[personal profile] lilychick
[I don't know why I felt like these two needed to be separate. Probably because they're directly related to each other.]

[Not posted anywhere else. Woo. Set 12/03, in the Tabula Rasa-verse. Extremely large spoiler for the end of that fic, by the way. So, you know, exercise caution or whatever. Also slight spoilers for City of Brotherly Love, cause, um, TR spoils that one and all. Yeah. My author's notes are just on *fire* tonight.]

It wasn't that Lily *preferred* sneaking out, especially on Christmas Eve -- she remembered how well *last* year had gone, and was afraid that this year might turn out similarly...eventful. But she decided that it couldn't be helped. Some things took precedence, at least for a little while -- obligations that needed to be fulfilled -- and she was perfectly willing to argue with anyone who tried to convince her otherwise.

She just...wasn't willing to argue right *now*. So sneaking out was the solution.

The hospital was extremely sterile, despite the numerous accents of blue (employed, she assumed, for its soothing properties). It had little in common with the more haphazard, lived-in feel of The Handbasket, and she briefly wondered if this was the way that average, *non*-Super institutions usually looked.

He wasn't in a straitjacket, or anything so dramatic. Standard-issue hospital wear. If they knew of anything unusual about the prosthetic that took the place of his right hand, it didn't show -- no protective glove or anything of the sort. Perhaps they figured that the safest course of action was to not call any unneeded attention to the problem.

"Hello, Lindsey," she said tentatively, irrationally fearing that her voice alone would destroy the stopgap, and let loose a flood of memories. "How are you feeling?"

He looked up from a stack of books, and Lily was taken aback. He seemed years younger, the stress of his more recent history so completely dissolved from his face that, for the first time, she noticed it had been there in the first place.

In fact, she mused, he now bore an even stronger resemblance to Colin.

"Not bad, thanks," he said politely. "Are you a new doctor?"

"No, I'm just a visitor. My name is --" She hesitated, as, having avoided the argument with her teammates, she had nonetheless internalized their prevailing opinion on how unwise this might be. "-- is Lily." She resisted the urge to ask, "Do you remember me?"

"Nice to meet you." Lindsey laughed, a rough, ironic thing. "Assuming, that is, that we haven't already met."

He extended his hand for a shake, and Lily hesitated again; this time, not out of fear for what memories it might inspire in him, but for what memories it might inspire in *her*. She finally grasped the (benign-looking) Swiss Army Hand firmly. As always, it was unnaturally smooth and cold to the touch.

"Sorry," he apologized, seeing her reaction, if not necessarily interpreting it correctly. "I should have warned you, I --"

"No, it's okay," she jumped in, skittish. "I know. I just forgot for a second."

As she said it, she winced internally -- the reference, however glancing, to memory loss made his blue eyes cloud wistfully, in sharp contrast with the smile that he offered. "Happens to the best of us. So then, not to be rude...we've met?"

She was at a loss for what to say. If she told the truth, he would pump her for information on their past together; if she lied, she would have to come up with a credible excuse for the visit. "Yes," she said finally. "I mean, our paths crossed now and then."

He seemed to cut right through this statement, to its subtext ("I can't, or won't, tell you anything"), and it strained his admirable attempt at good humor even further. "Oh. I wish I could say I remembered, but..."

"Don't apologize. I understand." Lily looked away -- she felt she *had* to, and even so, it was difficult to form the words, knowing that she had heard them herself, not long ago. "I...heard that something had happened to you and..."

That was as far as she could make herself go. She felt like a sham, a fraud; she felt incredibly *guilty*, even while, in her head, Chris told her that she didn't owe Lindsey anything after what had been done to her.

She supposed that was *why* she felt guilty -- she could still feel the echoes of that sense of sheer helplessness and uncertainty, that horrible void. She believed that no one truly deserved that, no matter what they'd done, no matter whose choice it was.

She also supposed that Chris would say she was being too lenient (but then, he often did). That the punishment should fit the crime, and these lined up exactly. But that didn't ease her guilt.

She supposed that guilt, in fact, was why she had come.

"Is there anything I can do?" she asked hopelessly.

Lindsey studied her, with a genuine interest, and none of the notes of suspicion that she had come to expect from the "real" Lindsey. "Well, you're here," he said finally. "And I guess that means something, though I don't know what." He glanced at his books again, then back up. "I wish I could be better company for you. I don't even know why you'd come."

