Two CSIs and a Baby
Summary: Mac and Stella get tipsy at Lucy's christening, and a strange arrangement ensues… SMACked, and T for adult themes.
Disclaimers: I have made no money from writing this story. I do not own anything connected with any of the CSI franchises, which I assume belong to CBS and its cohorts. I would quite like to borrow Gary Sinise, however… just for a day?
A/N: Set over the period September 2009 to June 2010 but written before 6.1 was shown so, if anything too astonishing happens in Season 6, possibly subject to sudden change: according to the spoilers CBS already seem to have f**ked up the continuity, so heaven knows what they'll do later on! This started off as a piece of happy fluff, but soon flexed its muscles into something a bit more serious.
Chapter 1 – September 2009
"I'm telling you, Linds, they did it! I heard the conversation – Mac and Stella did the deed in that fancy hotel your parents paid for."
Lindsay7, nursing their freshly-christened daughter Lucy and looking sceptical, wrinkled her nose. In her opinion, it was unlikely that after fifteen years of working together without doing 'the deed', Mac and Stella would ever get around to it: and anyway, if they did, she would know. She had those two sussed: she would know.
But she was curious as to why her husband thought he knew. "What conversation, Danny?"
Danny's accent, broad New York at the best of times – though he always tried to tone it down – flattened out when he became excited. It was very flat now. "I heard them talking the next morning – unmistakeable. She said, 'did we really' and he said 'yes' and she said 'how do you feel' and he said he felt OK and she said 'it was just the booze' and he said that was OK and they wouldn't talk about it again if she didn't want to and she laughed and said 'bit embarrassing' and he said 'that's what you get for too much champagne' and she said 'thanks' and then I spun outta there." He paused for breath. "What do you think they were talking about?"
Lindsay shrugged slightly. "It could have been anything, Danny. Circumstantial evidence – hearsay?"
"Nah." Danny shook his head, grinning happily. "They got it together, I'm positive. Good for them."
His wife smiled, pleased to see him pleased, and pleased too that her bosses, neither with a track record of romantic happiness, might have found it at last. She cradled Lucy closer, and wondered what had really happened…
* * *
"Anyone seen Mac?" Stella asked. The hotel – one of the best in Montana, and certainly the best in Bozeman – and its beautiful grounds were full of holidaymakers and business travellers as well as those in their christening party, so it was perhaps a vain question.
Lindsay's parents – astonishingly lovely people who could have produced no other daughter – had volunteered to take over the arrangements for their granddaughter's christening after the appalling events of the previous May. Normally, Danny would be the one running around organising it all – and then, Lindsay privately thought, throwing in the towel and finding a freelance priest somewhere on the quiet so he didn't have to organise anything more – but Danny wasn't doing anything like that right now, and it was with something like relief that Lindsay had handed things over to her parents and let them get on with it. The result was a far more elaborate affair than either she or Danny would have wished: it would indeed be something to remember.
But now it was late afternoon, and the festivities were at last winding down: Lucy was asleep, some of the guests had left, those that were staying over were lounging in the warmth of the garden waiting for dinner, and almost everyone had had just a little too much to drink.
Lindsay looked at Stella as she asked her question. "No – he wouldn't have left, would he?"
Stella shook his head. "What, abandon his god-daughter to her wayward parents? I don't think so."
Lindsay felt mischievous. "Why don't you go and find him?"
Stella stood. "Yeah – I might do that. Coming?"
"No – I want to make sure Danny's OK." She waved across the lawn towards her husband, sitting comfortably on the veranda. "You go."
* * *
Stella picked her way carefully across the lawns and flowerbeds that made up the extensive grounds of the hotel. She had worn even higher heels than usual, teamed with a translucent cream outfit that, once she had begun to grow warm in the Montana sun, had become slightly more translucent that she had planned. She had noticed both Mac and Adam looking at her appreciatively more than once, though: and what was a sexy outfit for if it didn't – well – make you look sexy?
It was unlike Mac to desert his post: she'd seen him grazing the beer, and hoped he was OK. It was obvious that the ceremony had moved him: as he held his god-daughter a smile had melted his usually taciturn features and, as he had made his promises – which were clearly not merely empty ones – his eyes had filled with tears. One had splashed onto little Lucy's cheek, and she had swiped at it with a chubby, uncoordinated hand, staring up in blinking surprise at the man from whom the rain fell. Stella didn't think anyone else had seen it: but if Mac was embarrassed at letting his emotions show it could explain why he might have drunk more than was good for him.
