A/N: This is a sequel to Twelve Days of Christmas CSI:NY. When we last saw Stella and Flack, he had rescued her from the hospital. This is what happened the next day, on the 12th Day of Christmas: on the Feast of Fools.
Disclaimer: The characters and the show CSI:NY are the intellectual property of their creators and CBS TV.
Faded Into Moonlight
He had been awake for hours, lying beside her, watching her sleep in the faint light from the never-sleeping city outside. He had not touched her, had shifted so that even his breath did not bruise her fragility. She slept so quietly, moving seldom, as if sleep was something to be closely held.
Around sunrise, he slipped out of the bed they had shared, pulling on dress slacks wrinkled first from the takedown the day before, and then from lying on the bedroom floor most of the night. He pulled on his undershirt, but rejected the shirt – it still had blood on it.
He wandered to the kitchen and began making coffee, trying to keep the visions out of his head. Visions of her on the floor, face white, eyes closed, blood on her face, pooling on the floor.
Visions of her more than a year ago, battered and bloody, with the dead body of her ex-boyfriend close by in the middle of the apartment he was standing in.
Visions of her in a hundred dangerous situations, any one of which could cause her death, none of which he could protect her from.
He poured coffee, spilling some over his shaking hand, swearing and mopping it up, then running the reddened skin under cold water for a moment. He went back into the living room, sipping the strong black liquid, and giving himself over to more visceral memories.
Her skin flushing with desire as he ran an exploratory tongue down her throat and to the tip of her breast. The feel of her hands on his chest, on his back, on his hips. The taste of her lips on his, of her pleasure under his mouth. The clean smell of her after he had coaxed her into the shower, to use her own shampoo, her own soap, cleansing her skin of the blood that had covered her, of the stench of the hospital disinfectant.
The sound reverberating through him: contented whimpers growing to moans as he explored her tenderly, lovingly, then, forgetting to be gentle, driving her over the edge to float with him.
He had never felt like that. Sex was play, was sport, entertainment, even a competition. Sex was a way to relieve pressure, a way to pass the time. Sometimes, it was simply a way to confirm that one was alive and still breathing, still capable of feeling something,
But with Stella, it was different.
With Stella, it was more.
The phone rang and he lunged for it, dropping the nearly empty coffee-cup with a muffled curse.
"Flack." Shit. He was at Stella's. He should have said … well, really …nearly anything else would have been better.
"Flack? What the hell are you doing there? Where's Stel? The hospital didn't inform me she had left until this morning." Mac sounded rattled, bordering on angry, as if he had been given the run-around by the hospital staff. Flack thought he recognized the tone: that was Mac's "Don't tell me about regulations, just tell me what I want to know" voice.
"She's okay, Mac. I brought her home last night. She didn't want to stay in the hospital." Flack spoke with authority, as if he had the right to determine Stella's wants and needs.
No matter what Mac thought of it.
Judging by the silence on the other end of the phone, Mac was working out what he thought of it.
"She's really okay, Don?"
Flack found himself nodding reassurance, although of course Mac couldn't see that. "She's okay. The bullet grazed her temple. Lots of blood, but not serious, the doctors said. She just … couldn't stay alone." He floated the gentle lie to see if Mac would bite.
The older man's silence told him nothing.
"I'll get her to call you when she wakes up? I want her to sleep as long as possible – it's got to be better than pain pills." Again, he studiously tried to keep his voice neutral, helpful even.
When Mac finally spoke, Flack thought he sounded tired – aging. "Yeah. When she's ready, Don. Get her to call me and tell me she's okay."
"I'll do that. How long is she off shift for?"
"Five days pending exams: medical and psych. I'll make the appointments." Mac's customary briskness returned. "Later, Flack."
Flack hung up the phone, another memory digging its way out of his brain. It was the rage he had felt when Stella had been attacked, that rage mirrored and magnified by taking her statement, sitting with her through the discovery of the events which had led to her shooting Frankie Mala. That rage which had twisted in his gut when she had turned from thanking him, hugging him, to leave with Mac.
Payback was a bitch.
He spun at the brittle voice from the bedroom door. She was standing straight and stiff, but he could see by the lines around her eyes what a toll it was taking.
"Stel. Go back to bed. I'll bring you some coffee and painkillers, okay?" He came towards her, his easy smile spreading at the sight of her, at the scent of her.
Her green eyes looked into his, confused and a little frightened. "Don? What are you doing here?"
She put a hand to her head and swayed a little.
He was at her side, supporting her, taking her back to bed, before she could do more than take a breath. "Come on, Stella. Off your feet, okay? Come on, under the covers. I'm going to get you some water, okay?"
She reached out and grabbed his arm, "Frankie. Where's Frankie?" She caught sight of his shirt on the floor, and gasped, "Don! That's blood. Did he hurt you too?"
