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
"She's not here."
Over her shoulder, Lindsay Boxer spotted Denise Kwon, Jill's superior, as she prepared to knock on Jill's closed office door. The attractive Asian woman looked typically severe, mouth pulling into a familiar frown as she arched a shapely eyebrow.
"Oh," Lindsay said, brown eyes shifting away from the door. "Thanks."
"I was hoping you knew where she was," Denise continued, stiff in her movements. "She has court in an hour and before that I needed to speak to her."
Lindsay blinked, shoving hands into her back pockets. "Well," she began with an awkward chuckle. "I'm not exactly her keeper."
Denise mimicked a cold smile in response. "Well, if you see her, please let her know I'm looking for her."
Lindsay went for the obvious. "Have you tried her cellphone?"
"I've left two voicemails," Denise responded easily. "I thought I'd have better luck with you."
The sarcastic annotation left something to be inferred, and puzzled, Lindsay wasn't quite sure she wanted to figure it out. "Sorry to disappoint."
"Me too." With a prim smile, Denise turned on her heel and headed back into her office.
Stuck in place, Lindsay eyed the departing woman. The women did run in the same circles, but Lindsay made a point of staying away from Jill's bitchy nemesis. She didn't like the woman for one, but it hadn't been the first time she suspected there was more running underneath the surface of the ADA than just a catty dislike for her employee.
"What the hell was that?" she mumbled.
"What the hell was what?" Pulling out her key, Jill shot her a smile, unlocking her office door and letting herself in.
"Oh. Hey." Following her friend into her office, Lindsay glanced back toward the other woman's office. It seemed too complicated to get into. Lindsay had had enough with complicated. "Nothing," she dismissed, and added, "Denise is looking for you. You have court in an hour."
In the midst of putting her things on the desk, Jill shot her an amused smile. "Thanks for the reminder."
"Hey, it wasn't me." Lindsay retorted. "Your inappropriately obsessed boss wanted to make sure you were on time."
"Because I'm always so chronically late for important court appearances." The sarcasm wasn't lost on Lindsay, but Jill did seem distracted. "What's up?"
Lindsay considered the question. "Nothing," she admitted, though she did have an open case, and a murder suspect in custody. "But what's up with you?"
"What do you mean?" Jill asked, turning on her computer, giving her nothing more than a curious look.
"You look distracted."
"Oh." A stalled smile appeared. "It's just been an eventful morning, is all. I met your girl for coffee."
"My girl?" The phrasing was confusing, a little off putting, and a lot embarrassing. "That's a little premature, don't you think?"
She got a knowing smirk in response. "She's crazy about you."
Ready to continue arguing semantics, Lindsay got thrown completely on her ass by the statement. "What?" A spark of lovesick giddiness got the better of her. "She said that?"
Jill's resulting smirk told her she was on the verge of smiling like an idiot. Her expression straightened immediately.
"Yes, she did," Jill continued, and was already typing.
"Wait." Lindsay frowned, when the contradiction manifested itself. "Why did you two meet for coffee?"
Jill's focus was still on her computer. She didn't meet Lindsay's questioning stare. "What. We're friends. We can't have coffee?"
"It's a new development," Lindsay responded, and suddenly felt uncomfortable, particularly in the wake of Jill's still vivid confession of her feelings on Lindsay's burgeoning affection for the younger reporter. "Oh, God, Jill. Tell me you didn't go and try to give her some sort of talk."
Fingers stilled on the keyboard, and Lindsay knew immediately it was the wrong thing to say. "Lindsay, please. We're not in high school anymore. I'm allowed to feel conflicted and I'm allowed to rise above it. There are more important things to worry about."
And now she felt like a complete asshole. Nice. "Right," she managed, suddenly choked. "Sorry."
"Did you say Denise was looking for me?" Jill asked, breaking into the awkward silence.
"Yes," Denise said, swinging into her office with that stiff walk of hers. "I was."
Lindsay knew immediately she had been dismissed. "I better go," she said, and shot her friend an apologetic glance. "I'll see you later."
The stressed expression on Jill's features as she nodded was hard to miss.
"Wow," Sam McPherson commented as she took hold of the slender hand curving into her palm, inspecting the hooting and hollering crowd around her, jostling shoulders and spilling beer. "This is really really gay. This is mega gay. This is gargantuan gay."
