Disclaimer: I don't own CSI: NY, and honestly, I never would. Caroline Palmer, and associated family and friends are mine, however (Jess & Jen Hennessey, Haley, Justin, Emily, Nathan James, Daniel Bronson, Boone...pretty much any name you don't automatically recognize…). And apologies in advance if anything offends anyone. Don't like, don't read.
"Caroline, I know you don't have class till eleven twenty, but you gotta answer your phone sometime before that."
I groaned, rolling over and trying to bury my head beneath my pillows, willing the voice on my answering machine to stop talking. The apartment returned to silence, but not before a loud beep echoed at the end of the message. I rolled back over, glaring up at the ceiling. It wasn't that I didn't like mornings or anything. I think it was more of an 'I like waking up on my own' sort of thing. I couldn't help but smile as I propped myself up, though.
"Hey, Boone-dog. What're you doing, puppy?" I asked, absently, pulling my six month old mutt of a puppy into my lap. I buried my face in her soft fur, scratching behind her ears in contentment. Leaning back on the pillows and headboard, I sighed, listening to the machine drone on about having reached Caroline Palmer who will get back to you as soon as she can and yadda yadda yadda. Honestly, I began to wonder whether having an answering machine was really worth it. I guess I really only kept it because it came with my cable and Internet. But, really, you'd have better luck calling my cell phone.
"Damn it, Caroline," I rolled my eyes, leaning over to pick up my phone.
"What? You were supposed to be meeting me to get my paper...oh, I don't know, twenty minutes ago," Jessie shot, without missing a beat. I winced, staring down at my sleepy puppy. After a couple minutes of silence, Jess continued, "Answer me honestly, Palmer. Should I be looking for another Grad student to proof my work?"
"I don't know," I replied, lightly. "You looking for someone more masculine or something?"
"I'm so glad that you refuse to lose your brusque sense of humor," Jess retorted sarcastically.
"I call 'em as I see 'em," I replied, letting lose a yawn.
"How can you still be tired, don't you go to bed at like eleven o'clock on the dot?"
"Hey, it happens sometimes, okay. Lay off."
"So, you gonna handle my paper, or should I start looking up your fellow, though undeniably sexier, mathematicians?" Jess was tiring of conversation. She didn't like the phone. I didn't either.
"I don't appreciate you insinuating that I'm not sexy just because I'm female," I pointed out, raising my brow. "But, yes, Jessie, darling, I'll give it the good old one over. Besides, I don't know of any of my fellows who've had their work published." Jess snorted. I liked being cocky every now and then. I sighed. "You do know that I only got by with a B in my English 101 class, and that that was years ago, right?"
"I don't care what you made in English 101, that's a crap class and you know it," I could almost see Jess rolling her eyes at me. She was probably shaking her head to get her bangs out of her face, considering their annoying tendency to stick to her eyelashes. I often wondered why she wouldn't just cut them shorter, but for some reason whenever I managed to broach the topic she got defensive. She's called me some inappropriate things when I talk about changing her hair. "Caroline. I just want you to check my math and do your grammar Nazi routine."
"I am not a grammar Nazi," I mumbled, twisting my back and hearing the satisfying popping noise in response. "Aren't you Jewish?"
"When can I give you my paper?" Jess brought the conversation around. "Preferably today, if you don't mind." I shrugged. Not that she could see me, anyway. It's a bad habit. But everyone does it, don't they? I suppose that's why it really never made any sense to me that people would walk past you while you were on the phone and give you this really strange look. Sometimes I really just wanted to turn around and be like 'Hey, I'm on the phone people. If you were on yours, you'd have the same weird facial expressions, too.' But, it's not like I would ever do that.
"Eleven ten?" I replied, glancing at my clock. Ten thirty. Plenty of time as long as the short ten minute drive to campus didn't turn into a thirty minute traffic nightmare.
