SUMMARY: Lindsay says goodbye.
SPOILERS: 3x18, "Sleight out of Hand"
DISCLAIMER: The characters are not mine. Though if they were, I must say, 3x18 is pretty damn close to how I would write them.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: And now I shall add to what will soon surely be the influx of post-eps for 3x18, aka Squee-Fest 2007. Takes place immediately following the end of 3x18, after Danny pulls Lindsay from the courtroom.
I am still squeeing, by the way.
Unbeta'd. All mistakes are my own.
For Stacy Jean. 1-1-79 to 9-25-95. I love you.
It seemed as though it had taken forever for Lindsay to get to where she was right now.
The wrought-iron gates were intimidating and slightly ominous, as if daring people to pass through to the sacred ground on the other side. She imagined that the grounds-keeping staff tried its best to keep the graves looking immaculate, but most everything was currently buried under a good six inches of snow, which made everything seem quieter. She was sure that the chill she was experiencing was only partly related to the biting wind that nipped at her exposed skin.
Lindsay had picked her way very carefully through the cemetery, anxious not to step on anyone's place of rest. Her parents had taught her at a young age that walking on top of graves was a sign of disrespect to the dead. Her pants were soaked up to the knees, but she barely noticed. Her eyes were on the three graves before her.
She stared at the headstones, her eyes welling with tears for what seemed like the millionth time that day. The girls – her friends – had been buried together, because their parents knew that that was what they would want. And Lindsay, the sole survivor, had never before been to their graves. It had been hard enough to sit through the funerals; she would not have been able to make it through the graveside ceremonies. She hadn't gone to the viewings, either.
Well, that wasn't true. She had gone to the viewings, intent on paying her respects, but as soon as she saw her friends in their caskets, she burst into tears and ran sobbing from the funeral home. She had only gone to the funerals because her mother made her. It was unbearable. The makeup she'd so carefully applied all but disappeared as she buried her head on her mother's shoulder. She went through an entire box of tissues. She cried so hard that her head hurt for days.
Her family moved not long after the attack. Lindsay didn't even want to attempt to return to that high school without her friends. She didn't want to deal with the whispers and the pitying looks and the sympathetic head tilts. Every day would have been agony, a continual remembrance that they had died while she had lived – that she would graduate and go on to college, that she would have a future, and they were gone. Everything about that town reminded her of her friends, which only served to remind her of what had happened. She couldn't walk down Main Street without thinking about that time she and Kelly had gone joyriding on Kelly's father's tractor. Even her beloved bedroom, with its bay window, canopy bed, and mountains of stuffed animals – mostly cows – held too many memories.
She wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. Maybe one day, there would be a time when thinking of her friends wouldn't make her cry. This was not one of those times.
Lindsay turned to look over her shoulder at where Danny stood, next to the car. He was shivering – she could tell, even at this distance. He caught her staring and offered her a wave, and she couldn't help but smile. The tough New Yorker had obviously not anticipated the bone marrow-numbing weather Montana suffered in February. His leather jacket was apparently doing nothing to ward off the sub-zero wind chill, and he wore no scarf or gloves. The fact that he had taken off on a whim – not even packed – spoke volumes. She had been pushing him away for months, but he refused to leave. Slowly but surely he broke down her defenses until he had wormed his way into her heart, where he was now so thoroughly entrenched that it would be impossible to extricate him. She felt her heart flutter at the thought that she had found a man so amazing that he would fly two thousand miles just to hold her hand as the verdict was being read.
There were times when she didn't think she deserved someone as wonderful as him. This was one of those times.
She turned back to the headstones and took a deep breath. It had taken her ten years to summon up the courage to come here, and she owed it to them.
