My fave fanfictions #3 – Women’s Murder Club, Lindsay/Cindy

Cindy and Lindsay from Women's Murder Club

I have to thank another great writer for this fanfiction (which will be even more longer than the pervious one but please read! :). In the story we will get to know Cindy’s darker side (because she has one!) and Lindsay’s softer one. I hope you will like it as much as I did.

Author: TexasWatermelon
Fandom: Women’s Murder Club
Pairing: Lindsay/Cindy
Rating: R
Summary: Cindy makes a few changes after getting shot.

Part 1 – Je Veux Te Voir

It’s a strange kind of feeling; a good, sizzling, churn in your gut jump start your brain kind of feeling, but strange all the same. Because it’s not one you’ve ever felt before. Funny how getting shot does things to you.

There was time to think in the hospital. Plenty of it, actually, between bright sunny days spent useless and alone because your friends were all at work and you were too weak to go there yourself; between frazzled nurses so choked up by the cigarette smoke still lingering in their lungs that they barely have time to pay attention to the fact that yes, in fact, that gunshot wound does fucking hurt when you jab at it, thanks; between hours and hours of bad, daytime cable on a cheap black and white TV; between Claire coming in to mother over you after shift before rushing off to make dinner for husband and kids, and Lindsay poking her head through the door just long enough to make it look like she was still concerned while simultaneously worrying about making it home in time to screw Pete senseless, and Jill practically occupying all of her time in your room because she’s still trying to make things up to you. Yeah, there was time.

You used this time well to think things over, to curse each painful breath that you took as you replayed your own life in your head. So bland and paltry. Sure you’d had some adventures since joining the crime desk, but that was thrilling, heart racing danger. You can face that without breaking a sweat. In truth, though, you’re a coward. Because you’ve never taken the chances that you should have, just sat by and watched and mooned and drooled as she smiled at you like her kid sister and laid herself out for these disgusting, testosterone-pumped men, completely oblivious to the fact that you would give anything just to have her look at you the way she looks at him.

Yes, it’s true; you’ve got a thing for Lindsay Boxer.

Instead of doing anything about it though, you sit and brood and whine to Claire and hope that one good deed after another will finally get her to notice you. And she does notice you. She notices that you’re a good, useful reporter and a caring, devoted friend. She notices that. But she doesn’t notice the way you stare at her when she walks by, or the way your breath catches in your throat when you’re trying to speak to her. She doesn’t notice your fingers reaching to touch any inch of skin that they can until you have to pull them back and stuff your hands in your pockets just to control yourself. She doesn’t notice. Maybe she doesn’t want to, or maybe she really is just that damn naïve. Whatever the case, you decide, you’re done waiting for Lindsay to wake up and smell the redhead. If she can’t see on her own what’s so obviously displayed in front of her, then you’ll make her see. You will.

You don’t feel nervous as you knock on her door, weeks after you’ve been released from the hospital and she’s given you a friendly “welcome back.” There’s no accelerated breathing or sweaty palms or jittering like there would have been a few months ago. You think maybe something inside of you must have snapped as that bullet passed through your body, as you were lying there on the cold marble steps gasping for air and begging for death with each stunted breath, blood pouring out of your chest. Indeed, maybe you’d even like to thank that bastard. He did you a bit of a favor.

Lindsay opens the door and gives you a surprised smile. You know that she’s alone; you specifically picked this night for that reason. Pete’s just gone back to wherever the hell he was before for the next month or so, and Lindsay’s still recuperating from the fact that her dad just died. She spends a good bit of her time alone for right now, sorting things out in her head. That makes two of you then.

Martha comes to sniff at your legs as Lindsay invites you in. She looks you over strangely. The outfit you’ve chosen is a bit odd to her, perhaps. A low cut blouse and a skimpy short skirt; you look like you’re out for a night on the town, not a visit to your friend’s house. The flushed pink scar is boldly visible on your chest. Her eyes are drawn to it. Sympathy. You hate it.

“What’s up?” Lindsay asks, coming to stand in the middle of the room. She stuffs her hands in her back pockets, a sign that she’s comfortable. You almost smirk. She won’t be soon enough. You tell her that you were bored and thought it would be good to do some catching up. Things have been a little busy lately, what with getting rid of Kiss Me Not and all. Lindsay agrees that you haven’t talked as much as you should. She offers you a beer, which you accept but don’t drink when she gives it to you.

“Are you sure everything’s okay?” she asks after a long swig. You’re both still standing there and Lindsay’s looking at you curiously. Your stance is poised, as though you might pounce at any minute. You smile and nod, but it’s not that cute sweet smile that you used to have. It’s more of a promising smile, a warning. Lindsay’s eyes flicker a bit when she sees it; she notices, but doesn’t say.

“How are things with you and Pete?” you question, and your voice sounds pleasant as ever. You take a casual step forward and Lindsay shrugs.

