Title: Maybe Sprout Wings
Author: Mosca (mosukaa at yahoo)
Fandom: Women's Murder Club
Pairing: Lindsay/Jill
Rating: PG-13 for language and mature content
Spoilers/Continuity: takes place a couple of months after the show ends.
Warning: Non-explicit and non-erotic references to underage and intergenerational intimacy, in the context of a murder case.
Summary: Jill is a little too invested in the case of a murdered teenage figure skater -- and a little too invested in Lindsay.
Word count: about 5,200.
Disclaimers: Women's Murder Club is the intellectual property of 20th Century Fox. The original characters in this story are my own creations; no similarity to real people, living or dead, is intended. This original work of fan fiction is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License; attribution should include a link to this Livejournal post. This story is a labor of love, not money, so it's protected in the USA by the fair use provisions of the Copyright Act of 1976. All rights reserved. All wrongs reversed. It's like Dan Rydell's New York renaissance, only with more naked chicks.
Notes: Written for The 2008 Dog Days of Summer Femslash Advent Calendar. Title is from a Mountain Goats song. Thanks to Anna V. Tree for help with Bay Area geography, and immeasurably huge gratitude to my beta, Juliet.

Jill stares down at the dead teenager in front of her, wondering when she became desensitized to tragedy. The victim is Courtney Huang, age sixteen, internationally ranked figure skater. She is face down in front of the ice rink's bathroom sink, dressed in head-to-toe black Lycra and white skates, unharmed except for a chipped tooth she suffered when her heart stopped and she fell down. At least, this is Claire's preliminary assessment. Accidental heart failure due to malnourishment or drug abuse or a little of both plus exhaustion. "She died with her boots on," Jill says. She is working hard not to giggle, and that's tragic.

It is not funny. "What's with you lately?" Lindsay hisses. Jill shrugs. Lindsay says, "Does this smell like murder to anyone else?"

"No," Claire says.

"Could be," Jill says, trying to make up for the bad joke.

"No," Cindy says, "but it smells like a great exposť on the dangers faced by teen athletes."

"Well," Claire says. "Sudden heart failure in a sixteen-year-old warrants an autopsy. I'll get back to you."

There's not much for Jill to do yet. This probably isn't even a murder. It's suicide or accidental death; maybe the girl's parents or coach get indicted for child endangerment. Child, sixteen is a child, a dead child, a beautiful talented dead girl who was going to burn out before she was old enough to drink.

Jill remembers watching Oksana Baiul win the Olympics, a fawn with bangs and a ponytail, about the same age as the dead girl in the bathroom. Jill remembers reading, a few years later, that Oksana Baiul had gotten drunk and crashed her car into a tree. It has been hard to like the sport of figure skating since then.

She goes back to her office and pushes paperwork around her desk like it's a meal she doesn't want to eat. Claire calls; the death is suspicious. Shortly before she died, Courtney Huang ingested about a month's worth of sibutramine, a prescription weight-loss drug. Either she had wanted very badly to die, or someone else had wanted her to.

The club, which is not a club, meets in Jill's office. Cindy has brought Jill a Greek salad, which Jill picks at like it's paperwork. "Murder," Lindsay says. Jill looks at Lindsay's mouth, and she looks at her salad because it's nothing like Lindsay's mouth. She's been doing this lately. She's been doing this always. She doesn't know what it is, for sure, but lacking a boyfriend, she keeps thinking, it would be nice to have a boyfriend not unlike Lindsay. Only with a penis. Jill likes penises. Lately, she is having to remind herself of this. Lately, the penises have been disappointing. Like all their owners have misplaced the manual.

"Suicide," Claire sighs.

"I'm on the fence," Cindy says.

"Jill, you're the tiebreaker," Lindsay says.

"I don't know," Jill says, still torturing her salad. "Was she depressed at all?"

Lindsay says, "The other kids at the rink said she was happy, friendly, a really nice girl."

"A really nice girl, like she was actually a diva they all hated?" Cindy says.

"No, a really nice girl, like she was actually a really nice girl," Lindsay says. "The other skaters said Courtney talked a lot about good sportsmanship, about working together so everyone could skate their best. Apparently there's only one other skater at the rink who's really at her level, a girl named Emma Santuray, and the parents and coaches worked pretty hard to set up a rivalry between them, to push them to compete more aggressively. But the girls got along anyway."

"She sounds like a really nice girl," Cindy says.

