A/N: Thought I'd try and get back into posting things a little more regularly again, now that I've at long last dusted off Eye Spied! This was a challenge from lily moonlight, to write a oneshot inspired by Tennyson's 'The Lady of Shallot'. Hope I haven't offended anyone by mangling the poem in my own special way! :] And do forgive the verse at the start, I'm not a poet :P
That said, please please don't hesitate to tell me what you think of it! Reviews help me write more!
On either side the rivers lie
A city built from towers high
Which hide the Earth and scrape the sky.
And through its streets the cars race by
To traffic jams and parking lots.
And up and down the people go
Through work and strife, to graves below,
Uncaring where the waters flow;
The waters they've forgot.
Mac's hand lingers against Stella's cheek, sliding down her arm to gently clasp her fingers. She feels the warmth of his skin, far warmer than hers.
"Stella, please look at me. Please."
She would like nothing more, wants nothing more in the world than to open her eyes and gaze on his face.
"Stell, come back."
Back… Back from a void. Where she's drifting in darkness, with his voice falling down to her from far above. But she feels the touch of his hand. She feels the uncertainty in it. The fear. For her.
I will come back, she silently promises. Wait for me.
He's there, waiting, for her to come back to. Unless this is a dream. How can she tell? But she knows that he'll wait. He wouldn't abandon her. Not Mac.
"I wish I could send you grace…"
Footsteps approach, and the voice isn't one she's heard before. "Sir, are you a relative?"
"No, her colleague. We work together."
"I need to talk to a relative. Have you contacted her next of kin?"
"She doesn't have any. I'm all she's got."
Maybe all this is a dream. But when you can't wake up from a dream, how do you distinguish it from reality? She isn't sure. But she sleeps a lot, and then there's nothing. And she sleeps lighter, and then there are voices.
"Mac, you need your rest." Sid is instantly recognisable.
"I'm not leaving her." But she can hear the fatigue in his voice, layered beneath the stubbornness.
"I'll sit with her a while. We aren't going to leave her alone, none of us are, but we don't want you ending up in here too, and you will if you go on like this. It's been five days, and you've barely slept."
Five days? That can't be right.
She tries to add up all the estimations of minutes, and comes up with barely any at all. It frightens her. I can't have been here five days…
And Mac's gone. She's missed their argument, but heard his final defeat. Sid sits down, and she hears him draw up a chair. "Hi, Stella. It's Sid."
He pauses, as if expecting her to answer. She tries, but her mouth won't move. Her eyes won't open.
"You need to come back to us soon, you know. We're all worried. Did you know that Mac's been with you this whole time? You need to wake up so that you can scold him; you know that you're the only one he ever really listens to."
Oh, don't I know it. And he doesn't always listen to me, by no means.
He takes her hand in both of his, tenderly, as if he's afraid that she might break. "Come back soon, Stella. We need you…"
The nurses don't talk to her. The doctor discusses her condition with Mac, but their voices are muffled by the door, and she can't make out the words. Are they afraid that I might hear?
Hands. There are many hands. Hands stroking her hair, straightening her covers, hands holding her hands in theirs. She could probably guess who each belonged to, even without the accompanying voices. They all speak to her. There's always someone there. Maybe they can hear her thoughts, her fear of being alone, helpless, a prisoner beneath walls of flesh and bars of bone.
"Hey, Stell." Danny's hand pats her arm awkwardly. His voice is awkward too.
She takes no offense. She remembers going to the hospital a year or so ago to interview a survivor of an attack, and on the way out she had happened to pass by the room in which he was visiting Louis. He had noticed her, and acknowledged her presence with a nod, holding up a hand and silently asking her to wait for him. She remembers how he had stood beside the bed, hands thrust deep into his pockets, shifting his weight from leg to leg, before snatching his glasses from his face to polish the already spotless lenses on his shirt. She had stood by the door, watching him silently, not wanting to cross the threshold without an invitation.