“Okay. He’s really tied down, so not much time to talk,” she replies. You nod in understanding.

“Must be tough.” Lindsay shrugs again.

“I knew what I was signing up for.”

You’ve inched your way a little closer now and if Lindsay notices, she doesn’t comment. She drinks her beer idly, finally resting against the arm of the couch. She seems a bit tense, you think, like she’s starting to pick up on the thick atmosphere you’ve brought with you.

“Still, you must get lonely,” you comment. Lindsay doesn’t reply this time, just looks at you, looks at your eyes and sees them smoldering the way they are. She knows now what this is all about; you see it register in her face, in the way that her chest shudders slightly as her breath falters. No sense in continuing this game then, you think. You move forward slowly, carefully, and the whole time Lindsay’s eyes are locked with yours. She doesn’t move, doesn’t protest, just watches, calculating.

It’s when you’re flush with her, knees touching her own, faces this close and breath blowing across her face that she asks you what you’re doing, voice hoarse but still strangely calm. You smirk at her, almost a sneer, and lean forward so that your noses are so close to touching that they tingle with anticipation.

“What do you think?” You press your lips to hers for a split second before kissing her so hard that it almost hurts. And for a minute, she responds. And then she pulls away.

“We can’t do this,” she insists.

“Why not?” you ask, indulging her for the moment. Her reasons don’t really matter. You will do this, whether she thinks you should or not.

“Because… we can’t,” she replies lamely. You roll your eyes.

“Whatever.” You try to kiss her again, but her hands are strong on your shoulders and she pushes you back a few steps.

“You’re drunk,” Lindsay says, fumbling for some excuse, though both of you know that you’re not.

“I’ve never been more sober,” you assure her. She shakes her head.

“You need to go home.”

“Fuck you,” you growl, stepping closer again. “Don’t act like you didn’t see this coming. Like if I pressed myself against you and made you feel something for once, you wouldn’t just let it happen.” Reach out quickly and before she can react your hand is cupping her through her jeans, pressing, grinding. Lindsay’s eyes close instantly and she sucks in a sharp breath. “All this time and you’ve been so stupid or oblivious or naïve; I haven’t really decided yet.” She opens her eyes slightly to see you grinning dangerously at her.

“Cindy,” she whispers weakly.

Your lips stop her, and this time you shove her legs apart and press a thigh in between them, kissing her harshly while she returns it all in full. Her hands are on you now, one at the base of your neck and the other on your hip as you grab at the hem of her shirt and pull it roughly over her head. You kiss her jaw line, bite at her neck and shoulder and she groans softly as her hands slide under your shirt, over your hips, across your back. You growl again and use one of your hands to drag one of hers right under your skirt.

Lindsay gets the picture. She pulls your skimpy underwear out of the way and slips her fingers inside of you without warning. Your head tips back immediately and you cry out as she moves in and out of you. You grip her shoulders for support and she grabs under your ass with her free hand, pulling you closer if she can. You ride her fingers as hard as you can- one, two, three of them; you lost count already- begging her to fuck you.

There’s a moment when your eyes just barely slip open and you see her looking at you, straight at you, and you realize that this is happening. Lindsay is inside of you, screwing you in the middle of her living room while her boyfriend is thousands of miles away. It only takes a second for the thought to flash through your mind, and with it comes a tremendous clenching in your gut. Your eyes snap shut again and you throw your head back, calling out to her as your brain explodes and rains down colored confetti behind your eyelids.

It seems to last hours, but when it’s over, your head falls forward onto her shoulder, a sheen of glimmering sweat across your forehead as you try desperately to catch your breath. Her hands are at your sides again, holding you steady, and when you finally lift your pounding head to look at her, she’s still gazing at you with something akin to wonder and her eyes are blacker than obsidian.

The way she’s looking at you, it almost makes you feel like the old you again. The Cindy Thomas that existed before that bullet ripped through your chest. You want to tell her, make her see that you’re it for her. That you can give her, will give her, anything that she wants. But you know it won’t make a difference. You have to show her. Nothing else will get through Lindsay Boxer’s thick head.

With a force even you didn’t know you possessed, you push her down onto the couch and straddle her waist. You pull your own shirt off (you opted for no bra today) and toss it aside, before removing her bra and ripping her jeans and panties down off of her before she even has time to think about it. You stop to look at her, to see just how beautiful she really is, and your eyes soften and you just wish she could see how much you want to give this to her.

And she does. She looks up at you with those deep eyes and rests one hand softly on your cheek. Like she’s finally realizing after all this time just what’s been going on right in front of her face the entire time.

