DISCLAIMER: Women's Murder Club and its characters are the property of James Patterson, 20th Century Fox Television and ABC. No infringement intended.
CHALLENGE: Winner of the Epic Proportions 2014 challenge.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
BETA READER: Credit goes to: Revolos55
FEEDBACK: To doughts[at]gmail.com

Peanut Butter and Chocolate
By doughts


Jill was avoiding Denise. She was, in fact, avoiding Denise with the amount of studiousness that she usually avoided the morgue. Only natural when your drunken boss reveals that you had sex in your office with someone who was not your boyfriend. Between potentially puking at the morgue and having to deal with Denise, puking would win every time, at least for a while. She was perched gingerly on the edge of the sink, where Claire had exiled her, puke being a terrible contribution to evidence. Being here reminded her of the exact person she was trying to avoid and it was making her fidgety.

"So you remember when Cindy managed to sneak herself into the gay bar? She blamed it on being a friend to many gay men, but I think she might be gay. Or bi. Or something." Claire narrowly resisted rolling her eyes at Jill. She knew why the blonde was here, haunting her morgue, she was just too tactful to mention it. That same tact meant she wouldn't mention Cindy's crush on Lindsay that Jill was somehow too oblivious to notice. Maybe Jill just didn't realize that all of the young clerks in the DA's office who treated her the same way were crushing on her.

"Well, it wouldn't surprise me, but isn't it her call to tell us when and if she wants to?" Claire was carefully measuring and recording the weights of organs as Jill fidgeted.

"Well yeah, but... I want her to feel that comfortable with us. Lindsay still always treats her as just this rookie, and I want her to know that she has a place with us. And you and I both know that Lindsay isn't homophobic but she is rather abrasive, and I just don't want Cindy to feel like she might lose her place with us." Jill rambled on a little longer than she meant to. She was just very sensitive to people not feeling included after a childhood of being made to feel like an outcast. Claire smiled.

"Okay. Do you want me to talk to her about it? Let her know her club membership isn't in jeopardy?" It would be nice to have a sit down, just her and Cindy. Give the reporter a little hope that the stubborn inspector might become a little less stubborn with patience. Lindsay might blame her divorce on work, might think that the reason why she and Tom never worked was because of some great character flaw but the truth was simpler and somehow harder for her to accept. She just never clicked with Tom the way that she clicked with almost any woman. There was no chemistry there, no spark, no something that drew her in. She seemed to be attracted to men physically, but women were always the people in her heart. Yet somehow, even living in San Francisco, she could never see that piece of herself. It was difficult to watch.

"No, no I think I can get it." Jill smiled to herself. "I can buy her a coffee later. Let her know we've always got her back." The thought was warming her up, even in the cold morgue. It was almost enough to ready her to go back to the office.

"Okay. I tend to be more in the let 'em come to you camp, but you go on being you." Everything weighed, Claire started preparing slides of the man's blood. "Did I answer all of the questions you had about the test results?" Jill nodded before she realized that Claire couldn't see her.

"Yeah. Thanks. I better head back up before Denise finds more reasons to be mad at me." Her stomach started tying itself in knots out of nervousness. She wasn't sure yet if she preferred it to the knots induced by gore, but there was music to be faced.

Jill strode through the bullpen, looking for the desk of one Lindsay Boxer. She smiled when she noticed that Cindy was sitting on the desk, laughing. Assuming the red head would be in the building was always a safe bet in general, but particularly when they had an active case. "Hey!" Jill said brightly as she approached the laughing duo. "I was just wondering if I could buy you a coffee, maybe borrow you for a chat?" She intentionally postured herself in such a way as to exclude Lindsay a little bit, hoping the inspector would get the hint.

"I would love a coffee. I would kill for a coffee," Lindsay said with an almost pleading tone in her voice. "And my eyes are starting to bleed from watching surveillance footage." She gave Jill such a cute puppy dog stare that she almost caved, but talking to Cindy was much more important at the moment.

"I mean, you can come too, if you really want, but I was going to pick Cindy's brain about shoes." It was a dirty card to play; Jill knew how Lindsay felt about shoes. The grimace on Lindsay's face was almost instantaneous.

"I think I'll stick with surveillance footage, thanks. Bring me one though? I don't know how they can call the crap here coffee." Lindsay rubbed her eyes, exhausted. Her gut was churning from the already copious amounts of the terrible coffee, but she wanted to close this case. They'd found the body of a six year old Tammy Jacobson in a park, and she could almost swear that the ghost of the little girl was following her around. It drove her, even as other thoughts of what she almost had with Tom plagued her. Jill nodded.

"Sure thing. I will be back in half an hour with your favorite coffee and your favorite redhead." Jill grabbed Cindy's hand and led her out of the station to the little coffee shop across the street. Cindy was laughing.

"Hey, you know I'm not Claire, right? I don't know anything about shoes." The next sentence was so quiet Jill almost couldn't hear it. "And I don't know that I'm her favorite." She just shook her head.

"I know you don't like shoes, I just wanted to talk to you without the overbearing inspector nearby. She means well, but she can be kind of intense." Jill fidgeted impatiently. It was lunch hour for many of the off duty officers and it showed in the length of the line. They eventually made it to the front, mostly in silence. She wanted to wait until they were sitting at a table and Cindy could look at something other than her without feeling too awkward. They finally got their drinks and managed to snag a table. Jill spent a few seconds staring at it before she gathered her thoughts and figured out exactly where she wanted to start. "So I just wanted to let you know that we care about you, and we're here for you no matter what." It was awkward, but she looked up to make eye contact with the redhead, who predictably smiled.

"Okay. Not that I don't appreciate the sentiment, but what brought this on?" Cindy looked pointedly at Jill, a passable imitation of Lindsay's laser vision.

"Just something you said the other night at the gay bar. It made me wonder if you might not be entirely straight. I just wanted to let you know that Claire and I are safe people to talk to, and Lindsay, while she may lack social graces and be incredibly gruff about certain things, she's the same way. And I'm sorry if that was a wrong assumption, or if this is awkward for you or anything. We're just... here," she finished on a somewhat lackluster note. Cindy smiled at her a little softly.

"I was expecting Lindsay to catch on to the lie, really. I wasn't worried about you or Claire, I just... wasn't certain how she'd handle it. I mean, I know she's not homophobic, she's just kind of scary. I'm still not even certain what I am. I just know that it's not really straight. It just seems weird to come out to people when you don't even really know how to explain it, y'know? That and Lindsay, while she is a wonderful human being, doesn't always seem like she'd make the best confidante." Jill nodded.

"It's hard to tell people exactly who you are when you don't always know." That was a familiar feeling for her, even if her particular feelings weren't related to closets or sexual orientation. She'd been boy crazy her whole life, and maybe that was her problem. "And I hear you about Linds. She's incredibly work obsessed and can be downright oblivious about a lot of things. It's hard to know where she stands. But she'll always have your back, no matter what. And if she ever doesn't, I will personally make sure that she gets an ass chewing." Cindy smiled.

"We should go bring her coffee before she rebels. Thanks for talking with me, I appreciate it." And she did, even if some part of her thought it was more than a little corny. The gesture was nice, and she appreciated that Jill had the tact to not bring it up in front of Lindsay. Jill stood up to go order the biggest coffee the store sold for Lindsay and Cindy sighed to herself. She was never subtle in her crushes, and it was some kind of miracle that the tall drink of water that was Lindsay Boxer, who could somehow tell she was lying at a glance, had failed to notice that her feelings were not entirely platonic. Maybe it was the beards. She really only kept them up because she didn't want Lindsay to find out she wasn't straight. It made it easier to pretend that this crush was nothing more than a passing fancy and that it would go away soon, like inconvenient crushes on straight women should.

Cindy was hovering at the door to the morgue. Claire had been timing her for the past ten minutes, wondering whether the redhead would have the courage to come in or if she would lose patience with the little I'm not here act first. Cindy finally came all the way in, holding a file that was suspiciously thin. The morgue was a surprisingly popular destination today.

