Disclaimer: Not Mine. They belong to others. I promise to return them in good working order, just as I found them. This is also unbetad. Mistakes are all me even though I try super hard to catch them, mea cupla, mea cupla...
A/N: Written for Women's Murder Club Day.
Ch. 1 – She Promises A Show
The lower levels of the Hall were quiet today, no techs scurrying about, no cops running around or attorneys clacking and clomping by. For that, Cindy was thankful. It had been an annoying day at the Register. A day full of boring staff meetings and an obnoxiously long follow up meeting with her editor and absolutely no noteworthy events to report out on. The lack of activity around her and at the Register meant a few things for the reporter, Lindsay would be annoyed and Jill and Claire were a mixed bag. If Claire's staff didn't screw anything up, she knew her friend would be in a good mood and thankfully, nothing should interrupt her plans for tonight.
She stepped into the morgue unnoticed and noticed the lack of bodies on any of the tables. Her head tilted towards Claire's office where quiet laughter filtered out, the corner of her mouth quirked upwards at the distinct sound of Lindsay snickering. Adjusting the strap of her messenger bag, the reporter stepped through the open door and smiled at the group.
She crossed the space quickly and sunk down into the familiar cushions of her second favorite piece of furniture. "Hi," she greeted, slipping an arm around her girlfriend's waist to accept the kiss to the corner of her mouth as she snuggled in.
"Skipper," Claire greeted and eyed the reporter up, coming to only one conclusion. "You look a little tired."
"Boring, stupid day," Cindy griped. "We were all just sort of stuck in meetings all day." She gave a half-hearted shrug. "I expect some thin additions the next few days."
"So does that mean we're not going out…?" Lindsay tried to finish the question, but Cindy's index finger cut her off as it was pressed to her lips.
"Don't even think it," Cindy hissed. Straitening herself up, she eyed her girlfriend and warned, "Just because you were all sweet and cooked breakfast this morning, does not mean you're getting out of this."
"Oh," Jill giggled, "someone's laying down the law."
Cindy's gaze cut quickly from Lindsay to Jill to Claire and back to Lindsay who had the good graces to look a little embarrassed. The inspector pulled her girlfriend's hand away from her face and acquiesced, "Okay, we're going." She passed a look to Jill and Claire to amend, "We're all going, right?"
Claire nodded and Jill teased, "Yes, Lindsay, we're all going to meet Cindy's friend. So how old is she, twenty, twenty-one?"
Cindy laughed along with the group. She had gotten used to the light teasing that had only let up marginally over the last year. Even after her and Lindsay got together, they still teased her, but it did inevitably lead them to teasing Lindsay about robbing the cradle. "You're just jealous that I'll be wrinkle free longer," she teased Jill right back, sticking her tongue out for good measure.
"Hmm, hmm," Claire hummed. "And don't any of you forget it."
"So this 'friend' of yours who is she and what does she do?" Lindsay asked genuinely curious as this was the first time Cindy had ever introduced them to someone from her past; the primary reason for that being there wasn't anyone left in in the reporters past. At least anyone alive that Cindy felt the need to mention.
"Mac's an old college friend. We lost touch after she graduated, but apparently she's moving or has moved, I'm not quite sure of the details, to the city and found me on Facebook," the redhead explained.
There were three dubious heads shaking. Claire voiced what they were all thinking, "Evil social networking. It's exactly why I won't…"
"I know. I know…" Cindy interrupted. "If you wanted people from your past to find you, they would already know how to get a hold of you," she repeated the often heard mantra of the three. "Anyway, she'd been following my work on the Register and since she's moving to town thought it'd be nice to catch up."
"Uh-huh, that doesn't…" Lindsay started off.
"Linds," Jill groaned exasperatedly.
"Not everyone is evil," Claire teased lightly.
"Please just try to be on your best behavior?" Cindy clasped her hands together and sent large, watery eyes to Claire then Jill and finally to her girlfriend, knowing she'd be the one to be the least accommodating. The puppy dog face managed to get Cindy what she wanted when most everything else failed.
"Fine," Lindsay relented. "What's the game plan? Are we supposed to be meeting her for dinner or drinks later?"