"The coach and the parents back that up, too," Lindsay says. "The coach, especially. He was really torn up, so much that it was hard to get a statement. I'm used to parents crying like that, but it was -- frankly a little weird."

"He probably saw more of Courtney than her parents did," Claire says.

"Either that, or he was sleeping with her," Jill says. "Or wanted to be."

"Is everything about sex with you?" Lindsay snaps. Her bright lips offset her pale skin, and her hair makes swirls and ringlets on the way down to her shoulders. Jill is running out of ways to turn her salad into an excuse.

"She sounds nice," Jill says. "But she also sounds unusually mature for her age. This coach spent, what, three or four hours a day with this girl? He would not be the first forty-year-old man to perv on a pretty teenager who looks up to him."

"I have to admit," Claire says, "it's a possibility."

"What's his wife like?" Jill says. "The coach's wife."

"I don't know that he has one," Lindsay says.

"Guys like that always have a wife," Jill says.

"Are we talking possible suspect?" Lindsay says.

"I don't know," Jill says. "But I think someone ought to have a conversation with her."

Jill goes to the coach's house, a McMansion in Hayward, not at all modest, surrounded by young trees and a neat flower garden. He does indeed have a wife, and she is the one who answers the door. After Jill introduces herself, the wife says quietly, "Gary doesn't really want to talk to anyone right now. He wants to know what happened to Courtney, probably more than anybody else, but he's just so upset."

That makes it easy for Jill to say, "Then would it be all right if I talked to you for a while?"

The coach's wife's name is Mindy. Her highlighted hair is sprayed and shellacked. She is whip-thin, and it is hard to tell if she's undergone unfortunate plastic surgery or if her face is naturally masklike. She has an alibi that can be checked: she designs skating costumes for a living, and all morning, she was consulting with a client. Jill goes to the bathroom, calls the client, and confirms it. Then, she calls Lindsay and says, "Not the wife," and Lindsay points out that there are ways to poison someone without being on the scene.

"I don't know," Jill says. "I'm just getting a 'not the wife' vibe. Give me a couple of hours and it'll be a 'not the wife' theory."

She goes back to the living room and tells the wife that her alibi seems to check out. "Why would I -- how could someone do that to Gary?" the wife says. "He was -- I mean -- as proud as he was of Andy, he really wanted to have -- The girls are at the top of this sport. They always have been. To coach a ladies' champion on that level --" She is getting teary and sniffly. She is kind of a freak, but she's an emotionally appropriate freak. "Courtney is, was the full package. She had the jumps, but she also had the lines and edges, the sense of the music. And off the ice, she was a straight-A student and a really sweet kid, really confident, she would have been great on TV. She was just -- I've watched a lot of young skaters, and she was one you -- It was like she was bringing you into her world a little, when she was on the ice." Emphatic nose blow. It's totally not the wife.

"She sounds like she was a great kid," Jill says.

"She was." The non-murderous wife's face is impassive with Botox, but there is distance in her eyes.

"Who's Andy?" Jill says.

"Oh, he's Gary's other -- he's one of Gary's other students." Judging from the flat tone in the wife's voice, she's a bigger fan of Courtney than of this Andy.

"I'd like to talk to him. Do you know where I can find him?" Jill doesn't actually know that she wants to talk to this kid, but the wife's response will clear that up.

"Gary has a file on the computer with all his kids' information," the wife says. "I can print that out for you if you want."

"That would be great," Jill chirps. The wife brings back a few printed pages of addresses and phone numbers, and Jill thanks her for her help. The wife seems surprised by Jill's gratitude and rewards it with a half-frozen smile, like she is proud to have done something right, proud to be recognized for it.

Jill hauls butt to the police station so she can stomp her loud high heels all the way across the homicide division and announce to Lindsay, "Not the wife."

"You talked to her?" Lindsay says without looking up.

Jill can see right down Lindsay's top. Lindsay is oblivious, so Jill lets her eyes linger and then castigates herself for it. She's just having a string of bad luck, she tells herself. She's not in love with her friend. She's just looking for someone safe. "Yeah, and she's kind of a fruitcake, but she's not a homicidal fruitcake."

"Your finely honed instincts told you this?" Lindsay says.

"That, and she has an alibi, and she --" Jill pauses to make sure she believes what she's going to say next. "I think she knows how her husband felt about Courtney and I think -- I think she was all right with it. She might even have encouraged it."

"Wow," Lindsay says, finally looking interested. "Fruitcakey."

