Three months had passed since that night on the precipice, and Lucifer and Lynne had both kept up their end of the deal. The first couple of weeks were easy as they reveled in the intoxicating high of a new relationship, sneaking texts throughout the day, falling asleep on the phone when they couldn't see each other, and the occasional night of unbridled passion in his penthouse thanks to Val. They were happy in that shiny bubble of theirs, relishing in their newfound connection, eager to explore this foreign territory together.
Lynne allowed herself the freedom to enjoy every second without abandon or concern during that phase, but she knew it was only a matter of time before that nagging feeling in the back of her mind flared up, so she doubled down on her efforts with Linda and got to work on undoing her mindfuck as quickly as possible. She found this challenge infinitely more difficult than facing her grief, and felt herself reeling and spinning more often than she ever had in her life as she slowly peeled back the layers. Linda was patient with her and let her work at her own pace, never pushing her too far, allowing her to spend a session here or there focusing on different topics, and even instituted the Kesha rule a few times to help distract her when she was completely out of control. Together they removed the rest of her inner fortress brick by brick.
When they reached the foundation, Lynne felt as though she was nothing more than a raw nerve walking around the world completely unprotected. She tried to muddle through as best as she could, going through the motions at work and home, but she felt herself unraveling at an alarming rate. She made a desperate call to Miranda and used every last bit of her strength not to fall apart as she lied about a last-minute business trip and arranged a visit to camp Grandma so Emily didn't have to see her like this. She shot an email to her boss about a family emergency and managed to hold it together long enough to drive Emily three hours north to drop her off. She rang the bell, gave them each a hug, and made some comment about being late for her flight as she turned and ran back to her car to begin the trip home as the last few grains of sand fell from her hourglass.
She tried calling Lucifer to explain what was happening as soon as she hit the freeway, but she began to fall apart at the mere sound of his voice and could barely get any comprehensible words out. He stayed on the phone with her as she pulled over onto the shoulder and completely broke down. He appeared next to her car within minutes and she got out to hug him, collapsing into his arms as she wept. She then tried to send him away, tried to fight him, tried everything in her power to make him leave, but he was strong enough for the both of them as he laid her down in the back seat and drove her home in silence as she cried and slept and cried some more.
She desperately wanted to invite him inside, but she knew it would only make things worse. She thanked him with a kiss and a promise and spent the next three days holed up in her fortress of solitude to heal. Things got infinitely better after that, and they grew closer and closer over the next couple of months as Lynne slowly began to build up a healthier fortress around her heart, to which he held the key.
Lynne walked into Linda's office with a lightness in her step and spun her around and around as she gave her a hug. Linda laughed as she settled back into her chair to stop the dizziness. "To what do I owe this pleasure, Lynne? Did you win the lottery or something?"
Lynne smiled as she walked behind the desk to make them tea. "You could say that…" She poured the water into their mugs and dropped in the teabags. "I was driving over here, trying to figure out what to talk to you about since we basically spent the last couple sessions swapping embarrassing stories or Netflix recommendations and it hit me." She walked back over to look Linda in the eyes. "I can genuinely say, without any hesitation or reservations, that I have nothing to talk about! Well, not nothing, we do need to get cracking on that best-selling book of ours, but I'm doing great. Like really, truly, have-been-for-a-few-weeks-now great!"
Linda smiled as Lynne handed her a cup of tea. "I'm so glad to hear that, Lynne! It does feel as though the storm has passed, doesn't it?"
Lynne sat down. "I mean, I don't want to jinx anything, but I do kind of feel like a brand-new version of myself, Lynne 2.0." She took a sip of tea and sighed, her smile falling from her face. "Give it to me straight, Linda. Is this just some false sense of happiness that people get between breakdowns, perhaps the eye of the storm but not the end?"
Linda sighed. "In my professional opinion, everybody's different. That certainly does happen to some people who haven't truly worked out everything and/or something huge comes along that knocks them right back into the thick of it. But others do get a feeling of weightlessness, almost, now that they're not carrying around those heavy burdens anymore. I can't say for sure which one you're experiencing, only time will tell."
