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.

Sneak
By Misty Flores

 

PART XV

I am unraveling unbearably empty
and if this ground gives way
I just hope that you'll catch me.

You came and saved me tonight
Defending all my life
Whoa, now I'm content with my breath
'cause I'm alive

- Saved, Spill Canvas

 

"So we caught the guy." John Ashe remained stoic, flinching only slightly when the nurse stretched the bandage tight around his torso, and slapped it into place. "And you look like we just had brunch."

Lindsay Boxer didn't argue the fact that she looked numb. She worried a nail against her teeth, and exhaled against it.

There should have been… more.

This man, this killer, who had become a pinnacle obsession for her, should have been more. He had consumed her. He had been instrumental in ending her marriage, alienating her friends. The things he had done to those women…

In the end, he was a man, like any other. A criminal with bad aim and an inflated sense of self, who insisted he had saved her life, and then passed away in front of her, riddled with bullets that weren't even from her gun.

Dr. Samuel Morris, aka Kiss-Me-Not, had been taken away in a body bag, and she kept waiting for the validation, the spine tingling RELIEF that she wanted to finally overtake her.

Instead, she felt nothing. It was as if somehow in the course of all this, she had forgotten how to even feel normal.

It was the reason she hadn't gone to see Cindy yet, why she had stayed away from Jill: this … empty feeling that disturbed her far more than any torrent of tears or blindside of emotion.

"It'll sink in," she said after a minute, crossing her arms and straightening her posture as the nurse assisted Ashe in lying back in the hospital bed. The handsome agent kept quiet, regarding her with that singularly focused look that he seemed to trademark, before finally glancing at the uniforms that were standing guard outside of his room. Unlike the patrolmen guarding Sam McPherson, they were not for his own protection.

"I didn't expect to be a hero, when this was finally over," he began, rubbing an open palm against his abdomen. "I knew what I wanted when I came here. It was to finish this."

"At the expense of yourself?" she found herself asking, catching hold of the sleeve of her dull leather jacket, tugging the reassuring leather over her wrist. "You're lying in a bed with a hole in your gut, with uniforms outside waiting for you to get better so Agents can haul your ass back to Quantico."

It was stating the obvious, but it needed to be said, because as much as Lindsay clashed with the always-focused, always-obsessed, always-determined Agent Ashe, there was a plethora of similarities.

Except that she was only divorced. Tom was still very much alive, and married to someone else. And Cindy… and Jill… they were alive too.

Ashe hadn't come out of this nearly that lucky.

"I expected it." Ashe's head fell back against the pillows, and the look on his face: muted, tired, relieved… it was everything Lindsay wanted to feel. Everything she told herself she should be feeling.

"Was it worth it?"

"Worth destroying my life?" He closed his eyes. "Absolutely."

She had once echoed to him similar sentiments.

The statement, lobbied back at her, in the aftermath of what they had endured, individually and together, hit her hard in the chest.

The tears sprang all too easily to her eyes, and hastily, she wiped the water away.

"Lindsay."

Claire, leaning in the door, glancing back at the officers guarding the entrance, hesitated only a moment, before beckoning her with a small smile.

Lindsay sucked in her breath, and nodded, pushing palms into her back pocket of her jeans and offering Ashe another glance. "I know we're not friends," she began, and it was awkward, but true. "But I'm sorry about Elaine."

The name brought him to life. Agent Ashe opened his eyes and gave her an intense look that was both unnerving and heartbreaking.

"You would have liked her," he answered finally. "She was a lot like you."


Claire didn't have a lot of friends. Plenty of acquaintances, sure, and a family she would live and die by, but friends? Those were a precious and treasured few. She could count them on one hand, and while she sometimes felt lonely, she was grateful.

The ones she had, she cared nearly too much about.

When Lindsay emerged from the hospital room, with her tell-tale shiny eyes and conflicted face, Claire didn't wait for permission to ease her arms around her. They were in public, and Lindsay would pull back after a few seconds, but it didn't stop her. Despite the hardcore reputation Lindsay had, with her gun and her leather jacket, her friend was a faucet. Tension built on her shoulders, and leaked from her eyes, and Claire was more than used to it.

