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: This may form part of a larger, AU series that I am planning.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
The phone was shrill against the silence of the night. She threw an arm out towards the glow of the display, unfazed by the late night call; it was hardly an unusual experience. She didn't bother to look at the caller ID.
"Claire, it's Lindsay."
"Thought it might be. What treat do you have for me tonight?"
"Claire it's Ed."
Claire sat up in bed, her insides frozen. She couldn't make her throat work to reply; to ask the question she most dreaded asking. Lindsay continued, rattling off information.
"He's been shot. I'm at the hospital now. He's in surgery. You need to come down here. Can you get your neighbour to come in and sit with the boys? I don't want you driving so I'm gonna call Jill to come get you. OK? If anything changes I'll call but just sit tight until Jill gets there. OK?"
"'Kay," Claire managed.
She hung up the phone and sat still for a moment. She turned and looked at Ed's side of the bed, untouched and tidy. She reached out and ran her fingers lightly over his pillow, but quickly pulled her hand back. Silly gestures didn't achieve anything. She needed to act.
Claire swung her legs out of bed and dressed quickly in the clothes she'd worn the day before. Her head felt like it was full of smog. The information that Lindsay had given her was somewhere far in the distance, but obscured and out of reach. For that she was glad. She knew that as soon as it became real, became tangible, she would crumble.
She kept herself busy with calling her Mrs Johnston, who was also used to late night phone-calls, and arranging for her to come in. She chose to block out the sympathy in her voice when she heard the reason behind this particular call. The woman's compassion was suddenly smothering, and brought the events of the night uncomfortably close to reality. She needed to get out and decided to wait for Jill on the sidewalk.
Before long, Jill's car drew up. Claire didn't give her a chance to get out, opening the door and slipping into the passenger seat.
"Honey, I "
"I can't do that now," Claire bit out between gritted teeth. "Let's just get there."
She risked a sideways glance at Jill and noticed that she had been crying. The understanding in Jill's eyes was very nearly her undoing. Because she knew that Jill did understand. She knew that Jill had received calls in the middle of the night to tell her that her lover had been hurt. Claire herself had been the one to hold Jill's hand in the hospital waiting room, and to hug her in relief when the news was good.
Jill nodded and started the car. Claire reached over and took her hand. The journey passed in silence.
They were ushered to the relatives' room to find Lindsay and Jacobi pacing the floor. Lindsay moved forward to embrace Claire but stopped as Claire folded her arms.
"Any more news?"
Lindsay looked at Jill for a second before answering.
"Uh no, not since I spoke to you. We've asked a bunch of times but you know what doctors are like."
The edge of Claire's mouth quirked at Lindsay's unintentional insult. She nodded once and took a seat. Lindsay looked at her for a long moment before signaling to Jill that she wanted to see her in the hallway. Claire watched them go. The glass panel of the door framed them as it closed. Lindsay was obviously concerned about Claire and was asking Jill about her. Jill was shrugging a lot. Then Jill put her hand up to cover her mouth, her head bowed slightly. Claire saw her shoulders shake. Lindsay pulled her into her arms and rocked them both back and forth.
An unbidden streak of resentment shot through Claire. Why should Jill be able to collapse in her lover's arms? Why does Jill get to cry with relief? Why isn't Jill the one frozen in some kind of emotional paralysis, unable to deal with reality? Shame followed just as quickly and Claire hated herself for having those thoughts.
She turned her mind to inane things, like composing her mental grocery list, and waited.
After hours of no news and empty reassurances from hospital support staff, she saw Lindsay raise her head from where it had been resting on Jill's shoulder. She followed her gaze through the window in the door, a doctor was approaching. Her stomach clenched. Her mind went into clinical mode. She'd listen to what he had to say as a medical professional, to make an informed judgment on the injury and the prognosis. She knew about ballistics, trajectories, bone shattering, the extent to which organs can survive when damaged. She could do this.
When the door opened, the doctor in her fled and the wife took over. She became aware of her breathing, of her heartbeat, of the sweat on her palms. The doctor came in. Everyone in the room stood, though Claire had no idea how her legs were managing to support her. Jacobi came to stand next to her, his strong hand on her shoulder. Lindsay took her hand.
"Mrs Washburn, your husband is out of surgery and is stable. He's going to be OK."
Lindsay managed to get a supportive arm around her waist just before she fell to her knees, bringing Lindsay with her. And for the first time since she received the dreaded call, Claire wept.
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