easy on Jill and her forging ahead.

The only plans for tonight were dinner in the hotel restaurant, and possibly some... more relaxing afterwards.

Lindsay stepped out of the bathroom, a breathtaking sight in her sleeveless red robe. She shrugged when she noticed Jill's gaze on her. "With the prices in this restaurant, I guess they expect the guests to dress up."

"You're gorgeous."

As always, Lindsay received such compliments with just a bit of unease. "You only think that flattery will get me out of it sooner, don't you?"

"You might have a point there," Jill admitted, laying her hands on Lindsay's waist with a mischievous smile, but the mood shifted, and the intended seductive gesture turned into an embrace, the closeness they hadn't had nearly enough of in the past few weeks.

Jill was once again reminded that Cindy wasn't the only one who had been in danger from Kiss Me Not. The dangers Lindsay faced on a daily basis notwithstanding. "Thank you," she whispered. "I kind of took you by surprise. You don't know how happy it makes me that went along with it just like this."

"You surprise me all the time. That's why I love you."

Their kiss started out as tender as the words had been, but soon took a turn to deeper and messier. "Whoa," Lindsay said breathlessly. "You want to skip dinner?"

"No." Jill grinned. "I'm going to make you wait."

Cindy didn't need long to remember, or where to begin, because it had been on her mind every day since the moment she'd woken up in the hospital and realized that she'd survived.

He had told her he was Agent Ashe's partner, showed her the ID. And Ashe had sent him to pick her up, because something had happened to Lindsay. Kiss Me Not had done his homework. He'd known how to get to her.

That's where it got blurry up to the instant when the seemingly friendly man had shed his skin to become a sadistic killer, in her face with a chainsaw, threatening to cut of her hands. The Girl Without Hands--by the Brothers Grimm. It made her shudder to think about it, and she reached for her coffee mug, swearing when she realized that the content had gone cold.

She could do this. She really could. It was impossible to think of him gloating to some tabloid writer about how he had tortured and killed these women.

Cindy had been lucky. She'd gotten away from that fate with some cuts and bruises and a choking fear that made her hands shake even now, the bag dropping to the floor, half of the coffee spilling out.

Cindy sank to her knees, cursing again until her voice broke and she started to sob. She knew she could call Claire at any time, and her friend would not hesitate to come over. She should have called; but the one thing that would really help her wasn't possible now.

Lindsay was on her well-deserved vacation with Jill, and for sure, Cindy wasn't going to disturb them and increase the weight on her already tormented conscience. No. She would have to deal with this alone. She stayed there on the floor until the shakes subsided, and she was able to get up and clean up the mess.

The next coffee she made a bit stronger; she could use it. When Cindy sat behind the laptop again, letting the hot, black liquid slowly warm her from the inside, she imagined Lindsay's arms around her. A seed of a smile shone through a slight blurry veil of lingering tears.

She didn't quite know how it happened, but the next moment, she found herself face down on the bed, with Lindsay straddling her. "You're under arrest for lewd and lascivious behavior."

"Uh, officer," Jill gasped, delighted by both the touch of the finger tracing down her spine, and the fact that Lindsay was in this playful mood, which meant there was finally enough distance from home and... everything.

"Those are severe charges. Isn't there any way I could get out of them?"

"Hmm, let me think." Lindsay leaned in to kiss Jill's neck, nuzzling the soft hair at her nape.

Shivers ran through her body, as she awaited the verdict.


Jill struggled just a bit for the sake of their little game; she thoroughly enjoyed the warm weight of Lindsay's body covering hers, the strength of her hold. And Lindsay was just getting into it.

"Resisting arrest, huh?" she drawled. "You're going to have to work hard to get yourself out of this." Without further ado, she slipped her hand into Jill's panties.

"Maybe... maybe I don't want to." Jill moaned into the pillow, squirming so she'd get Lindsay's fingers exactly where she wanted them.

"That's what you get for making me wait," Lindsay said smugly, leaving their role-play for an instant, but returning to it right away.

"Now we can work on your deal."

She'd fallen asleep at her desk when the ringing of the telephone woke her. Cindy couldn't help the foolish hope that it could be Lindsay checking on her, until she realized what time it was. At 2 am, Lindsay would be fast asleep--or have other things to do. Cindy sighed. She did not need that image now, and what it did to her.

She finally answered the phone. "Cindy Thomas."

"Hello, Cindy," a male voice said, and she froze. "Remember me?"

She couldn't breathe. Not move, either. Still, the words came out in a harsh whisper. "How did you get this number?" There was anger, too, about him invading her safe space, her home, like this, but there was too much fear for it to back up her words. And he knew it.

Laughter. "You forgot I've been playing this game for much longer. I'm closer than you think, Cindy. I know where you live."