Still, Lindsay surprised her. Her friend did feel stiff, but she didn't pull away. Instead, the brunette head fell against her shoulder, and arms slipped tightly around her waist, giving as good as she got.

She smelled like basement and leather and sweat. Only on Lindsay would that ever be … comforting.

"You got him," Claire murmured, as soft as she could as she smoothed a hand over Lindsay's back. "It's finally over."

It was the wrong thing to say. The woman in her arms froze.

Carefully, Claire let go, allowing Lindsay to pull back and stare at her with dark, unreadable eyes.

Uneasiness flushed down her spine, and Claire caught her breath. "It's not over," she surmised.

Lindsay's lips pressed together, and wordlessly, she reached up and scratched at her temple, a nervous tick.

"What's wrong?"

"Claire-"

"Lindsay," she said, firm, because she had to be. Lindsay needed to be ordered, she was too stubborn to listen to just a suggestion. "Tell me what's wrong."

The good Inspector kept quiet, glancing at her and then the officers that stood outside of Ashe's room. "How's Jill?"

Lindsay had another thing coming if she thought she was getting away with mere misdirection. "Jill is fine," she answered easily, tone indicating she wasn't fooled in the slightest. "She's getting stitched up and only had a mild concussion. And before you ask," Claire continued, "So is Cindy. She's sitting with Brooke McQueen."

Lindsay's phone buzzed, offering her a reprieve as she pulled it from its slot at her belt and glanced at the text. A flash of genuine emotion that looked almost like disappointment flashed across her features before it was gone just as quickly. "No," Lindsay remarked. "She's not. She's been forced under the penalty of being fired to head back to the Register and write the story."

"It's the job," Claire acknowledged, low and easy. "Not a lot of time to really process. I'd be with Mr. Morris myself if the Feds hadn't taken over the case."

The name did its work. Lindsay's shoulders slumped, and she glanced at her uncertainly. "We got the bastard."

"Yes," Claire agreed, offering nothing but agreement. "We did."

"So why don't I feel any different?"

There it was. Claire breathed in through her nostrils, choosing her words carefully. "Did you expect some big vindication? Relief and closure because he's finally gone?"

Nervous and afraid, Lindsay hesitated, before offering the slightest nod.

"You do realize that Kiss-Me-Not wasn't your problem, Lindsay," Claire began. "It was more than just a killer who destroyed your relationship with Tom. He was an excuse not to look inside yourself to find out why you were really damaged."

A flash of an empty smile twittered on Lindsay's thin lips. "So now you're a shrink?" she asked hoarsely.

"No, I'm your friend who loves you," she answered quietly, as honestly as she could. "And I know why you're afraid. When Kiss-Me-Not was in the picture, at least you had an excuse to maintain your distance from Tom. From Jill. From anyone that might have honestly loved you. Kiss-Me-Not gave you a reason, Lindsay, to stay away. A tangible, legitimate excuse to keep from disappointing them the way your father disappointed you."

She had been trying to tell Lindsay this for years. The difference, Claire realized, was that this time, maybe Lindsay would finally listen.

The tears were back in Lindsay's eyes, and now, Claire could understand them.

Carefully she placed a hand on Lindsay's elbow, and turning her away from Ashe's door, started them walking.

"Don't get me wrong," she said, curling the arm around Lindsay's waist. "Being emotionally constipated is part of your charm."

The incredulous snort she got was heartening.

"And I know for a fact," she continued, light and cheery. "That Cindy Thomas feels the same way."

Lindsay's steps faltered and bright brown eyes stared at her pleadingly. "So you think an annoying kid in her twenties could out-stubborn a hardened homicide Inspector determined to sabotage herself?"