"Hey you," Claire smiled warmly at Cindy as she continued to stitch the man's scalp back in place. It had only been about an hour since the blonde left to go buy Cindy coffee and she was almost done. It was a fairly easy case, a man in his sixties dying of a heart attack. The wife was just the kind of careful woman who wanted to make sure that everything was in order as she prepared to lay her husband to rest. She just needed to put him back together and get all of the paperwork filled out before she moved on to the next body on her list. The autopsy of the six year old girl had been completed two days ago, thankfully for her sanity. "What can I help you with?" Cindy nervously held out the file.

"Lindsay asked me to run this by. Well, I mean, not really, I saw it on her desk and it had a little note on it, saying to return it to you, so I figured I would save her a trip." Cindy almost swore. Every time she got nervous she babbled. Absolutely every time. Claire just smiled at her knowingly in the way only a mother could as she waited for Cindy to spill her guts. "And I got coffee with Jill and I figured I should tell you that I don't think I'm entirely straight." Claire's smile simply softened a little.

"I know. I figured. I don't have a flock of lost puppies like Jill; I know a crush when I see it." Cindy opened her mouth, turned bright red, and then closed it again. She had absolutely no idea what to say. She knew that she wasn't exactly subtle in her crushes, but Claire knew? Oh, she had to tone it down a notch. "And for what it's worth? I don't think Lindsay is straight either." She finished with her stitches and tossed her gloves in the bin. "Not that I'd ever tell her that. She has to come to things on exactly her own terms. I love her dearly, but she is stubborn." Cindy's mouth fell open again, and she almost fell over as Claire finally reclaimed the file of the six year old girl.

"Lindsay... isn't... straight?" Cindy continued blinking.

"She's never said as much to me, and I don't know if she knows yet, but no, as far as I know, she isn't. She's always been a little lost, a little unsure of herself. It's not even that she's homophobic, because she isn't. I just don't think it's ever occurred to her that the reason she's never found anyone who works for her is because she's looking in the wrong places. I remember her working with the narcotics squad and not being able to shut up about the detective, Natasha. She was all lit up and excited. I thought she might've figured it out then, but they closed the case and Lindsay didn't stay in touch. I think it had something to do with the fact that this detective had just gotten married to her long time girlfriend. When I asked and Lindsay just mumbled something about having nothing in common. She never did tell me what happened." It was terribly frustrating to watch Lindsay go through this struggle, to see her friend not realize that she could be happy, that she wasn't broken, and true love could still be out there. Cindy was still blinking rapidly and staring at her blankly.

"I'm just gonna... go, okay?" Cindy turned and fled, to go sit in her car and think about all of the ways that life was full of surprises.

Lindsay wasn't entirely sure what she was doing here. In theory, it was to drown her sorrows, because of course the person who left the body of a six-year-old in the middle of a park was the girl's own father. The drowning part she had down. She had been nursing a double whiskey for the better part of ten minutes. It was the exact location that she couldn't quite get a handle on. She was at a gay bar, or perhaps more accurately a lesbian bar. It wasn't the closest bar to the station, so that excuse was right out. It was certainly cleaner and less full of sleazebag men trying to hit on her. That was nice. One woman had come over to flirt, but she got the hint after two or three monosyllabic answers. It was a nice change of pace from most men, who seemed to think that go away meant flirt harder. She was jittery, even though this place felt kind of like home. That was a weird thought to have at a bar and she was starting to wonder if she needed to worry about a possible addiction when one of the most beautiful women she had ever seen walked in. She was about average height, but had stunning red hair just past her shoulders. The dress she was wearing showed off a tasteful and utterly delicious amount of cleavage and Lindsay's mouth was suddenly dry. The redhead met her eyes and gave her a knowing smile before Lindsay felt her face flush and she looked away. She threw back the last of her whiskey and slammed the glass down on the counter.

Maybe this was why she was here. After Natasha, some part of her had always wondered what it would be like with a woman. After the two of them went out to get drinks to celebrate breaking the case, Lindsey had almost kissed her, before Natasha mentioned that she was engaged to the most amazing woman. Unable to stand it, she took off. She never could manage to tell Claire or even Jill what happened. It still felt raw and embarrassing. There was something about her attraction to women that always made her feel shy, and to be rejected out of hand made things worse. Right now though, whether it was the whiskey or the fact that three hours in an interrogation room with a father who murdered his own daughter had put her off men, she felt bold. Her cheeks were still a little flushed, but she wiped her palms off of her jeans before spinning around on her stool to go back to staring at the redhead.

The redhead, she realized, had been staring back. She smiled, the arrogant smile of someone who knows she's wanted and enjoyed the way the redhead swiveled her hips when she walked over. Oh but she burned. Men gave her sparks, she would admit it, but it was nothing compared to the raging bonfire of the woman walking over here. She came over and sat on the stool next to Lindsay.

"Are you going to keep staring like that without buying me a drink? How rude!" There was a playful lilt in the redhead's voice, so Lindsay knew she was teasing but she still flushed more.

"What are you having?" It took her a moment to get the words to come out of her mouth, but eventually they cooperated. The redhead raised an eyebrow in response and even though she didn't think it was possible, blushed harder. She would kill to have the minor amount of alcohol in her system take over her nerves faster.

"I'll have one of whatever you're having. Do you want another?" she replied. Lindsay shook her head. If she was going to flirt with a woman, and possibly do more, she wanted to remember it in the morning. She waved the bartender over.

"Top shelf whiskey for the lady here and a water for me." She pulled out cash for the drink and tipped somewhat generously. It hadn't been exactly what she was drinking, but no sense looking like a cheapskate in front of a woman she was trying to impress. The cost of the drink got another raised eyebrow, and the woman extended her hand.

"I'm Darla, by the way."

Lindsay took the offered hand. "I'm Lindsay," she said without much fuss. Her face was finally less flushed at least, but her brain wasn't coming up with anything else to say, and the blush threatened to return. She took a deep breath and was grateful that she was starting to feel the first edges of a buzz from the whiskey.

"Now I'm in town on business, so I don't normally come here, but I have to say, you don't look like someone who comes here very often," Darla said with a mischievous smirk. She was sipping slowly at her whiskey, seeming to appreciate the flavor.

"It's my first time here, actually. Had a hard day at work, and I came here to drown my sorrows in whiskey."

"Oh, I think I would be much better at drowning sorrows than whiskey, and I don't leave you with a hangover in the morning," Lindsay nearly choked on her water. Darla looked alarmed, but Lindsay waved her off. "Got it, a little too bold for right now. Let's just pretend that I asked what made your day hard instead." Lindsay nodded in response.

"I'm a homicide inspector." Lindsay paused for a moment debating exactly what to say. Thankfully Darla stepped in not long after that, so she didn't have to.

"I can imagine how that would make for a hard day. I'm a software engineer, so my idea of a bad day usually involves computers breaking. Kind of pales in comparison."

"Thank you. So you're a software engineer and you're here on business, anything exciting?" She had no idea about anything involving software engineering, but it was the best she could come up with on short notice. Darla laughed in response.

"Actually, this time, yes. It's an annual conference for women in STEM fields to get together and compare notes on sexism in the work place." At Lindsay's blank look she paused to explain. "That's Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. It's a really neat conference, one of my favorites. We get to pick girls to mentor, and there's usually a few workshops on equal pay protections, and little brochures with statistics about how underrepresented women are in STEM fields," Lindsay nodded happily along. "It's a refreshing change really. I usually go to three or four conferences a year, and most of them are filled with men, many of whom are so excited by seeing a woman that they completely forget they have manners or things to attend to aside from the bulge in their pants." Lindsay laughed at that.

"I know that one. Do you get a lot of people assuming that because you're a woman you're less capable of doing your job?" Lindsay started absently playing with one of Darla's hands. She liked running her fingers over the smooth skin.