Stunned, Flack sat on the bed facing her, taking her hands in his. "Stella. Frankie's dead. Honey, he died last year."
She stared in disbelief, her eyes filling with horror. "I killed him. He had gone crazy. I shot him."
"Yeah, honey. You shot him. That was more than a year ago, Stel."
She closed her eyes, and put an exploring hand up to the bandage on her head. "I don't remember. I can't remember."
He swallowed hard, his hand already dialing the number for the hospital. "Lie down, Stella. Close your eyes. I'm going to go make you some tea." He knew he was babbling, but Granny Flack's universal panacea leapt to mind. 'A nice cup of tea' was the cure for the world's ills. Considering the things that woman had put up with in her life, Flack thought it must be pretty powerful medicine.
Stella curled up and he pulled the covers over her, making sure the room was dark as he moved down the hall, simultaneously negotiating the tricky communications route though the hospital to get ahold of the doctor who had treated Stella the night before.
"Detective? You caught me just as I was leaving." The doctor's terse voice made the unspoken "so hurry this along" unnecessary.
"Detective Bonasera woke up this morning and can't remember anything that happened." Flack held onto control, his voice tight.
"Hmm. Yes. Well, this is why we recommend observation …"
"Yeah, yeah doc. Got it. Could we take the lecture about her leaving the hospital as read, and just get on to the part where you tell me what to do?" That iron control let go, and Flack snapped out his request like an order.
"Hmm. Yes. Well, Detective Flack, we did warn you…" The doctor persisted.
"Doc. I'll come back in later this week and you can say your piece. In the meantime, if you would be so kind, tell me what the fuck to do."
A little subdued, the doctor cleared his throat, "It is not unusual for a head injury to result in some temporary loss of memory…"
"What – the – fuck – do – I – do?" Each word was spaced out, like six precise bullets emptied into the dead centre of a target.
"How much time has she lost?"
"Over a year."
"Really? Hmm. Yes. Well, that is unusual. Usually a patient will remember everything up to just before the incident…" Flack could hear the wheels turning in the doctor's head, and what he heard whispered, "What an interesting paper this would make."
"She thinks it is the day after she shot her murdering bastard of an ex-boyfriend." The blunt tones caught the doctor off guard. Flack turned off the boiling kettle and made tea in a mug, then looked around the room for an empty pop bottle of some kind.
"Oh. She's had a previous traumatic experience? Why didn't you say so?" The doctor was gently reproving.
"Because we told you, the intern, and five individual nurses that last night when I put her bloody clothes in the garbage and took her out of the hospital." Flack had long ago lost patience. He was working on allowing the doctor to continue breathing.
There was a moment's silence, and then the doctor sighed, suddenly sounding more human. "Right. Sorry, Detective. Seven traumas in a twelve-hour shift. I'm losing track. I have her file now."
Flack had the grace to feel ashamed. "Any suggestions?" He could hear papers being shuffled.
"Just a second, okay?"
Flack filled a large pop bottle with hot water from the tap as he waited, and screwed the cap back on tightly, searching for a tea towel in the drawers. He put two spoonfuls of sugar and some milk in the tea.
"Okay. I've checked her file. Because of the previous head trauma, there could be some confusion for a few hours. You could try talking her into the present. Tell her what's been going on for the past few weeks. Did she sleep quietly last night?"
"Um, yeah. Yeah. She slept." Flack was glad no one could see the blush rising on his cheeks.
"No disturbances? Nothing that got her excited or stressed?"
"Um, no. Nothing like that." This time Flack closed his eyes and prayed for forgiveness before the inevitable lightning strike.
"Okay. Keep her warm and quiet, and talk to her. As long as she starts to remember things on her own within a few hours, she should be okay. I'll make her an appointment with a specialist in head traumas, just in case. If you are worried, bring her back in. And keep her quiet!" The doctor's voice was authoritative again.
"Yes. Okay. Thanks, Doc."
He was juggling the hot mug in one hand, the pop bottle in another, and had the phone tucked under his chin as he moved quickly back to the bedroom. He made it through the door without dropping anything or burning himself again, and put the tea down on the bedside table, snapping the phone closed as he reached under the duvet and placed the bottle near Stella's feet.
"Don?" Her voice was thready and confused still.
"Hey, Stel. Here's a hot water bottle to warm you up. I talked to the doc; he's says you're going to be just fine." He spoke cheerfully and lightly, trying to keep the fear out of his eyes.
"My head hurts." That whimper nearly tore him in two.
"I know, honey. Here's some painkillers, and some sweet tea. My Granny swears by hot, sweet tea."
"I don't take sugar in my tea." Stella's voice had turned petulant, and he carefully helped move pillows so that she was sitting up.