Claire smiled, because there was actually hope in Lindsay's raspy, Texan twang. Lovingly, she reached up and brushed a dark bang away from the worn, tired, beautiful face. "I think you know the answer to that." Her smile grew wider. "Honey, look at you. You stared into the eyes of a serial killer, and you didn't break a sweat. The real challenge has always been letting yourself be loved - because you have to actually believe it. And for that, you can't use a gun. You can do it," she said, shrugging calmly. "Piece of cake."

Lindsay was so close to believing her.

Claire finally resumed her walk, allowing her friend to lean on her for a few quiet moments, before they faced the world without Lindsay's demon.


Eight hours after Lindsay Boxer, Agent John Ashe and Inspector Jacobi chased down the Kiss-Me-Not killer in the bowels of a hospital, a still warm copy of the latest Register daily newspaper was plopped on her desk.

The article was about Kiss-Me-Not, of course, and the byline featured dual credit: Cindy Thomas and Sam McPherson.

Cindy didn't consider it generous, but necessary. Sam had nearly died for this story, twice. She had provided the crucial fairytale connection that turned the case and fingered the killer. Cindy didn't have to fight her editor for the credit. He was a journalist, he remembered Theresa Woo.

He understood that it had to be done.

It was a thrilling story, told with as much passion and dedication as Cindy Thomas could muster, with an exclusive with Jill Bernhardt and a quote from Lindsay Boxer (given via text), and vignettes given from various witnesses, who pieced together the odd mystery that was Dr. Samuel Morris, aka the Kiss-Me-Not killer.

Now, it was in print, and being driven out to newsstands, and yet, Cindy Thomas still felt incomplete.

"Hey, Bi-Girl."

The nickname caused her to lift her head, discover Gerard Martinez leaning over her with a look on his face that wasn't teasing at all.

"Hey, Martinez."

A steaming mug of tea was placed on her desk. "Good work."

"Thanks."

He crossed his arms and regarded her. "You look like shit," he opined, and smiled wanly, moving out of her space. "Go home and get some sleep."

"Sleep?" she pretended confusion. "What's that?"

"If you don't know, you need it." Waving his hand, he kept going.

Feeling absurdly heavy for being such a tiny person, Cindy agreed with the suggestion. Rolling her copy of the Edition carefully, Cindy Thomas gathered her things and switched off her monitor.

Halfway to the elevator, her phone rang.

It was bittersweet to discover it was Jill, and despite the disappointment that Lindsay Boxer had yet to really try and connect, Cindy told herself she understood.

The conclusion of this case had been a long time coming, and they had all been overwhelmed.

Lifting the BlackBerry to her ear, Cindy tried to show the smile that was on her face, in her voice. "How's my favorite doorstop?"

"I feel like the living dead," came the miserable voice. "My head is throbbing. I have a swollen bump the size of a testicle on my face-" Cindy's face scrunched with the imagery. "And Denise has decided that our newfound regard for each other gives her a license to hover."

"Oh ouch," Cindy said, as the door opened, and she allowed it to close without her, waving her apologies to the disgruntled employees inside. "Doesn't she know you have a concussion?"

"It's because of the concussion that she's giving me the headache."

The gripe, so familiar and whiney and … utterly comfortable, struck an unintentional chord inside of her. It made her ache with a burst of warmth and loving affection for the other woman, because this is what a true friendship was, and they were lucky to be alive.

"Have I mentioned how much I don't like your boss?" she asked gently, "And how very very glad I am that you're alive to whine about her?"

The abrupt change in direction caused a slight pause in Jill's response, but when she finally did answer, Jill's tone had softened. "Me too." There was a moment of silence, as Cindy once again looked at her headline and considered the hell they had gone through. "You about done over there, Lois Lane?"

"Close to it," Cindy said, and poked the elevator button again, ready to make the second pass. "You?"

"If I don't get away from my hovering, micromanaging, kinda hot and supremely irritating boss, I'm going to implode," Jill agreed. "Feel like a quick meet up at Papa Joe's? I've got Claire in."