"All the time! I'm the head of my department, and I have had more than a few of the men under me mistake me for a secretary. Or expect me to start gushing about kids, which I don't have. I hate new hires because it always takes a while to break them in just the way I like them," she said with a smile. Darla seemed more than happy to let Lindsay keep touching her. Occasionally, she'd get an agreeable shiver if Lindsay hit a certain spot on her wrist. Lindsay wanted to kiss it, to see what that would be like. She felt too shy to do it in the bar, but the thought wouldn't get out of her head.

"I know that feeling. Occasionally, we get rookies who are surprised to have me barking orders at them. It's always a shock, because I'm used to everyone around me treating me both like a human and like someone worthy of respect. It never ceases to amaze me." More of the buzz from the whiskey was settling in, and she welcomed it. She was tired of being timid, tired of being afraid of this part of herself, and tired of waiting for good things to come to her. Some part of her wanted sex after a big case, wanted the human contact, the closeness, something to remind her that the world wasn't a terrible place. That was why she had slept with Tom, and that was more than likely why she'd picked a gay bar. She started slowly sliding her fingers up Darla's arm. When she got to Darla's collar bones, she got a raised eyebrow for her troubles.

"So I don't know about you, but I'm ready to get out of here," Darla said with a smile. She was hoping that she read the expression Lindsay's face right.

"I would enjoy that yeah," Lindsay husked. Her heart was racing more than a little bit. She hoped she knew what she was doing.

"My hotel room is only a few blocks away. Are you up for a little walk?" Darla asked as she made eye contact with Lindsay, who nodded shyly.

Darla took the opportunity to lace her fingers with Lindsay's and walk her out of the bar. They managed to make it into the elevator of the hotel before Darla wrapped her arms around Lindsay's neck and kissed her. Her blood turned to fire. Whatever this was, it was so good and she had to have more of it. One of her hands wound itself into Darla's hair, pulling her closer, while the other slid under one of the straps of the absolutely amazing dress she was wearing. The skin on skin contact nearly drove her batty, although Darla swatted her hand.

"Plenty of time for that later, when there isn't a security camera and some poor guard spitting out his coffee, yes?" Lindsay simply grinned stupidly and nodded. She could wait. Not long. But she could wait. Darla went back to holding her hand, and she rubbed impatient circles on the back of it with her thumb. She was focused on the lights above the door, impatiently waiting for them to tick up to their floor. People got on and off, but she didn't pay any attention. The dress Darla was wearing was fantastic, but she thought it would look so much better on the floor of the hotel room. The doors opened one final time and Lindsay bolted out of the elevator, only to realize that she was headed in the opposite direction of their room. She groaned in frustration and Darla only laughed. It was the work of a moment to get the door open, them in the room, and the door shut again, but all Lindsay could do was replay the kiss in the elevator over and over again. She lifted Darla up against the wall, the dress opening to accommodate Lindsay in between Darla's thighs. Darla cradled Lindsay's face for a moment before kissing her soundly and if the kiss in the elevator turned her blood to fire then surely there would be nothing left of her but ash if this continued. Her wandering hands slipped up under the hem of the oh so accommodating dress and the feel of Darla's thighs made her groan.

"Wait." There was a mischievous glint in Darla's eyes as she stopped Lindsay. "We've got all night. Let's take our time and savor this shall we?" Her mouth was parted and she was slightly glassy eyed but she nodded. The eye contact was melting her insides and she just wanted to do everything that she possibly could to make the woman in front of her scream. Even if it was damn near going to kill her to be patient.

Lindsay was utterly spent. They'd left the bar at ten, and it was now... she turned to look at the clock on the nightstand. Two in the morning. None of the men she had been with had ever lasted this long or been interested in trying to give her more than one orgasm. She was spent, sore, covered in sweat, and utterly sated. Darla was practically purring contentedly on her half of the bed. Lindsay grinned. Not bad for a night's effort.

"Well, I hope I didn't disappoint." Even though she was giddy, some part of her was still nervous that she had been terrible. "That was my first time with a woman." She wasn't sure whether to be offended or amused when Darla burst out laughing.

"No! There's no way. No one who pings as loudly as you takes that long to figure out you like women, surely?" Darla was smiling, so it took some of the sting out of her words.

"Maybe I'm just oblivious." Or scared. Or weird. Or something else entirely. But she felt good. She was probably going to freak out later, but for right now, she was too sated to care.

"Well, don't worry." Darla snuggled up to her, draping her incredibly soft hair across her arm and the bed as she did so. "You were excellent. By far one of the best I've brought home."

"I meant to ask you about that. Do you usually take home women that quickly?" Lindsay started idly playing with Darla's hair. It was so soft and smelled so good.

"No. But you seemed so flustered and then so confident. I had to have you. Besides, all of the museums are closed this late at night. What else was I supposed to do to entertain myself? I'm also an absolute sucker for a good butch." Lindsay smiled. It was funny how a word that was used by others to try to insult her sounded so different after such a satisfying night. Butch. She kind of liked the sound of it, really.

"This was great, but unfortunately I have to go to work in the morning." Lindsay reluctantly got out of bed and started fumbling around for all of her clothes. She pulled on her pants and hooked her bra before Darla motioned her over. She was greeted with a series of incredibly sweet kisses that only contributed to the utterly mushy feeling radiating through her gut. She backed up smiling, to put on her shirt. Darla threw on a robe as she put on her jacket.

"I'll walk you to the door."

"No, no. That's okay," Lindsay said with a somewhat tight smile. She wanted to see herself out and get back to her car. The freak out over sleeping with someone new was starting. She did cave to get one more lingering kiss, because she couldn't imagine not at least getting a kiss goodbye.

Neither of them mentioned exchanging numbers and Lindsay was glad. As good as it was, Lindsay had gotten exactly what she wanted; a way to burn the terrible parts of the day out of her and restore her faith in humanity. And an answer to the question whether she enjoy sleeping with a woman. That was just an extra bonus. She grinned her entire ride, despite the cold and her case of nerves. When she got home, Martha was happy to see her as always, and Lindsay made a mental note to leave a large tip for the dog walker. She was so tired that she barely managed to change into pajamas before she passed out cold, still smiling. Her dreams were full of the smells of Darla and felt like sunshine.

Her alarm clock went off a mere five hours later but Lindsay hopped out of bed, still smiling. She was a little sore, but her whole body felt relaxed. It was wonderful. She bounced up and down on the balls of her feet, and Martha started running around her in circles, happy that her human was happy. She showered in five minutes and took Martha for a quick run. Her usual route ended up taking her about fifteen minutes less than usual. Everything just felt so good and she wanted to do something with all of her extra energy. She used the extra time to pick up coffee and some egg and sausage patties for breakfast, making sure to grab enough for Jacobi as well.

"Good morning!" she said with a bright smile on her face as she breezed over to her desk. She set the bag of breakfast on Jacobi's desk and handed him a coffee out of her tray. The other two went to other homicide detectives, who looked at her with a fair amount of suspicion. They grudgingly accepted the coffee, so she went to sit down at her desk.

"That's funny, you don't look hungover." Jacobi was also looking at her with a certain amount of suspicion, given the fact that she was surprisingly cheerful for having closed a terrible case the day before. She simply sat down and smiled as she held her coffee.

"That's because I'm not." At this point, Lindsay was just toying with him. She knew he was talking about her tendency to get blind drunk after a case like yesterday's. She also knew that he wouldn't push, although he probably guessed that she picked someone up. "What's on our to-do list today?"

"We don't personally have anything, but I promised a couple of the other detectives that we'd help them go through phone records." It was common practice for them to trade grunt labor when one pair had no active cases. Even so, Jacobi was expecting at least a grimace. He knew how much Lindsay hated poring over phone records. The font was always way too small and it was hard for her to notice patterns in all of the numbers. She was a much more visual person.

