The sun rose gold over the still-sleeping city. Stella stood by the window, her forehead pressed against the cool glass, and watched it. There were so many colours – greens, pinks, oranges, reds, golds, and the pale blue of the sky behind.
There was no one on the streets just yet. The city hadn't woken.
The people didn't know what they were missing.
She watched the ball of the sun float up from the grasp of the horizon and hover unsupported, hanging in the deepening blue, the other colours fading into memories. Still she waited, in the appropriately named room.
She looked around as Lindsay entered, holding a bag. "Change of clothes. My spares from my locker."
Stella automatically took them from her, but hesitated to move.
Lindsay read her meaning in her face. "I'll wait here while you find somewhere to change."
"Thanks," came the reply, but Stella still hesitated.
Lindsay played her card, the trace of a smile floating around the corners of her mouth. "You know perfectly well that they wanted to check you back in as a patient, Stell. If you catch pneumonia now from standing around in soaking clothes, as you have been for hours, you aren't going to have much of an argument."
A smile crept onto Stella's face at Lindsay's stern tone. "I'm sorry. It's just…"
"I know you don't want to miss hearing anything, don't worry. I'll wait here, and if there's any news I'll find out."
After a final moment's hesitation, Stella disappeared from the room. Lindsay sat on a chair and took her turn to wait, finding that her eyes too were drawn to the window, avoiding the fake-cheery posters on the walls – cartoon fish, motivational slogans, tropical islands, sunscreen advertisements, and warning symptoms of meningitis.
All there was to do at the moment was wait.
- - - - -
"And that's the guy?" Danny asked. "The reason why we're still here and not waiting for news on Mac?"
"Yep," replied Flack. "Besides the fact that life's still going on, and people are still killing each other. Right now we're more use here, getting on with work. Mac's still in surgery."
The two men looked through the glass to the man sitting at the table in the small bare room. His jaw was clenched and he stared straight at what was to him an opaque mirror, seemingly aware that he was being watched.
"You haven't interviewed him yet?"
"No. He's been sitting there a while."
"Why hasn't he already been arrested and locked away?"
Flack shrugged his shoulders slightly in defence. "First of all, we need to get this whole thing done with right now, so it doesn't come back to bite us anytime soon. That means everything in the right order, and you know it's always better and quicker if you can get all the files done with before the confession, or denial of one. Although he doesn't really have much of a choice."
Danny sighed. "Believe it or not, Flack, my brain can handle the concept of proper police procedure."
"Really, Messer? Wow, I learn something new every day."
"I try. But anyway, the main reason I've been waiting is I want to know how Mac's doing first. Can't stand the thought of talking to that guy not knowing, one way or the other."
Danny nodded. "Lindsay's with Stella now, or should be. She took her over some dry clothes."
"She's braver than me, then."
"Whad'ya mean by that?"
"Have you actually seen Stell since yesterday in the lab? I wouldn't dare interrupt her. I tried telling her to go and get some rest, something to eat, and she nearly bit my head off." He was interrupted by the tone of his cell, and stepped away from Danny to answer it.
Danny stared at Haimes, trying to pick out in his face some telltale trait of character which would suggest that he was a murderer, a rapist, an attacker. It was an ordinary face. The sort he walked past every day on the streets, sat next to in bars, ignored on the subway.
His thoughts were broken as Flack strode quickly back over, firm steps past Danny, and opened the door. "C'mon then. Let's get this guy to send himself down."
"You mean – ?"
A massive grin spread over Flack's face. "I just talked to Lindsay. Mac's going to be ok. He's going to be ok."
- - - - -
Stella stood in another room, by another window. She still wasn't at her goal, but she was getting closer to it. Getting closer to him. He was only just down the corridor, she'd been told, being moved into a recovery room, and they would let her in to see him as soon as they could. Really, she thought idly, all the rooms in a hospital were waiting rooms. You were always waiting, waiting to see someone, waiting for them to get better. But right now she was content to wait, for a little while.
Lindsay would probably be wondering where she was, or had guessed already. She had been on her way back, and had met the doctor coming in the opposite direction, who had passed on his news and, at her insistence, taken her as far along this last corridor as was possible, left her in the closest room to him.
He was going to be alright. She kept the thought of it folded close to her chest, feeling the warmth it spread through her. And he was alive.
Alive. That word was beautiful. It floated, spiralling, spinning, in the air, pale gossamer threads trailing from it, singing in the sunlight.
The sky was a deep blue, speaking of the summer to come, and there were no clouds. It wouldn't have been possible for there to be any clouds, not today.
She turned, towards the man in the white coat, her face held in a question.
"You can see him now."
- - - - -
There was a day, somewhere. For Stella it passed unnoticed, the seconds unmarked. There was a window in the room, and the blue sky smiled encouragingly at her as she sat by the bed. She held his hand, and didn't let him go. From time to time she talked to him, but mostly she just sat with him, waiting.
The rest of the team came and went. Crime didn't stop, so work couldn't stop. But they found time for visits, and promises to come back after shift. Lindsay brought Stella coffee and a sandwich. Flack and Danny brought chocolate, and the news that Jacob Haimes had confessed to all the charges he'd been presented with, after learning that he had failed to kill his witness. Hawkes had brought nothing with him, but had sat in silence with her for a while, and that was more than enough.
And the sun glided through the sea of the sky, which darkened behind it, until there was a sunset, red and orange and purple, which she couldn't see directly from where she sat, but the whole sky was a mirror for it.
Then came night, and with it the stars, although they weren't visible through the reflecting glass. She knew that they were there nonetheless. A nurse tried to draw the curtains, but Stella told her to leave them open.
