Characters: Lindsay; Peyton, Flack, Mac, Stella, Sheldon, Danny
Challenge/Prompt: psych_30 17. Group Think & fanfic100 070. Storm
Word Count: 6102
Genre: Gen [het]
Warning: Contains major character death.
Summary: Your mom called; she wants to know if you’re dead yet.
Author’s Notes: I’m writing a lot of apocalypse-type fics at the moment, I’m not entirely sure why. Set between seasons 3 and 4 I suppose. Or in a world where season 4 doesn’t exist. Something like that.
Picture a bomb in the sky
History at your door
Who could ask for more?
...I’ve felt better.
- The Sundays
The air-conditioning has broken down again – third time this month¬ – and someone down the other end of the hall faints.
It’s easy to see, through all the layers of sharply-lit glass.
Lindsay squints, pressing her sunglasses to her face. She’s staying away from the windows, a paper cup of cooling coffee in her hand. Apparently her local Starbucks got torched an hour ago; it’ll probably be beneficial for her caffeine addiction, in any case. She sighs, turning back to her desk, and the electric fan doing its best to wave some slightly cooler air in her direction. Her temples throb with the start of a migraine and it’s all too bright in here.
She picks up a couple of post-it notes stuck to her desk, messages scribbled across them.
Your mom called; she wants to know if you’re dead yet. I told her you weren’t, but you should probably call her back anyway.
Right. The world outside New York City continues, however unlikely that seems.
In the ladies’ bathroom, where the lighting is so bright that Lindsay keeps her sunglasses on, Peyton is sitting with her feet in one of the sinks and a cigarette in her hand. Lindsay thinks smoke alarms and then nearly smiles.
“Hey,” she says, easily.
Peyton takes a drag of her cigarette in response; she’s sitting against the mirror and her actions are perfectly reflected. The side next to the mirror doesn’t have a bruise on its cheek, though, and Lindsay thinks that maybe the Peyton in the mirror is happier, or something.
Lindsay goes into one of the stalls, and when she comes out Peyton doesn’t seem to have moved. There’s a cigarette burn on the sink enamel, but that’s the only change. Lindsay washes her hands, careful not to splash Peyton’s feet, and there’s the sound of a gunshot outside.
They sigh, in jaded unison.
“Hey, Linds.” Flack throws himself into a chair beside her desk, grinning for her. The cut on his right cheek is becoming a scar, and he’ll probably be more handsome than ever once it finishes healing.
She grins, turning away from the reports that seem to become ever more superfluous, because how can you tell the difference between pre-meditated murder and someone accidentally getting killed in a crowd of disgruntled citizens?
“You look tired,” Lindsay adds after a moment, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear.
He laughs softly. “Way to state the obvious, Detective Monroe.”
Flack’s out there all the time now as a police officer; trying to hold together the peace as it grows ever more thin.
“Is it bad?” she asks, head dipping forward, unable to look at him.
There’s a pause before he throws out a twisted snicker. “Yeah, Linds. It’s pretty bad.”
“No, mom,” she mutters into her cellphone, “I’m fine. I’m not starving, I’m not on fire, I’m not being stalked by sociopathic New Yorkers with axes and crazy eyes.”
Her mother tells Lindsay not to mock her; she’s being serious here. “And you are locking your door at night?”
Lindsay fumbles with the keys to her apartment, finally slotting the right one into the door. No, mom, I’m leaving the door wide open so all the rapists, arsonists and robbers in the area can come have open season on my body and my home. “Yes, mom,” she says aloud, “I’m being careful.”
She leaves out the part where the city’s on fire two blocks away from her apartment. She doesn’t think her mom would appreciate it.
“I just worry about you, Linny,” her mom sighs. Lindsay occasionally worries about herself too; but she knows better than to say it.
“I’m really fine, mom,” she says, locking her door four times and turning the lights on. “I’ll call you tomorrow, ok?”