"Did you... by any chance talk to a skater named Andy?"

"I don't know," Lindsay says. "I talked to about a dozen charming little ice princesses. The names are blurry."

"Well, this one's a prince," Jill says.

Lindsay gets a pile of notes from Jacobi and flips through them. "Andrew McCready. Nice girl, no enemies, how could anyone do this," Lindsay reads. "Just like the others."

"Right. Mind if I go find out what part of that he's lying about?"

"Be my guest," Lindsay says. Jill turns to go, but Lindsay grabs her arm, and they both freeze. Lindsay says, "You're really invested in this case."

"Yeah, I don't know, there's something... tawdry about it," Jill says.

"Well, if there's anyone who can uncover hidden tawdriness, it's you." It sounds like a pick-up line. Lindsay's hand is still on Jill's arm, and it's there for way too long before Jill mumbles that she needs to track down the ice prince.

There's no answer at Andy McCready's house, but he picks up his cell phone. He says he has nothing else to say to the police, but when she says she's a lawyer, he softens. That kind of thing happens a lot: people are anti-cop but will talk to the press, or they're afraid of being quoted by a journalist but trust the legal system. It's a big part of why the non-club has been so successful. He tells Jill he's at Emma Santuray's house in Noe Valley. His mom's on a business trip. He didn't want to be alone. He sounds teary and distraught; he sounds like despite his best efforts, he's still alone.

Jill drives out to Noe Valley. The girl who answers the door is five feet tall and wears impeccable makeup. That doesn't disguise what can only be described as homeliness. Emma and Courtney might have been equally talented, but Courtney was the pretty one. "I don't know why Andy said you should come here," Emma says as she lets Jill in. "We already told everything to the police." She is not a nice girl. Could this be as simple as a rivalry run amok?

Andy comes into the foyer. That is to say, Andy enters the foyer, stage right, with a flourish. Jill isn't one to buy into stereotypes, but she has known this boy for thirty seconds and it is already clear that he is not capable of walking without a swish and a finishing pose. But he is polite, and he shakes Jill's hand.

Jill sits down with him in the Santurays' antiseptic living room. "So. Tell me what you really thought of Courtney Huang."

"I told the cop that," Andy says. "I didn't lie. She was a genuinely nice person. She made a point of getting along with everyone. She encouraged the skaters who weren't as good as she was. I mean, she -- I -- I'll miss her." He sounds like he hasn't realized it until it's come out of his mouth. He regains his composure, his sarcastic remove. "I thought you were going to ask better questions than the cop did. I mean, lawyer --" he holds up a flat hand at the bridge of his nose -- "cop." He holds his other hand somewhere in the vicinity of his crotch. Andy McCready is not a nice girl.

"Hey," Jill says. "Unfair."

"I'm just saying," Andy says. "You went to college for, like, four extra years so you could learn how to ask better questions. I respect that."

"I'll try to take advantage of that."

Andy leans forward on his elbows.

"So the two of you, you and Courtney, you were just friends?" Jill says.

"Are you kidding me? Yes."

"And you didn't want to be more than friends?" Jill says.

"I have never wanted to be more than friends with a girl."

"And she didn't want to be more than friends with you?" Jill says.

"I doubt it."

"What about Emma?" Jill says.

"She's in the kitchen," Andy says. "Ask her."

"Do we need to have this conversation elsewhere? I'll give you a ride downtown." Andy doesn't answer, just gets his bag and puts his shoes on and follows Jill out to the car. The second they're out of the driveway, she repeats, "What about Emma?"

"I don't know what Emma wants," Andy says. "From me or from anyone else."

For a couple of blocks, Jill lets an uncomfortable silence fill the car. "Why are you so willing to talk to me?"

Andy shrugs. "I'm planning on going to law school once I've completely wrecked my body doing this. Also, you remind me of my mom."

"Please don't say that."

"I promised to tell you the truth," he says.

"What was Courtney's relationship with her coach like?" Jill hopes the question comes at him so fast he won't have time to come up with a clever answer.

"Our coach," Andy says.

"That doesn't answer my question."

"Do you want to know what I know," Andy says, "or do you want to know what I think?"

"Both," Jill says.

"I know Gary liked her a lot," Andy says. "More than normal. She was the teacher's pet."

"But you don't think it was that innocent."


"Do you think he was taking advantage of her?" Jill says.


"Explain to me how the first 'no' doesn't contradict the second," Jill says.