“I’m sorry,” she whispers, just as you plunge your fingers deep inside of her. She moans, low and gravelly, hips moving to meet your hand. You thrust into her, pushing deeper, harder, faster with every one. Her moans echo loudly across the otherwise silent room and each one seems like another punch in the gut to you, but you keep going anyway because you need to make her regret that she ever slept with anyone but you. By the time the night is over, you will have changed Lindsay Boxer’s life.

When her body stiffens, you know you’ve accomplished your mission. You stare down at her, naked and splayed so openly in front of you with a sheen of sweat covering her gorgeous body, dark hair sticking to her face and neck and shoulders, eyes closed like an angel caught in the throes of impossible bliss. It’s the most incredible thing you’ve ever seen and it makes you cry, because it should never have been like this.

Lindsay’s eyes finally open to find tears sliding down your face and she reaches up to wipe some of them away before pulling you down to her and holding you closely. Your bodies stick together from the sweat, but she presses a kiss into your hair.

“I’m sorry,” she whispers again as you sob into her chest. “I’m sorry.”

But you don’t want her apologies. You just want to forget that tonight ever happened, and pretend that you never even met Lindsay Boxer in the first place.

Part 2 – Dans Une Film Pornographique

There’s a sigh and the bed shifts beside you as she rolls away and settles back into sleep. You ignore this and blink back at the bright red numbers on the clock. Still 2:43. Still only twenty minutes since she fell asleep and you decided to let her lay there for a little while with her arm draped over you like a hot, heavy boa constrictor, her breath a scalding steam on the back of your neck. And you just lay there and stare at the clock, watching the minutes wile themselves away so very slowly.

You think that maybe you could preoccupy yourself with trying to remember her name while you wait. You know it’s just a little too soon for you to slip away without her noticing, and you’d really rather not have to deal with the sleepy, innocent, confused questions that would follow.

Ellen? No, maybe Elaine. Shit.

That heavy, acidy feeling in the pit of your stomach seems to curl its way through the rest of your organs as well, making you feel as though you may be sick. Again. Always. There hasn’t been a night when you haven’t felt like this. At least not since…

Of course this is the exact opposite of what you should be feeling after another night of pretty exceptional screwing (on your part at least.) It was all very meaningful to her (you decide to dub her E in your head, since you’re pretty sure that’s what her name started with,) but to you it was just the same routine that’s been happening for a little over three weeks now. Empty, meaningless, an excuse to try to take away that shit feeling you have, the guilt and loss of what happened.

Under the influence of ten or so cocktails, you managed to be convinced that maybe she looks enough like Lindsay. She has about the right hair, the same color eyes, a good five or six inches on you and a lean, lanky form. Just like the rest of them. If only for tonight, she could substitute for that aching need you can’t seem to get rid of anymore. But even as you watched her writhe and scream under your touch, you couldn’t fool yourself. There is no goddamn substitute.

Deciding that if you don’t get up now you’ll surely be sick all over her bed, you move carefully to sit and then stand. She stirs, but thankfully doesn’t wake. The smell that still lingers on the air, through the sheets, in your skin and hair makes you wretch slightly. It’s a mix of sex and alcohol and her. But not the right her, and that’s what makes it so putrid to your nostrils.

You shouldn’t be driving. Your body hasn’t had nearly enough time to rid itself of all the drinks you had tonight, but you can’t stay any longer. And hey, at least if you get into an accident there’s a good chance that it’ll be bad enough to take you out of this endless fuck of a miserable life you’ve created for yourself. Oh yes, this is all your fault of course.

The memories still flash through your mind like a constant slideshow of torture. That look on her face, the sounds she made, the way her body felt underneath you, her sweet, incredible smell as she held you. And that feeling of perfect hate for what you’d done. You’re well aware that you hate her just a little bit, too. Hate her because she had to be so goddamn oblivious. Hate her because she actually let you go through with it. Hate her because now every time you look in her eyes, you can plainly see that she wants more.

Claire and Jill know of course. It only took them two days to pick up on what had happened, to realize that somehow you’d changed. They tried to talk it out of course, tried to fix things. You told them to go fuck themselves, and promptly cut yourself off as best you could. Unfortunately, now that you’ve worked so hard to weasel yourself into their club, they’re not really willing to let you go. Damn them.

Morning brings a headache like someone drove a screwdriver through your temples, but you remember that you just had a few too many of them to drink instead. Briefly, you contemplate not going to work today, but your cell phone rings to tell you about a murder on 38th street, and God knows if you don’t get there some other asshole will.

Speaking of God, you wonder just what exactly he thinks of all of this. Surely you’re going to hell by now, but at the moment it doesn’t seem like it could be so bad compared to this. And then you think of your dad. He’d worry so much about you if he could see you now, hair flat and disheveled, constant circles under your eyes, and too much eyeliner to try to cover it up. And maybe you would never have let any of this happen if he were here anyway, if only for his sake. You pray that he’s not watching.

