DISCLAIMER: Women's Murder Club and its characters are the property of James Patterson, 20th Century Fox Television and ABC. Popular belongs to Ryan Murphy. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: The version of Sam used in this story comes from another embarrassingly long Brooke/Sam saga I wrote a while ago called Just a Little Insight. But you donít have to read that to get this. I just used Sam becauseÖ itís Sam. And Carly Pope is hot.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
By Misty Flores
In a women's bathroom in a general hospital, Lindsay Boxer had a terrifying revelation: for all her good intentions, it was utterly impossible to let Cindy Thomas go.
She needed to. She knew that. Ashe's dire warnings had done their work, and she knew, the type of vulnerability this relationship brought out in her had no place. Not here. Not now. Maybe not ever.
Unlike the men Lindsay had always dated, who as a whole were always broad shouldered, physically strong, capable of drawing her in and overwhelming her, Cindy was tiny. Cindy was female.
Still, with those slender arms encircling her, and the soft feminine scent that rose from rust colored strands, Lindsay Boxer felt safe and simultaneously terrified.
"You need to leave me," she whispered, a hoarse plea, because she understood now, she didn't have the strength to walk away. Her fingers, picking through red hair to scratch lightly at Cindy's scalp, and her heart, hammering in a tell-tale pulse against Cindy's cheek, proved that.
Wound tightly in her embrace, Cindy issued a heavy sigh, before pulling away slightly, just enough to look at her with dark green eyes that misted with unshed emotion.
"Is that what you want, or what you need?"
The question was impossible to answer, and overwhelmed, Lindsay simply reached up, gently traced the soft, young face, from cheek to lower lip.
Cindy didn't move, too intent on focusing on her face, catching every twitch of muscle.
"You don't want me to get hurt."
Wordlessly, Lindsay nodded.
"You know that's not up to you."
"And you know that being around me increases the risk exponentially."
"Duh. But that's my choice," Cindy cut in softly, fingers tightening on her waist. "I mean, isn't it? That's what makes a relationship so frustrating. You can't tell me what to do."
Cindy Thomas, who had followed her rules to a letter, demanding rules of her own in return, insisting on equality. She had done that once before.
A long stare, and suddenly the door opened, revealing a pair of nurses laughing obscenely at some joke, and then falling into sudden, awkward silence at the intimate picture she and Cindy presented.
Lindsay was too broken to care. When the nurses stared, she simply lifted a brow - enough to cause a flush and a quick glance away, as the flustered women ducked their heads and weaved around them to enter the stalls.
A quiet moment, and then Cindy untangled herself, leaving Lindsay with a chilled, panicked flutter that she chose not to linger on. Swallowing, she kept her face visibly blank, as Cindy once again shouldered her bag, and then said evenly, "I'm better than you at the details. You know that. I remember those faces. If you want my notes, fine, but I'm part of the package. I help, or you arrest me. I need to catch this guy as much as you do."
This was wrong. She knew that. A beautiful, vivacious face, lips pouted in resolute firmness, and God, how she ached for her now. And Cindy was right - with her picture perfect memory, she picked up things, set up the pieces to the puzzle so perfectly for Lindsay to solve.
Her gut wrenched itself inside of her like a knotted muscle, as her head lowered, and she forced herself to push out a long, unsteady breath.
"You can help," she finally managed. "But when we're done if we find what we're looking for "
For once, Cindy knew when to quit. "I go back to the Register, with its security guards and shiny lobbies and witnesses, and I wait," she agreed. "For you to call me."
The tightness in her chest eased just a little, and in the corner of her eye, she saw a stall door jerk open, a pair of beady eyes stare at her, and when she finally turned to look, the door slam back closed.
The act brought an unintentional smile to her lips. Cindy's gaze locked with hers, and suddenly her own lips were curling, a loving gaze laced with amusement.
"At least I still make some people weak-kneed," she commented idly, "Since it appears you've lost the fear."
"You still make me weak-kneed," Cindy replied, her smile turning slightly wicked, "Just in a different way."
The connotation, the look, it all made her blush like a damned fourteen year old.
"Go to hell," she muttered hotly, flushing when she saw Cindy's smile broaden at her telling reaction. "Let's go to work."