"I think she was taking advantage of him," Andy says. "I mean, yes, she was four feet eleven and cute as a button, but she was sixteen. What were you like when you were sixteen?"

Jill fights her instinctive nausea in the pursuit of justice. "So you think they were -- you think they were sleeping together?"

"That is something I think," Andy says. "Not something I know."

"Gary. Mr. Neale. Does he have a history of getting involved with his students?" Jill gulps a couple of times in the middle of the question. As much as she suspected the investigation would lead her here, it is tying her in knots to see that she's arrived. Gary Neale is a creep who fucks his underage students. Mrs. Neale is a fruitcake who doesn't seem to mind. The other kids at the rink know these things and seem unbothered and untraumatized.

When Jill finds the exception to this, she finds the killer.

"A history?" Andy says. "That's one way of putting it."

"So that's a yes?"

"Yes," Andy says.

"Is that something you think or something you know?"

"Yes." He stalls, but she waits him out until he adds, "Something I know."

"How do you know?" Jill is absolutely sure she doesn't want the answer.

"Before Courtney was Gary's favorite student," Andy says, "I was."

Jill very nearly plows her car into a truck. Not because she's surprised, but because she isn't, and this momentarily gives her a death wish.

"Maybe we should put this conversation on hold until we're not on the freeway," Andy says.

"Maybe that's a great idea," Jill says.

Jill talks to Andy for about another hour, and mostly she finds out that they covered nearly all of the good stuff in the car. He gets angry when she suggests that he was abused, but she can't stop making the suggestion. He was in love, he keeps saying. He does not see why, now that he is eighteen, he is suddenly competent to have sex with Gary Neale. "It's not like I was some kind of innocent virgin when we started going out."

"What if you had declined his advances?" Jill says.

"Who says the 'advances' were all his?" Andy says. The conversation goes another ten rounds, and by the time Jill abandons it, she can't tell who's right. But she's sick to her stomach.

Finally, she asks how Emma fits into all of this. Emma knows about Andy and Gary; Emma kind of maybe knows about Courtney and Gary but Andy can't say for sure because Emma is weird about everything; they are kind of friends but she can be a bitch. Jill thinks that if Andy is calling someone that, she must really be something. "Was there ever anything between Gary and Emma?" Jill takes a deep breath.

"She's not his type," Andy says quickly, and then he corrects himself: "She's not his student. She skates at the same rink, but her coach is Anna Komorova."

"Why isn't she his type?" Jill says.

"I didn't mean that."

"Oh, yes you did," Jill laughs. "Was she jealous of Courtney? Or you? Of the attention you got?"

"I don't know." His voice starts to shake. "Oh, God, do you think -- I mean, I don't think -- I don't know what I think. I want to be able to tell you who, I wanted to figure it out, I thought if we talked it out I could -- but I can't." He is crying into his hands. Jill puts her arms around him, stiffly at first, but it becomes natural. She strokes his close-cropped yellowish hair and lets him soak the lapel of her suit jacket.

When he's recovered, Jill goes out into the hall to call Lindsay. It's not the boy, she explains. It could be Emma. Has anyone talked to any of the parents? They talk longer than they need to. Today has been full of that kind of talking. Jill lets Lindsay's low, focused voice soothe her. Because Lindsay can't see her, she plays with the ends of her hair and bites the gloss off her lips. She's trying to remember what was so great about penises anyway.

Lindsay and Jacobi are going to go out and interview some parents. They've already talked to the Huangs and the Santurays, but thanks to Andy, there's a whole new set of questions. "What do you want me to do?" Jill says.

"Work on something else," Lindsay says. "I'll let you know if there's someone to charge with the murder. Or statutory rape. Or miscellaneous ooginess."

"But I -- I don't want to work on something else." Jill sounds whinier than she intended to. "I want to see this through, Linds."

"You will. We will. We're going to catch this one."

"I wish I could give you my passion for this case," Jill says. "I -- I know it's been hard since your dad, and since Pete went away, and since we caught Billy Harris, but you'll get it back. Eventually. You know, like falling in love again after someone breaks your heart." Jill hears herself say the thing about falling in love, and she wants to clap her hands over her mouth and hide. All day, she's been pouncing on the things that have escaped people's mouths, and now she's let her own destructive little speech mouse loose.

"I wish you could, too," Lindsay says, her voice velvety, and for a moment, Jill allows herself the illusion that it's not the passion Lindsay wants, but the love.

