Disclaimer I own very little, especially not CSI NY.
Author Lily Moonlight
Notes Another oneshot in the Launderette Series. Something a little more fluffy and romantic, which may come as a surprise; but with a small amount of angst, which probably doesn't come as a surprise :P Written in response to a challenge from fractured-fairytale06 who gave me the inspiration of the heart knowing what the head doesn't. Thank you to her for reading this, as well as Forest Angel for some very helpful suggestions. 'Old West' will be updated soon also. Thanks to Holly for reviewing 'The Future Waits', sorry I couldn't send a proper reply, your review was very welcome.
This is for fractured-fairytale06 and Forest Angel
What's In A Name?
She was there again, standing in the doorway looking at him. There was calm on the surface of her expression and in the smoothness of her skin, but he could see the turbulence of emotions underneath; in her hands twisting round each other restlessly, and most especially in her eyes. The same eyes he had woken up to three days ago. Eyes that held his and would not let them go. And could not let go of fear either, he saw with a feeling of guilt that scalded him. Because somehow, he knew, he was the cause of her fear.
He had to look away then, and his mind turned away from the present and to the memories of the last three days; turning them over and over possessively.
Because they were the only memories he possessed.
Three days earlier, the first thing he saw when his eyes cracked open painfully, were a woman's eyes; hazel green, framed by dark lashes and burning with a fierceness of joy and fear. Then soft curls of hair brushed his cheek as she bent down to him, and lips as gentle as sunlight pressed against his own. Followed by a whisper of words across them.
"Mac, I missed you…."
Words that made no sense.
A name? Whose name?
Then she spoke again, and he realised the name was meant for him, "Mac, it's me, I've been waiting for you. There was an accident, you were hurt but it's okay now, you're awake. You've been unconscious, but you're okay…"
In those first moments of waking though, her words were nothing but sounds of confusion, and he found his hands pushing her away, lashing out against soft skin in fear and unknowing, until the name she was calling him caught in her throat, and he saw his fear reflected in her eyes.
He did not know who she was.
Because he did not know who he was and why she was calling him a name that meant nothing to him.
It sounded hard, heavy, a hollow clap of sound in his ear. So he continued to fight against hands that tried to touch him, hold his shoulders, catch hold of his hands. And then the name became a strangled cry from her lips as he jerked away from the touch of a stranger. Panic flared in her eyes and wrought his body into knots of fear. But even as he saw the pain that glittered like glass in her eyes, and her mouth twisting in agony, he could not accept her touch.
He did not know her.
He did not know himself.
She persisted; calling the name again and again, reaching for him and giving him another name over and over.
"It's Stella! Mac, please, it's me, it's Stella!"
Pleading, reassuring, telling him; she did not cease. But he could not accept her, or the name she gave to him. It had no resonance for him. Nothing did. Fear clutched him, drew him into a shell, and he knew that if it broke, he would lose himself completely. And finally her hands drew away, trembling and her whole body began to shake. A cry broke from her lips; the name again, the name he did not know, broken into its component letters. Meaningless.
Confusion, more of it, fluttered round him, like flocks of ravens, obscuring everything. Everything he was, everything he had been, everything that had happened. It was all lost in a swirl of fear and confusion and he began to lose more and more of himself until there was nothing left but the ache in his body. He hurt. Everything hurt. All he was sure of was pain. Pain manifested itself as an explosion, ripping into his skull as too many people flurried into the room. They crowded round him, talking to him; each word, each sound of the name they kept repeating tore jagged holes into him. It meant nothing, and took more of him than it gave.
He heard the woman's voice again, as more people, with faces that meant even less to him crowded in. He did the only thing he could and closed his eyes, letting the sounds echo round him. Noting only that two names were spoken most of all: the name she had given as his, and her own. His head throbbed and his eyelids weighed heavily, making him decide it was easier to keep them closed. Voices merged and blended, then became muffled as his mind drifted towards nothing. Oblivion soon pulled him under.