After what felt like minutes, Danny had forced out a fakely cheerful, "Hey, Louis." He had waited a minute longer, and added a, "How're you doing?" A moment more, and then, "Mom and Dad say hi. They'll come and see you soon." He reached out a hand towards his brother, but stopped just short of touching his shoulder, as if he was a child who had been caught in the act of doing something forbidden. "I'll… I'll come and see you again in a week or so. You hang in there, ok?" And then he turned towards Stella and left the room, in obvious relief at having done with the painful ordeal of having to scrape together things to say.
A few discreet queries to Lindsay had revealed that this was, apparently, normal behaviour. Danny, normally so hard to shut up, apparently struggled to find anything at all to say to someone who couldn't talk back.
"Lindsay's coming back the day after tomorrow," he finally says. "She's flying home a few days early. Changed her plans when she heard what happened to you. The baby's due soon. Our baby." The pride is evident in his voice.
"I've got to go back to the lab soon. I think Hawkes is coming to sit with you."
Buildings high. A tower with four grey walls. Silently embowered within, the man appears from nowhere.
Coffee. The smell pulls her from her dreams. Good coffee too, not the cheap stuff from a vending machine, which means that it's being poured from the thermos flask Sid brings with him. How many times has he been here, that she knows that?
Sid talks. He tells her things that have happened in the lab. About the meal that his wife cooked him for dinner. About the walk he took by the lake in the park, the willows veiling the margins and bending to sweep the lapping waves as birds flittered over the water, skimming out of sight. He brings her all the shadows of the world beyond, the world that lives only in her head, woven in her thoughts. Thoughts which slip away.
"Stella, come back…"
"Detective Taylor, you know what the odds are."
"You don't know Stella. If anyone has the strength to pull through, it's her."
She sees him too late. Too late. And she knows what her training teaches her, knows it all in the seconds before she disregards it. The words are there. Stupid. Reckless. Irresponsible. Death wish…
Lindsay sounds nervous too, almost as much as Danny. But maybe for different reasons.
She feels the hand touching hers, and then the impulsive hug, made awkward by the second life Lindsay cradles within her. She feels the baby press against her stomach, as if it belongs to her, and kick, and the feel of it is so utterly unexpected and so lovely that she longs, longs to hug the two of them back.
"I thought I should say this," Lindsay says quietly, when she's seated on the chair again and has scraped the legs of it against the floor as she scoots it closer. "I mean, we were going to wait, but you – " she catches herself. "My baby's coming soon. And we wondered – Danny and I – we want you to be the godmother. We were going to wait and ask you after she's born, but I wanted to tell you now."
She touches Stella's hand again, hesitantly. "Please, please wake up so that you'll see her. Danny still wants a boy, but I'm sure she's going to be a girl. And – Stell, I'm scared. I don't know how I'll manage being a mom. Danny'll be a great father, everyone says so, but I don't know if I – I'm being selfish. I want you to wake up so that you can help me." She makes a sound which is like a choked back laugh, or perhaps it's a sob. "You're like a big sister, Stell, and – I miss you. Please, please come back…"
"It's raining heavily today," Hawkes tells her. He's like a news report, dependable. She wonders whether his medical mind actually believes that anything he says is heard. "The river's getting broader. It'll burst its banks if it goes on like this."
I miss the world. I miss the trees, and the skylines, and the early morning breeze blowing in from the sea..
"Come back, Stell."
Flack reads her the newspaper. She doubts that he believes that she's aware of him, but she heard Danny hypocritically imploring him to talk to her. When was that? Days ago? How many? When he starts doing the crossword out loud, and asking her for help, she knows for a fact that she was right to doubt.
"Four letters. Left mistakenly in a box, and later released."
"I don't know that one."
She wonders what's happening at work. At the lab, and in the streets of the city. But no one ever seems to talk to her about that. No word from that world which has been her life for so long.
It wasn't a death wish which put her here. It was a life wish. His life.
"Stella…" Adam's grip seems to suggest that she'll crumble at a touch. She hears him sob, and his hand leaves hers, and when it softly strokes her face a moment later, the fingers are wet with tears.
"You killed us."
They stand in a line, and she can't bear to count them. Cruel faces, sad faces, angry faces, staring at her with glassy countenances. They advance towards her. She trembles in fear.