It’s Lindsay’s text, surprisingly enough, that sends you to the crime scene. You watch her work from behind the tape for a few moments before Officer Cho lets you through. You wink at him and he looks like he might be off to take a cold shower right after this.

Jacobi gives you a nod when he sees you and you ask him for a few details. There’s no way in hell you’ll be talking to Lindsay. Just the thought of it feels like death. She glances at you briefly and it’s all you can do to hold her gaze without running away or crying, or both. By the time she looks back again, you’re gone. You’ve gotten all you need here.

The good little reporter in you causes you to get started on this right away. Whether you’ve detached yourself from the group or not, you still have to help as much as you can. It just so happens that you know a guy that might be able to help.

About midday Claire sends out a mass text requesting everyone’s presence in the morgue. You’ve already talked to your contact, and you know that it’ll be worth struggling through Lindsay’s presence to see if Claire’s findings can help you put the pieces together.

You manage to get there last, and the looks you receive when you push through the doors bring back that familiar feeling of nausea. Claire gives you that same bright smile that makes you want to fall into her arms and cry for the rest of your life. Jill grins slyly, as if to let you know that she’s okay with this bitch streak you’ve got going, respects it even, and when (if) you make it back to normal, she’ll still be there. Lindsay looks like she’s trying not to look, but fails miserably. You attempt a weak smile for them all, but you’re about as successful as she is.

The tox reports that Claire got back actually confirm what your source told you, which is actually a useful surprise. You give the rest of them your info, and Lindsay nods, saying that she’ll look into it. There are a lot of fish warehouses in San Francisco, however. It may take time. Jill heads off to see if she can narrow it down a little and after a few more bits of small talk, Claire goes into her office. You take that as your cue to leave because being alone with Lindsay is not an option right now.

Her hand feels like fire around your wrist as she spins you around. You look up at her, eyes wide as she asks you to wait. She wants to talk to you. You try to tell her that you’ve got to go to the office, but she doesn’t buy it.

“We need to talk,” she emphasizes.

“No we don’t,” you say, eyes narrowing.

“Look, what happened between us, we can’t let it tear things apart like this,” Lindsay says, determination blazing in her eyes. You shake your head.

“It’s too late for that.”

“No it’s not, Cindy,” she insists. “We can work through this.”

“And what?” you hiss. “Pretend that it’s all okay and go back to being friends so that you can fuck Pete when he comes home and not have to worry about a guilty conscience? Meanwhile, I’m still shit out of luck because not only have I royally screwed things with the one person I care about, but I have to go back to watching her be with everyone but me? I don’t think so.”

Lindsay looks stung. “No, that’s not what I want.”

“Then what do you want, Lindsay?” you snap. You’re coming to the end of your tether here. “You want me to come over tonight, have another go at it instead so I can be your mistress while the boyfriend is away? You think you can play both sides, have it all at once: me to hide away for a while so that when you get an itch you can’t scratch I can come fuck you the right way, while Pete gets to play the domestic partner.”

The frustration and hurt in Lindsay’s eyes makes your chest hurt, but you’re tired of catering to her ideas of fairytale endings. You need realism, and realistically, this isn’t going to end well for you. Maybe not for anyone.

“I don’t know how to fix this, okay?” Lindsay concedes angrily. Her voice softens and she looks at you sadly. “I just know that it hurts when you’re not around. I think I need you.”

You stare at her for a few moments, completely awestruck that she would have the audacity to even say that to you, whether it’s true or not. And it’s not true. It can’t be. But God, her eyes…

“Fuck you,” you whisper, and much to your horror you can feel the tears swelling in your eyes. “I can’t do this. God, I can’t… Fuck.”

You turn and run out, the doors slamming shut behind you. The tears stream freely down your face and you wipe at them angrily, but it only makes you cry harder. Why the hell does this have to happen? Why couldn’t she just leave it all alone? Because she’s Lindsay, that’s why, and that’s the reason you fell for her in the first place.

By the time you get home, you’ve managed to calm yourself down enough to see that once again you’ve made a mistake. It’s a simple fix; you just won’t allow yourself to be in the same room with her ever again. She’s clearly confused about her feelings for you, which is understandable. So you’ll make it simple for her. She won’t ever have to see you again.

In order to take your mind off of these recent events, you focus on the case at hand. There was enough information between your contact and the morgue for you to start piecing together this mystery, to figure out just which fish packing plant the killer may work at. You get to work immediately, and two hours later you’ve narrowed it down to three. Of course the logical move would be to text Lindsay, but since you’re not speaking to her right now, the only other option is to go to each of these places and scope them out for yourself. Then if you find something, you can call Claire and let her know. She’ll make sure the message gets to Lindsay.

The first warehouse is a bust. None of the people there seem to know the vic at all. The second is completely deserted as far as you can tell, and when you get to the third you think that one yields the same results. Still, you think it may be useful to look around.

