Title: I'll Go with You
Author: Banana Tooth
Spoilers: Episode 418, Admissions
Disclaimer: I am in no way connected with CBS, the CSI Franchise, or its writers, producers, or directors.
His office is deserted, and he's nowhere in the lab. I catch Lindsay on her way out, but she hasn't seen him either. Of course, I could always call his cell, but I don't want to give him any warning, to give him time to prepare himself.
I don't want to hear that he's fine. I want him to talk.
On a hunch I head up to the roof, and there he is, leaning his elbows on the railing and staring down at the street below. The breeze ruffles his shirt and stirs his hair and I stand just for a moment, watching him in the waning evening light.
He doesn't move as I step out and close the door softly—either he doesn't hear me, or he knows it's me. I go up beside him, set my hand on his back, and he smiles a little, just briefly, the corners of his eyes crinkling. He still doesn't move.
I trace circles lightly across his shoulders, feeling his warmth, his strength, but at the same time his tension, like a spring stretched to its limit. I know the feeling: the knotted, aching muscles at the end of the day, the lying awake, exhausted. His back is hard and taut beneath his shirt and I stroke gently, soothingly, offering what I can.
After a long time he speaks, softly, his words almost lost in the breeze. "I know how he felt."
He doesn't say anything else. After a moment I ask, "Who? Gerrard?"
"Yeah." He stares down at his hands. "I've wanted to do exactly the same thing. Too many times."
"But you didn't," I point out quietly.
"I've wanted to," he insists.
"I think we all have, Mac. It comes with the job. But wanting and doing are two different things."
"Yeah." He looks down at the traffic far below us. "I would have killed Frankie."
My brow furrows. "Well...I did."
He shifts restlessly. "You had to. That's different." I can feel him getting more tense. He's upset. "If he had killed you," he continues, his voice low and raspy, "I would have hunted him down and shot him. And that would have been too good for him."
I have no idea what to say to that. My hand travels the journey between his shoulder blades and I just wait to see if he'll go on.
"That's why I know what Gerrard was thinking. His career, his freedom…it wouldn't matter. All he wanted was justice for someone he loved."
"I wouldn't have cared about any of that either. Nothing would matter, if I lost you."
My hand goes still on his back; in fact, I go still all over. Mac doesn't just say things like that. My pulse is going too fast.
"How many times do we see that, Stella? Sick perverts that we'd like to finish off right then and there. And how many other cases do we see where we know exactly why a person kills someone. Where we wouldn't even prosecute if we had a choice. We think about it, and they do it. There's not that much of a difference."
"Mac," I begin again, but I still don't know what to say. I slide my hand up to his shoulder and squeeze it, hard, kneading with my thumb. He's hurting and troubled and I don't know how to comfort him. My words come slowly, and I just let them fall.
"Of course we're going to feel that way sometimes, with everything we see…that's why not everyone can do this job. But it all comes down to the choices we make—and that's what makes you good at it. Because we know—you know—that that isn't justice. It doesn't help anyone involved—it's not just Gerrard's life, Natalie is going to lose her father, just when she needs him most…and it didn't happen this time, but sometimes we have the wrong person. There's always that chance. We know there's a right way to do things, and…you just have to trust yourself, Mac," I finish softly.
My heart is still pounding. He turns his head, looks at me, for the first time, and then he slowly straightens and turns toward me. I feel breathless and a little shaky after that speech and he seems to move in slow motion as his palm comes up to rest along my face. I meet his gaze, holding still, breathing carefully, as his thumb strokes along my cheek, until suddenly his hand slides back, his fingers in my hair, cupping the back of my head and I give an involuntary little gasp as he pulls me to him and kisses my forehead.
He leans his forehead against mine then, and my eyes are shut with him being so close but I can feel his breath on my face. I'm careful not to move because I don't want him to move, but after a while I bring my hands up to rest against his sides. My mind is racing and I keep going back to his words: Nothing would matter…
My skin still tingles where his kiss brushed against it and my own lips are parted a little and I want him to kiss me again, somewhere, anywhere. I tilt my face up and kiss his chin, and as if by instinct his lips find my cheekbone and linger there, edging slowly outward, reaching my temple.
"Stella…" I feel the reverberations of his voice, feel his mouth move against my skin, and I think if I stopped concentrating, I would stop breathing altogether. His lips move delicately across my eyebrows, and he kisses my closed eyes, slowly, each in its turn. "I should get back to work."
"It's so late, Mac. Why don't you go home?"
His hand, still in my hair, pulls my head down a little and his lips are back at my forehead. "To tell the truth…I'd rather not go anywhere."
Relief floods over me like a wave before I can even register anything else, and then a kind of joy that makes me unsteady on my feet as I murmur, "Me neither."
His other hand goes to my shoulder and his cheek grazes my forehead and he leaves tiny kisses all along my hairline, all the way down to my ear. When he kisses my earlobe I can't help but make a soft little sound and that just seems to drive him on, and he kisses behind the lobe and follows the tendon of my neck down to my collarbone, and then to the hollow of my shoulder as he shifts his hand down to the bare skin of my arm. I hadn't even realized how chilly the air had become until I feel the contrast of his warm hand, and he feels it too and stops, speaking against my shoulder.
"I'm sorry…I shouldn't keep you out here. Let's go in."
Instead of replying I wrap my arms tightly around his waist, burrowing into him, and think that I don't care how cold it is when I have him to warm me up. "I'm okay," I say, muffled against his collar.
He straightens and pulls back a little so he can meet my eyes. His hand still cradles the back of my head and I like that I can relax back against it and let him hold me. "Thank you," he says quietly.
I lift my hand and set it along his cheek, not answering right away, because I'm not sure how to say what I'm thinking—that after tonight we don't have to go on as usual, as if none of this ever happened. I don't want to show up to work tomorrow and be back to normal. We've wasted enough time. "Listen, Mac—"
That's as far as I get, because he tilts his head and his lips touch mine, softly, quietly, and the goosebumps I feel now have nothing to do with the temperature. He's careful and deliberate and he sets slow, easy kisses across my mouth from one corner to the other, and gently tugs my lower lip down and kisses it by itself. That's what makes me shudder suddenly, clutching him, one hand twisted in his hair and the other grasping urgently at his arm, and I kiss him back and I'm not gentle at all. I think I even bite his lip but he must not care because he doesn't stop until we're both gasping for air, and then he looks at me, his eyes wide, breathing hard. "Stella…?"
"Yes," I assure him.
He grins, broadly, suddenly, eyes beautiful in the dim light. "Good," he says simply.
I smile and lean my head against his shoulder, resting, catching my breath. "Now let's go in," he says. "Your hands are freezing."
"Sorry," I laugh, and tuck my hands in between his arms and his sides, where it's wonderfully warm. "New plan," I announce. "Why don't you go to dinner, and I'll go with you."
"That sounds like the best one yet," he says, not even hesitating.