"Turn around." A different voice. Familiar…
She turns slowly, and more people are lined there, their faces warm. They clasp hands, and lift their joined arms into the air, and the ones threatening her dissolve, fading into the wide dim expanse of their surroundings.
A woman leaves the group and approaches her, hands outstretched in greeting. Dark eyes, dark hair, a rough Brooklyn accent, a warm smile. "You brought us peace, Stella. You saved us all."
"Why did you save me?"
Mac's voice is soft. His warm breath whispers in her ear and stirs the hairs at her neck. There isn't much room for two on narrow hospital beds, but somehow he's found a way, and is holding her close.
"It should be me here, not you. Why did you save me?"
She pushes him out of the way, takes the bullet meant for him into her chest, and is knocked backwards, down the narrow flight of stairs, down…
"Why did you save me?"
I would do it again. And again, and again, and again, world without end…
"Please, Stella, come back."
"Come back to us."
"We need you here."
"Come back to me."
A kiss pressed to cold lips, but she is no Sleeping Beauty, to wake to her prince. No prince. Princes are not for her, nor does she want them. She has her loyal knight and true.
Let me go back to him…
They're preparing a picnic for her, just outside the gates. All her favourite food and drink is there, although Flack's already getting started on the chocolate.
"But I don't want to leave," she protests.
"We all have to leave sometime," Sid tells her firmly.
Mac kisses her goodbye. "Send my love to Claire."
Danny nods at that. "Send mine to Aiden."
She looks at Lindsay for a while trying to work out what's bothering her, before she remembers. "You've had your baby!"
"Yes, she was very late, though. Nearly two weeks overdue!"
"But where is she? I wanted to see her."
"Sorry, Stell. I want to keep her here with me, and she's so beautiful that if I gave her to you to hold, you might not let her go…"
She sleeps for longer, now. Someone's holding her hand, stroking their thumb across her palm, but she's not sure who it is.
"Come back to me, Stella…"
She lies in a boat, floating down, down, down the East River, beneath the towers and balconies and bridges, by the walls, between the houses high.
And out to sea, beneath the bright clusters of stars in the dark blue and purple dusking sky.
Mac's warm breath against her cheek. "I love you. It took me so long… don't leave me now. Please don't leave me…"
Don't let me leave you…
The bullet fires, the bullet meant for Mac, and she shoves him out of the way and takes it for herself, takes it for herself, takes it away from him because she couldn't bear it if she lost him, would rather lose herself than lose him.
Would rather lose anything than lose him.
I love you…
A tiny warm body curled on top of her, with a soft downiness beneath her chin, gently rising and falling. Hands stroking her hands, stroking her hair. A soft murmur of voices, words which she cannot understand.
And it stirs on her, wriggles and shifts, and begins to cry.
She can't leave it to cry, that small soft warm thing…
So she opens her eyes.
Blue eyes stare into hers, and the crying stops. Blue eyes bright with wonder at the beautiful, strange world they've so recently found themselves born into. She smiles, the muscles of her face remembering effortlessly. The baby stares back, too young to copy her expression, and reaches up a curled hand to paw at her nose.
"Hey, hey, don't do that – " someone begins with laughter in her voice, and then stops. "Stella!"
There's movement, a whole wave of movement, and suddenly faces fill her vision, faces split wide with amazed smiles. Hands tighten. And she continues to smile at the baby who continues to stare at her in fascination, at the waxwork which has suddenly animated.
And then she lifts her eyes up, and meets the face she had held in her mind, had pictured, had taken a bullet for, and still would do again, even now. Especially now.
"Hi," he whispers.
Lindsay, laughing and crying, encircles the two lives in her arms, and Stella's arms respond, hugging them both back. Mac strokes her hair, and bends down to kiss her, a gesture which he's become used to, and only realises what he's doing when she responds. His eyes widen in surprise, but he still doesn't stop immediately.
They're all there, she sees, when he lifts his head away. Mac, Lindsay, Sid, Don, Danny, Adam, Hawkes.
And one new face, one she's never seen before. Still entranced, she lifts up a hand weak with strength lost, and gently touches the tiny warm thing.
Mac clears his throat. "Stella, we'd better introduce you to your goddaughter. Her name's Grace."