Disclaimer: I don't own CSI NY
So… now that I have finally managed to twist the story around to my pleasing, I am ready to share it. It was supposed to be a one-shot… but I guess a little short story will have to do as well ;-)
There are very mild and very general spoilers from season 5 buried in there somewhere.
While I do like write very correct, like to stick with facts, do a lot of research on subjects etc, I am sure it's not entirely medically or juridical accurate. The latter is not exactly story relevant and there is only little mentioning; parts of the former are based on personal and friends' experience nevertheless those of you who are knowledgeable in the fields concerned might find themselves thinking that it would not go down that way. I am aware of that but it is fiction after all and I hope it's enjoyable nevertheless.
Lastly, a special thanks to lily moonlight for so patiently answering all my vocabulary and language questions, for taking the time to correct said language mistakes and helping me with the title and summary! (which I hate - having to come up with that is)
"So, we couldn't pin the murder on that guy," Flack was about to conclude his story, "but the money he had killed his wife for had actually not been in the house as bills. She had had all of it in security papers and he had used those "worthless" papers minutes ago to light the fire place to burn the evidence which would have convicted him. The look on his face was priceless."
Despite the rather predictable outcome of the story, his listeners broke out laughing, the mood having been light and chatty all evening long. Everyone was relieved that the week and a half was over and that especially the past three days were behind them. Stella and Mac had spent most of those in court – either one of them or both at a time – and with the two heads of the crime lab at least partially otherwise engaged, Manhattan had reckoned it to be the perfect time to become a madhouse.
After an already exhausting week with bad weather and some very uncooperative witnesses and suspects, the infamous three days had started out with 3 unlinked murders within the first day. A hit and run, a suicide and a badly beaten guy who turned out to have taken the hits in justified self-defense were added during the 12 hours that followed. With that and at least one CSI short everyone had done their additional share of overtime and were worn out by mid-week.
But to make things even worse the nerve wracking trial had pushed Stella and even Mac to the edge creating a tense atmosphere around the lab. It had almost gone to the point of being insufferable and when the jury had retreated for deliberation yesterday afternoon the anxiousness for a verdict had been virtually sliceable.
Given the chaotic trial no one had expected a decision before the weekend but by noon today the jury had come back with a conviction. The entire lab had breathed a sigh of relief and the two murder cases which were still unsolved had suddenly seemed like a piece of cake.
When Flack, ironically the one who did not fail to mention whenever possible how glad he was to not work in the lab, had suggested they go out for a drink and celebrate, it hadn't taken much to convince everyone. Even Mac had gratefully left his office no more than 15 minutes after his shift was over.
To his surprise he had run into Stella who he would have sworn had already left.
She had simply smiled at his somewhat strange expression and had wordlessly held the elevator as he had stood in front of it, brows raised, briefly scratching the back of his head. Once he had finally decided to move inside, their eyes had locked for only an instant but that instant had been enough that by the time they had come to a halt in the parking garage it was settled that they would drive together.
During the ride neither one had been in the mood to talk much and Stella had spent most of the time staring out the driver's window catching Mac's glance every now and then. The look they exchanged had not been meant to communicate, it was a simple look, a look that portrayed their enormous relief that this exhausting trial was over. That portrayed their relief of once again being able to say whatever they pleased without being judged or questioned and of finally having some minutes to themselves with no one around to bother them.
The trial was supposed to have been over days ago but both the prosecutor and defense attorney had done everything possible within the legal limits to manipulate it. Due to that court had already started a day late which, of course, had then been argued over and it had dragged on like that from thereon.
By the time they had finally taken the stand – Mac as the forensic expert, Stella as a witness which naturally had previously been subject to some heated discussions – their appearances had already been rescheduled twice. Furthermore, the prosecutor had managed to put that "no brainer" of a trial in jeopardy, unable to use the fail-safe evidence the lab had provided him with to his advantage.
To see that, see how their hard work threatened to have been a waste of time, had robbed Stella and Mac of their last nerve and the conviction had completely baffled them even if in a positive kind of way.
But that was behind them now, already nothing more than a memory, one that heads would be shaken over in amazement over how the odds had played out, one of those that seemed too absurd to be actually true.
Yet it was and it was also the reason why they were here, in an overcrowded bar, having fun with their friends.