Ideally, she should have lectured Jill and instructed her to go home and rest. Selfishly, however, in the wake of what they had all experienced, she needed to see Jill, needed just one more stab of normalcy with her amazing friends and understand that they had made it out okay.

No matter what happened with her and Lindsay, and Sam and Brooke, they were all going to be okay.

"Yeah," she admitted. "I'd really love that."

"See you in ten."

The line disconnected, and exhausted and mushy, Cindy blinked away the emotional tears and waited for the elevator.


The last time Lindsay had met with Cindy Thomas in a secluded part of the San Francisco Register underground parking structure, she knew her only as the quirky, unrelenting, last resort to solve the murder of a fellow reporter.

She remembered feeling overwhelmed and oddly fascinated at the bundle of earnest energy, watching with a skeptical brow as Cindy poured over the books Theresa Woo had left behind, unable to keep from chatting even as she couldn't wait to try and break the coded text.

Something had unnerved her then, flustered her to the point of annoyance, because here was a young redheaded reporter (and Lindsay did NOT talk to reporters) who was bragging about picture perfect memory, sounding so damned confident, and had the gall to bring up Kiss-Me-Not at a time Lindsay was trying desperately to forget that failure.

She remembered the tightness in her chest, her loss of patience, the distinct need to bring this over-anxious little reporter down a peg or two.

Months later, Lindsay watched Cindy Thomas walk to the little red car she had the absurdity to name Maggie (and had since named Lindsay's jeep 'Fred'), and felt her chest tighten once again, but in a very different way.

She felt nervous, awkward and simultaneously relieved as she allowed herself a selfish moment of unobstructed gazing, looking at the woman who had become her lover with hungry, loving eyes, before wiping sweaty palms on her jeans and moving forward.

The clop of her boots caused a previously unaware Cindy Thomas to jerk in surprise, startled features taking her in as she nearly dropped the items she juggled in her arm, dripping tea on her hand, and hissing in surprise.

"Lindsay," she breathed, and Lindsay smiled sheepishly, coming forward to help the juggling reporter gain her bearings, pulling the Styrofoam cup out of harm's way. "You scared the crap out of me!"

"Sorry. I didn't mean to sneak up on you."

"Is there any other way to approach someone in an underground parking structure the day after they capture a serial killer?" Cindy replied breathlessly, but she didn't sound annoyed. The flustered grin on her face seemed quite the opposite actually, glad to see her. A charming blush tinged on her cheeks, and Lindsay felt herself reacting shamelessly, heatedly in love.

The nervous numbness that gripped her dissolved in the place of it, and at that, Lindsay felt an almost overwhelming bout of relief.

"You okay?" Her little reporter's shaky grin was now a curious frown, and Lindsay understood why.

Lindsay never did do lovestruck well.

Inhaling deeply, Lindsay tried for honest instead. "When I first went after Kiss-Me-Not… I really became obsessed. I ostracized friends… I destroyed my marriage…"

Cindy's frown deepened, but she kept quiet, dark eyes still inquisitive, but… deeper.

"Back then, I thought it would be okay, if I just caught him. If I stopped him and I had nothing else to live for… that would be all right. And I realized… that's what he did to John Ashe."

Cindy's full lips pulled into a sympathetic line.

Lindsay's eyes stung with unshed tears, but she kept going, arms twitching to cross themselves, an instinctive defense now that she was sharing so nakedly. "I saw him at the hospital today, and that's what he had done. He gave up everything for one shot at taking him down. And I realized… that wasn't me. Standing outside that door, knowing Kiss-Me-Not was inside… I hesitated. I swore I would go in guns blazing, and I didn't. And it wasn't because of Ashe or because Jacobi stopped me, it was because I knew… I had something to live for."

Cindy's chest rose and fell, a tell-tale sign of how much this was affecting her.

"Lindsay…"

Despite the painful lump lodged in her throat, Lindsay forced herself to keep going. "I'm not saying that I'm easy. Or that it won't ever happen to me again. I know now that there are things… insecurities… inside of me that I'm not sure I'll ever be able to fix."