Lindsay walks from room to room, and doesn’t put her gun down until she’s certain her apartment is empty.
Sheldon calls for her in the morning with paper cups of bad coffee. Lindsay thanks him anyway, and tries not to look at the gun tucked neatly at his hip. She misses her Starbucks, but people are swarming the sidewalks and it’s kind of nice to be pushed into a squad car waiting outside her apartment block. It’s too hot inside, and her back slides against the leather seats.
“I don’t need to be escorted in every morning,” Lindsay says carefully. She remembers her school days, mom driving her there even though it meant having to get up awkwardly early, because somehow that would make up for all of Lindsay’s friends getting slaughtered.
“Mac’s orders,” Sheldon shrugs, sipping his coffee and making a face. “Are you gonna argue?”
Lindsay smiles a little; it’s safe to bet Stella and Peyton are getting rides too. Mac always was fiercely protective of his own. There’s no fighting it, and Lindsay isn’t even sure that she wants to.
“Tomorrow,” she sighs, “You should bring better coffee.”
Sid will be happy while New York burns so long as he can keep peeling apart corpses in his nice cold morgue. He’s humming as he works, and Lindsay grimaces a little inside as he prods around in a woman’s chest, her flesh pulled back along a careful Y-incision.
“What’ve you got for me?” she asks as bright as she can manage.
Sid turns his attention to her, unclipping his glasses.
“Have you seen Peyton?” His tone is light, as though it ultimately doesn’t matter.
“Not yet,” Lindsay admits, pulling an awkward grimace. Sid nods, accepting the information without saying anything. “She’ll be here somewhere,” Lindsay adds quickly, if only to reassure herself. No one’s allowed to go missing these days; enough people already have.
“Of course she is,” Sid replies, a little distractedly, hands full of blood.
Reed Garrett is everyone’s favourite martyr; there are posters of him stuck to a billboard when Lindsay ventures outside for some air. Everything feels sticky, and it’s all too hot, and she stares at the photocopied images of Reed for a few moments. She wonders if Mac can see them; if maybe he’s got his own copies pasted to his office walls. There was nothing he could have done – it was too early, they didn’t know how much worse it was going to get, they didn’t know – but Mac does tend to cling to things and blame himself.
She’s seen the clip, watched Reed die a few too many times because everyone just loves their camera phones, and he’s just the young journalist who tried to make everyone stop and look at themselves. Understand their actions. How was he to know just how calculated they were?
Lindsay turns away from the pictures, feeling a little sick, and walks back inside. Someone had better fix the air-conditioning soon; they’re all going to swelter to death if it continues like this. Of course, there are far worse ways to die, as Reed damn well knows.
Someone bangs insistently at her door. It won’t give for a while; the hinges are reinforced and there are four locks and two chains, but it doesn’t stop Lindsay’s skin from crawling. The banging is urgent, maybe desperate, maybe threatening.
“I’ve got a gun,” she calls, when the sound abates a little. Her hands are perfectly steady, which is strange, and when she takes the safety off the click seems so loud that it must carry.
It’s not much of a threat, when you think about it: who doesn’t have a gun in the city these days?
Still the banging stops, and footsteps walk away. Lindsay swallows hard, wondering if maybe it was a neighbour, someone running out of food or in need of protection, and she’s condemned them. Still, it could just as easily have been an attacker; people have made these mistakes before.
She leans back into the couch, fingers clenching in a pillow, and misses quiet evenings.
“Do you actually live in the morgue?” Lindsay asks Sheldon, stuck in traffic and gulping down crappy black coffee. He smiles slightly.
“It’s cold. It’s quiet,” he points out. “And, for want of a much better word, it’s safe.”
Lindsay snorts a laugh, but he does have a point.