Jill goes back into her office to flip aimlessly through material pertaining to other cases. She remembers closing the office door, but it's a few inches ajar when she goes back in. Andy is pretending to read a magazine, but he's too close to the doorway to bother feigning innocence. She glares sternly at him; he smiles back at her broadly. There's no point in trying to assert her authority over him. His parents are absent, and the other adult in his life is his ex-lover. And Jill's not exactly the kind of woman who commands deference.

Andy sits on the floor reading Us Weekly. Denise is gone for the day, so Jill plays Freecell. Beats her high score. Andy's phone rings: his mom finally got a standby seat on a flight home. She'll be back in San Francisco and able to pick him up by 7 PM. "God, I really need to learn to drive," Andy tells Jill.

"Well, I'll be working at least that late. I have a whole bunch of trial prep to sort out." The trial prep could wait until tomorrow, but what else is she going to do with her evening? Pick up some manual-less guy in a bar? "You can hang around here until your mom gets back."

"Are you sure?" Andy says. "I could take BART home."

"I thought you didn't want to be alone."

"Yeah. Thanks." He's quiet for a while, reading his magazine. Jill sorts a witness list and collates it with sets of questions. He says, "My dad's in Texas. They're divorced. He's not a big fan of the Olympic-medal-will-pay-for-college plan. Since you didn't ask."

"It doesn't pertain to the case," Jill says.

"Thanks for caring."

"I'm sorry -- I --"

"No, never mind, I'm messing with you," Andy says. "I shouldn't do that."

"Yeah, well, I was messing with you a little, too," Jill says.

"I know." He's finished his magazine, and now he's browsing her law books. Jill is staring at the phone.

An hour later, it rings. "Is that kid still in your office?" Lindsay says.

"He's memorizing the California penal code," Jill says.

Lindsay asks to talk to him. Jill guesses the questions from the answers. "Yeah, not only that, but people have. There was this girl who none of us liked, she was kind of a prima donna, so some of the other girls, they, like, they got this fast weight gain powder from GNC and put it in her coffee every morning. She couldn't figure out why she was gaining weight. I think she actually quit the sport. No, I didn't actually do it, but I knew about it. Is that, like, self-incrimination? Okay, but I'm not naming names without, like, a lawyer." There is a long silence that ends in sniffling. "Yeah, I, I want to -- I'm sorry. Yeah, Emma was one of them. And Kylee. The other ones switched coaches. I think one of them's doing pairs now. The other person you mentioned, I don't even know, oh wait, is it that girl with the curly hair? Yeah, she's been, like, sucking up, I guess. I don't know. I guess they -- I guess they knew I would rat them out or whatever. I talked them out of a couple of things before, yeah. They must've decided that the way -- the way to deal with me and my conscience was to cut me out of it." He's full-on crying now. "I don't want it to be them. Why did they have to be -- I mean, they fucked everything up. For everyone. When they should have just been working on their fucking jumps."

Jill beckons, and Andy hands over the phone. "What are you doing? Berating my witness?"

"Getting him to corroborate that Emma was the ringleader," Lindsay says.

"Yeah, great strategy, there," Jill says. "Hasn't there been enough bullying in this case?"

"Right, because making new friends was getting you so far."

"He wouldn't even talk to you guys," Jill says. "I'm the one who cracked this case open. You were going to backburner it. Claire was going to rule it a damn suicide. I was the one who --"

"I don't even know why you're so caught up in this case." Lindsay is fighting without shouting. Her violent streak is terrifying, and Jill is glad to have a phone line between them. "Some spoiled, pretty, popular girl who was probably just as awful as the rest of them. What happened to crusading for the people who don't have voices? Why get so stuck on the one case that will actually get media coverage?"

"Because that girl didn't have a voice," Jill says. "That girl -- she was pretty, and she was talented, but she -- she wasn't popular. She was nice, but that's different. Adults like nice kids, but the other kids don't like them as much. It's easy to be friends with the nice girl; the way you get to be popular is by playing hard to get. At that rink, the ultimate prize was to get Emma Santuray to be your friend. And Courtney -- she refused to play that game. Which, when you combine it with intense athletic competition, girls who are in pain and hungry all the time --"

"The girl who confessed," Lindsay says, her anger deflated and softened. "She said they'd just wanted to teach Courtney a lesson. To put her in her place."

"She was telling the truth," Jill says.

"Well, we'll -- we need about an hour to process everything," Lindsay says. "I assume you'll need about that long to work out the details of how to charge them."