"I don't care." The statement was choked, breathless, as if Cindy couldn't wait to get it out. "I know what you're like, Lindsay."

Unable to help the small, broken smile inching up her face, Lindsay's feelings were bittersweet. "So did Tom."

The name of her ex could have been ill-received, but Cindy needed to hear it. The wounds incurred in the aftermath of the dissolution of her marriage may have scabbed over, but they were there. They always would be.

Quietly, Cindy absorbed that, before a small, gentle smile floated on her face and made her the most beautiful woman in the world. "I know," she whispered, so tenderly it nearly broke her. "But I'm not Tom. I'm a hell of a lot more stubborn, and it might be hard to hear or believe, and it sounds hella narcissistic, but I don't think anyone could love you as much or as well as I do."

The sentence, this declaration of love, was said with such passion, it was almost impossible to believe it came from such a tiny, young person.

Faced with it, Lindsay was overwhelmed.

Her heart throbbed, and her breath caught, and Lindsay found herself forced to look away, unable to take the intensity or the sincerity in Cindy's eyes.

"You're right," she joked weakly, chuckling. "That sounds extremely narcissistic."

"Deal with it," came the flat response. "I'm good at what I do, and I'm good at being with you. And you know it. You've always known it."

It was that confidence and wisdom from Cindy, who was still so young and had so much to learn, that had always flabbergasted her.

She laughed again, an uneasily reaction, but there was joy, sneaking in between the fear and the insecurity, a ridiculous burst of hope that threatened to overwhelm her. This was just so unexpected, that she could have this - THIS - with Cindy Thomas, and it felt warm and it felt real and it felt… good.

More than good.

A little reporter with red hair, freckles, perfect memory recall, and an unstoppable mouth.

"Remind me," she croaked hoarsely, and just like that, Cindy's things fell to the floor, and the younger woman slipped into her arms, and opened her mouth against hers.

Digging fingers roughly into long, red tresses, Lindsay kissed her greedily, devouring Cindy Thomas with a hunger that seemed insatiable. The thrill that coursed through her the moment Cindy's tongue slid against hers was jolting, and as they kissed, again and again, Lindsay Boxer thanked GOD for drunken moments of inhibition, and sneaky little reporters who broke into apartments, and didn't know how to hear no.

"You sneak," she whispered against moist lips, before smiling into the kiss she pressed against Cindy's mouth.

Parting a breathless moment later, Cindy just grinned. "You bet your ass," she said, and slid her arms over Lindsay's shoulders, bringing her down further, into another explosive embrace.


The doctor who saved Sam's life brought Brooke a newspaper, fresh from the hospital's delivery.

She gave it to Sam, sinking down on the white sheets, to watch as her tired, beautiful girlfriend thumbed through the printed edition, traced the black etch of the story that had overtaken her so completely.

"It's amazing, isn't it?" Sam asked, in her hoarse rasp, a parting gift from Kiss-Me-Not thanks to aftereffects of his injection.

"What do you mean?" Brooke asked softly, brushing a blonde strand away from her face to smile thinly at the other woman.

Shrugging gently, Sam's eyes were shiny with unshed emotion as she flipped open the paper and showed her the article, with the shared byline and the large picture of Dr. Samuel Morris. "All the hell, everything that we did - I mean I came to San Francisco thinking I'd be bored."

Brooke smiled thinly. "That had been my hope, yeah."

"You can't escape it, can you?" Sam's eyes flickered down to the article once again, looking riveted. "And now… it's just words. Every emotion, every living, breathing iota of experience has been digested into a simple newspaper article."

Sam's moments of introspection were rare, and it was to Brooke's credit that she had learned to recognize them. Carefully, she grabbed hold of an open palm, felt Sam's grip close around her immediately, squeezing in thankfulness.

"And?" Brooke asked, leading the other girl on. "Was it worth it?"

Dark brown eyes were wide and beautiful, studying her from a pale face, plump lips that she had kissed a thousand times, and would kiss a thousand times more.