Inside the warehouse, you hear a noise, but there’s no one around. Rats, maybe, which kind of freaks you out. You hate rats. Still, the noise persists as you’re climbing up to the second level. That level is deserted as well, or so it would seem. It appears that you’ve been had, though, because just as you’re about to make your way back down the stairs, a rough and grabs your hair and pulls you back and suddenly you’ve got an ice pick at your throat.

“And just what is a pretty little snoop like yourself doing in a place like this?” a gruff voice asks. You want to be snarky and brave and tell him that you’re looking for him, because he’s most obviously the killer. The victim was stabbed with an ice pick just like the one that’s got you frozen with fear right now. One wrong move and he’ll make a shish kabob of you. He chuckles. “That’s what I thought.”

The door to the warehouse slams open with a force and you jump a little at the noise. Luckily, your captor doesn’t, otherwise you’d be dead by now. Although, apparently you already are, because that’s most certainly Lindsay storming into the place with a pack of SWAT guys behind her.

She looks up at you, gun pointed at the killer, and even from here you can see the fear in her eyes. Fear for your life, because what she told you in the morgue was true. She does need you. You can see that now. And suddenly you’re even more terrified than you were before because if you die without ever getting the chance to apologize to her, you’ll never forgive yourself.

“Let her go,” Lindsay barks, directing her attention back to the killer. He laughs.

“I don’t think you should be making orders. If you move so much as an inch, I’ll skewer her. Surely you don’t want another death on your hands,” he taunts.

“The only death that’s going to be on my hands is yours if you don’t let her go right the hell now,” Lindsay yells.

Your heart aches for her. She’s so valiant and brave and you’re such a coward. You’ve put her through hell and she’s still trying to save your life. Lindsay Boxer, your own personal martyr. You feel yourself break inside, and try your best not to sob. You want so badly to hate her, hate her with your very last breath. But you can’t because you’re too busy admitting to yourself that you love her so much more than you’ve ever loved a single thing on this earth. So much more than you’ve ever loved yourself.

“Lindsay,” you choke as loud as you can, because you can still feel that steel pressed against your skin so tightly that you think it might have drawn blood. “Lindsay, I’m sorry.”

“Shut up, bitch,” the killer growls in your ear. Lindsay doesn’t reply, doesn’t even look at you. She keeps her attention turned to the scumbag behind you, just waiting for a chance to take him out. “You guys are going to let us leave, and if you do the little girl won’t get hurt. Understand?”

“If you let her go now, I won’t stop you. You can go wherever you want,” Lindsay tells him, and you want to tell her no. Don’t say that. Don’t risk losing the killer for someone like you.

He shakes his head. “I can’t take that chance. We both leave, or no one does.” Lindsay grits her teeth, but nods. “Good. We’re coming down the stairs now. No one moves.”

You feel yourself being dragged forward, down one stair at a time and the ice pick is digging into your skin now. You whimper slightly in spite of yourself and he digs a knee into your back, ordering you to shut up again. You really wish that you could, but by this time your body is starting to shake with fear.

Lindsay’s watching you, and for a minute you can see the raw mix of emotion in her eyes. If you die right now, she’ll go ballistic. You can’t bear it. This is all your fault, every last bit of it. You’d gladly have her be with Pete everyday for the rest of your life if only it meant that you could come out of this.

Out of the corner of your eye, you see one of the SWAT guys shift. It doesn’t appear that your captor noticed though, because he continues across the open floor swiftly. There’s a sudden bang as a shot rings out, and your eyes snap shut, expecting the worst. You hear a thump and a clatter behind you as the hold on you is released. You open your eyes to see the killer finally, a grizzly looking creature, with a bullet hole in the side of his head. The ice pick is rolling away.

The team moves into action and you feel them breeze around you, but your brain doesn’t seem to work anymore. There are hands on your face, checking you over, running across the cut on your throat. Your eyes focus a little and you realize that it’s Lindsay, standing so close to you, asking if you’re okay. You collapse into her, and she catches you. Your savior, as always.

She holds you close as your body shakes so violently you think you might jump out of your own skin. “I’m so sorry Lindsay,” you tell her, voice barely above a whisper. “It’s all so wrong. All my fault.” You think that your encounters shouldn’t end in apologies so often.

“Shh,” she quiets your murmurs and you can hear the tears in her voice. “It’s okay. It’ll be okay.” She presses a kiss to your head.

You allow yourself to be looked over by the medic, even though it’s really only a scratch. Lindsay insists on taking you home, so Jacobi takes over at the crime scene. There’s so much that you think you should be saying to her on the drive over, but your lips refuse to move. She sits you on the couch and gets you a glass of water once you’re at your apartment. You thank her quietly, but after that you can’t speak.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Lindsay asks. You look at her and shake your head.

“No. I’ve made a complete mess of everything,” you say.