When he opened his eyes again, another man was standing beside the bed. Tall, thin to the point of skinny, with lanky arms and legs, and a head topped with grey hair that flopped over thick rimmed glasses. He stood close to the woman and had his arm around her shoulders. Shoulders that were held stiff and tight. It was also easy for him to discern the shimmer of tears in her eyes, even though they hadn't fallen.
The thin man said something in a low voice to the woman, who shook her head, before her rigidity suddenly seemed to snap and her legs gave way beneath her. The man's arms held on to her though and he supported her towards a chair, sat her down in it, and knelt in front of her. Soothing her as one hand clasped hers and the other tilted her chin up gently.
"It's going to be okay, Stella. Trust me, it'll be okay. He's going to get through this. Both of you are."
He knew then that he wanted to be the one helping her. An instinct, struggling to surface, told him he should be the one there supporting her. That he should be with her. Beside her.
Whoever Stella was.
Whoever he was.
As he thought that, an inkling of something began to seep into the gaps of memory that had split him apart. A colour wash of visions, all merged and muddled together in a stream of nonsensical images. Images of faces, eyes, people, places, equipment, rooms, walls, glass walls, science, evidence… Over it all, in the strongest sounds and colours was her voice, her eyes, her face. But it was too much. It was too much to take in, and his eyes closed again; trying to shut down what he could not understand or remember. He sank again into the dark, the last sound being the name spoken by the woman's voice. The name he knew in the last moment of consciousness belonged to him.
Waking this time, he realised more time had passed, and the sun of another new day was bright in the room. It pierced his eyelids, jabbing into his mind and creating chinks of light. He opened them and saw her again. Still sitting in the chair, but alone now. Her head was lowered and her hands had disappeared into the curls obscuring her face. There was no movement from her, only a slight lift of her shoulders as she breathed. He waited and watched. Then his mouth opened; slowly, tentatively and with a dust-dry throat he tested out a name.
Her head jerked upwards, and he saw hope flaring in her eyes. In a step she was beside him, clutching his hand, touching his cheek, repeating his name, asking, questioning. Asking if he remembered. If he remembered what had happened. If he remembered her. But it was all still muddled words to his mind. The clouds that blocked his view of the past still had not cleared, and he could not remember.
Words did not need to be spoken for her to know the truth. His hesitation was enough, and with guilt he looked at her and could not give her a lie. He did not remember her. Although he wished he did with all his heart. And then with a jolt as he looked at her and felt the touch of her hand, he knew that those eyes and hands held his life within them. Held it safe. He knew it from the touch she gave him and from the look that saw him through the layers of lost and forgotten that surrounded his mind. But he could not remember her yet, and she drew back and loosed his hand. She dragged her hand across her face and resignation and sorrow appeared briefly. Only for a moment though, because determination took over then and with a shake of her head, she sat back down, took hold of his hand again and began to talk.
She talked and words swam in front of his eyes; words and images of his life, that he had to believe were his life because she told him so. Somehow, he knew that what she spoke had to be believed. She gave him images of his past; of battles and loyalty, of love and loss and destruction, and then of friends and lovers, and the one who had became the other. Herself.
And as she talked, she fiddled with something that glinted on her finger. When she paused for a breath, he knew that she had still to tell him something, but before she could, the door to the room pushed open. It admitted a figure in a crisp white uniform who took over, stopped the flow of words and hustled the woman, protesting loudly, away from him and out of the room. He watched with resentment at her dismissal, and fear. She had told him only the barest skeleton of his life, and he needed to know more. But he could only utter a word of dissent before the uniformed figure overwhelmed his senses with antiseptic smells, cold hands on his skin and a voice that stirred nothing in him. Unlike the woman's voice had begun to. Stella's voice.
The voice of the nurse murmured words that meant nothing; her hands left no memory on him; and she finally took away his consciousness with the cold sting of a needle in his arm. The last thing he was aware of was the face of the woman with green eyes looking in through the door, with her hand pressed against the glass.
