Summary (overall): Life's rarely easy; there are ups and downs and sometimes unplanned detours. They're just the same, going with the flow, never sure where they'll end up. SMACKED
Prequel: Without Words (ID: 5532220) – It's not necessary to read it, but helpful to fully understand everything.
Genre: Drama, Romance, Angst, Friendship, Hurt/Comfort
Characters: Mac, Stella, occasional visits of other regular characters of the show
Note: The reason this is a sequel rather than another chapter is that "Without words" is situated before the TV-Show, while this and the following chapters follow certain episodes of the show.
I wrote most of this story before I published "Without Words" but I was wary of publishing this without knowing how the prequel would be perceived. Since there were very nice and encouraging reviews for the prequel, I decided to give this one another try. Thanks again to everyone for your kind words!
Disclaimer: CSI:NY and the associated characters are property of CBS, A. Zuiker and other people whom I don't belong to. This is fan fiction and not for profit…
Chapter 1: Silent Question
Summary: He's too tired.
Note: This chapter has been revised several times, but it's not really beta-ed yet. I'll exchange it for a beta-ed version as soon as I found somebody who'd do it.
It is dark outside. Most of his colleagues are probably asleep already. Those that aren't on duty that is. Sitting here feels strangely familiar, although he doesn't do it that often. Thankfully. It's not something he likes doing in his spare time anymore. But since he's still not sleeping very well and his ever worried partner had practically thrown him out of the office, there hadn't been a place he would have wanted to go to. No place other than this.
Carefully he leans back in the uncomfortable chair. One would think, that they would start to build those things better. People are supposed to wait here patiently. But then, maybe they don't really want them to be around. It's bothersome. Seeing them. Waiting. Hoping. Even if there's no hope left.
He's not hoping; he's not really waiting either. The only reason he's here is because he's afraid that otherwise he would stray to the one place that can help him ease the pain inside.
Slowly he looks at the figure inside the bed. The woman is breathing thanks to all the medical equipment around her. But that seems to be all there is about her. She won't wake up, the doctors made sure to tell him that. And even if she did, what good would it do her? She would still be trapped inside her own body, unable to ever talk or walk again. Mind functioning, everything working as it is supposed to. Everything except for her body.
He can actually understand it. Sometimes he feels the same.
Yes, he can still move, he can walk around, talk, interact with people. But he's not feeling like he really does all that. Something inside him is dead. Trapped. And he's unable to free it. Sometimes he feels as if he can do it. But then everything falls back and he's where he started nearly three years ago.
It doesn't feel that long.
But then, he hasn't felt all that much during those years. He knows, that he needs some rest right now, needs to let go of everything. But he can't. Every evening he walks home and lay down in his bed just to get up two or three hours later without getting any real sleep. Instead he gets his sports clothing and goes out to run until he can't run anymore.
He remembers the last time he actually slept through a whole night – or whatever counts as that in his business. It had been cold. He had been cold, inside as much as outside. But he hadn't been alone. It hadn't even been a conscious decision then. He had just gone with her, lay down in her bed and when she held him he could finally let go of everything.
Finally he hadn't been able to fight sleep anymore.
And that's the reason he never went to her apartment after that. He's afraid to let go again. Not because he's afraid to lose something, but rather because he doesn't want her to see him like that. That… weak, again.
"I'm so tired."
I hears his own voice without really recognizing it. It's hoarse, dark somehow. Just like his feelings inside. This is way too familiar, way too painful. Why does he even start to talk now? It's not like the woman in the bed will hear anything, never-the-less answer him.
"I used to sit like this with my wife. Her name was Claire."
The memory comes flowing back with his words. It wasn't a hospital bed then – never a hospital bed. But he used to sit in their bedroom like this quite often. Watching her sleep; watching her chest rise and fall, while she slept. She never was a night-person. Winter was hardest on her. Whenever it got dark, she could fall asleep almost instantly. Not to mention the trouble to get her up in the morning.
Of course she always tried not to fall asleep. Their first year or so in New York she had tried to stay awake and wait for him, when he had the late shift or to get up early when he came from graveyard. But she almost never made it. And at some point she had given up trying. He never blamed her for it. Why should he? He loved her just the way she had been.
And he loved to sit in their bedroom and watch her sleep.
"She died on 9/11. Nobody saw it coming."
It's hard talking about it. Even after all those years. They haven't found her, not one single piece. No urn to put in the ground, no grave since he couldn't bring himself to leave it empty. Her grave is inside his heart, so he can carry it with him. It's easier that way.
Just not very healthy.
His voice breaks for a fraction when he continues: "I was cleaning out the closet the other day, and I... I found this beach ball. And I remembered it was my wife who blew it up."