This was her lover - a reporter, a fighter, a gem with a knack for trouble and an instinctive yearn for righteousness.

"I don't know," Sam answered honestly, and a hot tear spilled down her cheeks. Sam brushed it aside thoughtlessly, almost unaware of the depth of her emotion. "I guess that's kind of the point, right? It doesn't matter if it's worth it - sometimes a story just needs to be told."

The hands clasped together shifted, until fingers tangled together intimately.

"Cindy's editor offered me a job," Sam said suddenly, eyes lingering on the smooth palm of her long-time partner. "Features."

"Not freelance."

"Well, I kinda fucked up that Pride Parade puff piece," she joked, in that distant tone she sometimes used when she was nervous. "I have a feeling freelance jobs are gonna be few and far between if I keep getting stabbed with knives and needles."

Pulling Sam's palm toward her, Brooke drew it into her lap, and massage it lightly with both hands. "I'm kinda hoping that turns into just a one-time thing."

"Brooke." Sam's expression was serious. "What would happen if I said yes?"

Eyes on their joined digits, Brooke took her time considering the answer. This was a city that had nearly gotten Sam killed. It was a city that had taken them in and swallowed them whole, given them an unforgettable introduction with its seedier aspects enveloping them.

Throughout it, they had stood. Not strong, weak actually, but they were still here, and the consequence was there, in print, in a story.

The story meant everything.

"They wouldn't have stopped this guy without us," she began, heart thumping patiently against her chest. "We've spent our lives saving each other, right?"

Wordlessly, eyes moist with feeling, Sam nodded.

A small, timid smile formed on Brooke's face. "It feels good to step away from ourselves and save someone else's life for once." Sam's eyes moved, darted across her face, unsure at first what that meant. "Jane is going to KILL you when you tell her we're moving to San Francisco."

A moment of stunned silence, and then she saw an unsure, hopeful expression emerge from that beautiful face. "You're serious."

"I can do my job from anywhere," Brooke admitted, smiling softly. "And you and Cindy Thomas have become quite the dynamic duo."

There was a poignant moment of silence, before Sam gasped, overly dramatic. "Wait, are you saying that there is a redhead you actually approve of?"

"Well, if you two ever actually made out, I'd have a different opinion," Brooke replied drolly. "As it is, I just love you, Sam. I want you to be happy. And I'm so… so grateful that you're still with me. Because I just don't know who I am without you."

The tears in her eyes made Sam shine, and Brooke leaned forward, no longer able to keep from pressing a kiss against Sam's lips. "You save the world," she murmured against plump lips, a breathless moment later, "And I'll just worry about saving you."


Based purely on cosmetic outward appearance, the scene at Papa Joe's seemed unchanged. There was still the four of them, seated in their favorite booth. The requisite orders of fries and fruit salad lay on platters between them, and though it was early, they each had their drink of choice, save for Jill, whose medication forbade it.

Still, there lingered a unique kind of energy today that Claire found she did not mind. Beside her, Jill looked haggard, but there was a smile on her face that went past her lips and into her eyes.

The same could be said for one Lindsay Boxer, who seemed shy and quietly happy, palm propping up the side of her cheek as she listened and watched with guarded adoration as Cindy Thomas expounded on the latest gossip at the end of one of their longest days.

Cindy herself was not left untouched. There existed inside of her a unique sense of maturity that hadn't been obvious before. It bled from her with every smile she threw in Lindsay's direction, every motion of her hands that made her story come alive, in the relief that seemed to resonate through all of them that, at this moment, they were free.

There was no real reason for this 'club' meeting, Claire knew that. They all did. They were all bone tired. They all needed sleep, Jill especially.

But more than that, there was a simple need to be together, an unspoken understanding that in the eye of the storm they perpetually faced, they still had each other.

Such a realization meant the world to Claire.

"He seriously offered her a job," Jill said, brow furrowed in perplexed befuddlement. "And she took it?"