“You’re so creepy,” she says, nearly spilling coffee down her blouse when the car lurches forward a few more feet. It would be quicker to walk, of course, but there’s no guarantee that they’d actually make it all the way there. For all the regimented regimes of people trying to run their own sections of the City, there are those who just like the anarchy, and they’re the ones you have to watch out for. “You’re sleeping surrounded by dead bodies.”
Sheldon considers his answer as the traffic continues to crawl along.
“So are you,” he points out, carefully.
This is true; but she doesn’t definitely know that, and the uncertainty is a nice loophole.
Peyton is smoking in the bathroom again, watching the sunlight on the floor.
“We could get you out of here,” Lindsay says, sitting beside her, the two of them squashed together beside the sinks. It’s quiet in here, and the largely opaque walls are a relief. Lindsay has had enough of glass for today. “You’re not an American citizen, we could get you back to London.”
“And then what?” Peyton strings out the smoke through her teeth. She looks tired, worn.
“And then you could not be here,” Lindsay reminds her.
She wonders what makes Peyton stay here. It can’t be for Mac; she hasn’t yet worked up the courage to ask if Peyton gave back the ring or if Mac demanded it, but anyway, it’s been over a month since anyone saw Mac anywhere but on the television. He wasn’t born for politics and that’s why everyone likes him; in Mac we trust, the unspoken prayer they all deny.
“Yes.” Peyton smiles a little, and offers Lindsay a drag of her cigarette. Lindsay takes it, Peyton’s fingers pressed to her lips and the faint taste of lipstick on the butt, and leans herself back against the long mirror.
“Are you just a masochist?” she asks eventually.
Peyton laughs wryly. “Very possibly.”
It’s too hot, even in the evenings, for her leather jacket, but she wears it anyway. It’s far too big for her too, the shoulders comically large, but she doesn’t care. The worn leather feels nice against her palms, the cuffs falling over her hands. It doesn’t even smell any more; most of the smell wore away when they were cleaning the blood off. The zipper is the only part they couldn’t get completely clean, the fabric is stained brown, and the zip itself always gets stuck about two-thirds of the way up.
Sometimes it feels like it’s all she’s got left. Something solid to prove to her that her memories aren’t just wishful thinking on empty nights. Though it’s doubtful that she’d wish any of this into a love story.
Flack sighs when he walks into her office and sees the jacket hung carefully from the back of her chair. Lindsay thinks he walks over to talk to her just so he can run his fingers over the shoulder where the seam is coming loose and remember.
She can’t unstuck her tongue long enough to say anything comforting.
The curls went, eventually. Lindsay always felt like she was playing at being a little girl, waves of hair tumbling around her shoulders, and when she was alone – really alone – she knew she’d have to do something in an attempt to look older. More sure.
Most salons have shut down, for lack of customers, or for the fact that the gigantic hairdryers can be used for some of the most disfiguring violence, or else become so exclusive that it’s impossible to book an appointment. Lindsay didn’t have a lot of options; she could have done it herself, sobbing as the curls tumbled into the bathroom sink. But she couldn’t fall apart then, just as she can’t now, so she let Sheldon and Peyton do it.
The morgue was quiet, and half-dark; another localised powercut, and everywhere were candles, flicking uncertainly. Sheldon snipped Lindsay’s hair up to her chin with sharp scissors – she didn’t ask what he normally used them for; sterilised or not, she couldn’t think that he’d cut up people with them – and then Peyton tidied it, feathering the ends and making it look a little less like they’d done it themselves.
They swapped places afterwards, Peyton sitting on the empty morgue table while Sheldon pulled her long hair back into a ponytail, tying it with a rubber band about two inches below her shoulders. Peyton couldn’t bring herself to cut it as short as Lindsay cut hers. She thinks they all held their breaths as Sheldon opened the scissors just above the band, and then cut it off in one go. The ends of Peyton’s hair looked too raw; and Lindsay almost felt too sick to go about softening the look.
“Do you want to keep it?” Sheldon asked, afterwards, when they had wavy hair and straight hair in tidy piles on the table. Lindsay didn’t see the point.