She too had taken liberal advantage of the bar: it wasn't every day you celebrated a perfect new life coming into the world.
None of which helped her find Mac. The autumn roses were beautiful: but he wasn't in the rose garden. Black swans drifted serenely on the flower-strewn river: but he wasn't by the water. Neither was he in the rock garden, the children's playground or the fernery. She was beginning to despair when she caught sight of a signpost to the maze. That's where he would be, she realised: not wanting to be found too easily, but not wanting to go too far. He was a complicated man, she thought, and not entirely happy. Grimacing to herself, she set off.
The maze was well-kept, its box hedges thick and impenetrable. But they were less than six feet high and if she jumped she could easily see over them: the path to the centre was obvious. As she approached she heard voices – a high, excited one, and then the lower, more moderated tones of a man. Undoubtedly Mac.
She stopped, an unpleasant twisting in her gut. It hadn't occurred to her that he wouldn't be alone. What if he'd come here to be private? What if he'd come here on a romantic liaison? The thought stabbed through her, surprising in its jagged sharpness. Oh, she knew Mac was attractive – who didn't? – but the strength of her instinctive reaction took her by surprise. He was a free agent, after all – he didn't belong to her or to anyone. There was no reason to feel angry that he might have found someone to…
But, as the voices drew nearer, she realised that at least one of them was that of a child.
Turning a corner, she found her quarry in a small grassy clearing. Mac was seated on the ground, his jacket thrown over the bench behind him, his tie and shoes discarded; and the suddenness of seeing him made her catch her breath. She watched him, unobserved, and realised as if for the first time just how handsome he was: handsome in a lazy, effortless way that was uniquely his own. In another age, he would have been a tragic, charismatic hero; in this, he was the only man who could throw her into complete confusion and have no idea of the effect he was having. She had to speak.
"Mac! What are you doing here?"
He turned towards her, and she saw that his hands were spread, something suspended between them. What the hell…? Then she saw two small children – someone's nephews or cousins – as they carefully took the stretched string in their fingers and clumsily manipulated it. Suddenly, it was on the boy's fingers, and Mac's hands were free.
"You got it!" he said amiably. "Stella – come sit with us."
Oh yes, she thought as she walked across the grass. He'd definitely been drinking. His smile, unconscious and fuzzy as he looked at his small charges, was beautiful.
"Hey," one of the children said. A boy of about seven, he was struggling with the string, and continued to do so until his companion, a slightly younger girl, grasped the strands and deftly manoeuvred them onto her own fingers and thumb.
"Hi, there," Stella replied, and then repeated her question. "What are you all doing here?"
"We're playing cats' cradles. Uncle Mac is teaching us cats' cradles."
"Cats' cradles?" Stella almost mouthed the words, staring at Mac in disbelief. "Uncle Mac?"
Mac smiled again, and motioned her to sit beside him: bemused, she did so. "It's an English thing – well, Peyton showed me, and I've been showing Evan and Charlie. 'Uncle Mac' is too – he was a character from the 1950s, and these two seem to have been talking to their grandparents, and liked the fact that I shared his name."
"Wow." Stella was lost for words. Mellow Mac was something else.
"Actually," Mac said suddenly, "you shouldn't sit on the ground in that. Here – let me help you up."
He scrambled to his feet and reached down to her. Now, Stella was even more confused: the whole situation was surreal. Mac playing with children, Mac slightly fuzzy with drink, Mac helping her up… Without thinking, she stretched out her hand to meet his, and he carefully pulled her upright. She had to admit, it was a good sensation, surrendering power for a few seconds. Especially as, once she was standing, Mac seemed in no hurry to break the contact. She saw his gaze flick her up and down, and felt a shiver of appreciation.
It was only the champagne – she knew that – but he held her hand naturally and easily, with gentle confidence. She knew he cared for her – he'd told her so, all those months ago in Greece – but she wished he cared for her more. After a moment, he began to caress her hand with his thumb, for all the world as if… He raised his eyes, and she smiled: a gentle smile, but one that held amusement, too.
And it must have been the amusement he saw, because he stepped back quickly, almost treading on little Evan, dropping her hand as if it had begun to scald him. "Sorry," he muttered. "I – er – was holding the children's hands…"
Stella stared. This was becoming increasingly bizarre: she had to pull things back to reality before Mac turned into a mad hatter, or a white rabbit appeared from a hole in the ground. But for a few moments all she could think of was her hand in Mac's, how gentle his touch had been, and how natural it had felt there. Almost as if designed for it.