"Fine." I could tell by the tone of her voice that she wasn't particularly happy about the decision. My brow knit before I came to the realization that her only class of the day ended at ten and she'd probably like to be gone before ten thirty. Oh, well. When you want someone else to look at your work, you've got to work with them, not the other way around. Remember that. "Parking Deck?"
"You know it," I smiled.
"I'll see you then, Palmer." I couldn't resist, I stuck my tongue out before I responded.
"I'll see you in forty, Hennessey."
As it turns out, traffic wasn't a nightmare. Which, let's be honest, is a rarity in New York City. I think someone's really looking out for Jess. Making sure I was only five minutes late to our little rendezvous. And, after that, I had a lovely, fun filled fifty minutes of teaching my crazy Calculus II class. People never believed that a math class could bring so much joy to my life.
But I've said it before, and I'll say it again, if you're doing your math with the right people, suddenly it gets a whole lot more interesting.
Like Justin whatever his name was in tenth grade. I mean, despite the fact that it was really weird that he had the same first name as my older brother; I think tenth grade might have really gotten me into math. It was something in the way that he would lean back in his chair, making the plastic on his mechanical pencil pop, his amazingly bright, endless eyes lighting up when he actually understood what was going on.
Yeah, that might have done it for me.
Kind of like those two insanely attractive men standing down the hall. Walking toward me. Looking at me.
That really shouldn't bother me. It should make me feel great. But there was something about the determined looks on their faces that made me try to look anywhere but at their approaching figures. Which would be why I, being the genius that I am, didn't realize I knew one of them until he spoke.
I looked up. Not at the one who spoke. I wanted to delay any reaction I could have to that voice. I wasn't ready for it. I wasn't ready for most things.
The man I looked up at made heat flush across my face, I could feel it building. He was insanely tall, so much so that I was betting he could probably jump into my jacked up F-250 without the side runners. Maybe I'm exaggerating a little. But there's no way I could exaggerate the staggering intensity that I saw written in his blue, blue eyes.
And, I have to admit, I couldn't stop a smile from forming when I noticed his clothing. It wasn't that it was a funny sight. It was professional, slick. It read 'I mean business, don't eff with me.' It was just poorly chosen in terms of matching, I suppose. The patterned burgundy tie did not match the blue, white, and light yellow striped shirt. And, yeah, it took a lot to suppress a giggle. Because, really, who giggles at my age anymore?
I could feel his companion's eyes on me. And I didn't want to look at him. He always made me feel awkward. Mostly because, well, I guess I'd always sort of had a thing for the significantly older man.
Not always, I suppose, just since I'd been a teenager. Puberty and all that fun stuff, right?
And it didn't help that Emily made fun of me for it. What kind of sister makes fun of your first crush? And I found myself groaning internally at the realization that Haley was meeting me for lunch. Of course my best childhood friend would want to sit down with me the day my childhood crush walks back into my life. Funny how you remember things at such convenient times as these.
But he was the same old person I always knew. Maybe a little more ragged, tired looking. But still official, professional, even without his partner's non-matching tie. He was still attractive, even being twice my age.
I cursed myself internally for thinking things like that.
"Mac?" I lifted my brow, willing the blush I knew was on my cheeks to go away. I was surprised the usual splutter of uncontrollable rambling words didn't spill out of my mouth. That happened a lot lately when I was around men. Like Nathan James, for one.
Could I help it that he had a ridiculously hot sampling of freckles on his nose that I had to comment on? Could I help it that his bright green eyes shimmered with such happiness that looking at them made me want to laugh, too? Could I help the fact that 'Caroline James' didn't sound all that bad?
I probably could've helped mentioning the fact to him, though.
"I was told you're the fastest mathematician the university's housing right now," he stated, holding out a paper. I took it, looking at the flurry of integrals, derivatives, series, differential equations, you name it.