The six of them were crammed into a corner around a table for four, packed in between fellow officers, groups of women and men and a bachelor party which appeared to take up most of the tables and chairs. With Danny and Lindsay sharing a seat as well, Flack and Angell were the only ones having a chair of their own however they were squashed in between table and wall.
But tonight the discomfort was only of minor importance and as the last to have joined the group, Stella and Mac hadn't even bothered trying to dig up another chair. Without a word or moment of hesitation they had slipped onto the bench that was fit for one – one and a half at most – and no one had so much as given it a second thought.
As the laughter now died down Danny launched into one of his stories, one that he had already told several times and that became slightly more dramatic with each recount. Over time he had stretched the truth, converting it into a quite fantastic piece of fiction rather than an accurate report of happenings. Nevertheless his telling was somewhat picturesque and he usually managed to find an impressed audience in a few rookies.
Tonight, however, those were nowhere close to overhear and all he did was cause a few meaningful smiles to appear on his friends' faces. Flack couldn't resist to utter an exaggerated groan, ignoring the warning look Danny shot him before he went on with his telling a moment later.
"So, the four suspects," he took up where he had left off, Mac's brows rising while he turned to Stella, his features skeptic.
Her brows, too, were slightly raised, her eyes gazing at some undefined point on the table in front of her as she bit her lips, very obviously suppressing her urge to laugh.
"Didn't he say three suspects two seconds ago?" Mac asked leaning in to her, causing her lips to break into a brief grin.
"Shhh," she admonished, turning towards him, their faces only inches apart. "You are spoiling the story," she added with as straight a face as she could manage, the mischievous spark in her eyes giving her away though.
"I can't help myself," he replied smiling lightly, playing along. "I am a cop and a CSI – the worst combination there is." While his tone had grown serious at his last words, his eyes were just as hers twinkling, prompting Stella to offer him a coy smile in return.
"Is that so?" she inquired raising her brows in a challenging, almost flirtatious manner, leaving it up to him to determine whether she meant his job, the worst combination or the both.
"You can take my word on it," he answered, something oddly relaxed in his otherwise serious features. Something that so clearly showed how much he was enjoying himself and that Stella had to dig deep in her memory for to remember the last time she had heard it.
Without a reply she ran her eyes over Mac, her lips forming into a faint, happy smile that she wasn't aware of at first, noticing a little surprised that his hand was suddenly reaching out for her.
Before she was able to say something, she felt him brush over her cheek and was about to make a comment when she became aware of his extended finger. Lowering her gaze, she saw an eyelash visibly resting on the far end of his index finger and she lifted her doubtful eyes back to Mac. They went down on to the eyelash a second later before her gaze once again was meeting his.
She studied him a little suspiciously, his look tenderly demanding and eventually she relented. Briefly, she glanced sideways, closing her eyes when she was sure no one was watching and making that wish, she blew at his finger.
Her soft breath felt like a summer breeze to him, like a feather brushing over his skin and for a moment he kept staring at his finger, relishing the sensation, then raised his gaze again.
He did so the same instant she re-opened her eyes, their gazes immediately captivated by the other ones, a to them unknown nevertheless intriguing feeling arising inside of them; spreading from somewhere close to their hearts. Enthralled they let it settle, allowing minutes to pass without either saying a word, enjoying the comfortable silence between them until Stella's soft voice eventually broke through the stillness.
"I am not telling you, Mac," she smiled, having had no problem at figuring out his present thoughts.
"I didn't ask," he pointed out almost defensively, sometimes hating it when she so effortlessly knew what was on his mind by simply looking at him, into his eyes, yet adoring it at the same time. Just like he adored that wistful smile with which she kept gazing at him now as she reached for her glass.
She found it to be empty and a look of surprise briefly crossed her features before she set it back down. For a second she stared at her unfilled pint, then a smile reappeared on her face, this time a sly one and shifting her eyes back to Mac, her hand slipped naturally around his glass.
Her fingers brushed against his as she sneaked his pint out of his hand, already drinking when he finally caught on to her plan. All he could do was watch her drain the rest of his beer and the innocent look she offered him once she was done, raising her eyelids in a single, coy movement. With an irresistible charm in her eyes, she quickly slipped the glass back into his hand like nothing happened, their fingers touching again, lingering for the blink of an eye longer than necessary.
"You didn't have to," Stella finally replied giving him another smile, this one indistinct, yet it was fading as their eyes met again a moment later.