A hand which wore a band of gold on one finger.
Another lapse of time, and when he woke again, still with his head aching, the colour of the room had changed to the palette of dusk. It was softened by a halo of light from the lamp at his bedside which cast gold on the woman beside him. Curled up in the chair with a coat thrown over her, she was sleeping and he missed the sight of her eyes. But a faint perfume lingered in the air, and he breathed it in and drew it into his mind, and began to gather a few more fragments of memory.
And the first shards of all there was behind her name; all the colours and visions; all the treasure and joy and pain; all that name and the life it belonged to held, began to piece themselves together in his mind.
He watched her, and noticed for the first time the bruises and lacerations showing on the skin of her forearms and the line of butterfly stitches running along her jaw. Seeing them, more memories trapped inside the clouds of unknowing began to struggle to free themselves.
There was an accident...
The dull pain in his head had begun to subside, but the questions bubbled over, swamping him and he gasped with the weight of how and why and what.
Who am I?
"Mac?" She stirred, blinking, the coat sliding off her and onto the floor, and in a moment his hand was clasped in hers.
It hurt. Her touch hurt. Because he wanted, desperately, more than anything, to know her. And with his yearning, a gleam of remembering began at the edge of his awareness, just a glimmer…
"Mac?" Again. The name. His name. Something stirred, and he remembered her shouting his name.
Her voice, his name. A flashbulb of memory from a moment in the recent past. There had been an accident. In the car, the two of them...
He remembered her eyes turning to him in terror. Another flash, and he remembered looking through the windscreen of the car in horror, seeing lights careering towards them. He remembered a cry and then a melee of sounds, jarring, grating, shrieking. And then pain and cold and nothing. Nothing. Not even his name.
He jerked back to the present, and wrenched his hand away from her, his breath convulsing in his chest as the touch of her fingers sparked against his skin. His name tumbled from her lips again, calling him, over and over. Frantic. And he tried to hold on to it, tried to cling to the light in her eyes and the touch of her fingers. But the suffocating feather-bed softness of unconsciousness wrapped round him and he lost sight of her as his eyes closed again.
And so he woke to the third new day, after suffering fleeting dreams that vanished from him, and the sight of her standing in the doorway was the first to greet him. He remembered her name, even though he half-expected her to disappear like his dreams and memories. But still she stood there. Waiting for him, watching him. And something struck at his heart; something deep inside; something hidden away inside a shell of forgotten and lost. He scraped at the layers of obscurity, trying to find what was buried. Sunlight caught for a moment on the band of gold on her finger, and he discovered, with a surge of joy in his heart, that he remembered making a promise to her. A life-long promise to protect and care for her life; because she gave life to him...
As soon as he tried to grasp the memory of that promise though, and the moment he had made it to her in words, it slipped from his fingers and rushed through the gaps like water. It all swirled away, and he was left staring helplessly at the woman standing neither in nor out of the room. Standing under the lintel, framed by the threshold, the morning light shone through the blinds and slatted across her figure. It revealed the shadows under her eyes and the hollows in her cheeks. He shifted in the bed, sighed and felt a pang again as he looked at her. Knowing that he owed more than he could remember to her.
Unsure of what else to do, he moved his hand awkwardly, gesturing for her to come in. Driven partly by the need for her to do anything other than stand there with her gaze never wavering from him; it felt as if she was drinking in every drop of him. It drained him, taking the little of himself he retained, and he shivered, realising that his life was not his alone. Somehow, the woman standing watching him possessed more of him than he knew himself now. But, he decided as the sun fell across his face and warmed his skin, that did not have to be a reason for fear. If he talked to her, he could regain some of what was lost.
"Come in… Stella." He croaked. His throat was parched, but her name felt like ice cubes splintering against his teeth and tongue as it left his lips. Not unpleasant; instead it was cooling, refreshing, reviving. As he swallowed, letting the sensation of syllables calm his throat, he watched her eyes close momentarily and saw her eyelashes glisten.