Stella doesn’t smile any more; she’s become as grave as Mac, curls pulled back tight behind her head and she looks as tired as they all feel. Running the crime lab in times like these must take it out of you, Lindsay reflects. Must destroy who you were.
She feels like vomiting, but does her job, taking pictures and watching as Sheldon scoops evidence into bags. There’s a woman dead in the chair, tied there with packing cord, mouth taped shut and eyes put out with scissors. This one, at least, is true murder; if it were an assassination, as they’ve become known, the scene would’ve already been swept clean.
“Are you ok?” she asks Stella quietly, a brush of fingers over her elbow. Forever ago, Stella was bound up and tortured, and it’s always acutely there, beneath the surface, when they’re faced with sights like this.
“Yes.” Stella smiles loosely at her, and Lindsay knows then that the woman she used to be is gone. Really, it couldn’t have gone any other way, and yet Lindsay feels the bite of loss acute in her throat.
Four days before Jen Angell got found dead in an alley, a gunshot neat at the back of her skull, she and Lindsay shared bubblegum at lunchtime. A world away from their childhoods; Lindsay’s was quiet in Montana, and whatever Jennifer’s involved it definitely didn’t entail watching people finger guns at their sides as they stalked the sidewalks they’d stolen for themselves.
“Where did you think you were going?” Jennifer asked, popping a pink bubble and dragging it back into her mouth in a way that was pretty disgusting, though Lindsay had sweet grains stuck to her lips, both of them giggling a little. Hysteria seems to be everyone’s default setting, now.
Lindsay blew two bubbles contemplating her answer, the cloying taste making her feel nauseous as the fuck you all graffitied on the nearest wall.
“Not here,” she decided, spitting the pink glob back into its wrapper and twisting it tightly.
Jen laughed, a little sadly. “Me neither.”
According to Wikipedia, nought point seven percent of the world’s population lives in New York. Lived in New York, Lindsay supposes, when Flack walks her home. Once, she’d have protested against this, but the fact is that no one goes anywhere alone any more. The city is being pulled apart by the factions who think they’ve got the right to rule it, like it’s some kind of revolution again, and the ordinary citizens fall into the cracks. The rest of America is giving up on them; glossy television studios full of smug people discussing the New York Problem in hushed voices, pretending sympathy. Really, they’re as intrigued as the next person; just how is this going to work out?
“Want a coffee?” she offers, hesitating downstairs. That awkward doorstep moment, except really not.
“Thanks, Linds, but I’ve got to get going.” Flack smiles at her, and she stares at the raw pink flesh of his cheek. A broken bottle; was it a message or just someone else getting in on the anarchy act?
It’s sort of like a war here, only no one’s exactly sure who’s fighting who.
The air-conditioning’s working again – finally – and Lindsay wanders the halls aimlessly, pretending not to listen to Adam doing the mom, I’m really not dead conversation that all of them seem to do too much. It was her turn last night, promising that she’d be careful, that all was well. It must be hard for those on the outside, she thinks, only ever seeing the images taken from helicopters, buildings on fire and people shooting each other down in the streets.
“It’s not all the streets, mom,” she promised. She never goes to those areas if she can help it; no one does. People fight for supremacy there, and everyone else is just waiting to see who comes out the victor. The city is too big, it seems, the citizens fighting for their piece of it. Creating their own law, and the best the rest of the country can do, it seems, is to prevent anyone from entering or leaving while they all wait for it to die down. Lindsay was angry, at first, but now it kind of makes sense. They can’t send the army in, can’t turn the city into any more of a warzone than it already is.
They’re all stranded there, in suspended animation, while around them everything burns.
“Broadway show?” Sheldon suggests over lunch.
“Which one is it?” Lindsay asks.
Peyton doesn’t make any sign that she’s heard, picking at a salad. It’s the first time in at least a week Lindsay’s seen her without a cigarette in her hand, and she’s not sure if it’s an improvement or not.