Again he has to stop for a moment. He never talked about it to anybody. Not even his best friend. Maybe it would be easier if he did. But then… maybe it wouldn't. And he had decided a long time ago, not to burden his friend with it anymore. It wouldn't be fair to bring her down with him. She had all her life in front of her.
He still feels like his should be over.
"I never told anybody this, but I got rid of everything that reminded me of Claire. Too painful. The one thing I couldn't throw away was that beach ball. Her breath is still in there."
He remembers the day, about two weeks ago. Until he had found the ball again, he didn't even remember, that he had kept it. Even now he couldn't the first time he found it and why he really kept it. Was it really for this sentimental reason or just… because he forgot to clean out this particular closet when he got rid of everything else.
After this Christmas 2001 he threw out everything obvious that reminded him of her. Everything except for some photos which he put into a box that went to the far back of just another closet. But her clothes, her laptop, even the little ballet-figurine they had bought on their first weekend-trip to New York; it all went out in either some big black trash-bag or to some charity that could make good use of it.
And then two weeks ago he found the ball.
It had hit him like a brick-wall. Fast and hard. He remembers it all too well. For a moment he hadn't known why he even had a blown up beach-ball in his closet. He hadn't been to the beach since… well since quite some time before 9/11. But they had been planning to. The weekend after the attack. They had been planning on a weekend on the beach and Claire had already started with the preparations. It had been a fun evening with her being all playful.
Him finding the ball hadn't been that much fun once he remembered. He didn't know anymore what happened exactly, but he knows that he came to his senses about three or four hours later, maybe even more. His butt firmly on the ground, his head leaned against the wall, the ball still clutched in his hands and his heart aching to feel her arms around him again; and to hold her in return.
For the first time in all those years he had felt lonely. He knows he's alone whenever he's at home. But most of the time he's either not there, preferring to be amongst his colleagues or he's too occupied to really think about how empty his apartment has been for all this time. All he had wanted at that moment while, sitting on the floor, was somebody to hold him, to anchor him to this world again.
Because contrary to popular believe he's not really planning on dying anymore – not for most of the time.
But right now he has the same yearning as he had during that night he found the ball. He wants nothing more than to get that feeling of belonging back he used to have so long ago. And that's why he suddenly gets up. For a second he rests his hand on the woman's arm, whispering an apology, before he turns around and leaves.
About half an hour later he's standing in front of an apartment door that's definitely not his. He doesn't really know how he got there, but he's quite sure if he turns around now and goes back to the street he'll find his CSI-Truck somewhere around. That's also what he should do right now: Turn around. Walk away, without ever telling her that he came here. But then he would still feel like this, would still be that empty shell.
He needs to sleep, he knows it and he knows, that he didn't get any real sleep for… longer than he wants to remember. On the other hand she has every right to turn him away. She probably will. Maybe she has somebody in there. He doesn't know for sure, although he probably should.
They're best friends after all.
It would be normal for him to know, if she had a relationship. Wouldn't it? On the other hand he's a man, so maybe she doesn't want to talk about this with him. But then… he knew about her former boyfriends. Most of them. Some. He's… somewhat sure about that. Why shouldn't he know about it? Still, he doesn't know if he wants to find out.
Thinking about it in the pragmatic kind of thinking he usually uses for work… It's too much to ask of her. He has no right to put her through that. She has lost a friend too and she's coping with it quite well. She's living her life, moving on. And it's been such a long time. Just because she's been there for him before doesn't mean he has a right to ask her again.
But he's so tired.
Suddenly the door opens and she's right in front of him. His eyes widen when he takes in her sight. She's just as surprised as he is. A bag in her hand tells him, that she wanted to bring out the garbage. And for a second he wonders if he'll be thrown out just the same. Wouldn't be too farfetched. Would it?
His eyes wander back to her face. Her forehead is wrinkled in a frown so he opens his mouth to say something. Explain why he's here at this ungodly hour. But no sound is coming out. He's speechless, unable to tell her why he came, what he needs. Thankfully she seems to understand him anyway – as she always does.
So she puts the bag down and gabs his arm. Two seconds later he's standing in her living room, not knowing what to do with himself. He can't ask her. It's too much. He has no right to, he knows it. The words are repeating themselves inside his head over and over again. But again he doesn't need to say anything because when he turns around she's there already. In the background he can see her garbage right next to the apartment door where she put it down to throw it away later.
Maybe he should take it and walk away.
Her hand comes up to his arm and she squeezes it lightly. All he can do is stare at her hand and try not to fall apart. He has done this to her before. Why did he come here? Just to do it again? He doesn't want to hurt her, because he's sure that's what he does every time he forces her to see him like that. That weak, that hurt. All it does to her is remember her of her dead friend and what they both lost.
"Still not sleeping", she murmurs when she takes hold of his other arm.
It's not a question so he doesn't feel the need to answer. What could he answer anyway? If he says he does, it's a lie and they will both know it. If he acknowledge it, he's admitting to it, to his weakness. He doesn't want to be weak – least of all in her eyes.