Cindy bit her lip. "Well, see, we were talking today and she was finishing up unpacking and yelling at the movers. I told her just to meet us out front at six. She's not really picky and I wasn't sure what everyone would want and I thought well, why not just let it be a group decision." She had originally thought inviting her to Joe's but then she stopped because that was kind of the Club's place to meet. The one time Cindy brought a friend from work Lindsay sulked the through the entire meal. Needless to say, Cindy hadn't even thought of inviting anyone else until today.
"It's quarter till, why don't we head up?" Claire asked, causing the rest of the group to stand and follow the doctor out of her office.
Cindy stopped short as the group passed the metal detectors in the lobby of the Hall. Outside showed overcast sky, like it had been all day, but the rain had finally let loose and people that would normally be out on the steps were all hunched over waiting inside. Cindy scanned the meager group of people and spotted MacKenzie off to her right. Her friend's back was turned to them as she studied a Missing Person's board just inside the door.
Lindsay felt Cindy pull away as her reporter zeroed in on a figure turned away from them causing the rest of them to follow after the eager woman.
"Doggie Daddy?" Cindy called out garnering the woman's attention.
Cindy's friend spun around on the stem of her left boot heel, wearing a wide grin and silver framed glasses that set in front of soft aquamarine colored eyes. Both sets of arms flew open as Lindsay stopped short and watched Cindy embrace her old friend. It wasn't really an area of contention with them, neither of them really wanting to talk about people from their past, but Lindsay was curious.
"Augie!" the other woman called out and accepted the hug from Cindy.
"You're a little pathetic," Jill whispered in Lindsay's ear as they watched the reunion.
"Watch yourself, Boxer," Claire chided from her other side. "You keep smiling like that and you'll start to lose cred in the bullpen."
Lindsay's lips pursed and she shook her head at her friends, effectively wiping the smile from her lips. It wasn't her fault she enjoyed seeing Cindy happy and watching her girlfriend reunite with the woman with cinnamon colored skin certainly made Cindy happy.
Although it did leave one question to bubble forth, "Augie and Doggie Daddy?" Lindsay's head cocked to the side in thought trying to understand the nicknames.
"No clue," Jill and Claire answered at the same time.
"Come on," Cindy finally let go of MacKenzie and tugged her back towards the trio waiting behind them. "Mac," Cindy gripped her friends hand with her left as she pointed out the members of the Club, "this is Dr. Claire Washburn, Ins. Lindsay Boxer and D.D.A. Jill Bernhardt. Ladies, this is the reason why I'm actually at the Register, MacKenzie St. Hill."
"Hello," MacKenzie stuck her hand out in greeting, starting with Claire. "Cindy's filled me in on you, doctor. It's finally nice to meet you."
Claire smiled, not really being able to say much of the same and said, "It's nice to meet an old friend of Cindy's." The doctor assessed the woman before her in a pair of comfortably fitted jeans, cream colored scoop necked blouse and a dark brown leather jacket. MacKenzie's face was heart shaped with a build similar to her own. Her darker skin tone told the doctor she was mixed race, but the woman's eye color threw her. The clear blue shade didn't fit with the rest.
They released their hands and MacKenzie turned a grin to Lindsay. "Augie, your description doesn't do your girlfriend justice." The newcomer shot a wink to the inspector and grinned at the blushing redhead.
"Nice to meet you," Lindsay shook the offered hand.
"And you," MacKenzie took Jill's outstretched hand, "I think my Augie's been holding out on me." A slim eyebrow arched in the reporter's direction before turning back to Jill. "It's nice to meet you."
"Likewise," Jill replied. "But I'm really going to have to ask, Augie?" The sly smile crept up and blossomed on the lawyer's lips.
"Hmm," MacKenzie groaned, "We've only just met, I'm not sure you've passed enough Gamma tests to warrant me divulging privileged information to you."
"Mac," Cindy warned playfully. "Why don't we wait until we have alcohol and food in us before we get into any embarrassing stories, please?" Cindy gathered Lindsay's hand in her own and began pulling her towards the doors, hoping the rest of the group would follow.
"Fine," Jill huffed. "But where are we going?" She took a long look outside and the rain really hadn't let up.