"At least. I'll -- I'll see you then." She almost hangs up the phone but decides to ask, "Is something up? You sound --"

"Fine. I sound fine." Lindsay says goodbye tersely and hangs up.

Jill turns to Andy. "Promise me you are not lying. Promise me you were not involved in this."

Andy seems offended. "Do you know how much shit I talked those stupid girls out of? Emma used to carry a pair of scissors around with her so she could fray people's laces or cut pieces off their costumes if they made her mad. I stole them out of her bag and threw them out. And last month, she found out I had a fake ID and asked me to buy everclear so she could put it in people's water."

"But you didn't tell anyone, because she'd throw you out of the clique?" Jill says.

"Oh, I was never in the clique," Andy says. "You know, I'm fun at parties, but a men's skater? I'm like a dog that can walk on its hind legs."

She puts her hands on his shoulders and looks him square in the eyes. He's short for a man, and she's wearing heels, so they're almost exactly the same height. "There is nothing wrong with who you are."

"Yeah, easier to say it than believe it," Andy says. "I mean, you're the perfect example."

"What -- what do you mean?"

"Cute trick, putting me on the phone with your girlfriend," Andy says.

"She's not my -- she's -- we're friends. We're good friends." Jill is backing away from him, but she's running out of office.

"Not really," he says. She doesn't want to argue with him anymore, so it's a good thing that his mom calls to tell him that her plane has landed. Andy's mom arrives just as Jill is finishing up the paperwork involved in formally charging three minors with second-degree murder. Andy gives her a real hug goodbye. She tells him to take care of himself. He wishes her luck and winks.

She knows what that wink stands for, and she resents it all the way to the police station. The sun is still out, but just barely. Her new apartment is empty, and she doesn't relish the prospect of going -- "home" doesn't feel like the right word for it yet. But when she sees Lindsay, her eyes rimmed dark with frustration and her hair clumping in her eyes but still somehow pretty, she tells herself the moral of this story. It is often better to be right than nice. She slinks by Lindsay's desk, says hi, clasps her hands behind her back and shifts her weight, can they chat in the ladies' room? Top secret.

It doesn't feel like a top secret kiss, not in front of the streaky mirrors and the stalls with the sticky locks, but it feels like a kiss returned.

"You were mean when you were that age, weren't you?" Lindsay says, wiping her wet lips with her hand. She's not commenting on the kiss at all. That's no surprise.

"No, I was a nice girl. Really nice. Irritating." She lifts Lindsay's hand to her lips and kisses her fingernails. Clipped short, waiting. Jill has been way too nice of a girl.

"What happened?" Lindsay says.

"I don't know. I like to think we all stop being those people," Jill says. "But you. I bet you were really mean. I bet you stole girls' gym clothes while they were in the shower. I bet you asked nerdy boys out just so you could stand them up."

"No," Lindsay says. "I didn't really play those games."

"Oh. You were that kind. That kind are the worst."

Lindsay pulls her into an embrace. "Maybe if you're nice enough to me, I'll change."

It is a good night, a very good night, a manual right there on the bedside table and they don't even need to crack it open kind of night. Not all the nights are like that, and the long talks come later, the fear. Andy calls Jill right after one of those talks, and she almost lets the call go to voice mail.

He wants to make sure it's okay for him to leave the State of California, since he'll be a witness if any of the girls plead innocent. And he has something else to say, as usual. "You didn't arrest Gary.".

"No evidence," Jill says. "Courtney never accused him, and it doesn't sound like you're planning on pressing charges."

"Then is it all right if we -- if you -- just don't bring that part of it up? Since it's unsubstantiated. Because, like, sadly enough, this trial will get more people to watch skating, it's like if girls are trying to kill each other it must be exciting or something. But the people who run the sport -- it's, you know how it's okay to have violence in a PG movie but not sex? It's kind of like that with the International Skating Union. Especially if it's, you know." He whispers loudly, satirically. "Gay sex."

"It will only enter the conversation if you bring it up," Jill says. "As far as I'm concerned."

"Thank you." Jill has heard him tear up enough times to know he is doing it now. "You're actually saving my career."

"How's that going?" Jill says.

"I'm moving to Delaware. There's a coach out there looking for a future national champion, and I've sweet-talked her into believing I might be it. How's your girlfriend?"

"Just fine." She wonders if he can hear her blush.

"I knew it," he says.

"Knew it?" she says. "Or thought?"

"Knew," he says.