She received a squeeze of pressure in return, before her beautiful girlfriend let go and once again resumed in fussing with her absurdly expensive digital camera. "Have I mentioned how much I love this thing?" Brooke asked, of a one-track mind, which usually happened when she was in the presence of her favorite toy, outside of the bedroom, at least.
"Every day, all the time."
A warm glance shifted her way, before something took hold of Brooke's attention, and she lifted the lens up, snapping a quick succession of photos when a parade float passed with dancing drag queens and a guy in the most suggestive cod piece she had ever seen.
The view was astounding, but Sam still preferred the imagery beside her. Brooke, unaware of her spectator, was vividly absorbed, wearing a look of focus and concentration on her face that only happened when she held the camera in her hands.
Who would have thought that Brooke McQueen, Homecoming Queen, would have felt most at home behind the camera, rather than in front of it?
If Sam really thought about it, it was completely ironic, how they both turned out to be some kind of journalist.
Shoving her recorder in her back pocket, Sam offered as innocent a shrug as she could muster. "You're hot with that thing."
In response, Brooke swiveled and quirked her finger, forever cementing Sam's adoring smirk in digital form.
"You're going to let me use a few of those for my article, right?" she asked, distracted when a particularly butch looking woman accidentally knocked shoulders with her.
"Oh, what, all of a sudden you care about your article?" Brooke's loving smile removed any sting that might have been in those words.
Years ago, Sam would have taken offense anyway. She used to be so desperate to find fault with the evil Brooke McQueen. Now she was her lesbian lover.
And they were at Pride.
It was difficult to describe what she felt, as she glanced over the crowd of eclectic supporters. There were the flamboyant and the impossibly normal. There were shirtless dancing boys, women in leather and bras straddling motorcycles, and a young couple carrying a beautiful baby wearing a rainbow painted t-shirt between them. There were little old ladies, holding hands.
Sam found herself transfixed by the image.
She thought about Cindy Thomas and her fledgling, stalled romance with Lindsay Boxer, and then remembered sitting beside a hospital bed; seventeen years old and scared out of her mind because she had just realized she had fallen in love with her step-sister and her nemesis and it didn't even matter because Brooke was in a coma and might never wake up.
"I think I care about you," she answered honestly. "And I think we're both really lucky to be here. And I feel like celebrating that."
She was devastatingly sincere.
A moment later, Brooke lowered her camera and leaned forward; catching her mouth in a sweet, hungry kiss that told Sam she felt the same way.
A couple of wolf whistles erupting around them sent a sudden flush down her spine. Sam could feel Brooke's mouth against hers pulling into a smile, but it didn't stop her lover from kissing her again.
"Oh, God - sorry."
Hearing Cindy Thomas' apology was enough to lean back slightly, to discover the red-head (and red-faced) reporter now standing right next to them, wearing a sheepish smile and standing beside a grinning kid.
"Hey," she greeted, circling an arm around Brooke's waist and offering a welcoming smile. "Didn't expect to run into you so fast."
"Oh, you know " Cindy's smile was strained. "I just wanted to try and get this over with." She glanced at the boy beside her with a sharp hiss. "That's so not how I meant for it to come out."
"It's cool," he said easily, shifting uneasily as he glanced at the crowd around him. "This is kinda overwhelming."
"Guys, this is Thaddeus Prescott. His father was one of the leading figures of the gay community, until he was murdered a few weeks ago."
Sam's smile faded. "Oh, God. I'm sorry."
Thaddeus nodded his head, glancing away. "It's cool," he said again.
"Lindsay was able to arrest his murderer," Cindy continued, squeezing on his wrist and earning a small smile in return. "And Thaddeus is now living with his father's partner, Bruce. He's a dress designer, and he's actually put together some of the costumes for the pride parade." Cindy's eyes landed on Sam. "He's offered to let himself be interviewed if you're up for it."
Cindy didn't know how to quit. It was an admirable quality.
"Do you think he'd let me take pictures?" The appeal of gorgeous made frocks and drag queens in them was too much for the photographer in Brooke to resist.
"I think he'd love it. There's a whole tribute to Dakota this year," Cindy confirmed, and nodded her head behind them, instructing them to head through the throng.
"Thanks," Sam responded, and smiled kindly at the boy beside her. "Thanks," she added for his benefit.
He smiled wanly, but saved his more focused attention for the smaller reporter, following her as Brooke shot her an excited smile and moved with them.
"I didn't expect to see you here," came a dark voice, just beside her ear.