“No you haven’t,” she insists.

“Lindsay,” you protest, but she puts a finger to your lips, silencing you.

“I could have stopped you. I didn’t,” she says, then sighs, taking her finger away. “It wasn’t that I was oblivious, Cindy. I knew what was happening, but I didn’t want to let it happen. I was afraid I’d hurt you, or get you killed. I busied myself with Pete because I knew that I couldn’t possibly ruin things if he was halfway around the world. But when you came to me… I couldn’t keep telling myself that I didn’t want you. I did. I do.”

You gape at her, literally, because you’re unable to believe what she’s telling you. She watches you carefully, waiting for your reaction, but when none is forthcoming she decides to continue.

“Look, I don’t really know where we go from here. Things are obviously different. But I miss you, we all do,” Lindsay gives you the most sincere look and smiles. “I want my favorite reporter back. I want my friend back. So maybe we could start there?”

“Start?” you manage to choke, and she blushes slightly.

“Yeah, start,” she confirms. “Cause I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of pretending.”

There’s nothing but truth in her face, and you’re trying to remember how exactly you ended up here. How it’s possible that you can be having this conversation with Lindsay Boxer after a year of wishing and waiting and screwing things up. And finally, after what seems like the first time in years, you smile.

Part 3 – Savoir Ton Anatomie

The chilly San Francisco air bites at your face like a rabid pit bull as you cross the street and you wonder at how quickly fall froze up into winter. In a futile attempt to shield yourself from it, you pull your coat to you like a lost friend you haven’t seen in years, but it seems to give you no comfort even as you do. And isn’t that the story of your life lately?

You’re trying, and in your mind that’s at least something better than what you’d rather do (give up and shut yourself away.) Your heart is heavy and laden with guilt, which makes you think that at least you’re still human. There was doubt concerning that for a time. But the guilt means that something in you is still salvageable, even if it’s only a few tiny scraps.

There’s no denying it. You fucked up bad.

When it all started, you could tell yourself that it was all Lindsay’s fault. Because she didn’t see, or she didn’t want to see. Because you had so much pent up frustration. Because you just wanted her so bad. Or maybe it was the bastard that shot you. He was the cause of the trauma that changed your life. You know that because of him, you’ll never be the same again. Never be able to hear a loud noise without breaking into a cold sweat.

Now that you’ve reconciled with them, Lindsay and Claire and Jill, you can’t put the blame on anyone else anymore. This one’s all on you and you’re just a little too broke to pick up the tab. They do their best to help; offer you comfort when they think you need it. You always need it. The problem is, sometimes you just don’t want it.

Sometimes you still snap at them. When you’ve had a long day and maybe you’ve been standing just a little too close to Lindsay so that you can smell her, feel the heat radiating from her body (you’re always so cold these days) and you’re just itching to touch her but you know that you can’t because you’re still working on getting back to being friends and then one of them decides to ask how you’re doing. You immediately feel guilty afterwards and sometimes you even apologize, which at least means you’re making progress, right?

It’s a blessing that they won’t leave you alone to wallow in your own self-pity. Claire has you over at least once a week for dinner. Playing games with her kids makes you feel a tiny bit of that innocence you used to possess again.

Jill will take you out for drinks sometimes because she believes that’s the key to loosening you back up. You never tell her that being loose was half of your problem in the first place.

Lindsay almost always stops by three or four times a week to “just hang out.” You appreciate her company and the fact that she’s trying to do things right this time around. You know she’s learned more about you in the span of two months than she ever knew in that first year. Still, the close proximity makes your stomach ache for her and those sidelong glances she sends your way send a jolt of fear up your spine. You don’t trust yourself to be alone with her, not for a very long time.

There was a point that you realized in all of this that it wasn’t screwing Lindsay that shook you up so bad. It was fear. Fear of yourself. Because after you got shot, something changed and now you’re not sure if you can change it back again. You’re afraid that some irreparable piece of you snapped in two and now you’re not really Cindy Thomas anymore. You’re just another victim of an unfortunate accident.

That sense of carefree is completely annihilated within you. You can’t just barge into a killer’s lair with the idea of getting an inside scoop anymore. You can’t even look at a gun (or an ice pick, for that matter) without cringing in disgust. You can’t close your eyes without having nightmares, the garish kind that make you leave all the lights on in the house at night and always have the music playing in the background. You don’t know what happened to that fearless girl. You can’t even remember what she looks like.

You’re scared you never will.

Maybe the smart thing to do would be to talk to someone. But your attitude and your actions have already caused your friends enough trouble for one lifetime. And a shrink is absolutely out of the question. Your editor would have a field day if he found out; you’d be doing horoscopes for the rest of your career. No, this is something that you have to work at on your own. It’s going to take time, but maybe if you just work at it a little bit every day, you can start to get back to your old life again.