"Why not Papa Joe's?" Lindsay offered, enjoying the raised eyebrows from her friends. She shrugged their surprise off and explained, "It's close and we don't have to risk our necks in the traffic."
Cindy produced an umbrella from her purse and popped it open, watching Claire and Jill huddle under the one Claire produced and MacKenzie pop open one of her own. "Lead the way, Linds."
Thankfully, the rain had scared away enough patrons that a large booth was open towards the back of the diner. Jill led the group straight towards it and they settled in, adjusting themselves to the round table. Claire ended up in the middle and much to Jill's amusement, she got to sit next to Lindsay while the reporter and her friend sat across from them on Claire's right. The waitress came and went, filling their drink order and taking food requests.
"So," Claire started them off, "how did you and our Cindy meet?" The M.E. propped her arms on the table, laced her fingers together and rested her chin atop them, waiting for MacKenzie to answer.
The woman cocked an eyebrow at her friend. Cindy's response was a smirk and a shrug. "She pledged my sorority," MacKenzie stated before taking a healthy drink of her martini. It wasn't like she didn't know some of the more common perceptions of what sororities did and did not do and what people generally thought of some of the women that pledged them.
While she could attest to those stereotypes having a factual basis, her personal experience and that of Cindy's, she knew were different. Mainly due to their influence on the other during their college careers. From the looks her friend's group was giving her, Mac knew she dropped a bit of a bomb on them. She wasn't too shocked, Cindy was usually pretty private, but she also knew that her friend had been seeing the inspector for some time.
Perhaps it just never came up.
"Mac, if you're going to out me to my girls, tell the story right," Cindy batted at Mac's upper arm.
"Fine," Mac huffed. "It was the beginning of my junior year and we were taking in pledges, time honored tradition, blah, blah, blah. I think you all know or have heard stories about pledging, but at least my house was humane. We didn't go too overboard…"
"Developmental Psych and your Falco," Cindy chided then mumbled, "Too overboard…pffftt."
"Okay, so maybe I had her pretty much take my psych class for me, but come on, Augie, you loved the Falco, just as much as I did," Mac shot back. To clarify, she filled the other women in, "I hated, with an unhealthy passion, developmental psychology. So I did what any rational person would do, got a minion and made her do the work."
The table laughed and Jill said, "That's actually pretty smart. I'm thinking I messed up in college. There were a few courses I could have lived without ever taking."
"Amen," Claire chimed in. "There was a bio course or two that I would have loved to avoid."
"See," Mac beamed, "You guys get it." She wrapped her arm around Cindy's shoulders and squeezed. "Augie did it for me."
"What's a Falco?" Lindsay wondered from across the table.
"Ah, that is or was my favorite bike. Cindy was my assistant when I worked on it," Mac answered and let her friend go, noting the lingering half-glare Lindsay was directing her way.
"It was her motorcycle. A beast of a machine that I learned to strip it down and rebuild," Cindy griped. "Between that and trying to explain to Shanna, our house leader, why my fingernails were constantly black during house activities, it was fun." She swatted Mac's arm again and whined, "You got me in so much trouble."
"You got yourself into trouble. I managed to at least keep you in the house and out of jail," Mac reminded her. "Or do you really want to tell that story? Although, maybe I should have let Dr. Quarles think you were trying to steal mid-term answer keys."
Cindy had the good graces to blush under the intense scrutiny of her friends and girlfriend. Thankfully, Mac helped her out and explained, "It really wasn't…no, it really was her fault. She thought she could catch Dr. Quarles padding his research budget for a study he was trying to get funded for one of his T.A.s. Turns out he was, but the department head caught him before Cindy could."
Lindsay's gaze narrowed and she couldn't help the teasing, "So you've always gotten yourself into trouble. Was she ever picked up for solicitation?"
Mac's mouth dropped open and she looked at her old friend. "Cindy, please tell me she's joking?"
A shake of the reporter's head confirmed Lindsay's outing.
"I swear Augie…" Mac trailed off shaking her head. "Do I even want to know? Yes, yes I do, but later." Mac picked up her margarita, savoring the chilled, sweetness and burn of tequila as it traveled down her throat. "I'm just not drunk enough to hear this story yet."