"Holy FU-" Jerking away, Sam found herself suddenly standing beside Agent John Ashe. The FBI Agent looked completely out of place in his severe jacket and tie. Beads of sweat were beginning to appear on his temple and forehead. The heat was getting to him. "You scared the crap out of me."
He didn't smile. "Do you remember what we discussed?"
Glancing uneasily toward the trio making their way through the crowd, Sam watched as Brooke turned, waiting for her.
"This is so not appropriate," she hissed, keeping her eyes off of him and on Brooke, shooting her an easy smile and a 'be right there' motion with her hand. "I'm doing my job, and you're not a part of it."
"You've obviously been in contact with Cindy Thomas."
"Yes," she agreed. The irritation was quickly approaching anger, as Brooke's observant eyes picked out the agent. Sam shuddered as Brooke's mouth turned into a frown. Turning quickly, she finally faced him. "Listen to me. Whatever you're doing? You're not going to do it to me. I'm not a part of your murder investigation. Did I talk to Cindy? Yeah. I told her you're a creepy as hell agent who isn't even supposed to be here, and if you spent half as much time trying to find this guy as you do stalking people, you might actually be able to save someone. Until then, I think you should stop asking questions and get ready to answer them when the cops find out you don't belong here."
She didn't wait to hear his response, instead turned on her heel and fought through the crowd to intercept Brooke.
"What was that?"
"Just some guy who wanted an egg for him and his partner. Come on. We're gonna lose them," she mumbled, grabbing hold of her hand and pulling her after Cindy, feeling the burning gaze of Agent Ashe on her back, and trying desperately to run away from it.
"So now I'm lying for you?" Denise Kwon crossed her arms, looking proudly bitchy as she shot her subordinate an irritated frown. "This better be good."
It was difficult to shake off the sudden anger that Lindsay's stupid little retort had caused, but Jill managed it with a deep breath and a grimace. "Thanks for that," she managed grudgingly, skirting around her to close the door. "I can't let Lindsay know what we're doing quite yet."
"You're assuming I've agreed to it," Denise pointed out, and Denise could have been so attractive if she wasn't such an unapologetic bitch.
"I need your help," Jill said, coming forward and crossing her arms, hoping against hope that any lingering guilt from Denise over drunkenly ruining Jill's relationship with Luke would manifest itself and make this happen for her. "I need a contact at the FBI that could on the record confirm that Agent Ashe isn't supposed to be here."
The corners of Denise's eyes crinkled in contemplation. "The FBI agent in charge of the Kiss-Me-Not Killer."
"Yes," she confirmed, voice lowering to a whisper. "I have reason to believe that he's here until false pretenses."
"Why would he lie about something like that?"
"That's a good question. We can only ask that if we can confirm for a fact that is in fact the truth."
Denise's frown only grew graver. "That's a very serious accusation, Jill. Where would you get an idea like that?" Her expression changed, and she rolled her eyes. "Oh right. Your reporter friend."
Which apparently was about as impressive as being friends with a homeless person, in Denise's book.
"Whether or not you like Cindy Thomas, you know she checks her sources."
"But she can't get this one to go on the record?"
"This isn't about a story," Jill snapped. "This is about the life of a Police Inspector. I'm asking you for a favor, Denise. You know me well enough to know I wouldn't ask you of all people, unless it's important."
The other woman looked at her then, an odd expression clouding her features before it dissipated, in favor of the harder, more familiar Denise she had the misfortune of knowing. "Do you know what I don't like about you?"
Frustration clogged her throat. Pasting on a cold smile, Jill shrugged. "Do I have time for this? Do you have a list? I have court in an hour."
"You are so damned good at what you do, but you refuse to take this job seriously."
"I take this job very seriously."
"Banging the defense lawyer on your desk isn't taking it seriously. Openly flaunting a friendship with a reporter isn't taking this seriously. Lying to a police Inspector-"
"Oh really?" she managed, voice an angry whisper. "Because you're the paradigm of police integrity? Or is getting drunk and making a spectacle of yourself at a lieutenant's wedding something you save for special occasions?"
It was a low blow, and she regretted it immediately, particularly when she saw the way Denise's expression hardened, like she had been struck.
"I'm sorry," she managed. "I didn't I'm sorry, Denise."
Posture stiffening, Denise had already closed down. "I'll make a call," she said hoarsely, turning on her heel. "I'll let you know what I find. And this better be the last favor I do for you for a while, Jill."
Turning on her heel, Denise moved quickly out of her office, closing the door behind her, leaving a wincing Jill behind.