“I’ll google it,” Sheldon promises.
There’s only one show on Broadway a night, and really, there isn’t a guarantee that no one’s going to firebomb the theatre. People generally don’t, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility.
Peyton still says nothing, head bowed over her lunch, strands of hair worked loose from her ponytail and tickling her cheeks. Lindsay remembers scissors, remembering the three of them by candlelight, flames reflected on the blades. Peyton’s quieter now, but that was some time ago. Lindsay is sure that they’ve all changed, whether they wanted to or not.
“We could get out of here, you know,” Danny told her. In the early days, back before they shut JFK and escape was no longer an option.
“Yeah.” Lindsay stared at the ceiling, his fingers laced through hers, and considered the possibilities. Mac had said that any of them could go, that things were getting dangerous and it was only going to get worse, and he didn’t expect anyone to have to stay and face the oncoming storm.
“You don’t want to.” It didn’t sound like a question when it dropped from Danny’s lips, and Lindsay considered it.
“In movies I never understood why people stayed anywhere when they could just have run,” she sighed. “It’s just a place. But… but I don’t want to go anywhere.”
Danny smiled a little. “Me neither.”
Lindsay tightened her grip, just a little. “So we stay.”
“We stay,” Danny agreed. “We’ll make it through this.”
Oh, how wrong he turned out to be.
There’s a man in her bed, and Lindsay reflects, once again, that this is a stupid idea. Stupid and dangerous and Stella would never forgive her for it, if she found out. Mac would probably not forgive her either, but Mac is less likely to find out.
Strangers are to be avoided at all costs. Strangers are problematic. Strangers are treacherous. Lindsay knows the drill.
There are excuses, of course excuses, the world is ending so who doesn’t need sex and all that, but they’re not good excuses for taking her life into her hands. He seems like a nice man. Maybe he’s a banker, a lawyer, maybe just someone trying to live as hard as she is. Lindsay romanticises, sometimes, when she runs out of other ideas. Mostly she just tries to keep smiling, and orders them out at gunpoint afterwards.
This one doesn’t need telling. He kisses her cheek like an apology or a thank you, and is dressed and gone before she can even contemplate shooting him. It’s a relief, in all honesty.
It would be easy to ask Peyton if she ever does any work, Lindsay considers, escaping from a shirt stained in dried blood and kitchen knives smeared with fingerprints. It would be easy, but she never will. Instead, she pushes up her shades where they’re slipping down her nose, sitting down beside her, kicking off her shoes and resting her feet in a washroom sink too.
“Do you stay for Mac?” she asks instead, though she knows she shouldn’t. Peyton sighs, passing her a half-smoked cigarette, and Lindsay takes it. There’s always cancer to worry about, but the chances are she’s going to be blown up in the street before anything else becomes an issue.
“I hope not,” Peyton confesses on a laugh, a worn-out movie star with smoke against her lips.
Lindsay accepts that an answer may be out of the question.
You see, it began with the bomb at Grand Central. The really big bomb that had everyone waiting for a terrorist organisation to step forward, and then it turned out to be an inside job. New York City trying to take itself back, though for what, and for who, remains the mystery.
Adam tossed the words Gotham City into a drunken conversation one night, early days, Danny’s hand on Lindsay’s arm and Stella was still smiling. We need to find a Batman. It was a joke, then. It’s still a joke of sorts now, though Lindsay kind of hoped Danny was going to find a way to save her and Mac has made himself so unattainable that it stings.
The summer night is sticky, making Lindsay’s jacket cling heavily to her skin. The streetlights that are still whole send pools of liquid light across the sidewalk, and Lindsay stands in one of these. The road is packed with traffic, drivers beeping their horns impatiently at each other, and people hurry past Lindsay, pushing and shoving.
