DISCLAIMER: Women's Murder Club and its characters are the property of James Patterson, 20th Century Fox Television and ABC. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks to the wonderful Debbie for the beta.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
The Waiting Room
Inspector Lindsay Boxer sat on a narrow, wooden bench with her shoulders hunched over, elbows resting on blue-jean clad knees, and hands clinched tightly together. Impossibly long legs moved rapidly, up and down, in a constant nervous motion, heels off the floor and weight resting on balls of feet that were tightly encased in black boots. Jill glanced nervously at Claire, before slowly easing her hand onto Lindsay's shoulder.
"She's going to be okay." She attempted a smile of support but was only able to offer up a tight-lipped grin, her lips betraying her and not allowing her worry to be cast off in the guise of a false gesture. She honestly had no idea what the outcome would be.
"You don't know that," said Lindsay, bolting up from the bench and moving away from the comforting warmth of Jill's hand to stare out the tiny window of the box-sized waiting room. "You didn't see her, lying there so helpless; her big, shiny eyes pleading for me to help her, while blood seeped from her body."
Claire took a step toward her friend, easing her tone as if trying to calm a frightened animal. "Things often look much worse than they really are." But Claire had seen, and it'd looked bad very bad.
"But . . ." Lindsay's tearful reply was cut off by the sound of her name being called from the doorway. All eyes turned toward the newcomer, who stood between the corridor and the waiting room. None of the three women had noticed her arrival.
"I came as fast as I could. How is she?" Cindy moved like hurricane force winds as she slammed into Lindsay and grabbed hold of black leather, balling her hands into fists and digging her heels into the drab linoleum floor in preparation to be tossed aside. But her efforts proved pointless as Lindsay welcomed the attack, the combination of the warmth from Cindy's body and the enticing smell of strawberries from the reporter's shampoo instantly calming the jittery inspector.
"She's in surgery," whispered Jill, seeming to believe that if she spoke quietly enough the horrible ordeal would just go away and they'd find themselves at Papa Joe's, laughing over a cup of coffee and celebrating, once again, their success of removing another slime ball from the streets of San Francisco.
Reluctantly, Cindy eased away and gazed into tear-filled eyes. "What happened?"
"She darted out of the house and ran into the street. She was just so fast. I couldn't stop her." Lindsay swept a shaky hand through dark, tangled tresses. "It was that stupid, stupid cat of Mrs. Barnes. Martha headed straight for the little hairball; she never saw the van speeding down the street. She knows better."
"C'mon, let's sit." Cindy led an overly compliant Lindsay back to the bench she'd just vacated and gave a worried glance to Claire. Lindsay wasn't even trying to fight her. "What did the vet say?"
"No word yet," said Claire with a sad shrug. She'd tried to ask the receptionist for an update, but the rainbow-haired girl had just smacked her gum and said she wasn't allowed past the front desk. Claire was certain it was because her tattooed, pierced-just-about-everywhere body and wild haired appearance would frighten the animals.
Cindy just nodded her head and started to rub small, soothing circles across Lindsay's lower back. Welcoming the comforting gesture, Lindsay leaned into the touch and reached out blindly for Cindy's free hand, the reporter not hesitating to take hold. Neither woman seemed to realize the loving picture they were painting for their friend's view. Claire smiled widely in acknowledgement, while Jill's expression turned into a frown.
"Let's go ask again," said Jill, looping her arm through Claire's and tugging her from the waiting room. Taking a sharp left, she headed away from the colorfully-haired girl and aimed for the building's exit, completely ignoring Claire's protests of her rough treatment.
"Hey, that's my arm you're jerking out of its socket."
Jill pushed through the glass door and finally released her hold as she continued away from the building, having no doubt that Claire would follow. Midway down the sidewalk, she turned on her heel and placed her hands on her hips, her stiff posture exuding pent-up frustration. "Did you see them all lovey-dovey?" Jill knew intimacy when she saw it, and what she'd just witnessed between her two friends had definitely been nothing short of it. "What's going on? I thought Lindsay was madly in love with Pete."
Claire tilted her head and took in Jill's defensive stance. The ex was always the last to know. She plowed forward anyway. "You mean the *man* that Lindsay hasn't heard hide nor hair from for the past six month?"
Jill failed to hide her flinch at the emphasis Claire had placed on 'man.' She'd never had a problem with thoughts of Lindsay with a man, but Lindsay with another woman was something entirely different. Neither of them had dated other women after their breakup; they'd both purposely stuck to men, although Lindsay more or less stuck with her job, knowing there would be less of a chance of emotional attachment. Luke had been an almost exception, but Jill had always secretly hoped that she and Lindsay would find their way back to each other someday. Deep down, she knew it would never happen, but that didn't keep her stubbornness from clinging to the idea.
"You're the one who let her go, remember?" Claire gentled her tone to take the sting out of her words. "You both let your careers dictate your decisions. Being young and determined to succeed took precedence. Lindsay was at least willing to try to juggle both, you weren't." She reached out and placed her hand on Jill's forearm, her next words offering reassurances that she knew to be true. "She couldn't have done it though. Look at what happened between her and Tom."