"Were you nice?" Claire had asked her, in a parental tone with a warning glare attached.
"Yes, Mom," Lindsay groused, but couldn't quite avoid the small smile at the tail end of the statement. "I think we're good. Though I may have made it on Jill's shit list for today."
"Well, Jill's got a lot on her mind," Claire responded, pulling on a pair of plastic gloves. "And it probably doesn't help that you're finding something that looks a lot like love while she's still dealing with losing what she had with Luke."
Claire always did work well with honesty. "Yeah." She looked down at the body, one of the other Inspector's homicides, a disturbingly young woman. "She had coffee with Cindy today."
"See? At least she's trying."
Something about the incident still nagged Lindsay, but determined not to be a thundering narcissist; she just pressed her lips together and agreed.
"So what do you mean you're good?" Claire's attention was on making her incision, but her eyes floated up briefly. "How good are you and Cindy?"
"Not that good," Lindsay said stiffly, feeling suddenly scrutinized as Claire smirked and went back to her cutting. "But she's crazy about me."
Claire's scalpel paused, then continued. "Yes, she is."
Lindsay sucked in her breath and pushed it out again, thinking suddenly of where she had been last night, and where she had woken up this morning.
Had she gone with her instincts, she would have been waking up in Cindy's bed.
It was a startling clear picture.
"You know," she heard, dimly realizing Claire was actually still speaking. "I know you have a million reasons to wait on this. But this girl here? I bet she waited too." Lindsay's smile stalled, and a cold shiver went through her at what Claire was implying. "She's gonna be at the Pride Parade all day," the older woman continued. "In case you feel like taking some time off, and finding yourself a bit of sunshine the help you weather out the storm."
The young girl on the slab could have easily been any woman in any crime scene she had ever come across.
For a moment, she was every one of Lindsay's victims, and for a single, terrifying moment - she was Lindsay herself.
The fear that got her heart pounding surprised her, and with a muted smile, Lindsay held back her tears.
A group of young men, decked out in clothes marked with a series of rainbows, ran across the intersection. A car waiting at the red light blared a horn amiably, and in response one of the boys stopped and with both arms reaching toward the sky, screamed.
A barrage of horns were his response.
Laughing, one of the others grabbed hold of his arm and dragged him out of the way.
It was a view that came once a year and Lindsay Boxer found herself smiling in reaction.
"You're scaring me," Warren Jacobi said frankly, pulling Lindsay out of her thoughts, handing her a cup of coffee on his way to the other side of the car.
"Oh really?" she asked, opening the door to the passenger side and sliding in.
"You're in your head." Taking his time with his seat belt, her partner raised the steaming cup to his mouth. "You being in your head is dangerous."
He was suspicious; then again Jacobi had every right to be. As her partner, he had always been brutally honest and completely bewildered at her lack of emotional depth. Most of the time, he kept his true opinions to himself, citing to her that Lindsay Boxer was a big girl and whatever messes she got herself into was her business.
The recent news of the Kiss Me Not killer had obliterated that line to some degree, and she found Jacobi was louder and more nosy than she remembered him being.
"It's not as dangerous as you think." It was her way of telling him that for once, it wasn't Kiss-Me-Not she was holding back about. "Just thinking about things, that's all."
"Oh really? What kind of things?" Handing her his cup, he started the ignition, warming up the car as the traffic crept past, an unfortunate consequence of the nearby streets closing down for the Pride Parade.
"Girlie things," she said, hoping to head him off. Such obvious allusions to her femininity usually worked like a charm with both Jacobi and Tom, who would immediately infer talk of periods and head in the opposite direction.
No such luck today. "Girlie things," he repeated. "I know for a fact, you're not going to get insane for about another two weeks. Pull the other one."
Disgusted, Lindsay squirmed. "Okay, we officially know way too much about each other."
"I've been married a million times. I know women. Not enough apparently to keep any of them, but you seem to be the exception."
It was a sadly affirming truth.
"Lindsay," he said, voice low, warning baritone. "What's up?"
Licking her lips, she glanced down at the disappearing group of boys, heading toward a Pride parade.
Shoulders tight with tension, Jill struggled to massage her own nape as she washed her hands in the courthouse bathroom.
There were lines of stress around her eyes, and what had started out as a sucky day had at least had one reprieve. Thanks to the efforts of her friends, she had an air tight case and a mountain of evidence. The defense was scrambling.
The door to the bathroom opened, and of course, it would be Denise Kwon stepping into the room. Had Jill not been waiting to hear from her all day, she would have very immaturely ducked into a stall.