As you step up onto the curb, a large shadow overtakes you and you look up to see a grand old cathedral looming over you like an omen (good or bad, you don’t yet know.) You’re sure you’ve never seen this here before, but it reminds you of the one your father used to take you to when you were little. It’s been years since you’ve sat through a service, but you still have every prayer and every rite and every last one of Daddy’s favorite passages memorized. The fear of God was bred into you; even a near death experience can’t take that away.

The church is pretty much deserted when you enter, though what can you expect in the middle of a Thursday afternoon? You footsteps echo back down to you off of the high vaulted ceiling and you feel a smattering of dust coat your fingers as you trail them across the cool wood of the pews. Just the feel of this place makes you shiver.

At the front of the aisle there’s a basket of rosaries for anyone that might have forgotten theirs (of course you can’t remember the last time you actually owned one) and you take one in your hands and kneel in front of the large crucifix and cross yourself. As you stand, you notice a priest slipping into one of the confessionals and decide to follow him in.

Bless me Father, for I have sinned burns its way across your tongue as you sit uncomfortably on the hard bench. “It’s been two years since my last confession.”

“Speak your mind, child,” the priest says and he has a kind, wise kind of voice that only serves to add to your edginess because now your problems don’t seem worth of telling him. Or perhaps they’re too evil.

“I’ve fallen to pieces and now I don’t know how to put myself together again,” you tell him quietly. “I slept with my best friend even though she’s already with someone. I pushed my friends away and practiced meaningless promiscuity in hopes of filling a hole that can’t be filled. I allowed myself to die away little by little on the inside and now I’m just a listless shell, an image of who I used to be. I need to know if I can be saved.”

You don’t realize the desperation in your voice until you speak the last sentence and it cracks in your throat. Your face burns with shame and your eyes swell with tears that you don’t quite have the dignity to shed, but they sear a hole in your heart. Father Wise sighs and shifts in the box beside you.

“It seems that you have lost yourself, child, though you don’t need me to tell you that. I’m afraid you don’t need me to sort things out either; only you can do that in time. However, the Bible does frown upon sexual deviancy…”

Resisting the urge to laugh, you choke back your tears and smile. “With all due respect, Father, this is San Francisco. I’m not here to repent for that.”

You think you can see him smirk through the little grate. “Very well. If it will make you feel better, I’ll assign you ten Hail Marys and a Glory Be, to be completed on your own time as your soul sees fit.” He stops, then adds, “Better put an Our Father in there as well, just to be safe on that deviancy. Now, one act of contrition and I’ll absolve you if it’ll put your mind at ease.”

“I doubt it,” you reply wryly. “But I’d like to anyway.” The prayer tumbles from your mouth easily, though you trip over the “amend my life” part at the very end.

“Through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” Father Wise recites. When he’s finished you sigh softly and thank him. He wishes you well.

When Lindsay drops by, she knocks, but you don’t answer. The door’s open anyway, which doesn’t take her long to figure out, and she comes in calling for you. She finds you in the kitchen, third shot of whisky half way down your throat. You wince, clear your throat, and fill up again.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

The fourth shot boils its way down your esophagus. Lindsay stares at you as you whisper the prayer for the fifth time hurriedly. She comes closer to you, cautiously as though she’s afraid you might be dangerous. You wonder if she hasn’t figured out by now that you are.

“What are you doing?” she asks suddenly, seemingly irritated by your actions.

“Penance,” you reply shortly, downing another. You’re starting to feel a little woozy and thinking perhaps you should have chosen something lighter to assist you. Of course the hangover tomorrow morning should be penance enough.

You attempt to throw back another shot, but a large hand slams down on top of it, preventing you from doing so. You raise an eyebrow up at Lindsay, who’s looking at you like a naughty child. She confiscates your glass and booze and puts them in the sink.

“I wasn’t done yet,” you slur. “I’ve still got three more Hail Marys and one Glory Be. Oh, and an Our Father. Almost forgot.”

“I don’t think God will mind if you put it off for another day,” Lindsay replies, taking a seat beside you at the table. She looks at you speculatively. “What do you need to repent for anyway? You haven’t done anything wrong.”

Your smirk is patronizing. “I’ve done everything wrong. It just took me a while to stop blaming everyone but myself.” Lindsay shakes her head. She doesn’t understand.

“Cindy, we’ve been through this. No one is angry at you. Everything’s fine,” she insists with a hint of frustration.

“I’m not fine,” you snap. Lindsay stares. You sigh and run a shaky hand through your hair. “I’m not fine, Lindsay. I’m fucked up. I’m different and it scares me. I’m like the world’s biggest cliché; I look in the mirror and don’t even recognize myself anymore. I hate what I’ve done, who I’ve become.”

“What happened between us doesn’t make you a bad person,” Lindsay interjects, worry creasing her face. And here she thought things were getting better.