Jill slowly shook her head in agreement. Her guilty thoughts of wondering if she'd given up too soon had pretty much vanished when Lindsay and Tom had divorced. Lindsay had become obsessed with the Kiss-Me-Not killer, and Jill was certain a relationship with her wouldn't have survived either. She crinkled up her nose and frowned disapprovingly.
"Yes, but Cindy? She's all of what twelve?"
"She may look young, but she's definitely all woman a woman who knows exactly how to handle Lindsay." Claire really liked Cindy, and despite all the teasing remarks made about the young woman's age, she felt Cindy was wise beyond her years. She just didn't allow the others to see it very often.
"But Cindy?" whined Jill, not ready to come to terms with the fact that her old friend and her new friend were an item and had apparently been for some time. And she absolutely refused to admit, even to herself, that she'd already noticed Cindy was all woman the first time she'd laid eyes on her but had erroneously figured the reporter to be as straight as an arrow.
"Yes . . . Cindy," said Claire, having a difficult time keeping the edge out of her voice. Jill was like a dog with a bone sometimes, and speaking of which "Now bottle up whatever it is you're thinking or feeling; we need to get back and offer support." With a pointed glare, she turned and hurried back to the vet clinic. Martha should be out of surgery soon, assuming she'd survived the operation. Claire was surprised to feel the lump that had formed in her throat. The damned dog had wormed her way into all of their hearts.
Jill stood alone on the sidewalk and stared at the doors Claire had disappeared behind. Closing her eyes, she inhaled deeply and slowly released the air from her lungs. Now wasn't the time to dwell on the past or her new discovery either, for that matter. Offering support to Lindsay should be her sole focus, and so, with one final sigh, she started for the doors. Martha just had to pull through.
An hour later found the four women continuing their silent vigil in the small waiting room as Claire stood in the doorway, keeping an eye out for the vet, while Jill had pushed her jealousy aside and taken up residence on the other side of Lindsay. She'd resisted the urge to take her friend's hand or mirror Cindy's comforting touch, choosing instead to mold her thigh against Lindsay's to let the other woman know she was there. Movement in the doorway had three heads snapping up in Claire's direction.
Claire took a step back to allow the vet to enter the room, her eyes not able to read his expression. She was pleased to see that he'd at least taken the time to change into another set of scrubs. Lindsay certainly didn't need to see Martha's blood staining his clothing. She just hoped his news was promising.
Lindsay slowly pushed to her feet and was quickly bracketed by Cindy on her left and Jill on her right. The two women had instinctively moved their hands to the small of Lindsay's back and had linked their fingers together in a show of solidarity. Of course, Cindy had no idea of the maelstrom of emotions that had plagued Jill while they'd waited for word on Martha.
"How is she?" asked Lindsay tentatively, stretching up to her full height in an attempt to mask her upset. She wanted nothing more than to roll up into a tiny ball with Cindy's arms wrapped around her tightly, cocooning her from her almost overwhelming fear.
The vet offered a tired, but reassuring smile. "It was touch and go for awhile there, but Martha kept fighting. With time, I believe she'll make a complete recovery. We'll need to keep her here for a few days to monitor her progress."
"Oh, that's wonderful, thanks Doc," said Cindy, her focus turning from the vet to her lover. "Isn't that wonderful, Lindsay?"
"Yeah, it most certainly is. Thanks, Doctor Miller." Lindsay smiled in relief. "When can we see her?"
"Well, she's very groggy right now. I don't think she's up for any excitement."
Claire watched a look of disappointment cross her friend's face. "What about if just Lindsay goes in? I'm sure Martha would love to see her master."
The vet glanced at the tall inspector and then at the smaller redhead that had a tight grip on the other woman's hand. Only Jill knew how tight Cindy's grip truly was as the reporter had a similar vise-hold on her hand as well.
"I think it'd be okay if two of you went in as long as you were quiet." With a quick nod, he turned to leave the room, a smile playing on his lips. The little redhead reminded him of a bulldog, tenacious and fierce.
Taking advantage of Cindy's distraction, Jill managed to work her hand free from the reporter's grasp. "Claire and I will wait here. You two go ahead, just be sure to tell Martha we're just outside." She smiled and gestured toward the door. Lindsay just nodded and followed the vet from the room, tugging a willing Cindy behind.
Claire had stood back and watched as the scene had played out. She'd been pleased with the way Jill had handled the situation. Relieved, she eased next to Jill's side and placed her hand on the other woman's shoulder.
"I'm proud of you; that was very mature," praised Claire, giving her friend a gentle squeeze of reassurance.
Jill snaked her arm around Claire's waist and watched as Lindsay and Cindy ducked into a side door. "Yeah, well, now's not the time for that discussion."
Claire just smiled knowingly, perfectly aware that particular discussion would probably never take place. As long as Cindy was always there for Lindsay, Jill would never say a word.
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