"Hmm, it's a good one," Jill said over the lip of her own glass. "But enough about Cindy, we see her daily. What about you? What brings you to San Francisco?"
"Work. I just took a position with Intuit as the P.D. of systems analytics." Mac smirked at the blank looks and clarified, "I'm part of information technology, you know the geeks that run around your building fixing computers, telephones, install software, hardware, networks and other various geeky things that bore most normal people. I get to tell those people what to do and when and how to do it."
Mac watched the confusion clear as Lindsay asked, "So where were you before?"
"New York," Mac answered easily. "I worked at N.Y.U, infrastructure and technology services." She waved her hand and dismissed the topic of conversation, "More techie, geeky stuff. Trust me, comparatively, you all have more exciting jobs."
Cindy's brow furrowed and she asked, "But you like it, I mean, you seemed like you liked it?"
"Love it, but, like I said, comparatively, it's boring or at least boring to people who don't like figuring out how stuff works and trying to make it better." Mac stopped, realizing how that sounded and tried to back pedal, "Most people, not saying that any of you don't, but usually, when I start talking about what I do, eyes glaze over, people start to drool or lose consciousness."
"Oh trust us," Claire grinned, "People do that to us too."
"Yeah," Lindsay agreed, "People think they want to know, T.V. makes our jobs look glamorous, but then they realize five minutes into the conversation that it's really not and pulling all nighters isn't just for college students."
Mac shrugged amicably. "Maybe it's all jobs."
"Oh, so I'm assuming you're moved or are you still trying to?" Cindy asked propping her head on her palm.
"Moved. The movers finished about two hours ago. Now, all I need to do is figure out which places have the best take out in my neighborhood and go menu collecting." Mac swirled the ice in her drink and signaled the waitress to bring another round.
"Where at?" Jill asked.
"Uhm, I'm on Polk Street." Mac ran trim smooth nails through her hair and clarified, "I just gave the realtor a coworker sent me to what I was looking for and a price range. I trusted the man to put me someplace I'd like. He said the neighborhood's Lower Knob Hill. It's nice and just what I was looking for."
"I didn't peg you for a yuppie," Cindy teased earning a few snickers from her friends.
"I was in a one bedroom, a six floor walk-up on the Lower East Side, this place is definitely a step up." Mac grinned. "And yuppy? Hardly."
Cindy eyed her friend and took in her appearance. She cocked her head to the side and pursed her lips. "Hmm, you've gotten softer. Still have a bike?"
MacKenzie's middle and index finger popped up on her right hand to wiggle at her friend. "A Ducati Diavel and an Aprilia RSV4."
Cindy's face lit up and she clutched Mac's upper arm. "We're going riding then?"
"You ride motorcycles?" Lindsay barked from the other side of the table sure that she didn't hear her girlfriend right.
Cindy's head bobbed. "Didn't I tell you?"
Three sets of eyebrows rose with shaking heads. "You've failed to mention it, Cindy," Claire spoke up. The doctor's head tilted to the side and she mused, "Although, I'm getting the feeling that you've left quite a bit out."
Mac's gaze traveled from the three women her friend introduced her to, to Cindy herself. The concern was evident in all three faces. "I promise," she tried to smooth Cindy's faux pas over, "she'll be fine. I'll let her ride the Duc. It's a little smaller than the Aprilia and you all are more than welcome to come if you're free when we go."
Cindy rolled her eyes, but sent a sweet smile and batting lashes to the inspector across from her. "Totally safe. Daddy wouldn't let anything happen to me." Offering Mac's upper arm nearest to her a squeeze.
Lindsay's mouth parted but was stopped from asking the question on the tip of her tongue by the waitress bringing over their food. Four plates of food, two burgers, a chicken sandwich and veggie patty were set down. Lindsay quickly exchanged the tomatoes on her burger for Cindy's pickles causing Mac to shake her head. "I guess some things don't change."
"Some do," Lindsay answered the woman. "And will one of you tell me…"
Claire stopped Lindsay's unspoken, biting question with a hand to her arm and Jill filled in, "I think Cindy Lou should explain the, uhm, nicknames?"
The two college friends exchanged a look before deciding to answer the question.