Which – she shook herself – it was not. Work relationships did not – repeat, did not – work. Mac and Peyton – her and Frankie – Danny and Lindsay – well, there was always one to break the rule. If only, she thought, in a rare moment of self-indulgence. If only.
As if to prove Mac's point and break the tension, Charlie grabbed her hand, making her jump. The string edifice hung, straggling, at her side, and she looked sorrowful and expectant. "Can you make cats' cradles?"
"No, sweetie – only – er – only Uncle Mac can do that."
The child turned to Mac and held out the length of string. "Start again?"
Stella gazed enchanted as Mac crouched down, looking at the children with what seemed to be real affection. She tried to be unaware of the way his trousers stretched tight across his thighs, and almost succeeded: this really wasn't the time or the place. Wrapping the twine slowly around his hands, he caught it in his fingers until a patchwork mesh of string criss-crossed between his hands. Then he offered them to Charlie, who confidently grabbed two intersections, pulled them up, around, under, through – it was too complicated for her to follow – and then away, leaving her with a new arrangement laced between her own fingers. She showed them to Mac, who repeated the actions, resulting in – something different again. The girl followed suit, and finally was left with string running from hand to hand in tram lines – the end of the game.
She sighed in contentment, evidently finding the entertainment completely satisfying. Then, in the way of children, she changed tack and held her arms out. "I want to go home now."
Without a word, Mac stood and scooped her up: she wrapped her arms around his neck and closed her eyes. He slipped his feet into his discarded shoes, then turned to Stella, amusement dancing in his eyes. "Do you want to grab Evan? I think it's time we got back."
In a daze, Stella took the small boy's hand and picked up Mac's jacket, and together the four of them made their way through the trees and across the gardens until the hotel came into view. She looked at the way his hands encircled the child in his arms, the infinite gentleness and care with which he held her close, but not too tight. She tried to find a word for it, but could not. Then, as they reached the lawns once more, it came to her: 'complete'. The child made Mac complete.
Who was this man she was walking with, two children in tow as though they were a nuclear family? Who was this person who interacted so easily with youngsters he'd never met – so easily, in fact, that one of them was content to be carried in such a fashion? Who was this Mac, whom she'd never seen behave like this before? No – she corrected herself – she had. Perhaps after all she shouldn't be surprised: she remembered the little boy whose aunt had been killed in the Manhattan Museum of Science – some years ago now – and how Mac had sat with him, talking and sympathising and being everything a father should be. It had been a beautiful thing to see then, and it still was now: the little girl's trust was absolute.
She looked at the soft, pale childish curls nestling against the short, dark adult hair, and felt a stab of longing. Why, she wondered, had Mac and Claire never had children?
"Mom!" Evan's piercing scream cut through her thoughts: he loosed himself from her grasp and ran towards the lazing adults. Mac's burden too wriggled free, and joined her small companion in the headlong rush. Mac watched her go and smiled.
Stella swallowed, conscious that her insides were tingling in a glorious, most unprofessional, way. She had to get a grip…
But now he was holding a hand out to her, in full view of everyone – oh dammit, why did he have to get tipsy in public? Why couldn't it have been just the two of them, alone somewhere with no-one else for miles, when she could have – could have – could have reached out a hand back to him, just like she was doing now?
No! She couldn't do it. There was too much baggage, too much history weighing her down. "I'm fine," she said brightly, deliberately misunderstanding his gesture. But, as she drew level with him – struggling on her unsuitable heels – he took his jacket from her, leaned in and whispered.
"Sure you wouldn't like me to carry you too?"
She was astonished: this wasn't like Mac at all! But she recovered: she rather liked this flirty version of her staid old friend, his features and primness softened by alcohol and sunshine. "Not in public!" she whispered back, surprised at herself. Briefly, she imagined being in Mac's strong, enclosing arms, carried across the lawns like some Victorian heroine. Ludicrous, she thought. Ludicrous. And lovely.
They walked towards a pair of cushioned seats just beyond the dappled shade of a huge buddleia. Mac slung his jacket over one shoulder; his other arm, despite Stella's embarrassment, was draped around her shoulders. He wasn't holding her, more using her as a theatrical prop, but the movement and the touch were so natural and unforced that her instinct – scarcely resisted – was to turn into him and complete the embrace: she was desperate for more of that light, elusive contact. When she sat down, she was giddy with shock and perplexity and not a little lust. She was grateful to have made it this far: the last half hour had yielded so many surprises that she needed time to consider them – especially, she thought, the touch of Mac's hand – for future reference.