"Oh well that sounds fun. We should get on that," Jane said with a smile. Jacobi went back to looking at her like she had three heads. "I'll get the highlighters, you get the records. What are we doing here? Are we cross-referencing frequently called numbers against friends and family? Going over text messages? Doing a reconstruction?"

"Mostly cross-referencing. Everything is still in the preliminary stage, and I guess the guy's cellphone got stolen on the day he was killed. About ten hours before, as far as they can tell. He walked out of here in one piece after he reported that his pockets had gotten picked, so not much use there." Lindsay frowned at that. Cellphones made reconstruction easier, so to have such a huge gap meant that the detectives had their work cut out for them. No wonder Jacobi had volunteered their time. She grabbed the highlighters from reception. Computers could do much of the grunt work, but it sometimes took human intuition to figure out the significance of phone records.

By the time lunch rolled around, Lindsay was more than ready for a break. She stretched, and smiled when she remembered the night before. She was looking forward to getting a chance to talk to Claire, to process what had happened. She was full of endorphins and happy, but there was a knot in her gut about what it meant for her. "I'm getting hungry. You want me to knock off for a bit and get some lunch? No big deal if not, I was going to go see Claire." When she stood up to put on her jacket, Jacobi waved her away.

"I think I'm going to keep looking. There's something here that I'm missing and I don't want to get up before I figure it out. I'm afraid I'll lose it otherwise," he said with his glasses perched on the end of his nose. He had a bad habit of leaving them there when he was concentrating on something. "Tell Claire I said hello." Lindsay nodded and headed down to the morgue. She stopped on the way out to refill her coffee.

"Man this stuff is good," she said with a smile on her face. Jacobi could only shake his head. Whoever she slept with must have been good at what they do.

Lindsay came into Claire's office bearing lunch from their favorite burger joint. It was greasy and delightful, and hopefully just the way Claire liked it. She wanted to get a chance to process and making sure that Claire took a break for lunch was a good way to do that. Not to mention that she was a little apprehensive and wanted to start everything off on a good note. Claire was looking at her with a faint air of suspicion, a look very similar to the homicide detectives from earlier.

"I brought lunch!" she said almost a little too brightly.

"I see that. And what exactly do you want me to do for this lunch?" The look of suspicion on Claire's face deepened. Bribery almost never meant anything good.

"A talk. I figured I'd bring lunch by and I just... wanted to talk to you about something." Lindsay's nerves ratcheted up a notch. It wasn't that she expected Claire to be judgmental, it's just that talking about something that meant so much to her made electricity start shooting through her whole body.

"Uh huh. You're not about to tell me you slept with Tom again, are you?" Claire opened her bag, continuing to stare down Lindsay. Lindsay just laughed.

"No, no, nothing like that. I actually... slept with someone new." She smiled, remembering last night. Her hands were wrapped around her coffee and she was absently stroking the sleeve with her thumb.

"Well that's great! How was he?" Claire smiled as she unwrapped her burger. About time that Lindsay started making positive progress. Lindsay's heart was thundering a little bit. Why was it less scary to chase after someone with a gun than it was for her to talk to one of her oldest friends about this piece of her identity?

"It wasn't a he," she said softly. "But it was the best night I think I've had... maybe ever. It was... It was really nice," she stopped before she did something as unfamiliar as giggle. She was so caught up in remembering that she forgot to be nervous for a moment, but her breath caught as she waited for Claire to react.

"Well it's about time. Both for you to move on and to try to explore who you are." Claire paused to finish freeing her utterly greasy and amazing burger from its box. She took a bite before continuing. "So tell me about her. What was she like? Is this going to be a regular thing for you? And what brought this on, if you don't mind my asking?"

"She was here on a business trip. I don't think I'm ever going to see her again. I went to a bar after I closed the case with the six-year-old girl. A gay bar, more specifically. I just wanted something or someone that would give my faith in humanity back, and I didn't think... Well. I'd always wondered what it would be like with a woman, after Natasha," Lindsay looked down at her lap. Claire nodded, still chewing. "And she offered to take me home with her. She was wearing this dress. I'm not normally a fan of dresses, but this one... Maybe I just like dresses when they're not on me." Lindsay paused for a moment, lost in the memory. "And it was good, and lasted for hours. And you know how guys are always trying to rush the part where they get inside you? It wasn't like that at all. She actually listened if I told her something was too hard and didn't do it more than once." Lindsay paused for a moment to muse on the interaction. Claire took that as an invitation to jump in.

"Pity it's not more than a one time thing. Do you think you want to try sleeping with more women?" She chose her words carefully so Lindsay didn't have to say anything about her sexual orientation. Sleeping with people and being comfortable with picking a label were two entirely different things and she didn't want to spook Lindsay,

"I don't know. It's not that guys aren't attractive or sex with them is bad for me, it's just that this was an entirely different level of good." Lindsay stopped here to smile. "And I'm not sure I minded it being a one time thing. It was what I needed right then, and I'm not really sure that I'm ready to be in a relationship. And it has nothing to do with Tom. You know how I get with work. It wouldn't be fair to do that to someone else." Lindsay paused for a second as she realized how that sounded. "I mean, part of me is curious about whether it would work better with a woman. I feel like it might. But that's also the exact reason why I want to wait. I want to make sure I'm in a good place before I try something with a woman for the first time, to make sure I give it a fair chance." Claire was a little stunned at that. She recovered quickly.

"Oh honey. There's never going to be a time when you're really ready to be in a relationship. It's kind of the same way you're never really ready for kids. Nobody is perfect, and nobody is ever going to be perfect. And right now, being in a relationship wouldn't hurt you, and I don't think you're in a place where you're going to hurt the other person with who you are either." Claire paused for a moment, thinking. Lindsay didn't jump in, so she continued. "And there's obviously times when you're not going to be fit to be in a relationship. But right now, I think it wouldn't hurt you to start looking." Lindsay smiled at that.

"I don't know that I'll be looking, but I'll keep my eyes open." Claire paused for a moment after Lindsay's response. There was really no tactful way to ask this question.

"Are you going to talk about this with Jill and Cindy?" She wasn't exactly prone to gossip, but it never hurt to cover her bases just in case.

"Yeah. I was going to do that later anyway, don't worry." Lindsay was glad Claire thought it ask. "But can we go back to talking about last night, because it was so good!"

"Sure! Or do you want me to brag about my boys so you get a chance to eat your lunch?"

"I'm always happy to hear about your boys. Or how Ed is doing." And she was. It was the best way to spend a lunch, good burgers and better conversation.

Cindy was used to being nervous around Lindsay. She was intimidating, a human lie detector, and she was utterly amazing. Not only was she ferociously good at her job, but she had a sweet and tender side that could make anyone melt. And up until recently, she had been an unattainable but understandable straight crush. The fact that Lindsay might be something other than straight shouldn't change anything, shouldn't make her harder to talk to, shouldn't fix the normally unstoppable tongue to the roof of her mouth and make her breath catch. It was so much easier if Lindsay was an unattainable straight crush, because in order to be with Lindsay she had to believe that she was somehow worth it.

And that was the truth of the matter. As much as she wanted Lindsay, she didn't believe she was worthy. It was why she had crushes on unattainable people, why she would always pine after gay men and straight women or people who had nothing to give her. Lindsay could be different, if she let her.

But she was getting ahead of herself. All she needed to do was ask Lindsay for some statements to finish her article about the little girl. That was it. Just a few more questions and her story would be ready for tomorrow's paper. If she'd wanted to she could have had it ready for today's edition, but she hadn't wanted to push it yesterday, what with Lindsay taking the confession of the father so hard. She'd stormed out of the station, refusing to talk to the rest of the club, and headed for, as far as Cindy could tell, the nearest bar. Nervously, she drummed her fingers on her thighs as she stared down the entrance to the police station. Enough stalling, she just had to go talk to Lindsay. Something she had done hundreds of times now.