But he feels an almost desperate need to sleep.
Her hands guide him towards the bed. He knows, he should turn around and go. Tell her it was a mistake that he came here, that he just wanted to tell her, that he's alright. But then, she wouldn't believe him – rightly so. And him telling a shallow lie is the last thing he wants to do to her.
Next thing he knows is that he's lying in her bed, his suit-pants still on, shirt still on, only his shoes are gone – probably not that far, but he couldn't even say if he took them off himself. His eyes are fixed on the ceiling and he knows, he should get up, find his shoes and walk way. It's just that he can't because he also knows that he needs this.
He needs her.
She lies down next to him and her arm comes around his chest. It just stays there. No question asked from her, no answer given from him. Just like the last time all those years ago. He needs it, like he needed it then.
So he turns his head around and looks her straight into the eyes. He wants to ask for her help – probably more than she had already given him by bringing him in here. But he can't say it, can't ask her. There's this ache in his chest that just won't go away. He hopes she can help with it, but he doesn't know and he's too afraid to ask her for her help.
Suddenly she slides closer and hugs him to her. All he can do is close his eyes and hug her back, because he's grateful. So grateful, that she always knows what he needs in his darkest hour. Much more so, that she's still happily providing him with it.
He buries his face against her neck, her long hair lightly caressing him and closes his eyes. Her arms hold him tightly, something he's been craving for so long. A sigh escapes his throat before he can suppress it. He's sure she heard it. If she did she doesn't say a word; just holds him even tighter, as if she knows that it's the only thing keeping him grounded.
It's been so long, so long since he felt this serenity anywhere around him.
Here in her arms that's where he can feel human again, where he can feel whole again. He needs it, he wants it and he's glad beyond everything that she's simply there for him. Helping him to get through the night. Even if it's only this one night. He just needs it.
Before his mind can spin another turn around the same thought he feels sleep tugging at him and for the first time in many years he's glad to give in to it. Morpheus can be cruel, but he knows that he will have a good night if he's right here in her arms. And so he surrenders to them both and feels himself floating away.
When he wakes up the sun is already up. He can feel her breathing evenly and slow. Her head rests on his shoulder, her arm across his chest. It feels right somehow and he can't bring himself to wake her up. So he waits and watches her. There a serenity around her that he hasn't seen or felt for so long, that he can barely remember.
For a second he wishes, that he could wake up like this every morning – that he could sleep like this every night. But he forces the thought back to the dark corner from where it originated. He can't think like this, can't imagine it. She's his friend, his best friend. You're not supposed to think like this about your friend. Not even if none of those thoughts would warrant a PG rating or higher.
She stirs suddenly and he loosens his hold on her to let her get up. But she stays where she is, her right hand still on his chest, her whole body still snuggled up to him. He doesn't break the connection either, so they stay where they are until he can feel her hand moving around his chest, caressing it lightly.
He takes the hand into his own to stop the movement. It's too familiar if she does that. It feels too good, too intimate. Although it's been years he can't allow himself to feel like this. Not with any woman, none-the-less with this one. They're friends. If he starts feeling differently about her he's going to be in trouble, because he knows she won't. How could she ever feel different about him? He's her best friend; she's been very good friends with his wife – god knows what those two used to talk about.
Nothing else will ever be between them.
About an hour later they're both up – not talking. She has put on casual clothes – they're both not on duty today. Still he has a feeling he'll end up in the office anyway. And he's sure she knows so too. When he's getting ready to leave he sees the garbage near the door and slowly turns around.
She's standing in the middle of her living room, looking rested – as he hopefully does. Because if he doesn't she'll be all worried about him again and that's one look he really don't want to see on her. He doesn't want her to worry, although he knows quite well that most of the time that's exactly what he does to her. Problem is that no matter what he tries, it always comes back to him not sleeping and working too much.
If it wasn't for her insistence he would have given up on himself a long time ago.
"Why?" he asks suddenly, not really sure what he really wants to know. Why did she let him in? Why hasn't she given up on him? Why does she even bother? Why can she stand the sight of him when he's that far down, when he hates himself for being that weak?
She smiles and shakes her head lightly before she takes the few steps to close in on him. He's not moving away; just stares at her, unable to look away. Her hands come up again, like they did the night before, but this time they come to rest on his chest, the heat from her body penetrating through the thin layers of his shirt and undershirt.
"Because I hear you asking – all the time."
A/N: Hope you liked it. As stated above, it's the first one in a series that will follow along certain episodes. They're all smacked – with different depth regarding their feelings to each other.
For all those who're not sure which episode this was: It's 1.01 Blink and the spoken conversation in the hospital is directly from the episode, so those words are not mine – I just borrowed them and extended it to my version of what might have taken place ;)
Reviews more than welcome.