The name of the uniformed officer who was currently guarding Sam was Officer Weene. He was thirty-five, studying for the second time for the detective's exam, had two kids, and had just mortgaged a new house across the bridge.
Brooke McQueen knew this. She also knew his cell phone number, the number of his boss, and his explicit promise that should anything (anything at all) change regarding Sam's situation, he was to call her on her cell phone immediately.
Despite feeling like the living dead, it wasn't hard to convince him. Brooke had never been a push-over: her best friend in high school had been the biggest bitch on the planet (not to mention had tried to kill her when she had chosen Sam's friendship over hers), and that kind of influence permeated. Officer Weene knew damned well what he would have to face if he let his guard down for even a half second, and Brooke did not make idle threats.
At this moment, she couldn't afford to.
Her promise to Sam was half-kept, and she found herself sinking into a hard plastic chair in the cafeteria instead of into a taxi, gripping yet another cup of sludgy coffee, and forcing herself to gulp it down.
Bone tired, she still couldn't sleep. Not yet. The relief she was hanging on, it wasn't there yet. Everything inside of her seemed wound up, and Sam, in her earnest bid to try and take care of her, couldn't quite grasp that only by actually seeing her, could Brooke really breathe.
Still, Sam couldn't rest and get better if she was worried about Brooke, and for now, bad coffee in hospital cafeteria a few floors down would have to do.
Her blackberry was currently a litter of work related queries, an occasional text from Mac, who texted on behalf of her mother, asking for updates. While Brooke and Sam both adored their baby sister, and she adored them right back, little Mac had hit her Hannah Montana stage, and with that came all sorts of questions Jane didn't have answers for (trying to explain exactly how Brooke and Sam could be her sisters and still be together was a conversation Jane simply refused to have, and had left that task to Brooke). Mac had inherited not only Brooke's penchant for being stubborn, but Sam's relentless self righteousness, which made for a super smart, super grouchy, super annoying, super cute kid that Brooke loved with everything inside of her. Seeing her name and awkward kid-chat was enough to make a tired smile float onto her face. She needed it. Brooke shot her little sister a quick text, indicating everything was fine, and then set the infuriating phone aside, crossing her arms and closing her eyes for one desperate moment.
She couldn't sleep. She was exhausted, but her mind was racing so fast
Resigned, Brooke lifted her head, took another swallow of swill, and reached for her purse, grabbing her phone and depositing it into the bulky designer bag. After a moment, she frowned, and removed her expensive digital camera.
A twitch of a button, and the pictures of the Pride Parade popped up, some professionally set up, with macros and speeds and correct lighting, and some, as the day had gotten progressively crazier and the less technical Sam had taken over, silly and fuzzy, odd angles and cheesy grins.
Transported, her fingers stilled on a candid shot taken by Sam, who had the most annoying habit of stealing Brooke's camera, hauling Brooke in around the shoulders, reaching out with her hand, and snapping an often widely unfocused picture that half the time, cut off half of their heads and emphasized Sam's incredibly sexy grin.
This picture, at first, seemed no different, until a flash of a familiar face slightly obscured in the corner caught her attention.
The loving, devoted smile currently occupying her expression froze, and with her heart suddenly in her throat, Brooke slipped out the memory card, and jammed it quickly into the appropriate space on her laptop.
Agent John Ashe was visibly not pleased to see her as Lindsay led her to her jeep, and Cindy Thomas discovered that, instead of the righteous anger that she had been feeling the entire morning, she instead felt pity.
The creepy Ashe was human now, and while Cindy struggled with that idea, such a paradigm shift from their earlier suspicion, she now understood why he was so utterly invested. He had to be: this was his redemption and his vengeance. The apparition of Cindy Thomas, fingers loosely tangled in Lindsay's, because Lindsay had grabbed hold of her as they exited the parking structure elevator and had yet to let go, was a reminder of everything he had lost.
"We need her," Lindsay said sharply, before the brooding agent could even comment on her presence. "She's going to help go through the notes she has and then she's going home."
Cindy's phone pierced into Lindsay's flat statement, and with an apologetic face, she released her grip, and rummaged through her bag, turning away from Lindsay and Ashe's hushed conversation to discover the intruding caller was Brooke McQueen.