And all the time, Mac lay there. There was a litany of injuries, but, as the doctor had said, he was 'extraordinarily lucky' in which injuries he didn't have. No neck or spinal damage, no head injury, apart from the one Haimes had given him. The damage from the impact had mostly been internal, and minimal, and the surgery he'd gone through had been successful. He'd hit the river feet first, and that had made all the difference.
Luck had always favoured him. But then, she had never stopped hoping.
Her friends began to filter in. There were kind words, and smiles, and encouragement. Hands laid on hers to give her strength, and on Mac's, too. More and more chairs inside the room. They talked quietly around her, but Stella didn't join in. She sat quietly and watched Mac, and waited.
Danny and Lindsay left first, arms around each others' waists, her head resting on his shoulder. Then Hawkes, with a soft apology for having the early shift the next morning.
Flack stayed. "Get some sleep," he told her, gently. "I'll sit here for a while."
She shook her head. "I'm staying with him."
"You need sleep, though. He'd understand."
"I'm not leaving him," she said firmly. "I promised him I wouldn't."
"Is there anything I can say to convince you?"
She shook her head, but she smiled too. "You haven't slept for God-knows how long. I should probably be telling you to go."
"Look who's talking," he grumbled, but he was trying to stifle a yawn at the same time. "Ok then. I'll catch some sleep now, but I'll come back in the morning and you'll let me take over here, ok?"
"Deal," she agreed. He touched her on the shoulder as he left.
She continued waiting. There was warmth in his hand, there had been all day, but she still needed the contact to reassure herself that he was still there. The lights were dim, and presently she slept, head bent down against her shoulder and the side and back of the chair, hand still holding his.
- - - - -
She woke to the sun slanting in through the window, ribbons of it drifting idly over her face. It was another beautiful day, and Mac's hand was still warm in hers.
She still waited, watching the golden streaks which slid slowly across the wall, and the lacy pattern thrown over the bed. Soon the sun no longer looked directly at the two of them, and she could see the blueness of that wonderfully blue sky.
"Open your eyes for me," she whispered. "Come back to me now."
She ran her hand gently over his brow and through his hair.
He opened his eyes as her soul, which had followed him down into the dark places where he'd been, called him back to her.
His grey eyes were the most beautiful sight she'd ever seen.
She smiled at him, controlling her voice which threatened to shake, and keeping her tone matter-of-fact. "Hi."
He blinked to focus on her face. "Hi," he murmured.
"Did you – miss me?" His voice was slow, and quiet. But his.
She laughed slightly, and blinked back tears. "Of course I did. But I'm angry at you, you realise?"
"You should be." But her smile gave the lie to her words. "How do you feel?"
"You sleep for now, then."
His eyes fell closed. She watched the light on his face, and the bright blue sky through the window. She was in no hurry. They had all the time in the world.
- - - - -
Hawkes strolled along the hospital corridor, knowing the way without looking by now, after following it faithfully for the last few days. When he came to the right room he knocked, and then pushed the door open.
"You know what I think of you," he said to the occupants as he stepped inside. "But then, both of you seem to take pleasure in flouting medical advice."
Mac laughed. He was sitting on the edge of the bed. "I'm fine. I've been cleared to leave."
"No, you forced them to clear you to leave. There is a difference."
"He's not going to listen to you," Stella pointed out. "I've already tried."
Hawkes sighed. "Yeah, point taken. I'm just warning him."
"You know, 'he' can hear you," Mac said dryly.
Stella winked at Hawkes. "Ignore him, he's just fed up with being cooped up in here."
Hawkes laughed. "Well, I've brought the car to give you two a lift." He gestured to a file he was holding. "I just need to drop this off, descriptions of two suspects we're looking for. Thought I'd come in first to warn you to be ready."
Mac caught Stella staring at him once the door had swung closed again. "What?"
She grinned mischievously. "You hardly ever wear jeans."
"I also hardly ever trust Danny to grab a set of clothes for me from my apartment. Now I realise why."
"Relax, Mac. It's not like you're going to work now."
"Don't I remember you coming straight to work from the hospital?" he teased.
She glared at him. "Slight difference in circumstances, I seem to remember."
She had been leaning against the windowsill, but at his gesture she came and sat beside him on the bed. "Are you ok?" she asked, and her tone was serious, deep behind the superficial question.
He looked into her eyes, and nodded. He took her hand. "Thank you," he said, very quietly.
She didn't ask what for, knowing the answer already, beyond what could be put into words. "We take care of each other, remember?"
The sunlit moment passed slowly between them, as they sat there, not moving.
Somewhere outside, a bird was singing, a dog was barking, traffic was drifting past. Somewhere inside, footsteps clicked down corridors, voices chimed. But between the two of them, no words were needed.
Hawkes pushed open the door again, the spell of silence fading. "We're good to go," he announced. "Just tell me which of you I should drop off where."
Stella looked at Mac. The sunlight winked at her. "I've still got that bag of clothes and things at yours," she said. "I'd better collect it."
He was still holding her hand. The sky was a bright soaring blue of joy. He met her eyes, and saw the laughter contained there. She, of course, already knew what he meant, even before he opened his mouth. She'd made him a promise, after all.
"Maybe you could – stay for a while?"
He didn't hear what she replied over the birdsong, and his heartbeat which now contained hers too, and the sun that sang in its flight. But her eyes told him.
And that, after all, was enough.
A/N: Well, now I've finished, and I'm quite sad about it! This is the longest thing I've ever written, and I'm really going to miss it. But I am still amazed at the response I've had to this! So thank you very much to everyone who reviewed, and and everyone who added it to alerts/favourites lists. I'd love to hear what you thought about this last chapter, and about the whole story in general.
And as soon as I can I'll be writing some more! However, exams are fast approaching, so you may not see too much of me for a while. But watch this space! Kate x