That was where she stopped to think rationally or even try to debate whether he was maybe just trying to scare her. She let the phone fall to the floor, grabbed her keys and left the apartment, running down the stairs, out of the front door, to her car. Cindy only stopped to check that the backseat was empty; the memory of Jamie Galvan no comfort.

As she pulled out of the parking lot of her apartment building with screeching tires; she was only lucky that there was no one around. She barely missed the tiny wall surrounding the neighbor's front lawn.

The she just hit the gas pedal. Cindy knew she was driving too fast, and she had no idea where she was going anyway, but it didn't matter, as long as it was away from here.

Not that she could ever get away from the memories. Hearing his voice again had brought up the same feeling of contamination, like she was going to get sick any minute.

He hadn't raped her or even threatened to do so, but Cindy had always known that in Kiss Me Not's women-hating agenda, there was a distinct likelihood to this scenario. Before or after he would cut off her hands.

As she drove on, Cindy tried to focus her mind on the moments after the rescue. She wondered if that made her a bad person, but when he'd turned around, firing instantly, and Lindsay had shot him, she had felt nothing but relief. Even when his blood had splattered onto her face.

Lindsay had cursed when she'd seen how deep the rope had cut into her wrists. She'd kept on a reassuring monologue while Cindy was crying with the intense pain of circulation returning to her limbs. "It's over. He can't hurt you anymore." It was the first moment she'd felt startlingly alive again; didn't matter that she was bleeding, and that there was a dead body lying just a few feet away.

She'd clung to Lindsay until the paramedics arrived, and even then, letting go had been the hardest thing.

But let go, she'd have to, sooner or later, because Lindsay was with Jill.

Cindy was vaguely aware that she shouldn't have been driving like this, tears still blurring her vision, her attention slipping, but she didn't care.

When the car spun out of her control, she didn't care either.

Luke had called Claire and informed her about the accident. He hastened to explain none of the injuries Cindy were life threatening. She had a broken leg and was generally damn lucky, if bruised and sore all over.

The nine lives of Cindy Thomas, Claire thought. Thank God she had a guardian angel working overtime.

She picked up her keys and purse after writing a note for Ed and left the house, dreading the call she would have to make. She ached for her friends, all of them. Cindy had been through too much already--Lindsay and Jill both clung to guilt in their own ways.

She'd deal with it later, though. For now, she had to get to the hospital and convince herself of Luke's words.

That, and Claire was determined to find out, where Cindy had been about to go in the dead of night. She hardly ever left the house since Kiss-Me-Not had taken her.

After making herself a coffee in the kitchen of the suite they'd rented for the weekend, Jill returned to the bedroom, smiling at the sight. Lindsay was still asleep, hugging the pillow, her hair tousled. She looked young, and a lot more vulnerable than most people ever got to see her. Jill's smile deepened as she stood in the doorway, watching, sipping her coffee lazily.

She was the lucky one.

Of course, normally, Lindsay would be up and returning from her morning run, hitting the shower before Jill got to that first coffee--her exhaustion was palpable. And Jill was well aware of her own. They'd both needed this time-out badly, and as time-outs went, this one was perfect so far.

She stepped closer, leaning over to kiss Lindsay awake. "Hey, beautiful."

Lindsay smiled, not opening her eyes.

"How do you feel about a walk on the beach before breakfast?"

"Mm," Lindsay almost purred. "How do you feel about coming before breakfast?"

"Forget about the beach," Jill said, placing the coffee mug on the nightstand.

It was Jill's cell phone, not Lindsay's that rang. Call it a hunch, but she knew immediately that it would be something to end their vacation. She let it ring six times, but when it didn't stop, guilty conscience took over, and she answered.

Caller ID showed Claire's number. That alone was a reason to worry. The news she had for them, however, hit Jill like a gut punch; the guilt taking over again full force, as she was quite sure this wouldn't have happened if she hadn't insisted on a vacation.

Then again... she turned in Lindsay's embrace, watching her sleeping lover for a moment. "We'll meet you there," she said, hanging up and fighting back tears before she woke Lindsay.

Cindy felt very silly as she related the events of the past evening to Claire. Silly or not, the fear rushed back in when she was talking about it, the mere implications of it making the blood drain from her face.

Claire squeezed her hand gently. "I spoke to Jacobi this morning. They're already looking into it."


The unspoken question hung between them for an instant.

"I also called Jill. She and Lindsay will be here in half an hour, at the most."

Cindy couldn't quite make her smile mask the pain and relief she felt in equal parts. She knew it wasn't very logical or sane, but she'd feel safe again the moment Lindsay walked through this door.

And she was slightly mortified by the fact that Claire obviously knew it, too.