Quickly, she lifted the phone to her ear. "Brooke?"
"Oh, thank God," came the rushed, whispered voice. "Please tell me you haven't left yet."
Immediately, her brow furrowed, snapping her fingers to catch the attention of the agent and the Inspector. "Was just about to. What's wrong?"
"I was looking through the photos Sam and I took of the Pride Parade? I blew them up on my computer, looking for crowd shots. Sam and I were rubbing elbows with people all day. I mean, you were there-"
"Okay," she said, as soothing as she could sound under the circumstances. "Wha'd you find?"
There was a moment of worried hesitation. "It could be nothing, but Dr. Morris is in a least two of them. He was there, Cindy."
"Do you have a three?"
Sam McPherson grinned at the disgruntled Office Weene, who grumbled as he pulled out the requested card from his fanned out stack and flung it at her. "I think you're cheating."
"I think I'm awesome," she replied, reaching unsteadily across the bed to collect her prize. "I have a little sister," she explained, when he arched a brow. "She loves this game, and she's sneaky. She went online and started learning how to count cards. She sucks at it, but that's shifty."
"So you are cheating."
"Just intuition," she assured him.
He narrowed his eyes, but settled back on his chairs, studying the cards he had left. "Do you have a seven?"
She took a moment to prolong the tension, and then with a weak laugh, shook her head, "Go Fish, sucka!"
"God-dammit!" he growled, and she burst out laughing, forcing an unexpected wince as the emotion jerked at her stitches and made her head ring a little. Weene stopped smiling. "Look, maybe I should let you rest "
"Can't sleep," she said, shrugging, rearranging her cards. "Too much pain. And I can't be bored."
"So maybe you should take your morphine, like a good girl," she heard, and glanced up to once again catch a glimpse of Dr. Morris, leaning into the hospital room, arms crossed. "You really can't be alone for a second, can you?"
"Oh, it's not confinement if it's not solitary," she said with a smile. "But attention can be stifling. I needed Brooke to take a break."
"Well, the big crowd in your room earlier couldn't have been good for you," he agreed, nodding to Weene as the officer rose from the chair he had pulled over, giving him access to the chart. "I'm surprised that the nurses allowed it."
"You don't say no to cops trying to catch a killer," she joked, and then winced when a blaze of pain flared from her side.
At the action, he crossed his arms. "How's it going without the morphine?" he asked flatly.
"Fuck off, I can handle it."
"You don't have to."
"Well, I know, but apparently marijuana is illegal. Wanna write me a prescription?"
Officer Weene immediately deposited the cards back onto Sam's bed and thumbed toward the door. "I'm gonna go stare at the hallway some more, give you two some privacy, and pretend I didn't hear that." He pointed playfully at Sam. "You owe me a rematch."
"Screw that, next time we're playing three-card draw. For cash."
"I didn't hear that either." Weene shut the door behind them.
Morris locked the door, and with an odd face, pulled out a capped syringe from his pocket. The action worried Sam slightly, until he explained in a low tone, "Local anesthetic. Non-drowsy, numbs the area, you don't feel like your side is ready to burst into flames."
Sam eyed it warily. "That's not exactly kosher, is it, doc?"
"It's unorthodox," he agreed, "But it's this or the morphine, Sam." He uncapped the syringe. "You're not fooling anyone with the quips. I know the Advil isn't cutting it."
"Phenazocine, and if I give you that, there are happy hallucinations. I once had a guy who swore that the therapy dog that had come to see him had grown bigger fangs and was going to eat him."
"So basically he started tripping. You sure he wasn't just high? Wouldn't the weed be a cheaper alternative if those are the results we're after?"
Brow arching, he waited.
Sighing, Sam had no choice. "Fine," she breathed. "Lay it on me."
"Lift up your shirt," he said matter-of-factly.
Wincing, she obeyed, leaning forward with a gritted whimper, eyes closing as she felt the strong fingers pull gently at the patch.
"So how are the fairytales?" he asked, in an obvious 'I'm-Just-Trying-To-Distract-You' tone.
"Oh," she said, ragged from the pain. "You know, thrilling stuff. Perrault was an ass."