She approached the desk a little more quickly than usual, but as soon as she saw Lindsay she couldn't help but smile. The alcohol from last night must have been full of magic, because Lindsay seemed calm and relaxed, even though she was going over phone records with Jacobi. When she heard Cindy approach, Lindsay looked up and smiled. Cindy's insides melted entirely. She blamed the dimples for not being able to remember what she was going to say.

"Hey. How's my favorite journalist?" Lindsay's smile continued, and Cindy finally managed to find her words again.

"Hey. I'm pretty good. I was hoping I could talk to you about the father's confession. I wanted..." Her smile faded and she took a deep breath to clear her mind of the gruesome details of the case. "I want to make sure that I really do Tammy Jacobson justice and I want to talk about things the father said or did that might be warning signs."

Lindsay looked at her sympathetically. "What do you want to know?" Cindy had to think about it for a minute. What she wanted was to make sure that nothing like this would ever happen again. She wasn't quite sure how to do that, but she wanted to try her best.

"I mean. I guess the cliché thing that you hear about serial killers is that he was so quiet and nice and you'd never suspect it of him. But I want to know if that's really true. You wouldn't really want to go around all 'I had a feeling that guy was bad, I could sense it,' because then you just seem arrogant and like you knew it but did nothing. On the other hand, it's not like you can go to the police with gut feelings. They'd laugh you out of the station. So I guess... what I'm asking is what sorts of things do people notice but they don't say anything about." Cindy halted, realizing that she was starting to babble. At least she managed to find the words that she was looking for.

"The sad truth is that even if you do call the police, because you hear crashing or screaming or yelling, even if you do everything that you can to prevent things like this from happening, it still might happen. And it's not anyone's fault, except the murderer." Lindsay looked down and swallowed hard. This was the hardest thing to come to terms with about her job. She got there too late, after tragedy had already happened. A lot of times it felt like closing the barn door after the horse had already left.

"But what I would tell your readers is that Mark Jacobson was abused as a child. He grew up in a system where he was hit when he did something wrong, and there was nobody out there teaching him to do better. And I'm not saying that excuses what he did, because it doesn't. What I am saying is that we don't really take enough steps to make sure that abused children don't go on to abuse their families. We don't have a lot of role models showing them how to recover, and we don't really have much of a mental health safety net. And Tammy's mother tried to sue for custody," Lindsay's gut clenched and unclenched uncomfortably. It was hard to realize that hospital doctors had tried to report abuse, as had one of her teachers, but there wasn't enough evidence to give her mother custody of Tammy.

"But he made more money than she did. That was what the court was worried about, not abuse allegations or anything else." Lindsay still couldn't quite wrap her head around it. Steps could have been taken. But she had to believe her own words, that the only person responsible for what happened was Mark Jacobson. He was the one who hit Tammy so hard she crashed head first into the fridge, and dumped her unconscious body in a park. Tammy had laid there for two hours before she died, freezing and alone. According to her mother, she wanted to grow up and become a botanist. A strange occupation for a six-year-old to want, but she already kept her own garden and was learning all of the plants' proper names. And now she would never be able to graduate high school, never dig in her garden again. Lindsay sighed as her good mood evaporated. Cindy gave her a questioning glance, but Lindsay waved her off. She would be fine. Cindy continued to look at her expectantly, like she wanted to ask something.

"I don't... My father was amazing. He was incredible, and wanted me to be included in things. He was the kind of man who decided that he was going to single-handedly end sexism so his baby could have a chance at the career she always wanted. I don't like to think about how a father could be anything less than great, and this is kind of hard for me, and while I could probably work on this story back at my office, would you mind horribly if I wrote it here? I mean, I don't know if it would be against station policy or anything for me to be here for so long, but I have my laptop and I figured..."

"Cindy," Lindsay said with a small smile, "It's totally fine if you want to stay here and write. I might have to kick you out if we get called away, but we're going to be looking at phone records. We might have a problem if you try to go anywhere that's not..." Lindsay looked at her desk and grabbed a massive stack of papers that she meant to file. Wow she needed to clean her desk off. "...this little corner of my desk here, but you'll be fine. I'm here however you need me to be." She hadn't really wanted to tell Cindy all of the details about Tammy Jacobson's death, but an article in the paper could shed some light on the issues of custody and divorce, particularly in cases of spousal abuse. She sighed. Sometimes she wondered how Cindy kept her faith in humanity. She smiled as the redhead settled in and started plugging away at her story. The keys on her laptop were a very soothing backdrop to finish going over all of the phone records, though Cindy was typing at a speed Lindsay could never manage.

It took about two hours for her to finish, and Cindy was very surprised to look up and see a full, if cold, cup of coffee off to her left. Lindsay must have left it for her. She looked over, expecting to see the inspector, but she wasn't here. Cindy frowned. She must have gotten really into her article if she didn't even notice Lindsay departing. Lindsay was chatting with one of the other homicide detectives about what they had found in the phone records, but as soon as she saw Cindy looking around, she walked back over to her desk.

"Hey. You all done? It's almost quitting time here and I don't know about you, but I could certainly use a drink. Claire and Jill are waiting for us, and it's margarita night at Joe's." Lindsay smiled as the redhead stretched. There were a few audible pops as Cindy's spine realigned itself, and she was blinking a lot, as if the monitor was still burned into her eyes.

"Yeah. A drink sounds really good. Just let me get this emailed off to my editor and then we can go." It was the work of only a few clicks before Cindy shut her laptop down and put it into her bag. Getting to see the rest of the club wouldn't be half bad either, after a day like today. She rubbed her eyes. The story had taken a lot out of her. It was also the reason why she wanted to be a crime reporter, to make sure that little girls who wanted to be botanists had a voice and a say in the world.

"You look drained," Lindsay said softly. She let a hand linger on Cindy's back to guide her through the station, all the way out to Maggie. She was feeling more protective of the redhead, after seeing her get upset over Tammy's story. That was one of the reasons why she had called Claire and Jill for drinks; she didn't want Cindy to be alone just yet. She understood all too well how that usually turned out with this many ghosts flying around. Besides, she wanted to tell the rest of the club about her latest escapade.

Lindsay met up with Cindy outside of Papa Joe's. Her hand instinctively went to Cindy's back to guide her into the restaurant, to the table where Claire and Jill were waiting. She smiled broadly at them and the pitcher of margaritas already on the table and allowed Cindy to scoot in first. She playfully bumped shoulders with the redhead as she took her jacket off, hanging it on the hook outside the booth.

"So how are the boys?" It was the first question out of Cindy's mouth because she wanted to talk about something happy.

"Oh, they're great. Derek actually managed to win a science award. He's so proud of it, and rightfully so. He's been working like a dog for months on those model rockets." Claire excitedly started going into more detail about the rockets. Lindsay had no idea about the difference in rocket sizes and various comparisons of parachute materials, but Cindy was relaxing more and more, and the more Cindy relaxed, the more at home Lindsay felt. Claire paused when she reached a good point and looked pointedly at Lindsay. "But that's enough about me and my life, I hear that a certain inspector had an interesting development in her personal life." Lindsay smiled shyly into her margarita glass.

"I might've had a one night stand." She was smiling and giggly. "And... it was with a woman." Cindy almost started choking. She coughed once, hard, and Lindsay looked at her in alarm. Surely the idea of her sleeping with a woman wasn't that outlandish? Cindy waved Lindsay on to continue, so she did, despite Jill grinning like a damn Cheshire cat. "And it might've been the absolute best sex I've ever had in my life." At that Cindy turned bright red and Jill started cackling. Clair was wearing a proud smile, and nodded at Lindsay to thank her for her candor.

"I bet it was. I'm just amazed that it took you that long." Lindsay reached across the table to swat Jill on the arm.

"Shut up! I wasn't that bad." She was blushing a little bit herself now. She took a big swig of the beer she was holding. "But it was so good that I think I would have a hard time going back to men. Kind of like trying to stomach stale cereal after an all you can eat breakfast buffet." Jill nodded at her.