It’s dangerous to linger. She lets a single rose drop between her fingers to land on the ground, and she knows it will be trampled and crushed but it’s not about making a permanent memorial. It’s just about proving that she hasn’t forgotten, that no matter what happens she won’t forget. Four months, and she still can’t make it stop stinging.
“Thought we’d find you here,” a voice says, and Lindsay turns to find Flack and Sheldon and even Stella and Peyton standing behind her, quiet misery raw on their faces. Lindsay swallows, her throat feeling tight and hot.
“Come on.” Stella’s voice is soft and it sounds the way it used to. Her fingers curl around Lindsay’s elbow, gentle but firm, and the others escort her somewhere they can get drunk very cheaply and relatively safely.
After all, what else can they do with this tragedy?
“Hey, Lindsay.” Adam leans out of his lab to grab her arm and pull her inside. “Look, Mac’s on television.”
Lindsay obediently walks in to join him, and is faced by Mac’s grave face on the plasma screen. He looks as strong and proud as he always does; not a trace of the wear and tear that the rest of them have marked all over them.
“This situation is becoming critical,” Mac says, voice calm and steady and strong enough to support the terror of millions of people. “Supplies will now be airlifted in. I ask each and every one of you to think about how important it is that we all eat and drink and have access to medical supplies during these difficult times. Please don’t intercept them. Please allow them to get to their destinations so that we can all survive.”
“Brilliant,” Adam murmurs, “Now we can have helicopters shot down on top of us.”
Lindsay privately agrees, but aloud she says: “I think it’ll be all right. Have you ever known anyone say ‘no’ to Mac?”
Adam laughs. “You’ve got a point.”
She was charming, once, and Danny loved her for it.
Now, of course, she’s lost ‘charming’ somewhere in the haze of survival and it’s debateable that he’d even recognise her now. It’s sad, but she found the ring in a box in the back of a drawer in his apartment a week later. The option. By then, she was so suffocated and choked by grief that a little more did not make much difference; now, she just looks back on the proposal that did not happen with a rueful smile and acidic regret on her tongue.
In the crime lab, they remember, just as they’ve forgotten everyone who’s ever fallen; but no one else does. Danny Messer is just one more man shot dead in the street trying to make a tiny difference and failing miserably, another blameless victim of this stupid revolution. He didn’t even make a news headline; and Lindsay is left to carry on.
But she doesn’t want to talk about it. Not any more.
The New York Times is pretty much unrecognisable; there’s no real news, though there’s still a crossword. Lindsay thinks that there will still be a crossword even when most of the city’s been burnt to the ground and there are really only the rats left, there will still be a crossword, printed on paper tossed into the wind to stick on the faces of the corpses.
She hasn’t slept in a while, and it’s getting to her.
“Three births yesterday,” Sheldon observes, the paper ruffled under his fingers.
Lindsay and Peyton turn to look at him, lunches abandoned. It seems strange to think that life goes on, but of course it does; not everyone spends every minute of every day trying to keep the city from falling apart.
“Who’d have their baby here?” Peyton asks.
“A lot of people don’t have any choice,” Sheldon points out.
Well, there is a choice, but it’s too terrible to consider.
“I think it’s nice,” says Lindsay. “I think that it’s nice there’s still hope.”
Peyton looks doubtful, and then shrugs. “Or something like it.”
A few nights later, Lindsay and Peyton go for a drink. They go near the Upper East Side, where old money has kept the majority of the buildings standing. It’s not entirely safe, of course, because nowhere here is safe; but it’s better than many alternatives.
Peyton’s nails drum on the stem of her cocktail glass and Lindsay does her best not to get completely drunk. After all, they’re still in a certain amount of danger, no matter the quiet mood music or the other people around them, laughing tinkling laughs and sipping cocktails that were disgustingly expensive even before inflation started.
There’s the sound of boots on the sidewalk outside; Lindsay can hear it through the open windows. There are too many boots walking in too strict and order and apparently no one else has heard. Peyton’s looking at her in confusion, and then understanding dawns darkly on her face and before Lindsay can open her mouth Peyton has grabbed her arm and is pulling her quickly through the bar.