Cindy smiled and shrugged. "Guess San Francisco made an impression."

"She's a masochist," Jill said, picking at a fry. "That's the only explanation."

"Or maybe she's hooked on making a difference," Cindy retorted, and Lindsay managed a grimace.

"One reporter is enough. We're not letting her into the club," Lindsay said flippantly, and earned a disgusted look from Jill in response.

"What, one minute with her and you're already calling it a club?" Jill flung a fry in her direction. "Lesbian." The wilted piece of potato landed in her hair.

Cindy guffawed, Lindsay glared, and carefully plucked the fry from her brunette locks. Claire hid her smile behind her palm, and blinked her tears back.

For the first time since Lindsay had revealed that she was the latest target for her Kiss-Me-Not nemesis, Claire truly believed that they were all going to be okay.

When a soaring bit of cantaloupe splashed into her Cosmo, Claire amended her thought. Lindsay and Jill were going to be okay. Cindy was going to die. With a snort, she grabbed hold of a grape and heedless of Cindy's sputtered apologies, let it fly.

 

Epilogue

"Did you know I entered law school under the mistaken assumption that being able to logically form arguments and present them would somehow or other deter me from making the bad decisions I'm so very good at making?"

Lindsay Boxer stared dizzily at her, lit roach in one hand. Leaning back against the bench, she turned her head and carefully blew out a thin stream of smoke.

"I didn't even know you were capable of forming a complex sentence when you're stoned."

Jill's smile was gentle, and carefully, she leaned forward and plucked the joint out of Lindsay's fingers to inhale.

"Please," she said, after the euphoric feeling passed through her with the tinted smoke. "I'm a lawyer. I'm a damned good lawyer."

"You're a great lawyer," Lindsay agreed, eyes closed as she leaned back and allowed the moonlight shafting down onto the porch to shine on her face like a sunbeam. "The city of San Francisco is DAMNED lucky to have you."

"Damned straight." Squinting, she offered the weed back to Lindsay. Her friend merely waved it away.

"Cindy'll be home soon," she explained, eyes closing again. "For being one of those hippie green tea college converts? Surprisingly strict about illegal narcotics."

"I find that hard to believe," Jill snorted, but obediently stubbed out the joint. "You KNOW she must have lit up in a dorm somewhere."

"Well, you know Cindy. Her and Lois Lane 2.0 are the paradigms of righteousness - the new Woodward and Bernstein. They're out right now investigating some sort of Norma Rae type immigrant scandal."

Jill didn't hide her smirk. Even underneath the weed induced mellow emotion, she could tell Lindsay Boxer was absurdly proud of her girl. "How does it feel to be shacking up with one half of San Francisco's super reporting team?"

"Exhausting," Lindsay admitted, but there was a smile on her attractive face. "You know, at first I thought Cindy was like a wind up toy, capable of slowing down."

"Not so much?"

"Still excited about… EVERYTHING," Lindsay burst, brown eyes bursting open in their expressiveness. "I've considered once or twice slipping Nyquil in her tea just to get a breather."

"Aww." Jill jostled her shoulder playfully. "You love it."

"I'm old," Lindsay drawled, not swayed by the obvious truth. "I'm her Daddy Long Legs. She's my Leslie Caron."

"That movie always creeped me out."

"Me too," Lindsay confirmed. "But now I figured out why it works."

"Tell me," Jill asked, enjoying this. "Why does it work?"

Smiling blissfully, Lindsay offered her a stoned thumbs up. "Because the sex? Is really really good."

Jill nearly choked on her own laughter, sniggering alongside her friend as she grabbed hold of the blanket and drew it over herself. "Truer words were never spoken." Snuggling into Lindsay's side, Jill laid her cheek against a bony shoulder and considered the tailspins her life had frequently taken. "I'm glad it worked out for you, Linz."

A strong arm wrapped around her shoulder, bringing her in closer in a loving embrace. "So you gonna tell me what brought out the roach?"

"I need a special occasion?" she asked lightly.