"I've found women to be more considerate in bed but my heart almost always does its best tricks for men, so sadly I am stuck with the lot of them. Untalented though many of them may be with their hands," she said with a sigh. Lindsay looked at Jill in utter shock.

"You've slept with a woman?" Lindsay couldn't fully wrap her head around the idea of boy-crazy Jill sleeping with a woman.

"Ah, more than one woman. And I enjoyed it. It was good sex. I wouldn't call it the best sex of my life or anything, but... The women were so enchanting that I couldn't resist." Jill was smirking at Lindsay's surprise.

"So you've slept with women but you didn't tell me about it?" Lindsay drummed her fingers on the table and watched nervously for Cindy's further reactions. She really didn't want the redhead to think any less of her, and while she certainly seemed like she wasn't the least bit homophobic, her stomach was still in knots. Catching Lindsay's eye, Cindy gave her a small smile and nod while Jill started talking about her exploits and sexual orientation. Cindy even reached over to give Lindsay's hand a reassuring squeeze. Jill's words got suddenly quiet and Lindsay felt a slow heat burn its way up her arm. Cindy pulled away, keeping eye contact for one or two electric seconds. With effort, Lindsay turned back to face Jill.

"... and you're no longer listening." Jill finished her thought and Lindsay apologized. Jill waved her away. "Not a problem. So do you think this is going to be more than a one time thing for you? Women, I mean." Lindsay thought about it for a moment. When Claire asked the same thing earlier, she hadn't been as sure. But she was sure now.

"I think it would be difficult to go back to men, at the very least. It was..." Lindsay paused and smiled, absentmindedly picking at the label on her beer. "One of the best nights of my life. And the more I think about it, the more I want sex like that. It can't be with the same person, unfortunately. I met with her at a hotel and we didn't exchange contact information or anything. I also don't think I'm ready for another relationship yet, but I would love to explore this new thing more." Her cheeks were starting to hurt from all this smiling but it felt good to enjoy something again.

"That sounds like a good plan." Cindy's voice was so soft that Lindsay almost didn't hear. "So here's to you exploring, and finding out something new about yourself." Cindy raised her margarita and clinked it against Lindsay's beer before taking a swig. Her acceptance made Lindsay melt a little on the inside.

"Hear, hear," Claire added to the toast and clinked Lindsay's glass. Jill simply saluted and clinked, before downing the last of her margarita.

"Well you lovely ladies, it's been wonderful, but I think I'm going to go drink some Gatorade and head home. I have to start prepping witnesses in the Tammy Jacobson trial. I want to be fresh for that." Jill grabbed her briefcase from under the table and stood up gracefully, considering the amount of alcohol in her system. "I'm just glad that I had the foresight to take a cab."

"Well, I think that might be my cue to go as well. Better make sure that Ed actually got the boys dinner." Claire stood up to head for the door, a little more wobbly than Jill.

"Tell Derek congratulations about his science award, alright?" Lindsay said with a smile. She stood up to give her friend a quick hug.

"And tell him that if he keeps it up I might be able to get some more football tickets for him. If that doesn't do it, I don't know what will." Cindy smiled and her eyes twinkled a little bit in the light. Claire smiled back and headed out the door, leaving Cindy and Lindsay alone. "So. Do you want to hangout for a little while?" Cindy asked.

"Yeah. I think I can stay for a little longer." Lindsay carefully appraised Cindy She was definitely doing better than earlier. She stretched and sighed gratefully as her spine popped back into place before she sat across from Cindy. Tonight had been a good idea for both of them. "I can give you a little more room though. Not that you need it," Lindsay tacked on with an impish grin. Cindy just shyly ducked her head and she was suddenly worried that she had gone too far. "Hey, you okay?" Cindy was hiding behind her hair a little bit, but she looked up to smile at Lindsay.

"Yeah. Today was just hard. I'm glad that Jill is on the Tammy Jacobson case. It's what she deserves." Cindy was picking absentmindedly at her cuticles as she spoke. She was obviously nervous about something, but Lindsay couldn't quite figure out what. She didn't want to ask, because she got the feeling that it was personal and Cindy didn't want to talk about it just yet. It bothered her to let it alone, because she was Inspector Lindsay Boxer and she fixed whatever was hurting her friends, but she respected Cindy's privacy.

"I'm glad too. Jill is really good at what she does. We make a really good team, even if we're not a club." Lindsay gave Cindy a broad smile after that, inviting her to laugh at their little joke. She didn't get a laugh, but Cindy did crack a smile. They sat in companionable silence for a little while, nursing their drinks. It took about ten minutes before Cindy finally sighed.

"I have to get going too. I'm probably going to catch another grueling story tomorrow and I don't want to have to do that on no sleep." Lindsay stood, as she had for Jill and Claire, and wrapped Cindy in a quick hug. It was the same sort of hug that she gave Claire, but it was somehow infinitely more pleasant.

"Yeah. Not a problem." Lindsay pulled back from the hug to look Cindy in the eye. And if you need help with anything, you just let me know. I'm only a phone call away, okay? Nothing too small to bother me." Cindy nodded.

"I'll remember. I better go though, places to be and all that." Lindsay watched Cindy walk away with as smile on her face. Today had been a very good day.

Cindy was pacing outside of the door in Jill's office. An obscenely large coffee was in her hand, her own having nervously been thrown back in the fifteen minutes she'd been waiting for Jill. Because she had no idea how Jill liked her coffee there were four creams and eight packets of sugar in the pockets of her jacket. Finally, Jill appeared from around the corner and she was greeted with a smile.

"Hey. You came with gifts," Jill said as she reached a hand out for the coffee. "What can I help you with?" Jill gave the redhead an appraising look. She seemed incredibly jittery, even for someone with Cindy's penchant for getting into trouble.

"Do you have time to talk? I really appreciated what you said about me being gay the other day and I wanted to just... talk." Cindy went back to bouncing up and down on the balls of her feet.

"Yeah, of course. Come on in." Jill unlocked the door and held it open for Cindy. She threw her briefcase down and kicked her shoes off under the desk. She sat down with a sigh. "Sorry about that, those heels have been killing me for the past hour. They look good, but it comes with a price. So what did you need?" Cindy settled into the chair on the other side of Jill's desk, a little intimidated by the setting. "Are you about to tell me that you have a crush on a certain inspector?" she said in the most playful tone she could manage. It was one of the more outlandish things she could think of, and she was surprised when Cindy immediately turned bright red. Oh this was too good. Something to tease her about, not that Jill really needed more ammo.

"That would be part of why I wanted to talk, yeah. I've just been bottling up the way that I feel about her for a really long time, and it's frustrating because the only reason I've managed to keep from saying anything was the very firm belief that Lindsay was entirely straight. I just need this stupid crush to go away," Cindy was playing with her hands as she talked, and Jill smiled softly.

"But why does it need to go away? It seems to me like Lindsay being interested in women would be a positive development."

"Her being interested means I might have to do something about the way I feel. Or I can do something about the way I feel. I don't get to just put it in a box and pretend it doesn't exist. I mean, I guess I could, because it's not like I have a shot with someone like Lindsay anyway." Jill laughed at that but waved Cindy on. "And what if I take the feelings out of the box and show them to Lindsay and she decides that she likes those feelings and wants me to do something about them? That's a terrifying idea. I don't want to just leave my feelings alone by themselves in a box because they have hope, but they have hope for something that terrifies me to no end. I mean, even assuming that she would want me. The feelings don't have much hope, just a sliver of hope that they're stupidly clinging to because they're sick of the box."

"I hear you. I've cheated in almost every serious relationship that I've ever been in. Intimacy is scary." Jill made eye contact with Cindy, smiling softly again.

"That's why I wanted to talk to you about it. I figured you'd be less... pushy than Claire." Cindy was finally starting to relax.