"It's Christmas Eve," she replied haltingly. "I just...I didn't want you to be alone for Christmas. I wanted you to know...that I was thinking about you."

Lindsey, she noticed, swallowed hard at this, but otherwise didn't react. She guessed that some habits were ingrained. "Thank you, Lily. That means a lot to me." Lowering his eyes again, he let out a shaky laugh. "It's Christmas already, huh? I didn't even know. I don't know how long it's been..."

"Attention," the crackling loudspeaker interrupted. "Visiting hours are now ending. I repeat..."

"In that case." He pasted on another of those "brave" smiles. "Merry Christmas, Lily. Thank you for coming." He returned to his reading.

She stood up, feeling a bit lost. "Merry Christmas, Lindsey." She took a couple of steps, paused, and turned back. "I'll see you in a few weeks."

He started, blinking at her in surprise. "You will?"

"I think it's only right," she said, "since I didn't even bring you a present."

Lindsey smiled at her, more warmly than he had since the first time they'd met. "I'd say you just did."

[Totally random ficlet. TR-verse (as I've more or less decided that's canon). Ergo, spoilers for Tabula Rasa, the Christmas ficlet that's on this page, and the Valentine's ficlet that's not done yet.
Altogether, I think that this stuff may wind up involved in a future story in the series, but I haven't linked it all yet.]

She's sitting on one of the stone benches, flipping back and forth between two nearly-identical beaded A-line gowns, when she hears that low voice rasp, "Hey."

Glancing up, Lily's heart nearly stops. Out in the light of day, in jeans and a T-shirt, all blue...it's like going back in time. If not for his hair, hanging longer, nowhere near as impeccably groomed, she would say he looked exactly like the person he used to be.

Except without the guarded look around his eyes.

"Hey." She checks her watch. "Oh, shit -- I'm sorry, Lindsey. I didn't realize it was this late --"

"It's all right." He shrugs, glancing around at the trees, the sunlight. She realizes that he's also much paler than he used to be, and wonders how long it's been since he's been outside for more than a minute or two. "I heard you checked in at the desk earlier...sorry I wasn't ready yet. I was kind of indisposed."

She tries not to shiver -- she'd been told he was in for hypnosis, and she doesn't want to think about just what that might bring up.

And then she pauses, and can't help being suspicious. "Wait, they let you out by yourself?"

"They told me you were just across the street, and..." He snorts lightly, holding out one arm. "It's not like they can't find me."

Lily sees the locator chip, low-tech and gleamingly out-of-place in the wrist of the Swiss Army Hand. She isn't sure if she should be horrified or relieved.

"Dress shopping?" he asks suddenly, and her cheeks color, as she closes the bridal magazine and stuffs it in her bag.

"Something like that." She screws up her courage, and is finally able to tell him, "I'm getting married. Later this year."

Lindsey cracks a smile. "You know, I'd already guessed that from the engagement ring you've been wearing for three months."

She glances down at her hand; her color deepens. "Oh," she says feebly, sheepishly realizing it had been that long, wondering if in fact she would have brought the subject up otherwise.

She thinks she might have, after the wedding. Maybe.

He sits down and takes her hand for a closer look at the ring, careful as usual to do so with his left. "Congratulations. Anyone I knew?"

It takes her a while to answer, as it always does when he asks questions like this one. "Yes."

He studies her. "Judging from that face, I'd say not one of my admirers."

You have no idea. She decides to change the subject. "So, the weather lately, it's been really --"

"I had a dream about you," he says softly, running his thumb lightly over her knuckles.

Her mouth goes dry with something akin to panic. She can still vaguely remember having her own dreams, and knows very well what that means. She had been starting to think, or hope, that after five months, he was never going to have them.

She swallows tightly. "Oh, really?" she replies, willing her voice not to shake.

He nods, and she tries to avoid his eyes as they search her face for a reaction. "We were in this weird place. Underground, I think, but I don't know how I knew. Cavernous, but kind of like a construction site."

Lily knows the answer, but she has to ask. "Oh? What were we doing?"

This time he's the one who takes a lengthy silence. "I thought of showing you," he says finally, "but it's something I hope I wouldn't do to someone else's fiancée."

And to that, she can't quite respond.
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