She went into the room, taking her time to walk to the table and take a seat across from him. The sound of the chair scraping over the floor, nerve-wracking to most people, didn't faze him. In fact, he smiled. There wasn't much that could make this man nervous.

"Nice to see you again. How is my girl without hands?"

Lindsay resisted the urge to jump up and simply wrap her hands around his throat and squeeze. She was pretty sure Elaine Lewis' parents wouldn't mind. And a few other people, for that matter.

"It's over," she said. "We found the guard who gave you the cell phone; he's been fired already."

His smiled deepened. "There'll be others."

"No, there won't be, and do you know why?"

"Enlighten me, Inspector."

Lindsay smiled back at him. "You bother her again once more, you're a dead man. Remember that."

"Are you trying to scare me?" He was amused.

"No, just telling you about the facts. Goodbye. And don't forget to look over your shoulder."

"You, too, Inspector."

Lindsay didn't turn around, because she didn't want to see the expression of smug satisfaction on his face. It wouldn't do much to discourage him, but she had to do it.

Things had been quiet since Cindy had been back from the hospital. She was recovering well, physically, as her injuries fortunately hadn't been that serious in the first place. Other than that, Jill noticed, some of her old spirit seemed to be returning as well. She was still determined to finish the book project, and claimed it was cathartic for her.

If she could calm down, so would Lindsay. And maybe Cindy's hero worship for her would return to cute and normal, the way it had been before.

If that was their future, Jill was very much looking forward to it.

Six weeks after the car accident, Cindy had her first draft of 'No Fairytale' ready. What she hadn't told her friends was that she had worked through many nights, sometimes falling asleep on her bed in her clothes--but it had been worth the price. She hadn't been kidding when she'd said that she needed this to get him off her mind.

It seemed like he was encased now, the ghost banished, reduced to bits and bytes on her laptop, eventually the form of a book. Cindy knew her writing skills, but what was more, people fed on tragedy. It would sell, her publisher had assured her of that.

Her boss was happy about it, too.

Time for closure.

After checking the copies--on an external drive, on the laptop, on a CD--she went to take a quick shower and get ready for bed, as she had scheduled an early appointment with the publisher. In her bedroom, Cindy lit some scented candles, put some relaxation music into the stereo beside the bed, and pondered the past few months of her life.

There was something--unfinished, and those long nights, sitting in front of the laptop, aching but determined--she couldn't fool herself into believing she didn't know what it was any longer.

"I'm sorry," Cindy said, sounding rather calm, though. Very different than on earlier occasions, and Jill bit back her disappointment. It had been six weeks. Reason to hope that it could be the end of the after-midnight-calls, right?

"Please, Jill, can I talk to Lindsay?"

At least, she didn't speak with the extreme urgency both Jill and Lindsay had become used to before the accident. "Hang on, I'll get her."

She stayed in the room, watching Lindsay frown as she listened to Cindy speak, conflicting emotions ghosting over her expressive face. There was no hesitation, though, when she finally said, "Of course. Give me half an hour?"

Including the apology, Jill surmised. Lindsay would need some fifteen to twenty minutes to get to Cindy's. Less if she used the siren, which was technically not allowed, but Jill had the suspicion that it had happened before. Not tonight, though. Cindy had made the usual request, but tonight, she wasn't in tears, on the verge of a breakdown.

It couldn't be so bad if Lindsay thought it was okay to spare ten minutes for an explanation. She sat down on the couch, reaching down to pet Martha, and waited.

Lindsay ended the call, looking thoughtful, and somehow, indecisive. That was new, too.

"You should go," Jill said, to make it easier on both of them. Once in six weeks; there was no reason for spite. Cindy had made a lot of progress. And you couldn't deny what she'd been through. What all of them had been through, but Cindy in the first place, and then Lindsay who had broken down the door to Kiss-Me-Not's hideaway, not knowing what she'd find behind.

Lindsay came to sit beside her wordlessly, reached out a hand to lay it against her cheek. "I love you," she said, her voice barely above a whisper. They leaned forward at the same time, their lips meeting in a kiss that was sweet and promising, and somehow difficult; because Jill had a hard time to stop smiling.

They'd be free of the past again, of the haunting. Eventually. There'd be vacations without a guilty conscience. There'd be times where they'd sit at the diner with Cindy and Claire, just being friends having a good time together without him creeping into the conversation unbidden.

Jill sank her fingers into Lindsay's hair, relishing the silky feel of it. Lindsay just pulled her closer., deepening the kiss.


Jill let go the exact moment before it would have been too late, and she wouldn't have been able to any more.

"See you in the morning."

The ten extra minutes were gone. When the door fell shut behind Lindsay, Jill wondered why she was already feeling lonely. Looking at Martha who looked up at her with a trusty gaze, she said, "It's okay, girl. We just need to have a little more patience."