"And there's where you'd be wrong. I'm not going to be any less pushy, even if I am more understanding. It's scary, but it's worth it. And... I think you could be really good for Lindsay. She needs someone who will hang on and not let go, and I think you're that person. You get her, in a way even Claire and I don't." Jill took a certain sadistic pleasure in watching the blush start to form on Cindy's face. "So I'm going to tell you to go for it. Tell her how you feel. Put it all out there." Jill started twirling a pen in her fingers as she watched Cindy on the other side of the desk.

"Okay. And I think that's why I came, to get some sort of validation. I feel crazy for even contemplating it, because it's Lindsay. She means a lot to me and I don't want to ruin what we have. Sometimes I still feel like a junior member of the club, and I don't want to do anything that would make her push me away." Cindy was blushing again, and she looked down at her knees. It was hard to express how she felt about being in the club. The club was precious to her, and she tended to lose precious things, particularly if other people knew they were important to her.

"Yeah. Lindsay isn't really the best at making you feel welcome. But I can assure you that a crush isn't the worst she's ever dealt with in order to keep a friend. And you mean a lot to her, even if she has a hard time saying that. I'll make sure to tell you, even if she doesn't. Now I hate to chat and run, but I've got people coming in soon." Jill sighed, not relishing the idea of putting her shoes back on. "But I hope I helped." Cindy gave Jill a broad grin in response.

"Yeah. Mostly. I appreciate it, thank you." Jill was startled as Cindy came over to offer her a quick hug. She gave the redhead a reassuring squeeze and then fished her shoes out from under her desk. How could something so beautiful possibly hurt so much?

She really needed to find a different ice breaker than coffee. After talking with Jill, she went to pick up another coffee to bring Lindsay and she couldn't resist getting something for herself. All of the caffeine was setting her nerves on fire, the excess energy showing in the way she couldn't sit still. But maybe she couldn't blame it entirely on the caffeine.

It was nerves. Pure nerves. The kind that made you sick to your stomach, that kept you up all night because you cared about someone so much that it didn't matter if they cared about you the same way. You just needed them to be there. To smile, to fuss, to talk to, to listen to, to help however you can. Cindy paused and forced herself to take a deep breath. This was nothing she hadn't done before, bringing coffee to Lindsay at work to see if she needed anything.

Before she could lose her nerve, she walked into the station and went to Lindsay's desk. Her breath caught at the sight, and she had to force herself to start breathing again. It was just Lindsay. But maybe that was the problem. Not wanting to startle her, Cindy made sure to shuffle her feet over to the desk.

"Hey. I brought you a coffee. How goes everything?" Cindy cautiously handed over the coffee and Lindsay smiled at her so broadly she felt her knees buckle. She stumbled a little, and Lindsay reached out to catch her. There was a hand on her arm and Cindy wondered how human contact could possibly be so warm.

"Hey! You alright there? I appreciate the coffee, but try not to hurt yourself getting it to me, okay?" There was that smile again, and Cindy smiled back. It was an effort to say anything without stuttering, but she managed through sheer force of will.

"Yeah. I think I got it." Mostly she just needed Lindsay to stop touching her so she could remember why she was here in the first place. Thankfully, Lindsay went back to sitting down, cuddling up to the cup of coffee. She inhaled and nearly moaned. The sound sent Cindy's mind even further into the gutter, and she mentally berated herself to focus. "So I was wondering if you would maybe want to get dinner at Joe's? I want to talk and hang out, I guess. Have a little fun, just the two of us, if that's okay with you?" She put on her most charming smile and hoped that Lindsay would say yes. Lindsay was a little bit startled.

"Why just me? I'm not in trouble, am I?" It was her default response whenever anyone wanted to talk. "You're not in trouble either, are you?" This being Cindy, part of Lindsay wondered if this was her way of trying to sweet talk her way out of some criminal charge or another.

"No, no, not at all. I just like to talk to people one-on-one sometimes. It's nice," Cindy said as she started to flush. She was desperately hoping that she wouldn't blurt out the reason for the dinner in the middle of the bullpen. Hers was the kind of confession that deserved a setting that was at least a little more romantic. Lindsay leveled her laser vision at Cindy, just to see her squirm for a bit. When the blush increased but nothing else came out of Cindy's mouth, she relented. She would have to actually show up to the dinner to figure out what this was about.

"If you're sure. I'll see you there about seven thirty?"

"Great. I'll see you then!" She beamed at Lindsay one more time and walked back out of the station.

Cindy bounced nervously in the booth, resisting the urge to check her reflection in the window again. Nothing had changed in the past two minutes. Her makeup was still flawless and the jeans she wore were still the incredibly flattering jeans she set aside for special occasions. She was even wearing heels, although they were slight. She didn't think she could handle anything more than slight. And then Lindsay walked through the door. She was wearing her usual jeans and t-shirt, but she still looked amazing.

"You look good," she said and then flinched. She had not meant for those to be the first words out of her mouth.

"Thank you. I look like I've been in the bullpen all day, but thank you." They sat down and Cindy relaxed. Just like that, it was the two of them, eating some of San Francisco's finest pizza. There were occasional silences, but not uncomfortable ones. That was the surprising thing about all of this. Cindy's crush should make her nervous, set her on edge, but everything with Lindsay fit. She understood Lindsay, and Lindsay understood her. Too soon, it was the part of the evening where the check was delivered. She should've started talking sooner, but she didn't want to ruin the whole dinner and spoil what might be her last time hanging out with Lindsay. The nerves that had faded the past hour came back with a vengeance.

"So I asked you out to dinner because I wanted to talk about something." Cindy was staring down her beer bottle. Maybe it would be easier if she didn't have to look Lindsay in the eye. "Not just about life, in general. Don't get me wrong I had fun," She paused. Lindsay was starting to look concerned. "I like you. Like more-than-friends like you. You are an incredible, extraordinary individual who I admire so much, and I don't think it's possible for me to not fall for you. And I didn't want to tell you sooner because I didn't want you to hate me, and I didn't want you to feel like you couldn't trust me." Her words were coming out in a rush and she couldn't seem to stop babbling. The few minutes of silence between her announcement weren't helping her nerves, but she forced herself to be patient. Lindsay hated the silence as much as Cindy, knowing she needed to say something but also having no idea how to handle this sort of situation.

"It's okay. I would never let something like that make me not trust you. You would still be my friend. And I really appreciate that you came to me with your feelings. This is a pretty big deal and it's been kind of overwhelming. Do you mind if I take a few days to sort it out?" Lindsay smiled nervously at her and Cindy's stomach clenched. She wasn't sure what she expected, but it wasn't this. It wasn't space and time. But she would do it.

"That's okay. I kind of sprung this on you suddenly and you need some time to think it through. And don't worry about dinner, I got it, okay?" She smiled at Lindsay, the brightest one she could manage. She got a small smile in return and some part of her settled. It would just be a few days. She would be okay.

Lindsay had been avoiding Cindy for the past week. It hadn't been very intentional at first, because the redhead was giving her space. After a few days though, she started to deliberately take steps to not accidentally bump into the redhead. She had even gone so far as to drive around the entire morgue parking lot twice, just to make sure that Cindy wasn't visiting Claire before she parked, and went inside.

"Don't worry, she's not here. Or maybe I should rephrase that. You don't need to worry that Cindy's here, but you and I need to have a talk." Claire wasn't quite frowning, but she was definitely aggravated by the way Lindsay was behaving. "Cindy is having a hard time with this, because whether or not you mean to come off this way, she thinks you're avoiding her because she has a crush on you. She's hurting because she's worried she lost a friend over something that she can't control." Claire was almost glaring at her. Lindsay ducked her head.

"I... It's complicated." She looked down at her feet.

"Well uncomplicate it!" Claire said in a tone of voice that meant business.

"I think I might like her. Like... the same way that she likes me. And I don't know what to do about it, because I don't want to ruin her. She's so good and I'm... me. I ruin relationships. That's kind of been the only thing I've been good at." Claire softened.

"Relationships take two people. I'm sure you haven't been the only reason that your relationships haven't worked." That wasn't the right thing to say.