"Sir? Ma'am?" One of the ubiquitous yet virtually invisible waiters materialised at their side. "May I provide you with refreshment?"
"Thanks," said Mac. "I'll have a beer. No – two beers. Stella?"
"A dry white, please." She glanced at Mac. "Too much champagne."
"Mmm." Closing his eyes, he settled back and raised his face to the Montana sun. It streaked his features and hair with copper and gold. Oh God, she thought: here you are, drunk and mine for the taking: and here I am, far too proper to even think about it. Well, of course, she was thinking about it, but…
Too much champagne.
* * *
Tap tap tap. Stella turned over in her sleep.
Tap tap tap. Stella opened her eyes.
Tap tap tap. Stella sat up in bed: someone was at her door. She fumbled for the bedside clock: what the hell time was it? Three thirty…
She padded softly across the plush carpet. Who would be at her door at three thirty in the morning? A thread of wickedness snagged itself into her mind. Dare she hope? No, that would be foolish. He was far too tipsy to have woken up yet.
Opening the door, she peered into the night-lit gloom of the hallway, and thought her heart would hammer its way out of her chest. There, still with his day clothes on – though they were somewhat rumpled now – stood Mac, his expression half-way between laughing and serious, looking rather like a little boy who'd been caught with his hand in the cookie jar once too often.
Suddenly scared, she didn't think: she grabbed him, pulled him into the room and whispered frantically. "Mac! Are you OK?"
"Yes. I'm fine." She could hear from his voice that he was still feeling the effects of yesterday's drink.
"Then why are you at my door at this time of night?"
"I – I wanted to apologise."
"What? You woke me up to…"
"Apologise. For my behaviour this afternoon."
"What? Are you crazy? It's three thirty in the morning, Mac – couldn't it have waited another six hours?"
"Sorry. I've been thinking. I guess I must have lost track of time."
"Thinking?" Now she was getting annoyed. "Thinking?" She sighed in exasperation. "Look, I'll make some coffee, yeah?"
He sat down on the bed. "Yeah. I need to talk to you, Stella."
"Mac, are you OK?"
He looked up at her. "Got a hell of a headache."
"Lie down – no, properly. I'll make the coffee."
She filled the cafetière, and waited for the grounds to suffuse into the steaming water. They said it took coffee some four hours to kick in – she reckoned Mac would be just about human by eight o'clock. Whatever had possessed him to get up at this unearthly hour to find her? He'd been flirting yesterday, yes – but it was only harmless banter. Many people wouldn't call it flirting at all – yet he was concerned enough to come here now? What needed talking about that couldn't wait?
God, he needed to loosen up a bit…
Hearing a strange noise, she turned to make sure he was all right: and saw him, sprawled on her bed – her bed – limbs untidily everywhere, sound asleep and snoring like a foghorn in winter. She stared at him.
Oh great! she thought. Mac's in my bed, fast asleep, and there's not a damned thing I can do about it. Where the hell am I going to sleep? It wasn't a question she thought she'd ever have to consider, sharing a room with Mac.
Irritated, she crossed to him: he was unconscious, mouth open, limbs relaxed, eyelids dancing under the influence of some dream. Dammit – even in this ungainly pose he was beautiful! Gingerly, she loosened his belt – longing and not wanting to touch the bulge below – and unfastened the snag of his trousers. That would be enough to keep him comfortable, she reckoned. Or maybe she should roll down the zipper, just a little way, just to be sure…
She brushed him – whether deliberately or not, even she didn't know – and he moaned. Snatching her hand back, she fled to the sofa and curled up in a panicked, quivering heap. But although he stopped snoring he didn't wake, and soon she was alone with the prospect of making herself comfortable without the benefit of bedclothes once more.
She had no doubt that, if she curled up beside him, he would put an arm around her, maybe smile lazily and hazily and perhaps even kiss her goodnight, and then fall asleep again. There could be nothing wrong in it: she wouldn't be taking advantage, or doing anything against his will. Yet she would never dare if he was awake…
Tentatively, she crept back to the bed, and lay down behind him, fitting her body to the shape of his, almost but not quite touching. She pulled the duvet over them both – he had discarded it when he flopped down – and put a light arm around his waist. Before she had realised what he was doing, he had covered it with his own, pulling it into him with a contented sigh. Oh well, she thought, it's all right – he's still got his clothes on.
Burying her head in his shoulders, she fell asleep enveloped in Mac's warmth, accompanied by the rich smell of undrunk coffee and the soft sound of breathing in the still, silent night.
* * *
To be continued in Chapter 2