She leaned forward and looked from side to side as if checking for onlookers as she lowered her voice. "In my personal opinion, unless there's something you're not telling me, I think the storm may have passed. You've done a lot of hard work these past 5 months and faced some scary demons that have been tormenting you for decades. That's more than most can handle in such a short timeframe, but you were committed to it, did the work, hit some pretty intense low points and learned to leverage your support system. Best of all, you didn't run away from any of it!"
They high-five'ed each other. "The issues you've worked through are very complex, Lynne. I don't want to be negative, but I must warn you that they're never truly gone or forgotten. Another storm may come, or even just a light shower, but I feel as though you now have the tools you need to manage through them, and people in your life that will hold you accountable and not allow you to break again. I'd be okay with cutting down to monthly or possibly even quarterly sessions with extras as needed in between. And maybe a girls' night here and there..."
Lynne smiled. "Duh, of course! The squad's been DYING to meet you and Maze and bring you two into the fold." She took another sip of tea. "It sucks that there's no actual cure, but I think you're right. I'll never really be fully okay or truly confident that I can handle anything life throws at me, but I'm at peace with that and I feel like I'm more ready to face the world on my own a bit more than I ever have been.” She sighed happily. “There is one other thing we haven't talked about yet that I could use your advice on. Mind putting your friend hat on for this?" She cackled as Linda mimed a hat change. "So, I've been thinking about finally introducing Lucifer to Emily for a while now. I think it's pretty safe to say I won't be hitting the self-destruct button, and if I do, well, y'all will be there to call me on my bullshit. I know it's still pretty early on in our relationship, but I'm ready to cross that milestone. Cautiously, of course. I'm not gonna be like 'Oh hey, meet your new stepdad, PS he's the devil!', neither of us is ready for that, but I'm ready for him to at least meet her and, like, actually go inside my house for the first time instead of dropping me off a block away."
Linda squealed. "Oh, I'm so glad my friendship hat is on right now. THAT IS SO AWESOME!" She got up and hugged her, then mimed another hat change. "Professionally speaking, that's the last big breakthrough I was hoping you'd make, but didn't dare so much as mention it because that needed to come from you without ANY guidance, no matter how gentle. So, have you told him yet?"
"No, not yet. I haven't even started to pull together an action plan. I know he said he was open to it and even offered to let her be the top hat in monopoly, which was odd…" Linda held back her knowing smile. "If you recall, I specifically told him to back the fuck off about meeting her, which in hindsight wasn't the nicest way to handle that conversation... Anywho, I'm not sure how to approach it with him, or when would be the right time. I don't want to like randomly bring it up and scare him off. He knows that meeting Emily is basically the biggest commitment I could make to him, bigger than marriage or blood oaths or any deal with the devil."
Linda laughed, and took her hands in hers giving them a gentle squeeze. "Don't you think you might be making a bigger deal out of this than it is? I'm not a parent, so I don't really know where you're coming from, but it sounds like she might be one last excuse to not fully 'go there' with him. A trip to the zoo or even dinner and board games here and there don't really seem to be on the same level as marriage or blood oaths, Lynne."
Lynne rolled her eyes. "He said pretty much the same thing to me about her being an excuse and it took every ounce of self-control I had to not punch him in the face. Different circumstances, but still pretty offensive, Linda." She squeezed Linda’s hands back reassuringly. "But I love you for your willingness to call me on my bullshit. It's true that she is the perfect excuse, but I'm beyond excuses now, thankfully. However, I still can't help my mama bear instincts. I know her, I know him, and they are going to hit it off immediately. That girl is all heart, anyone she even remotely likes is immediately her best friend." She shook her head. "And let's be real, she's kind of lacking in father figures and is going to latch onto him REAL quick. Do you remember what happened with those other two bozos I introduced her to? It broke her precious little heart when we broke up!"