There was an instant connection, drawing them further away from reality at a fast pace, Danny's objecting voice all of a sudden pulling them out of whatever they had been getting into.
"Alright people, that's it!" he exclaimed, prompting all the eyes around the table to shift to him, the look on Flack, Angell and Lindsay's faces making it obvious that they, too, had not been the least interested in Danny's telling, very apparently having led a separate conversation, as well.
Now though the center of attention clearly was on him and everyone watched him scramble off the chair behind Lindsay a little bewildered.
"Where are you going?" she wanted to know a little surprised, grabbing his wrist.
"The bar, trying to see if anyone likes me there," he replied the wounded pride not completely a pretense nevertheless his words brought a few smirks on to some of the others faces.
"Just don't forget to order the new round of drinks," Flack threw in grinning broadly.
"Who says I was going to come back?" Danny retorted, Lindsay immediately responding, her "I do" even quicker than his response. "And Lucy does, too," she corrected, her look daring him to object.
A wide smile formed on Danny's face as he leaned in to her, stealing a quick kiss before whispering something in her ear that had her lips curve into a smile as well. As they kept looking into each others eyes, their smiles proof of the shared secret, Flack let out an exaggerated groan, getting up from his chair as well.
"Come on Romeo," he remarked dryly, giving Danny a friendly slap on the back, "love making is for later. We're suffering a drought here."
Grimacing Danny turned to him yet Flack was already disappearing into the crowd. He hurried to catch up with him, Angell and Lindsay staring after the two men, each set of eyes marveling over a different butt.
"Shouldn't you be going, too?" Stella softly nudged Mac, her eyes still a little dreamy from observing the caring scene between Danny and Lindsay.
"You want to have a butt to gaze at as well?" he replied nonchalantly, but dead serious, his brows risen in skeptic question.
Her eyes shot up and her mouth dropped in a reflex as she planned to say something yet nothing came out and all she could do was stare at him blankly.
He returned that look as if he had asked the most ordinary question, maintaining a straight poker face, enjoying that she very obviously struggled to regain her composure.
All she had meant for was for him to join the other two men to lend a helping hand, he certainly was aware of that. Just like he knew that not in her wildest dreams would she have imagined getting such an answer. Not from him anyway. Even less so in a public place.
He certainly couldn't deny that he had been surprised by his own words as well and if he was honest to himself, he couldn't remember having ever made such a suggestive remark. Not even at High School, not to Claire or Peyton; he had never so much as contemplated it, let alone offer it to anyone he was not romantically involved with.
But the words had just come to him, had tumbled out of his mouth before he had known it and now that they had, he actually liked the fact that they had.
"I can't believe you just said that," Stella finally managed to mutter, the bewilderment over his statement still very present in her voice.
Mac responded with the most innocent look he could muster, earning a deathly glare from her.
"That look won't get you anywhere with me," she scolded almost flirtatiously into his ear, at last bringing a boyish grin to his face.
"It already did," he replied mirroring her movement of leaning close, his mouth only inches from her ear. His words were slow and calculated so they had time to sink in and he observed with pleasure how she had to swallow to keep her mouth from going dry.
She tried to utter an objection yet she was drawing a blank again and that in itself was proof enough of the truth of his statement. Nevertheless he turned to her with a downright challenging look, inevitably connecting their eyes again, the mischief transforming to warmth the moment they met, forming an invisible bond.
A bond that had already started to built itself, to make its presence known over the past days, a bond that had developed from something neither one had been aware of to be there. Now they were but the point of return had passed unnoticed. It was impossible to go into any other direction than straight forward – if it had ever been possible to begin with – and neither one of them wanted it any different. Despite its unpredictable journey the path which that something would take them down was oddly soothing, reassuring, exciting and they had mutely agreed to let it lead them; guide them, follow it wherever it would be going.
Engaged in a rather pointless discussion, Danny and Flack returned with the drinks, setting them in the middle of the table and as the two guys settled back into their respective seats Mac wordlessly reached for his and Stella's drink.
Putting her root beer in front of her, their gazes locked once more for the briefest of an instant, a time so short only they noticed but to them it was long enough. Long enough to reestablish that bond, to strengthen it, to exchange a few silent words before focusing their attention back to the resuming conversation.