He remembered her name.
She stepped forward, "Mac, please remember me, please. Please remember us." Her hand reached out to him, imploring him, "Please tell me you remember."
He hesitated, feeling his shoulders lifting in an embarrassed shrug, "My head says I don't..." Pain flashed in her eyes as she stopped and her hand wilted to her side. So he cleared his throat and managed a small, sad smile, "But my heart tells me I do."
She crossed the space between them in a second and seized his hand. The pain in her eyes melted away and hope flooded them instead, "Then go with what your heart tells you, Mac, even if you don't always make that a habit. Ignore your head this once. Remember us. Go with your heart. Please, for you, Mac. For us."
It was a different sound to her name, harder, and it knocked against his palate as he tried it in his mouth.
The name she used. The name she had used so many times before, and had taken as her own. Leaning closer, she drew his gaze into her eyes and into her heart as it was exposed before him. As her hand clasped his, he felt the cool of the ring on her finger. And he knew in that instant, with his heart and his head, that this woman owned his heart, his name and everything else that was his.
And he began to, in golden gleams of memory; too quick to retain for long, but enough. He remembered the shyness of first asking her, the first crossing of a line and a date that ended with a first kiss. As he looked at her, he saw the memory in her eyes too and could not look away, and the gold of the ring on her finger began to warm within their fingers. She held what was missing of him and he reached out himself, finally, and she closed the gap and their hands met. He wrapped his around hers and let the heat of her skin transfuse him.
He remembered her touch.
And more memories returned. More of the past that had been jolted from him after the trauma of the accident: hands meeting as they walked; hands of friends that loved each other becoming the hands of lovers; hands that had joined for life, sealed with the eternity of a ring. The same ring that flashed in the sun now and lit her face and eyes; gold embedded with emeralds and diamonds. A ring that matched her eyes.
He remembered her eyes.
"Stella..." His mouth formed her name, and he remembered all the other times it had, as his lips remembered the shape and how it felt to speak it and to know all that lay behind and between and within her name. Everything that her name possessed. And the memory of his lips on hers and the taste as they met began to glow in his mind. More and more now; he was awash with memories rushing into his mind, overwhelming him, leaving him gasping, and he looked into her eyes, into Stella's eyes and saw the sparkle of water and joy.
Sunlight and clouds fought in his mind as a rain of memories continued to torrent through him. And he remembered the first time he told her he loved her and how her eyes had shone with jewels. Diamonds and emeralds; he remembered and raised his hand and traced his fingers along her jawline a feather-light touch, careful of the damaged skin and she shivered at the contact. He remembered the touch and the heat of her skin and his, and their sighs as lips and hands met and explored and tasted each other for the first time. The last rags of cloud in his mind drifted away and he remembered her name as it left his lips, and how his sounded from hers in thrill and joy and passion and love. He loved her. He knew. His heart knew, and his head began to know again.
He remembered her.
"Stella." He whispered again and again, needing to hear the resonance of her name, as each utterance of it further broke the spell of forgetting that had trapped him. His fingers moved to her mouth, revelling in the touch, and then her hand caught hold of his fingers and pressed them against her lips as his past returned.
He felt the tremor of her voice through his skin, all the way to his heart. And finally he breathed and his lips formed a smile as Stella drew him into her arms and her hair was soft against his cheek and her face pressed into his neck and he held onto her. Onto Stella. The woman he loved with his heart and his head and every part of his being. The woman who held his past and the promise of the future.
She pulled back to look at him, the fear in her eyes not quite banished, "Do you remember?"
And he smiled, cupping her face in his palms, "I remember everything I need to." Sunlight glanced off gold, emeralds and diamonds and shone in their eyes, "I love you."
Did you like it? I hope it wasn't too clichéd, but after my last oneshot ended without much happiness, I wanted a happy ending here :D Reviews very welcome, I'd love to know what you think. Thanks, Lily x