Linda nodded as Lynne took another sip of her tea. "I don't fear an inevitable breakup, surprisingly enough. I mean yeah, the whole divine/mortal being combo is a long-term concern, but we've got at least a decade before anyone notices he doesn't age and can cross that bridge when we get to it. But Lucifer is infinitely more amazing than any guy she's ever met, and I'm just afraid that despite our best efforts he's gonna be forced into some sort of fatherly role and intense attachment WAY sooner than either of us is ready for. So I have to figure out how to ease both of them into it and try to mitigate that risk."
Linda leaned back in her chair and sipped her tea. "I can see the concern there. He's basically a 6-foot tall kid himself most of the time, they're totally gonna hit it off immediately." Lynne laughed as she nodded knowingly. "But I wouldn't worry too much about that scaring him off, I'm pretty sure he's in it to win it, Lynne. Talk to him, he may surprise you."
"I know, I know. It's what Henry and Gertie would do... But how do I share that concern without completely offending him? Even if I can, he's already changed so much of himself and his lifestyle to accommodate mine, and this will tip the scales even more onto my side than they have been these last few months, which is already way too much. It's not fair for him to have to make such drastic sacrifices just to be with me."
It was Linda's turn to roll her eyes. "He loves you, you bozo. Of course he's willing to make some changes for you, and is more than happy to do so."
Lynne sighed in frustration. "That's exactly my point, though, it's not fair to him! He's spent literally all the time in the world being forced into one role or another that wasn't truly him. I don't want to do that to him, even if it is just for a blink of an eye compared to his immortal lifetime, and I can't really offer anything in return for him settling into my boring, ho-hum, mortal little life."
Linda got up and sat down beside her, taking her hands in hers and giving them a gentle squeeze. "Lynne. You have yourself to offer. And love and acceptance and maybe even a family down the line. All things that he hasn't really had before, at least not all in one place. Have you ever considered that his current lifestyle is just a way to pass the time as he figures out what he actually wants in life? That maybe, just maybe, he might be perfectly happy and content with what you have to offer him?"
Lynne sighed again. "No, I hadn’t considered that…" She shook her head. "But I would be VERY surprised if that's what he truly desires.”
Linda shrugged. "I honestly don't know what he wants, and I doubt he does either. He's not a 'big picture' guy… All you can do is talk to him about it, Lynne. And it doesn't have to be this big thing, just mention Emily to him in passing and see where he takes it. He may surprise you, and even himself.”
"You're right. I should just go with the flow for once... But I still need an integration plan. My mom's flying in tomorrow and staying for a week or two, maybe I'll talk to her about it and see what she thinks.” Lynne finished her tea.
Linda's eyes lit up with excitement. "Momma Gardner's coming to town? That's awesome! What's the special occasion?"
"Oh, nothing much, my birthday's coming up soon and we like to spend it together. It sucks living on opposite coasts so that's always her present to me and it's the best one!"
"Seriously Lynne? You were gonna NOT tell me about your birthday? What, did you lie about that too?” Linda pinched her arm.
"Ow! God you're such a perfect fit for the squad, Linda," she said as she rubbed her am. "As a matter of fact, yes, I did. And shame on you for not checking my ID or insurance card." She braced herself for another pinch that never came. "For real, though, I'm not a big birthday person, I prefer to keep it super low-key. And not in an 'oh I hate birthdays, but you better make a big deal or I'll be mad' kinda way, I genuinely dislike it and it's MY special day, so I get to do whatever I want. Which is usually curling up with my mom, Emily, some wine and a movie marathon. Gardner girl movie night to the ultimate max!"
"That does sound like a pleasant birthday... For an eighty-year-old! I promise I won't do anything big this year, but it IS going in my calendar the second you leave.” Lynne’s giggles interrupted her attempted eye roll at Linda’s jab. “Let's chat after your mom leaves town, you can run your game plan by me if you'd like."
"That sounds great! Thanks again for everything, Linda, you're the best!" Lynne hugged her on her way out.