“What happened between us was only a part of it. It started the landslide, but things have been collapsing long after. I’m afraid to even be in my own house by myself, to go to sleep with the lights off because I know the only thing that waits for me is another nightmare. I jump at every loud noise; I shrink away from strangers. I’m afraid to even cover my own articles because the only thing I can think of is ‘what if it happens again?'”

You pause to gauge her reaction, but she’s just waiting. She looks scared for you. “I’m terrified of myself, Lindsay, because whenever someone asks me if I’m okay the first response on the tip of my tongue is ‘fuck off.’ That’s not me, for Christ sake. I’m not that person. I’m the nice, happy, upbeat, outgoing one. I’m the girl that boys want to take home to their mom, not the one that they take home from the bar. At least I used to be. Now I’m just… lost.”

Lindsay exhales and rubs at her temple, looking slightly pained. She shakes her head and looks at you sadly. “I had no idea it was that bad,” she whispers.

“No,” you croak, tear running down your cheek. You wipe at it angrily before continuing. “Why would I cause even more trouble for you? This is my problem.” She takes your hand and holds it so tightly that you can feel the blood pulsing through your fingers in retaliation.

“Cindy,” she says sternly so that you have to meet her gaze. Her eyes are blazing with some fierce kind of emotion that you can’t put your finger on, but you know you’ve seen it before. It was the same look she gave you when she stood there with her gun pointed at the man that was seconds away from gouging your throat with an ice pick. “Don’t ever think that you’re burdening me with something. If you’ve got problems, if you’re scared or upset or just want someone to sit with you through the night, I want to know. I want to be there. Even if I don’t have the pretty, comforting words like Claire, or the easy confidence like Jill, I can still be there. I don’t care what you need. I’ll do what I have to to get it for you. Every single time.”

You don’t even try to stop the tears coursing down your face now, dripping a puddle onto the table. Lindsay reaches out and wipes some away before standing up. She pulls you with her and puts a hand on your waist to steady you, but despite the drinks you’ve had you’re more than sober now. She leads you to your bedroom and helps you into bed. After a kiss to your forehead, she turns to leave, but your hands are still clasped together and you’re not letting her go.

“Could you stay? I don’t want to be alone tonight,” you tell her, and your voice is so small you’re not even sure she heard it. But she walks to the other side of the bed and lays down beside you, pulling you close. And wrapped in the strength of her arms, you’ve never felt safer. “Lindsay,” you whisper just as you fall asleep. “I’m sorry.”

“You don’t need to repent to me,” she rasps softly. “I forgave you long before you ever sinned.”

Two weeks later at Papa Joes, life is starting to feel like living again. There’s construction going on just around the corner, you’re a little bit proud of yourself for not jumping out of your skin every time a jackhammer or an air compressor goes off. Claire and Jill have noticed that you’re getting better; you know because they don’t ask you how you’re doing as much anymore. The thought makes you happy, and that’s something you’ve been feeling more often these days.

Lindsay comes over almost every night now. Some nights she stays with you, some nights she doesn’t. She always lets you decide. And while you’ll never stop loving Claire for her pretty, comforting words or Jill for her easy confidence, sometimes Lindsay’s stoic presence is more appreciated than either of those things. Because she understands that that’s exactly what you need.

“Oh, I have to run soon. I can’t be late for another date,” Jill says, checking her watch.

“Sweetie, I don’t think that any man asks you on a date without expecting you to be late,” Claire replies with a grin. Jill chucks the olive from her martini across the table and cackles as it lands down Claire’s shirt. Lindsay shakes her head and you grin.

“I should go, too,” you announce. “I have a deadline early tomorrow.”

“Let me walk you out,” Lindsay offers. You nod and she pushes Jill out of the way so that she can get out of the booth. Jill scoffs, but she’s too busy sharing the same knowing grin with Claire to be really incensed. You bid them goodnight and leave. Once the two of you reach Maggie, Lindsay puts a hand on your arm, causing you to look up at her in confusion.

“I just wanted you to know,” she says quietly. “That I talked to Pete today.”

The way she says it and the look she’s giving you leave no doubt in your mind as to what she means by that. “Oh?” you croak. This was not what you expected. Lindsay’s blush reflects off the dull light from the street lamps and she glances at the ground.

“I know neither of us are probably ready for anything for a little while yet, but I figured it was a start. For both of us,” she continues.

For some unknown reason, her shy hesitation catches you in a bout of giddiness and you smile widely, lifting her chin with a finger. After a few seconds she returns the smile and you reach up to hug her tightly.

“I think it is,” you reply, pulling away. You push a lock of hair behind her ear and kiss her cheek. “Goodnight, Lindsay.”

With that, you climb into Maggie and drive away as she stares after you, surrounded in the orange glow of the street lights.

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