"I know. But today, just this once, you'll drink it like this, okay?" He handed her water and two of the pills the nurse had reluctantly allowed Flack to take charge of the night before, and watched as she swallowed and grimaced at the bitter taste.
She glared at him, but drank obediently, making another face at first as the sweet tea hit her.
"Now. Tell me what you remember."
"I shot Frankie."
"I was in the hospital." She frowned at the mug. "You were there. You kept talking. Asking me things."
He nodded, his heart breaking.
"You were so kind. Did I say thank you?" She looked into his face.
He nodded again, swallowing hard.
"When did that happen? You said a year ago?" Her voice was beginning to rise anxiously.
"Don't worry about it now, Stella. Just relax. Maybe sleep." He took the cup from her hand and tried to coax her into lying down.
"I have to go to the bathroom." She swung her legs out of bed, and he grabbed her arm as she wobbled.
She glared at him mockingly, "I think I can manage that on my own, Flack."
He shrugged, but grinned. That sounded more like his Stella.
While she was in the bathroom, he got rid of the blood-smeared shirt on the floor and tidied up the bed. He got her more water from the kitchen, and checked that the hot water bottle he had put in her bed wasn't leaking.
"Don?" She was standing in the doorway, her eyes dark and haunted.
"Come back to bed, Stella. You need to sleep."
"Tell me what happened last night."
He shook his head. "The doctor said it was better if you could remember on your own."
"What's the date?"
He started to shake his head again, but relented at the flash of panic in her face, "January 5th. 2008."
How well he remembered the horrifying sensation of remembering nothing. One day, his mother told him, he had asked the date and time every quarter hour, as if the only way to get through the day was in 15-minute increments.
He reached out to help her back to bed, and she cringed away from him. "Stella? What's wrong?"
She shook her head. "What happened last night?"
Her voice was cold, but he could see her shaking. He dropped his hand and stepped back carefully.
Sorry, doc. "You were shot at. Yesterday. In a search for a hit-and-run suspect."
She put her hand up to her head again, fingering the bandage. "I got hit?"
He nodded, arms folded against the need to pull her against him. "She grazed you. The girlfriend. Lots of blood, but nothing worse."
She frowned. "Nothing else? Nothing else happened?"
"You lost your memory, Stella. The doctor says it isn't unusual after a traumatic event to return to a previous one. That's why you thought …" he couldn't say the words.
"Frankie. That's why I thought it was just after killing Frankie." She made her way to the bed, still avoiding him. She put her head in her hands for a minute, surreptitiously wiping her eyes with shaking fingers.
"I guess. Yeah." He stuck his hands in his pockets.
"Was there anyone else here? Did something else happen?" She waited a minute.
He opened his mouth, but the bitter lump of grief and guilt that had been sitting in his stomach since she had woken with no memory of the night before rose up into his throat, choking off any apology he could come up with.
It was the tone of keening in her voice that broke him: a mixture of sorrow and fear that drove him to his knees beside the bed, careful not to touch her.
"We – I – stayed. We – slept together." He couldn't put the words to it – couldn't say 'had sex' or 'made love': the first was too little for him and the second was too much for her.
Obviously, as she was staring at him with something close to horror in her eyes.
"We – slept together," she repeated it slowly.
He sat back on the floor, not sure whether to laugh or cry at the tone in her voice, a sort of mixture between disbelief and irritation. Long legs crossed, arms resting on his knees, he contented himself with just nodding again, drinking her in with his eyes. Before she kicked his ass out of her apartment and out of her life, he might as well look his fill of her.
She ran a hand through her hair uncertainly. "Shit."
She looked under her eyelashes at him. "I could tell. You know. That I'd had … sex. But all I could remember was Frankie …"
He bit his tongue. There was really nothing to say to that. Briefly, he held a dream to his heart, and then opened his fingers to let it go.
He stood easily and reached for the mug on the side table, meaning to clear up and then clear out.
Maybe they needed detectives on Staten Island.
She reached out and grabbed his wrist as it passed her, over-balancing him just enough to make him stumble and end up sitting on the bed beside her.
"I'll go. Call Mac when you feel up to it. He wants to know how you are." He tried not to mumble, tried to remember that she was the one who had made all the moves the night before.
She wrapped her other hand around his cheek, pushing his face up until his eyes met hers.
"I just can't believe… I just can't believe that something I have thought of for so long…" she pressed her lips to the corner of his mouth gently, "That I have been wanting for so long…" she kissed the other side of his mouth, "I cannot believe that I don't remember."
Her arms went around the back of his neck and she pulled him closer, his mouth a breath away from hers, and waited for him to do something.
He stayed, awkwardly poised above her, waiting for her.
"Make me remember, Don."
And with a groan, he did his best. If she couldn't remember the first time, he was determined she would have a life-time of memories to draw on.