"But that's the thing! All of these people who break up with me end up happily married a few years down the line. I'm the one who lost my marriage. I'm the one who retreats into work when anything gets too difficult. I'm the one who won't compromise and who holds grudges and I just can't do that to Cindy! She is annoying and infuriating and somehow one of the sweetest people I've ever met. She genuinely cares about everyone and would do anything to make me happy. I can't be trusted with that! I can't know for certain that I won't ruin her somehow and she doesn't deserve it." Lindsay hadn't realized that she was yelling until Jill slipped in.

"I heard you from the hallway, is everything alright?" At that point Lindsay realized that there were tears on her face. Sometimes that happened when she got frustrated.

Jill, being a little more experienced at wrangling Lindsay than Claire was, went over and put her arm around Lindsay. This was what she could offer, comfort uninhibited by judgement because she knew exactly where Lindsay was coming from. She knew how much it hurt to ruin beautiful things, and she would still be there.

"I don't think Cindy would do anything to make you happy," Jill said as she rubbed Lindsay's back. "I think she is a grown woman who knows exactly what she is getting into. She's seen you at your absolute worst, and she still wants to be with you. She sees you, which is a lot more than can be said for a lot of your past partners. I know you want to protect her, but right now it seems like protecting her means telling her how you feel," Lindsay tried to reply but Jill stepped back and kept talking. "And you're not going to be doing this alone. We're here for you, just like we've always been." Lindsay was nodding.

"I still don't want to hurt her," Lindsay said, arms curled tightly against her chest. A tear ran down her cheek and she angrily wiped it away. Claire smiled softly at Lindsay before she started speaking again.

"I think that sometimes, there are things in life that are worth getting hurt for. There are some things in life that are worth the risk. We end up hurting people all the time, whether or not that's what we intended. And that's okay. Because what we learn from people is usually so much more than just the hurt. You'll be good for her, and she'll be good for you. I'm not going to push you into this, because that's not fair to either of you. But what I will say is that you wouldn't be the worst thing to happen to her. And I think that you could have something beautiful and meaningful, even if it doesn't work out perfectly." Claire stepped closer to Lindsay and held open her arms. Lindsay got a quick hug.

"Okay. I guess I have to figure out a way to make up for the week of silence, huh?" Claire and Jill both nodded.

"Big time!" Jill added with a smirk. "If I were her, I'd milk it. But luckily for you she's not me and she'll be so happy to hear from you that she'll probably forgive you on the spot." Lindsay was still scared as hell, but it was starting to seem less stupid that she cared about Cindy now. She blew her nose and headed out to her car. She had flowers to pick up.

It was a little bit of a gamble that Cindy would be at home right now, but it was a chance Lindsay was willing to take. She stopped by one of the little markets that sold all kinds of flowers and picked out a bouquet. It wasn't as nice as something that she would buy at a flower shop, but it had the personal touch that she was looking for. She carefully wrapped the flowers in paper and walked the rest of the way to Cindy's apartment. Cindy buzzed her up, though it was tense and awkward. She climbed the stairs, her heart pounding a little. Cindy was waiting in the doorway for her, and she held out her flowers. Cindy smiled and went into the house without saying anything. There were some noises that sounded suspiciously like several somethings getting cleared off a table and into the garbage to make room for the flowers. Lindsay just hovered by the door.

"Can I come in?" She leaned on the doorframe, hands stuffed into her pockets. As nervous as she was, she could still appreciate the way that Cindy looked, even with her back turned, wearing sweatpants and what appeared to be bunny slippers. Even in the dimly lit kitchen she was beautiful and breathtaking. Cindy caught her staring as she turned around and wave of longing swept over her at the sheer hunger in Cindy's eyes.

"Yeah. You brought me flowers, which I think means you're apologizing for something. So you can come in." Cindy gave her a small smile and Lindsay relaxed. She stepped into the apartment and shut the door behind her.

"Yeah. I'm really sorry that I've been avoiding you all week. Jill and Claire talked to me about what an ass I was being and... Well. I don't want to be an ass anymore. You mean a lot to me. I'm bad at showing it and saying it, but you are one of my favorite people in the world." Cindy had her arms across her chest, waiting for Lindsay to finish what she was saying. Lindsay took a few more steps into the apartment. "I've been thinking a lot about what you said. And about how I feel about you. The truth is that I care about you, a lot. In the same way that you care about me." She smiled shyly at her boots. "But I'm scared that I'm going to hurt you. I'm scared that I'm going to do what I've done with all of my past relationships."

"I know." Lindsay was a little startled by Cindy's declaration. "I'm not expecting you to be perfect, and I know what I'm getting myself in to. I'm not saying I'm not going to call you on it, but I promise that I'll talk to you about what's going on. Besides," she said with a wry grin, "your job and my job go together like peanut butter and chocolate." Lindsay smiled at that. Cindy uncrossed her arms, extending her hand for the flowers, then turned and began rummaging around in the kitchen for a vase as Lindsay finished talking.

"Okay. I guess that's all that I can ask. And I'm sorry that I didn't try talking to you about all of this sooner. I'm not what I would call great at dealing with my emotions sometimes." Cindy grinned hugely at that, and masked it by clearing her throat, grateful that putting water in the vase covered some of her amusement. "But if you're still willing to have me." Cindy smiled at her softly and nodded, setting the vase on her table. Once she was done, Lindsay reached out and grabbed Cindy's hand, squeezing it gently. Cindy's breath caught, and Lindsay grinned impishly.

"Part of me wonders… if this is what I can do to you with just a little touch," she paused to run her hand up and down Cindy's arm. "What it would do to you if I kissed you." Cindy gently pulled her closer and kissed her softly. One of Cindy's hands cradled the back of her head and the other was at her waist. Lindsay kissed her softly, gently stroking Cindy's cheek with one hand and wrapping her other arm around her.

Cindy was panting and her heart was racing. The way that Cindy leaned forward into her touch made her look so damn kissable. She wasn't certain where she wanted things to go for tonight, so she resisted the temptation to take things further, even if she couldn't resist gently running her fingers along Cindy's neck. The shock it sent down her spine was surprising, and she had a hard time pulling away. Cindy seemed to turn off the voice in the back of her head that usually kept her cool and rational about her partners. Which probably meant she had to be more careful rather than less.

"I think I need to go, before this turns into something I don't think either of us is quite ready for," Lindsay said with no amount of conviction what so ever. "But I would love to take you out to dinner. My treat, since you got the last one?" Cindy nodded and bit her lip. She looked like she was having a hard time keeping her hands to herself too. Lindsay softly kissed Cindy's forehead, and Cindy grabbed the lapels of Lindsay's jacket, standing on tiptoe to kiss her more. Lindsay groaned and was immediately embarrassed. Cindy simply pulled back to smile at her. She really shouldn't be able to feel Cindy's arms through the leather jacket, but she could and it was delicious.

"Okay. Dinner sounds good. Tomorrow? Or do you need a little more space again?" Cindy eyed her, wondering just how patient she was going to have to be.

"Tomorrow would be fine. The usual place or did you want to try something new?" Lindsay absentmindedly tucked a stray strand of hair behind Cindy's ear. It was nice to just be close. More than nice.

"I don't know. I'm in favor of anything that gives us an excuse to dress up." Cindy kissed Lindsay again and Lindsay laughed.

"You like the idea of seeing me get all fancy huh?" It was her turn to kiss Cindy, which was a bit difficult as she was nodding.

"Yes. I enjoy that idea very much."

"Got any suggestions?"

"There's a new Thai place that one of the critics at The Register has been raving about. I could get us some reservations. Seven thirty again?"

"Ah, there you go, using your clout at The Register to get your way," Lindsay's smile took away any sting the remark might have had. "Text me the address and I will see you at seven." She gave Cindy one final kiss and pulled away, even though her hands refused to let go for a few moments. It was hard to leave something that felt so good, but there would be plenty of time for more of that later. Tomorrow couldn't come soon enough.

The End

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