"Martinez wants to settle," her boss announced, coming to stand beside her, crossing her arms and inspecting her through the mirror. "He's offering a life sentence with possibility for parole in ten years."
"Impossible," Jill said immediately. "We've got his guy. We can go for the death penalty if we want it and the jury will hand it to us, no questions asked. Life without parole."
The smallest hint of a smile inched onto Denise's face. "I figured as much. Good job."
It was surprisingly nice, considering how they had left things this morning. Jill wasn't sure how to react. "Thanks."
"I left a message with a contact I have over in Quantico," Denise continued. "He said he'll look into it and get back to me."
Sucking it up, Jill knew better than to offer the other woman a smile. "Thank you," she said, as sincerely as she could.
Denise only stared back. "You think you know me so well. You don't know me half as well as you think you do."
Jill took that in, watching the clouded face carefully. "Why don't you give me a chance to find out who you really are?"
"And what? You'll do the same for me?"
"You know who I am," Jill responded flatly. "I'm a damn good lawyer with a fucked up personal life who is lucky enough to have some really great friends. Whether you like that or not isn't my problem, but if it helps us work better together, I'm willing to try and work past whatever grudge you've got on me."
"Why? Because you're such a good person?"
"Because you're my boss, Denise," she snapped, losing her patience. "Because I know that somewhere down there is an actual decent person who at the very least, likes to play by the rules. There are very few people who I trust right now but I would consider it monumentally easier if I could trust you."
Denise's dark eyes blazed into her, sizing her up.
"Fair enough," the other woman said finally, stepping away from the sink. "Meet me for drinks tonight. We'll work on the trust issue." As she headed for the door, she tossed over her shoulder, "I'll let you know when I hear back from Quantico."
If Jill hadn't known better, she would have sworn she had just been swindled into a date.
"I think Thaddeus has a crush on you."
Impossibly gorgeous Brooke McQueen looked almost shy as she said that, and it was a charming expression on the stranger's face.
The young man in question was currently across the bar, fiddling with a guitar that had belonged to his now deceased father, strumming a tune and casting surreptitious glances in Cindy's direction.
It was sweet.
"Yeah, well " Cindy shrugged humbly. "I think it's his grief talking. The poor kid lost his dad just as he was getting to know him."
"At least he has Bruce. He seems like a very gentle man."
"He's a great man," Cindy returned, with a smile. It was a bittersweet ending for one of San Francisco's most revered drag queens, but Cindy felt reasonably sure that Dakota would find comfort in the fact that her life long partner had taken in her aspiring artist son, as his own. "I think we need more men like him."
Brooke nodded, and it was then that Cindy realized she was actually alone. "Where's Sam?"
"Oh around here, somewhere." Brooke motioned with her fingers around the crowded bar. "She got it in her head to focus on the children of the gay community and is now interviewing every son, daughter and gay parent she can find. She has an angle worked out for her story but now I'm afraid she's going to throw it out completely in favor of this new one."
A soft laugh was her response. "Yeah," Brooke admitted. "That's one word for it. Sam told me about your friend."
Expression sobering, Cindy glanced up.
With a sincere frown, Brooke shrugged. "I hope you find him."
"Thanks," she managed. "Me too." Above the noise, she felt the curious familiar buzzing of her blackberry. Immediately she reached for it, hoping to God it would be Jill. "I'm sorry. I have to get this."
"No, it's fine." Brooke set her drink down at the bar and slid off the stool. "I need to find Sam anyway."
The caller ID read "Lindsay Boxer". Cindy's heart gave the requisite thump. "Hey."
"Hey," said the gravely voice, and there was so much noise behind her, she could barely make her out. "Claire said you were working the Pride Parade."
"One of the perks of an office outing at a paper," she mused, smiling despite her clouded thoughts. "Where are you? I can barely hear you."
Lowering her phone, Inspector Boxer stood in the midst of the crowd, wearing a smile and her leather jacket, and looking so damned gorgeous Cindy's knees nearly gave out.
The day was winding down and the parties were just getting started. People were well past drunk, and Brooke McQueen would have had more patience for it if she could just find Sam.
"The hot brunette reporter girl?" said the lesbian Brooke had last seen her speaking to. "I think she went outside. Saw her with a guy in a tie."
Brooke frowned, and thanked her politely as she could, moving through the crowded bar to the street, still littered with partying people.
There was no Sam McPherson.
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