"Hi, guys," she murmured, feeling slightly foolish for talking to a bunch of rocks. "I'm… I'm sorry I didn't come sooner. I'd like to say that it's because I've been busy, but I'd be lying. I haven't been busy. I just couldn't face you guys. I feel like I let you down." She sniffled, tears once more pricking the corners of her eyes. "I just froze. I couldn't do anything. I couldn't even think. And I lived and you guys…"
She broke off, choking out a sob. Survivor's guilt – that's what the therapists had said, all six of them. Lindsay's parents dragged her to psychologist after psychologist, hoping that she would be able to deal with the severe emotional trauma the attack had brought on. Lindsay dreaded each appointment; she didn't want to remember, even though every time she closed her eyes, she saw her friends lying in pools of blood. She wanted to be a normal teenager, and normal teenagers didn't have such horrors in their past. People her age should not have been to more funerals than weddings.
"I wanted to tell you that I'm sorry. I'm sorry that I couldn't do anything to help you. I'm sorry that I survived." She blinked, releasing the tears. "I'm sorry I never told you guys how much you all meant to me. I'm sorry I've never come to see you. I'm a horrible, terrible person, and I hope you guys can forgive me."
She crouched down, setting the small bouquet of flowers on top of Kelly's grave. "I have something to tell you guys… We got him. The guy that did this to you, they finally got him. He's going to jail for a long time. He's finally going to pay for what he did. And now that it's finally over, I'm here to…" She turned away, unable to look at the words carved on the headstone. "I'm here to say goodbye," she said to the snow.
"I'm leaving Montana." Her voice broke. "I know I already left, but this time… This time I'm leaving for good. You see, I live in New York. That's my home now. I don't belong here anymore. I belong there."
She turned to look at Danny again. He was bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet and rubbing his hands together. She could practically hear his teeth chattering. She brought her eyes back to the graves.
"I met someone," she said, allowing a small smile to turn up the corners of her mouth. "A boy. He's…" She trailed off as she tried to think of a word that could adequately describe everything that Danny was. "He's perfect. Do you remember how we used to talk about all the things we wanted our perfect guy to have? I never thought I'd actually find him. But I did."
She used her head to gesture at Danny over her shoulder, her eyes focused on the bouquet she'd brought rather than the words carved on the headstones. "That's him. He's cute, right?" She smiled, her body growing warm at the very thought. "Yeah, and he knows it, too."
She jammed her hands in her pockets, the thin material of her gloves failing to ward off the cold. "He came all the way out here just to be with me. No one has ever done anything like that for me. And I want to be with him. I love him." She wrapped her scarf more securely around her throat. "And that's why I have to say goodbye."
She finally dared to look at the words carved on the headstones. Underneath each of their names, their dates of death and birth, was the phrase, "beloved daughter and friend". Lindsay's tears returned full force.
"We're friends forever," she said to the stones. She lightly touched each one, and gave her friends their own individual goodbyes. She hoped they could understand what she was saying, because she couldn't.
Then she turned and walked back to Danny.
"Hey," he said, offering her a smile and his hand, both of which she gladly accepted. "How you doin'?"
She wrapped her arms around his waist and rested her head against his chest. "I miss them, Danny."
He threaded his fingers in her hair and lightly touched his lips to the top of her head. "I know you do, Linds. But you did good today. You should be proud of yourself. I am."
She pulled back to meet his eyes, drowning in the bottomless blue depths they provided. He was here. He was actually here. She wasn't hallucinating. He was here with her, and she was in his arms. She was going to do what she hadn't been able to do at the courthouse – damn reporters. She stretched up on her toes and pressed her lips against his.
After a beat, he responded, angling her head to take the kiss deeper, pressing himself against the length of her body. Her heart nearly burst in her chest as he easily parted her lips with his tongue. She returned the gesture with a thorough exploration of her own, already addicted to his taste. She kissed him hungrily, eagerly, eighteen months of pent-up lust, attraction, and love poured out through her lips as she backed him against the car.
When they broke apart for air, he dropped his forehead to hers. "Well… I suppose that's one way to ward off the chill."
She smirked. "Cold, are you, Messer?"
"Are you kidding?" he asked, his teeth chattering. "I could stand out here all day."