DISCLAIMER: Women's Murder Club and its characters are the property of James Patterson, 20th Century Fox Television and ABC. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks to Abbey for the beta!

By Demeter


"Honey, I'm so sorry." Claire pulled her close into an embrace, and her action and words finally penetrated the fog that had surrounded her from the moment she'd gotten the call from the hospital. Lindsay's first impulse was to back out of the touch, to push her friend away, but she didn't follow through with it, endured the hug stiffly.

Claire let her go, her gaze worried. Jill just touched her arm, used to Lindsay's reluctance to expressions of affection on another level, and Cindy gave her a sad, understanding smile.

Lindsay held on to that. Somewhere in the back of her overloaded mind, she knew there was something she had to remember. Focus, damn it!

And then it hit her. "Thank you," she said, meaning all of them. Clearing her throat again when her voice had been shaking just a bit too much for her liking. Here and now was not the place for tears. She'd mourn for her father and all that could not have been said, that could never be said now, in her own time.

"It's just, you know - I can't really go home, it's still a mess there. I was hoping one of you could give me asylum for tonight," she continued, again, addressing all of them, but hoping for Cindy, for reasons she couldn't quite explain to herself. Maybe because tonight would be as good a moment as any for the apology she still owed her. Maybe some time alone with her, the first time since Cindy had been shot, would give new direction to their friendship.

Direction was something desperately needed at the moment.

There was a bit of hesitation that hadn't gone unnoticed with Lindsay, but finally, Cindy said, "Of course. My couch is yours as long as you need it."

It took some effort, but Lindsay mustered a smile at that.

She had been surprised that Jill came with them. She'd let Lindsay sit in the front passenger seat, and all of a sudden, there had been an awkward silence.

Lindsay wondered if it was all her, if they didn't know what to say with the unfortunate turn of events this day - it was all right with her; she didn't know either, and she didn't feel like talking. Except... she needed to apologize to Cindy some time, and tonight would be as good a moment as any. Jill would certainly understand that?

She pressed her hand against her temple for a moment. These days, Lindsay wasn't very sure of anything, but she'd deal, as long as she didn't have to go back to her apartment tonight, Kiss Me Not's last ritual site.

They stopped there long enough for her to get some clothes and whatever else she quickly threw together for the overnight stay, not once looking at the bed.

Martha was with the friendly, way too indulgent neighbor, Tess, who never said no when it came to harboring her.

It had been a long day, well, who was she kidding, an endless row of long days... Lindsay felt exhausted, but an hour later, as she tried to find a comfortable position on Cindy's fold-out couch, her mind just refused to calm down for long enough to even put her in the vicinity of sleep.

It was beyond silly, with the inexplicable loss of today, with Pete gone with only the whisper of a promise that didn't seem to hold much weight anyway (and whose fault was that?), what made her toss and turn was the question why there was still a light on in Cindy's bedroom.

Jill had been in there. For quite some time.

Lindsay couldn't quite tell if it was a case of ego or paranoia, but she was pretty sure they'd talked about her. How she'd screwed up since the Hammond case, and worse, after Cindy got shot. If they were trying to make sense of her actions, good luck. Lindsay hadn't figured it out yet, either.

She turned her face to the wall, but the strip of light under the door to Cindy's bedroom seemed to be mocking her, even when she wasn't looking at it.

She came fully awake sitting upright, with a hand over her mouth to stifle the scream. She'd lost her father to a serial killer, but her subconscious hadn't caught up on that yet; Lindsay's nightmares revolved around the same subject as before.

Lindsay suspected they wouldn't leave her alone as long as she kept silent about this one thing. She hadn't run off from the hospital to be with Pete the last time. In fact, those moments, she couldn't stand to have anyone around, let alone touch her.

She'd called him... telling him she was sorry and she wouldn't make it home. He said he'd understand. At that point, Lindsay had admitted to herself that there had to be something seriously wrong with her, because hadn't she always looked for that in a relationship? Someone who didn't question her priorities to pieces? He had given her that exactly, and she'd almost yelled at him.

Because she'd been so damn close to losing it altogether.

Once she'd ended the call though, Lindsay hadn't cried. She'd simply stayed there in her car, feeling all choked up, but no idea how to change it with Cindy still in the hospital, looking pained and lost and incredibly young, and Kiss-Me-Not still out there.

There had been no time for Lindsay to indulge herself.

More and more, she felt like having that breakdown now.

Such a stupid thing to think that easing her mind would magically solve every single one of her problems. She'd been dead wrong, Lindsay could see that now.

Why couldn't she just leave it alone?

Why did she have to knock on that door and --

Jill and Cindy hadn't just been staying up long, and for sure, it didn't look like they were talking about Lindsay. Paranoia, or ego, it didn't matter anymore. They had been sharing the bed. That's why Jill had come with them, because she had planned to stay all along.

She'd all but staggered backwards; the last thing Lindsay could deal with now was sympathy and understanding. She couldn't stay, but she couldn't go home either, because the sheets on her bed were soiled with the blood of Corinne Stevens, the room that had once been a safe place to retreat to... haunted.

Just like her heart.

That was when the words of the bruja came back to her, the offer Lindsay had smugly refused. A criminal now doing time, she had seen right through Lindsay.

She could protect herself. Just not in this, just never when it came to--

"I'm sorry. We never wanted you to find out this way."

Lindsay turned from where she was standing with her hand on the door handle to see Jill. Her gaze was sad and apologetic, when it wasn't her fault at all. Or Cindy's. Still, Lindsay didn't feel much like giving absolution. "Not my business. I'm sorry, you should have told me. I would have rented a room--"

"Linds, no." Jill moved to sit beside her on the couch, so Lindsay got up hastily.

"It's okay, really. It was a bad idea. After everything... I need to be alone." She held up her hand to ward off any protest. "Please."

At least, there was no confusion any longer. The split-second, the image now burned into her mind had told her clearly what her issues with Cindy had been all along. How she wanted to be the one to hold her and whisper to her like that.

An illusion it was, and that was all it would ever be.

"No, you don't."

Lindsay's gaze went from her own hand on the doorknob to Cindy standing in the doorway to her bedroom.

"Don't run away now."

If only she'd said it the night in the hospital. Or had it been too late already? Lindsay found she was too tired to fight, so she only half-listened to what Cindy said next, too occupied with watching her, maybe seeing for the first time what could have been hers, but not anymore.

She couldn't help but wonder, if it had made any difference, had she accepted that protection bracelet. Maybe, though, there was no protection.

Lindsay didn't run. The urge to cry passed, so did the awkwardness of the first minutes of the three of them in the same room after the secret was out. She'd carry on, they'd manage.

Maybe she just wasn't meant to be happy no matter what.

That thought, however, did not leave her.

The End

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