Tonight was already feeling different on many levels. Lindsay wondered if she should have a good long talk with Cindy come the next morning. To set her straight, pardon the awful pun. She was getting better, had made it through for six weeks. Maybe even strong enough to try and deal with her nightmares on her own--but--

What about you? Can you let it go?

Next to Cindy, who lay cuddled against her, oblivious to her inner struggle, Lindsay fell into an uneasy sleep.

There was no excuse, not even the memory of how when she'd left Jill earlier, sneaking into her dreams. She knew whose lips pressing shyly against hers, who the hand touching her face softly, belonged to.

And she let her.

Because somewhere in her mind, she had guiltily acknowledged that this was probably what everything would amount to at some point. She wouldn't have provoked it, hardly ever thought about it in all those nights she'd spent here--but it couldn't be avoided any longer.

Lindsay knew she should just end it here and now, because it was dangerous, risking everything from love to good friendship.

"Lindsay, please."

"You're straight." It wasn't the smartest thing to say, just one of the first that came to mind.

Cindy sighed. "Maybe I don't know who or what I am anymore, since--you know. Maybe I need you to help me find out, because I can't think of anybody else who could."

The forlorn tone struck a chord somewhere inside of her; that didn't make it any better, but Lindsay knew what it was like to feel this lost. Ironically, it had been Jill who had made her find direction again, Jill who trusted and loved her.

"Please," Cindy said again, and that moment, Lindsay didn't see her in those cute, silly pajamas with pink hearts all over it, but a shirt flecked with blood, her eyes wide not with longing, but utter terror. Would she ever stop seeing her that way? And what would be the price?

"I can't," she whispered.

"I am not dead; that's because you saved my life. Also, I am not broken. Maybe it would help you if you convinced yourself of that."

She leaned in for another kiss, and this time, Lindsay pulled her on top of her, allowing herself to feel the unfamiliar body in her arms, heat building slowly but steadily between them. Cindy sat up to straddle her, and Lindsay ran her hands under Cindy's top, stopping short of the seam of her bra.

There would have been no need to ask for permission. Somehow, she had always had it.

There was no opportunity for Lindsay to steal away in the dead of night, because they hadn't slept in the first place. The puzzle was solved, the secret unveiled. Cindy knew it would have been logical to feel guilt, if not for herself, then for Lindsay who'd go back to her girlfriend soon and have to tell her... Cindy had no doubts that she would.

If anything, she was feeling sorry, had been the moment she'd picked up the phone hours ago – but that wouldn't have changed anything. The best she could do now was try and give absolution, even if it wasn't her place to do so.

"I'm letting you go, Lindsay. I needed to be with someone again, and the first time after... it could only be you. Thank you."

This was as much of the truth as she could define, crystal-clear to her after all the confusion. It made so much sense, too. If Lindsay had a lot more regrets, Cindy couldn't blame her.

"I need to go."

"I know."

"I'm sorry," Lindsay whispered, squeezing her hand gently before she got up.

I'm not.

Watching her leave, Cindy remembered being so determined thinking that once they'd crossed that line, the memory would be enough. She wasn't so sure now. Not that there'd be a choice anyway, because it was understood that Lindsay and Jill would stay together. No matter what. She'd made her choices. She'd live with them.

Jill sat at the table in the dark kitchen when Lindsay returned home. There were tears in her eyes.

She knew, Lindsay reflected, and it shouldn't be such a surprise anyway, because her body language probably reflected guilt like a mirror. What could she ever tell her? It was over, in the past now, like Cindy had suggested?

She didn't even know how she felt – other than very confused. Lindsay had never cheated on anyone she was in a relationship with, not once. There was no excuse really.

"The worst thing," Jill said, tears in her voice, "is that I saw it coming. I didn't do anything."

"What does that mean?"

"I don't know, Lindsay."

She went further into the room, sat beside Jill. Wanting to reach out, not daring to. "There'll be no more phone calls."

"Finally found the magic solution, didn't you?"

"Jill, please."

Lindsay wanted to tell her how she still loved her, and that would have been nothing but the truth, no confusion here, but she was aware that the declaration wouldn't be very welcome at the moment. How stupid she had been, early in their relationship to be worried that Jill could be the one who was less committed.

If she ended up alone, this time, she'd done it all by herself.

"I need to go to work," she said. "Can we talk later?"

Jill laughed sadly at that. "Famous last words of Lindsay Boxer, huh? I'm not sure what's left to talk about, but all right. I need to go in early too."

"I don't want to lose you." That at least was honest. If she failed this time, she didn't have a madman reenacting Grimm fairy tales to blame.

Jill gave her a long sorrowful look as she got up and walked past her. "Seems like we all have a lot of moving on to do," she said, leaving Lindsay to wonder as to which direction it would be.

The End

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