It was Lindsay who this time around offered a story, the fact that it was set in Montana opening the door for several jokes to be thrown in on that account. But she either ignored them with ease or returned the favor then went on with her narration completely unruffled and soon Stella found that an unintentional smile over the younger CSI had appeared on her face.
It was amazing how she had bloomed, how confident she had become among them, how she seemed to have so easily managed to gain the respect she deserved, even from Danny. She fit in perfectly and right now, here, with her precious baby at home, the father of the child close, surrounded by friends she gave the impression of needing nothing more than that. Of having everything she would ever have to have in her life, of being one of the few lucky ones out there who truly had achieved what everyone aimed for – and if anyone had merited it, it was her.
Sinking even further into her own thoughts, the slight dreamy smile still on her lips, Stella's mind went back to a book she had just finished. A romance novel in which the author had explained in the foreword that he believed in there being a perfect match for everyone. That every human-being had a soul mate and that one's heart would usually know where to find it, although it sometimes needed a little help from fate.
It was what she liked to believe in as well, what in Lindsay's case seemed so absolutely true and wondering what exactly that would mean for her, if it meant that her match was closer than she was aware of, she slowly leaned back. She felt her shoulders come into contact with something soft and briefly bounced up before realizing that it was Mac's arm which he had propped onto the backrest of the bench.
Giving him the possibility of drawing away, she glanced at him from the side, yet he didn't even seem to notice. On the contrary to her he was actually listening to Lindsay, so she leaned back, his arm responding more or less automatically, repositioning itself so his hand was now slightly touching her.
The rest of him though hadn't moved an inch, reminding Stella immediately of the times he had been waiting with her in court. He had done the exact same thing, had completely subconsciously held his arm around her and often hadn't even realized that he had done so at all.
Sensing that he had turned to face her, she brought her focus back to him, their eyes connecting, holding on for a long intense moment. Without a spoken word having been exchanged he then shifted his attention back to Lindsay, going on with listening to her quite engaging story.
Stella's gaze, however, remained on him, studying him, her eyes turning even softer when she noticed his hand closing around her shoulder in an unintentional but somehow inevitable movement. It was again completely driven by his subconscious and with her eyes still fixed on him, she felt her lips curl into a smile. Not only over his absent motions but also over him, over his relaxation, the satisfaction that was so visible in his every gesture, so audible in his every word.
Ever since Claire's death she had scarcely seen him like that, knowing that he simply didn't allow himself to show that part of him because it made him vulnerable, exposed him emotionally. Tonight, however, the comfort and the ease he felt were far bigger than his inner fears. He evidently felt safe and that sent a strange but soothing shiver running through her body.
Yet she wasn't able to pursue its origin any further since an outburst of laughter reached her ears.
Laughter that she had no clue what it was about but that was also coming from Mac, the profound, full sound of it increasing that calming sensation inside of her.
It was not a polite or forced laugh, it was a laugh that came from deep within him, that was laughed because he had the desire to, that portrayed his sheer carelessness, his happiness, a laugh that she couldn't remember when she had last heard it.
It definitely had been an awfully long time, too long a time for her taste and listening to it now she realized that she had missed it. Missed it like she had missed those cheerful evenings, those with friends and those they sometimes had spent only the two of them, those evenings on which nothing in the world mattered; on which they – her and him – could permit themselves to forget. Forget about their jobs, the cruel reality of life, about his inner demons; simply everything that interfered with a careless and humorous time.
"Shouldn't it be your turn now, Mac?" Lindsay's voice cut through the fading laughter, only a hint of cautiousness detectable over addressing her boss, making it obvious that tonight it was above all a friend she was talking to.
Just like the other's, Mac's laughter became subdued, his gaze wandering around the table as he considered whether to have overheard Lindsay's gentle request or not. Yet the expectance he found on his friends' faces made it quite clear that everyone was agreeing with her and he realized that he would not stand a chance with whatever excuse he could fabricate.
His lips curved into a surrendering smile and he was about to admit defeat when he noticed the somewhat persisting glare coming from Stella.
He turned, finding her eyes almost boring into him, the green having begun to glow like a cat's eyes and he immediately knew without a doubt what was on her mind. Knew what story she wanted him to tell and that she would either lead him there or tell herself if he wouldn't.
Nevertheless he shot her a warning look daring her to say something yet the glow of her eyes seemed to become only more intense, his attempt at a more threatening stare appearing to make her eyes spark even more.