They make it into the toilets seconds before the group of men burst into the bar. All dressed in black, and all carrying shotguns. The conclusion is inevitable.
She’s told the story to everyone who matters; eventually, it spilled between her lips in a monotone. I was a kid and I hid in the bathroom of a diner while outside my friends and the waitress were shot dead.
Lindsay doesn’t remember telling Peyton but they’re crouched in a bathroom stall as far away from the door as possible, along with four other women who are clinging to each other with mascara trailing fearfully down their cheeks. Peyton holds Lindsay against her and Lindsay can’t help thinking how stupid it is; that she can face any number of unspeakable things but somehow anything that relates to her childhood trauma cracks her into pieces. But logical thought is fast fading and her throat stings; she buries her face in the curve of Peyton’s shoulder and tries to keep from screaming aloud.
“It’s ok,” Peyton mumbles against her hair, lips barely moving, fingers digging bruises into Lindsay’s arm. “It’s going to be ok.”
Lindsay wants to be sick; the trembling is uncontrollable and Peyton’s purse is on the table outside, abandoned in their haste. But… but her cellphone is in her pocket and she manages to work it out, press it into Peyton’s hand. They’re all staying as quiet as possible, drawing in tight, silent breaths; if they can’t hear us, maybe… maybe we’ll survive.
Peyton dials, pressing the phone to her mouth. “Don, please,” she whispers, spilling the address in desperation. “Please, Don.”
It is an indeterminate amount of time later when the door to the bathroom bursts open; the other women let out a cacophony of screams but Lindsay can’t even move, face pressed into Peyton’s shoulder with the other woman’s hand clenched tight in her hair.
“It’s all right,” a familiar voice is saying, “It’s all right. We’re getting you out of here. You’re all safe.”
“Don!” Peyton’s voice is cracking, near tears. “Oh thank God.”
“Linds.” He’s close to her now, crouching down on the floor. “Linds, I’m going to take you first, get you somewhere safe. Ok?”
Lindsay fumbles her voice up from where it got lost inside her. “Ok.”
“Don,” Peyton sounds urgent now, “You can’t let her see…”
“No,” Don agrees softly. There are rustling sounds; a couple of the other women are sobbing, whimpers shivering from their lips. Lindsay is dimly aware of Peyton sitting her up, reluctantly letting her go. Don has removed his tie and holds it up so Lindsay can see it. “I’m going to tie this over your eyes, Linds,” he tells her gently. “And I want you to count to sixty. And then you’ll be safe. I promise.”
Lindsay wants to say that there are others who need help more than her, but the words don’t come. Her brain feels too tight and she’s almost relieved by the darkness created by Don’s tie; colours slip and slide in front of her eyes, and she wishes that she could control this.
“Count, Linds,” Don reminds her, and he lifts her up, her face pressed to his chest. He smells of sweat and gunshot residue and old cologne, but Lindsay doesn’t care. She stumbles out the numbers, hearing glass crunch under Don’s shoes, the steady jolts of his footsteps. And when she reaches sixty Don is sliding into a car, pulling her with him, not letting her go, and Lindsay breathes out and lets whatever’s happening just happen.
She can walk by the time the squad car pulls up outside a building. Don offers to help her but her legs are just about holding, though they’re trembling wildly, and together they walk inside. There’s a woman apparently waiting for them; she smiles at Don but looks a little doubtfully at Lindsay.
“She’s with me,” Don replies, voice hard enough to prove he won’t back down, and she immediately steps back, apologising. Don walks her into an elevator. “We’re somewhere safe,” he tells her. “I promised myself when- when- well, I promised I’d keep an eye out for you, do what I could. I’m so sorry, Linds.”