"Just old-fashioned," he corrected.
"And how the hell do you even know who that guy is anyway?"
He chuckled gently. "Classics, in college. It was a general elective on my way to pre-med, but it stuck. Didn't want to be just a doctor my whole life," he said, his voice low and rumbling behind her. "Believe it or not, I had romantic aspirations."
"You're such a Prince Charming," she said drolly, holding still as he pressed cool palms against her stitches, and accidentally pressed too hard. She inhaled sharply.
"Or a Big Bad Wolf."
The sentence, meant to be light and teasing, felt anything but. Her body stiffened, her heart dropped, and before she could say anything at all, the needle sank into her neck.
Jill had no idea why on earth she harbored some surprise that Luke remained unchanged. Despite the stress of the last few weeks, not much time had passed since Tom's wedding, the night he left her.
His hair was the same, soft and spiky, but his big brown eyes, who before had viewed her with such open adoration were hooded and dark; unreachable.
Inhaling deeply, Jill, a wizard with words in the courtroom, could only deposit her phone back into her purse, and manage an awkward smile. "Hi."
His strong jaw tensed, arms crossed in front of each other defensively, eyeing her as he leaned forward and pushed the elevator button. "Work?"
Suddenly fidgety, Jill reached up and scrubbed lightly at her cropped mane. "Yeah." Breathless, she averted her eyes to the doors. "A reporter was stabbed in an alley at the Gay Pride Parade. We're trying to catch the guy."
"Must be invested," he said after a minute, still not looking at her. "To come all the way down here."
"She's a friend of a friend," Jill answered after a moment. Then, "How've you been, Luke?"
"Oh, because you care?"
It was cheap, and childish, but in this instance, Jill understood his reaction completely. Sliding colored eyes in his direction, she simply answered as honestly as she could, "You know I do."
He looked at her then, finally, and the pain in her chest flared, enough to throw her off balance, forcing her to blink and inhale.
Maybe he saw it, because the arms uncrossed and he seemed almost shamed into admitting, "Doing okay. Better than I expected."
After a moment of internal hemorrhaging, Jill managed a hint of a sincere smile. "I'm glad."
The elevator dinged, and they stepped inside. Jill kept her eyes straight ahead, and took note of the curious numbness that invaded her now, in the absence of the safety that Luke's adoring love had once given her.
"So your friend," he began suddenly, as if he couldn't stand the silence. "Samantha McPherson, right?"
Surprised, she blinked. "Yes. How did "
He released an embarrassed chuckle, "Rumor has it there is a hot girlfriend."
"Luke!" Chortling despite herself, Jill shook her head, eyes on the descending numbers. "That's so shallow."
"Did we or, did we not, get off on that hot lesbian porno action?"
She flushed at the memory, glancing at him and grinning. "'Lil bit."
The elevators jerked softly and the doors opened, breaking the suddenly intense moment.
"Coffee?" he asked.
Jill couldn't say no. With a nod, she walked with him down the hall, silent as they ambled toward the cafeteria.
Her phone rang. Flushing, Jill dug back into her purse.
"This is a hospital, Jill." Now, Luke's voice was lighter, but still firm. He had always been serious about his job.
Then again, so had she.
"I'm trying to find a serial killer, Luke," she reminded him, and glanced at the caller ID, registering Lindsay on her screen seconds before she literally bumped into Brooke McQueen. "Oh-hey-"
Her polite smile faded in the face of the unusually pale features. "Has Lindsay called you?"
"What?" When Brooke gripped her arm and her phone kept buzzing, Jill had no choice but to wait, unlocking her phone and answering with a "What?"
"I want a warrant," Lindsay rasped, sounding out-of-breath and static-y. "For Dr. Samuel Morris."
"Dr. Morris?" she repeated, earning a frown from a loitering Luke as well, as Brooke nodded violently and handed her a piece of paper, cheaply printed from a nurses station.
The fuzzy black and white photo featured a smiling Sam and oblivious Brooke, and just off to the side, circled in red, a young man with handsome features, gazing in Sam's direction. "Oh, holy shit-"
"I needed that warrant five minutes ago, Jill-"
"On a photo?" she asked, mind whirling as she struggled to think of the shambles of circumstantial evidence they had accumulated. "Lindsay-"
"Make it enough," Lindsay bit. "I'm on my way back."