I stood there awkwardly. Was this business? I knew he was a Detective, but wouldn't you say something about that first? Or maybe you wouldn't, I guess, if you knew the person and they knew you. I don't know. My experience as far as cops goes is pretty much limited to the time Justin wanted to hire a body guard. I let him know that it was highly unlikely anything would really happen to an outdoorsman. And I remember that clearly, because I snorted in a very unladylike fashion at the suggestion. Daniel Bronson didn't even call me the next day.
"Can you do them?" He asked, a hint of, what was that, annoyance or frustration in his voice. I hoped this was business, because if it wasn't, Mac Taylor sure had changed a lot.
"Yeah, sure, um," I fumbled. Great, here I was, already tripping all over myself. I hastily shoved my cell phone in my pocket, where it promptly started blaring Journey's 'Don't Stop Believing.' I let out a groan.
And then slapped my hand over my mouth. Why was I always so completely unladylike at the worst possible moments?
It didn't help matters that Mac's hot partner was trying to hide his smile. Unsuccessfully, I might add.
I dug my phone back out, flipping it back open. Haley, of course. I snapped it shut again, throwing it in my bag, which I slung off my shoulder and onto the ground, so I could dig for a pen. And I sat down, in the middle of the building, in the middle of the hallway, leaning over higher order Calculus.
"Time me," I murmured.
What could I say? I loved setting records.
"You're flushed," Haley smirked at me. "Yet happy. What's his name?" I slumped into the chair across from her, glad that it was afternoon and not evening; because I wasn't sure I could deal with a conversation in the smoky, loud, annoying atmosphere of a New York restaurant at six in the evening.
"Why does it have to be a guy?" I asked, not paying attention to her, but instead grabbing for a menu, because, Christ, was I hungry.
"I know you, Caroline, that's why."
"Well," I murmured, a triumphant grin settling on my face, "Actually, I happened to solve ten higher order Calculus equations in just under eight minutes. I am happy." I was happy, that was a freaking record. And, yeah, maybe it did help my mood a little bit that Mac looked impressed. And so did Detective Flack.
"And there were no men involved?" Haley asked, looking at me skeptically while she played with her straw. I ignored her, looking down at the menu. I hoped she couldn't see the coloring in my face. But when I looked up she was still looking at me, a look of expectancy which turned to accusation.
"There were men involved," she accused, lifting a finger to point at me. Well, damn. Why does she have to know me so well?
"Okay. Fine. I concede. There were men," I stated.
"Men? As in, plural, more than one?"
"Generally that's what that means, yes." She was still looking at me expectantly. I sighed, flopping the menu down, still having absolutely no idea what I wanted. Couldn't she tell that I was hungry? Taunting me with a menu and then making me talk about boys! She was terrible!
"Tell me," she fixed her eyes on me, grinning so that she could spread it to me. She probably wanted me to stop glaring. But I persevered, even as I started to tell her.
"They were Detectives-"
"What did you do?"
"Math." She fixed me with a glare of her own. I held mine steady. "Fine, I won't interrupt again."
"You sure?" She nodded, so I nodded. And then I continued, "They wanted me to do the aforementioned Calculus problems. And I did. And they were impressed. Um. And they were hot. End of story."
"There's totally more to this story, I can tell," she stopped abruptly when the waiter came by to take our orders. He was kind of attractive, too. I probably would've taken more notice if I wasn't stuck on the image of Mac and Flack. And then I couldn't help but laugh at the realization that their names rhymed, which cause the waiter to give me a 'poor thing, she's out of her mind,' nervous kind of smile, while Haley just rolled her eyes.
"Since you're not particularly forward with your information today, I'm gonna pry."
"Is Jen giving you lessons?" I asked, lightly. Jen was Jess's twin sister. Jess's twin sister who happened to make money on the side by sketching criminals for cops to have an image to go by.
"Jen's an artist, not an interrogator," Haley replied. I thought maybe I'd got her off track. No such luck. She was relentless. "Do they interrogate? Did they interrogate?"
"I suppose so. They are cops. Actually, they're detectives," I replied, thinking back to how they'd both handed me a card, the pair of which were now sandwiched together in my back pocket. "And no, they didn't."