Lindsay closes her eyes, wanting to tell him that none of this has been his fault, but she doesn’t feel inclined to say words, not yet, and instead enjoys the rushing feeling of the elevator rising.
She sleeps the night in a comfortable bed and when she wakes in the morning someone’s brought her clean clothes from her apartment; yesterday’s clothes have gone away somewhere, though the leather jacket is hung over the back of a chair in the small room. Lindsay gets up and pulls it into her arms, pressing her face to the cold, impassive leather. When Danny wore it, it seemed warm, half alive. Now it’s just a coat, too big for her and stained a little from where he was shot dead. She supposes she should be glad that the zipper was open and so the coat itself wasn’t too damaged.
A while later, she decides to get dressed, pulling on the clean clothes, and just as she finishes there’s a knock at the door.
Lindsay pulls the door open to be faced with the woman from last night, a slightly anxious expression on her face.
“If you’ll come with me…”
They walk through several corridors, passing through at least eight security-coded doors. Lindsay isn’t sure where she is, but there’s a lot of security here. She can’t summon the energy to ask questions, but finally she’s led into a large room, the furthest wall entirely made of glass. It’s full of sunlight, and as Lindsay gets used to the brightness, she sees the man standing with his back to the windows.
She swallows, hearing the door close behind her, leaving her alone. “Hi, Mac.”
The mayor was killed a week after the bomb at Grand Central; no one was really surprised. But there needed to be some kind of authority, anyone, to show that the city had not merely forfeited itself to its inner conflicts. Mac volunteered in the end; he won’t be the mayor but he’s got gravitas and determination and more respect than anyone’s going to admit to.
Stella took over the Crime Lab; she’s broken, but doing it quietly so that no one will notice.
“Lindsay.” Mac sighs. “Don wasn’t the only one who promised himself that he’d look after you after Danny died.”
“I can look after myself,” Lindsay points out. It comes out harder and sharper than she means it to, and she smiles uncomfortably.
Mac gets to his feet, pacing over to look out of the windows. “This is meant to be the safest place in the city,” he says, “Which means it isn’t, but they do their best.”
Lindsay smiles a little more naturally, though Mac’s shoulders are still tense.
“This isn’t your city,” he says.
“I don’t understand.”
Mac turns around to look at her. “Yes you do,” he replies. “I can get you out of this city, back to Montana.”
“But-” Lindsay’s protest dies out in her throat. Of course Mac has the power to get people out past the barriers, past the military. And he’s offering the choice to her.
Peyton lights two cigarettes, picks one from her mouth, and passes it to Lindsay. They’re both in the women’s bathroom, eyes hidden by large sunglasses. The air-conditioning has once again sputtered to death, leaving them all too hot.
“You’re a bloody idiot,” Peyton mutters.
“Yes,” Lindsay agrees. “Yes I am.”
Their bare feet hang over the floor; they’ve perched themselves up on the ledge beside the sinks, backs to the cool mirror. Peyton has the slightest tremble to her fingers, but they’ve shaken off the worst of the trauma, as they always do.
“I’m a bloody idiot too,” Peyton sighs, eventually, smoke sliding between her teeth.
“Mac offered escape to you too?” Lindsay asks.
Peyton nods. Lindsay almost laughs. “Silly girl.”
Mac looked proud when Lindsay turned him down, though her whole body ached from wanting to leave, to go home and reassure her mom and be able to walk outside without feeling that someone was going to shoot her dead any minute. But she couldn’t do it, couldn’t leave the city to crumble without being here.
They embraced for a long time before the glittering windows; Lindsay sometimes wonders if she’ll see him alive again.
“We’ve got a murder,” Stella informs them, poking her head around the door. Lindsay almost sighs with relief, glad that they can get out of the sweltering building. Sheldon’s fingers brush her elbow, like a sign of support, and she feels a small smile curl her lips.
“This could last forever,” Mac warned her gently.
“No.” Lindsay shook her head. “Nothing ever does.”