The line disconnected, and Jill bit her lip, forced herself to breathe and calm her suddenly whirling senses down, as she scrolled through her contacts and located a judge.
"I need to check on Sam," Brooke breathed. "I left her alone-"
"Luke, go with her," Jill said immediately, already lifting the phone back up to her ear.
Always noble, Luke just nodded, heading back into the elevator with Brooke, and punching in the correct floor.
Heart slamming erratically in her chest, Jill met his eyes with a grateful smile, and when Judge Collins' answered, immediately looked away, ready to do what she could with a scrap of evidence and Lindsay's hunch.
"I lied," she heard, and couldn't speak. Couldn't scream. Couldn't do anything when the doctor crawled in behind her, and held her in a cruelly gentle embrace. "That wasn't a local anesthetic. I mean, it was, but Suxamethonium chloride is a muscle relaxer. I thought you had learned not to trust in strangers."
Oh my fucking God.
Her heart began to pound, and her mouth grew slack, opening in a silent scream, because she couldn't move she couldn't speak she couldn't move her neck at all.
Her hand jerked, but he held her tight. "Shh, Little Red Riding Hood," he breathed, dry lips pressing against her temple. "I'm going to make it all better. It won't kill you. It's just to calm you down a bit so we can give you your morphine, and you can be a good girl and take it."
Large calloused palms smoothed up and down her arms, like he couldn't bring himself not to touch her.
"I gave you a chance, Red," he said, and Sam couldn't close her eyes, even as tears began to run silently down her cheeks. "I did. You were supposed to learn your lesson. I was trying to be compassionate. I was trying to show you to show them I could be compassionate. I gave them all chances, and they all disappointed me." He sounded bitter. Angry. "Such a beautiful woman, but your attitude it makes you ugly. So very ugly. But don't worry. I'm going to make you beautiful again."
A large bicep flexed again as it wrapped around her torso, and he reached with his free hand for her IV.
"Don't mind me," he said mildly. "Just turning this back on. Do you feel it, Red?"
The liquid dropped down the clear plastic tube, and she couldn't see it, but the morphine fused into her system, and then she did, like she was drowning, pulled under against her will.
"Shh," she heard, when her body spasmed, and he once again cradled her, smoothing her bangs away from her face, looking angelic and terrifying as he smiled down at her lovingly. "You'll be out in no time. And when you go to sleep, you'll be reborn. You'll be beautiful."
There was a sudden rattle at the door, the shouting of voices, and Sam could betray no expression as she was freed, only to fall limply back onto the bed, paralyzed, dizzy and nauseous and scared to death of choking on her own bile.
Her eyes drifted wildly, but her neck wouldn't move, felt as weak as a newborn's, and she heard shouts and bullets, ringing in her head; making her spasm yet again.
Her heart jerked in her chest, and then it was too much.
"SAM!" Words from above a buoyant surface, as if Brooke was speaking to her through a field of cotton.
The gurgle forced itself from her throat, a wordless grunt that became the only scream she could manage.
When she skidded into the hospital room, already having pushed past hyperventilating nurses and a trail of blood, Lindsay Boxer, heart in her throat, discovered an officer bleeding on the floor, holding a sheet to his arm, looking wild-eyed and struggling not to panic as a nurse knelt down beside him, and Luke shouting hoarse orders as he leaned over Sam McPherson, her girlfriend clutching her pale hand, tears streaming from her face.
"WHERE," she yelled, catching Luke's attention, as Cindy pushed past her and immediately grabbed Brooke, giving her something to hold on to so Luke could continue to work on her awake and strangely quiet girlfriend.
The uniformed man clutched the sheet, but sucked in a harsh breath and pointed behind her. "Down the hall," he stuttered weakly. "He's got my gun-"
Unhooking her weapon, Lindsay didn't hesitate as she nodded to Ashe, and turned away from the room and started down the hall, after the trail of blood and in the direction one cowering nurse pointed.
With a fierce kick, weapon up, she led Ashe into the now open stairwell, in pursuit of their killer.
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