"Okay. Tell me why you're not describing them in antagonizing detail. Because, whatever you may try to claim, this is not how you normally act after seeing an attractive man."
Could I really help it that I didn't want to tell Haley that one of the hot detectives was Mac Taylor? My mom's Marine buddy? That very same Marine buddy that Haley and Emily never left me alone about for nearly a year? The Marine turned Detective that was twice my-
"Caroline." I glanced up at her. Her chocolate eyes were bubbling over with frustration at my apparent lack of attention.
"Um," I paused. Might as well just jump right in, right? "One of them was Mac Taylor." I let my sentence trail off, getting quieter as I spoke. Haley didn't say anything, and when I looked up she looked at me with utter confusion written across her pointed features.
"I feel like I'm supposed to know that name," she murmured, looking away from me, out the window, trying to recall the name. Was it wrong of me to be reluctant to help her?
"How could you forget? You and Emily only teased me about him for the entirety of my freshman year," I mumbled. Maybe she wouldn't remember. But I saw the way her eyes lit up. Dash it all, today was meant to be an awful day.
"That Mac Taylor," she grinned. Full out. And I knew it was coming. Knew it. I opened my mouth to say anything else, anything to force her away from the topic, anything at all, but she beat me to it. "Does he still make your knees go weak, Liney?"
"Shut up," I groaned in response. Right when the cute waiter came back with our food. I really should just stop breathing around the opposite sex. Nothing good ever came of it. I jumped at the chance to change the topic, though.
"His partner was the definition of sex, though," I tossed out, fumbling to open my napkin and retrieve my fork.
"Definition of sex?" Haley asked, lifting her eyebrow at me, giving me that 'did you have whiskey last night, because you know what it does to you' look.
"Back up. Rephrase. He was," I paused, "Undeniably sexy."
"Really? What a shocker," Haley laughed.
"Can I help it that all the men I meet are complete studs?"
"You can help using words like 'stud,'" she muttered, shoving a forkful of salad into her mouth.
"Right. Poor wording. I'm a terrible worder."
"You're terrible with the English language. Your parents really shouldn't have tried to teach you."
"I'll have you know that Jess is having me edit her dissertation," I replied, grunting as I cut through my Parmesan Chicken.
"For the math, Liney, for the math," she replied, cutting through the chicken that she'd missed before.
"She didn't," I gasped, "She asked you to edit after me."
"The twins are young, they're naive, let it go." Haley was attempting to placate me. The twins were a year younger than us, it was true. But I really don't think that it was fair of Jess to even begin to insinuate that I was good at grammar if she didn't really believe it. What if in that moment alone, she'd convinced me that I was in the wrong major only months away from getting my PhD in mathematics?
Right. Not likely, I guess.
What if, in that moment alone, she'd convinced me that I was good enough at grammar that I happened to offer my services at the help centers scattered throughout campus, happened to meet my soul mate, who was a grammar genius, and when I got my results back on the entrance to editing test he would, of course, be sitting next to me, take one look at my insanely low score, and then spend the rest of the day convincing his peers that he didn't know me, and I'd never see him again, ever?
I didn't have all the time in the world to puzzle over this, though, a noise drawing my attention. I looked at Haley, who was white as a sheet, looking out the window. I looked that way, too, and saw the frantic maneuverings of the assorted customers. But I couldn't hear them. All I could hear was the dull ringing in my ears left by the sound of a gunshot in the distance.
X-posted to my fanfic livejournal community, switchingfoot.
Wooooah. I haven't been on here in ages, can't believe I remember my password, honestly. Um. This is a new thing style for me, inspiration coming from a fanfic I read years ago in the Harry Potter verse. I'm absolutely horrid at stories of any substance, as I usually stay in the realm of one-shots filled with fluffy angst (or angst or fluff, you know, separately), but Caroline's been building in my head and she really, really needs to be put into words. So, here we go.
Maybe it'll be a decent ride.