"Bitch, I may be shacked up but I'm still your best friend. Don't tell me I don't know you."

Blowing out her breath uneasily, Jill felt her buzz fade slightly and stared at the sleeping Martha nestled at Lindsay's feet. "I made out with my boss." At the admission, the blush crept up the sides of her neck, and onto her cheeks.

"You what?!" Jill flushed harder.

"I didn't start it," she said heatedly, snuggling in further in the blanket, protecting herself from Lindsay's laser vision.

"You made out. With your boss. Who is Denise. Ergo you made out with Denise?!"

Jill groaned, hands falling into her lap, even hotter now that she was reliving the entire afternoon experience. "I didn't mean to!" she snapped, maintaining her innocence. "You know we've been getting closer lately, and she's been acting weird, and I had this meeting with Hanson, and she got so BITCHY afterwards that I called her on it, and then … we were making out."

"But DENISE?!"

"I know!"

"She's your boss!"

"I KNOW!"

"She's… DENISE!"

Groaning, Jill's head fell forward, burying her face in her palms, no longer wanting to see Lindsay's incredulous face.

"Believe me," she snapped, losing her patience. "I know."

Another minute of silence, and then she couldn't take it anymore. She peeked.

Lindsay, blanket flung off of her, spine stiff, looked flabbergasted. She gaped, mouth opening and closing, before she glanced at Jill and seemed to make a sort of squeak, before she stopped herself, swallowed, and asked curiously, "Was it hot?"

Miserably, she nodded.

"Did she totally panic?"

"Stuck her tongue down my throat, felt me up, freaked out, broke away, told me if we talked about this ever, she was going to fire me, sped out of my office like her ass was on fire."

Lindsay blinked. "Wow."

Heart thumping wildly, Jill swallowed. "I was so ridiculously turned on I couldn't think straight." She shook her head morosely. "I had to literally lock myself in a stall and…," she flushed. "Finish myself off."

Lindsay blinked again, eyes wide and round, and suddenly, she smiled.

"What?" Jill asked, immediately suspicious.

"She gave you blue balls."

The summation of what happened, and Lindsay's apparent cheeriness about it, did not resonate at first, until Jill remembered a similar conversation on this exact same porch, many months ago.

"Oh, don't even-"

"DENISE KWON IS A TEASE!" Lindsay hollered, collapsing into a fit of laughter, finding this much more funny thanks to the weed Jill had given her, sniggering and looking like a total idiot.

"God-damn you, Lindsay," she retorted, because this was a horrible, horrible situation, and now Lindsay was making her laugh, and dear God, she needed it.

Wheezing, Lindsay wrapped her arms around her and squeezed, "You are SO screwed."

"I know!" she breathed, shoulders shaking. "I'm so gonna screw my boss-"

"-On a desk!"

"-On the floor!"

"-On a towel by the door-"

"-In the tub, in the car-"

"-Up against the minibar!"

By this time they were clinging to each other out of sheer necessity, because the laughter had made them weak, and the tears that were streaming from their eyes were a welcome relief, because Jill was screwed, but at the very least, they could laugh about it.

That was how Cindy Thomas found them, collapsed together on the wooden bench, looking stoned and silly and crying with laugh-induced tears.

Lindsay's little lover wrinkled her nose, beckoned to Martha, and rolled her eyes. "I don't want to know, do I?"

"Oh you do," Lindsay said, and squished Jill harder. "Jill has blue balls!"

"No," Jill corrected indignantly. "I masturbated."

Brow arching, Cindy studied them both. "I'll get the beer," she decided. "And don't think I don't know that you two have been going crazy with the Reefer Madness. The porch reeks."

"I love you," Lindsay said merrily, and Cindy blew her a kiss as she and Martha slipped back into their house.

Eyes still shiny, Jill snuggled up against her friend and glanced after the departed reporter. "See?" she said softly. "I was right. She is good for you."

Lindsay Boxer sighed, and considered the statement. "Yeah," she acknowledged quietly. "I think so too."

The End

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