I can't thank you guys enough or tell you HOW happy I am about all those extremely nice reviews - and most of all that you are all still around and still love the stories. What a relief! :-) Thanks so much all of you, everyone who read the story, wrote a review, added an author/story alert or put me or the story on their favorites' list. You are the BEST!
Special thanks - just gotta mention this - to csi kane for a brand new word that I totally LOVE: smexy ;-) Love it!
Alright, here comes the final chapter (and it is about twice as long as the previous one which as was correctly pointed out was rushed and too short) - please read and review!
And most of all: Enjoy and stay with me (and Stella and Mac)!
The song in case you forgot is still "When You Say Nothing At All" by Ronan Keating - listen to it, it's amazing and perfect, especially for the final scene :-)
"And there I thought you were a tough guy, never freezing - and besides that, used to sleeping alone," Stella tried to cover her nervousness.
Mac slowly smiled and reached out to touch her cheek.
"I've had enough cold during the past few days for a long time," he replied, his face moving closer to hers. "And I didn't sleep alone," he added. "I liked that a lot..."
Stella hesitated, pausing just a fraction of an inch before her lips touched his.
"We won't be able to get back to where we were," she murmured.
He looked at her for a moment, even though he wasn't able to see her, then closed the gap between them with a soft and intimate kiss.
"We won't want to," he whispered back, his left hand tenderly moving down along her spine - until he let out an annoyed curse when one of their cell phones started ringing. "You've got to be kidding me... is that mine or yours?"
"Yours," Stella managed to reply, her mind still dazed from his kiss and the feel of his hands on her body. She reached over to the nightstand and handed him the phone, then silently waited while he answered the call, her head resting against his shoulder.
"Taylor! ... Don, what is it? ... I'm okay, just need some time. ... No, I'm not at the hospital, I'm... at home ... What? When and where? ... No, it's okay, no problem. My eyes aren't working at the moment, but my brain is. I'll be there. ... No, you don't need to come. I'll call Stella, she'll pick me up. ... Alright, thanks, Don."
Stella opened her mouth indignantly and shot him a look. Then she remembered this wasn't working at the moment and rolled her eyes in annoyance about this inconvenience instead. Hopefully he would get his eyesight back sooner rather than later, she was just too used to working with looks on him.
"Okay," she said. "What were you going to tell me after you 'called' me?"
"The coast guard found a boat with a body and a lot of blood near the coast and they want CSI to process before taking the boat in to avoid compromising the scene," Mac explained. "And a storm is coming up and that could ruin all evidence on deck for good..."
"Great," she sighed. "I guess we can call it a night then… Couldn't they have waited until our regular shift starts? This is VERY inconsiderate!" she grumbled while she got ready to get up.
"Why do the Marines prefer to hire candidates that can't swim?" Stella asked on their way to the car.
"Huh? Uh, I have no idea..." Mac returned slightly confused.
"They put more effort into defending the ships," she returned with a grin.
"Where do you get stuff like that?" he wondered.
"I'm like a sponge, I absorb."
"Uhum. Well, come on then, little sponge. We gotta go and do some fishing…"
When they arrived at the coast, Stella remained behind the wheel without moving and waited, a suspicious look turned towards the darkening sky. Thunder sounded in the distance as she looked over to Mac.
„Do I really wanna get out of the car?" she asked.
Before he could answer, another threatening grumbling noise rolled pretty close, followed by a bright lightning and a loud thunder bang.
„Nope, don't think so," she stated determinedly, making no move to unbuckle her seat-belt.
„Come on, Stella, we gotta go. Sullivan from the Coast Guard is waiting for us," Mac mercilessly commented and got out of the car on the passenger side.
Stella looked after him in disbelief, but knew he wouldn't come back in to say it again.
„But Mac…" she argued, while leading him towards the waiting coast guard officer, wincing when another thunderbolt went down.
„Afraid of thunderstorms?" he carefully asked because he wanted to make sure that she was okay.
„No, not of the storm…" she said. „More of that," pointing to the little coast guard boat at the pier that was dancing up and down on the waves that the wind pushed against the quay.
Then she reminded herself once again that he couldn't see her gestures and looks.
„Mac, I'm Greek. Most of us are philosophers, not seamen. I'm not seaworthy - and I MEAN it the way I'm saying it!"
„How bad is it?" he inquired.
„Well, I get nauseous if I look at a boat in high waves on TV," she started to explain.
„Okay, I see…" he interrupted slowly and now also a bit concerned. „I'm very sorry, but apparently I really need you out there. You think you can go through this?"
„Sure…" she replied reluctantly. „You know me."
He nodded and put a hand on her shoulder.
„It's gonna be okay, don't worry, I'm with you. I'm gonna hold your hand," he teased her.
She looked at him with narrowed eyes.
"I'm gonna hold YOUR hand to make sure you don't go overboard because you can't see where the boat ends. I don't need anyone to hold my hand… But you will hold the puke bag when my dinner from last night decides to watch the storm!" she snapped.
When they reached the boat, she waved to the guy on board.
„Detective Taylor? Nice to meet you, I'm Steve Sullivan," he greeted them.
„Mac Taylor," Mac introduced himself while shaking Sullivan's hand. „This is Stella Bonasera."
„Nice to meet you," Sullivan took Stella's hand.
„My pleasure," she returned with a forced smile.
„You look a bit concerned, don't like the sea?" he asked her, having an eye for problems like this from years of experience.
Stella looked at Mac.
„We have a complicated relationship…" she answered. „Works better from the distance, but I'll be fine."
„Wait a second," Sullivan said and disappeared below deck.
Moments later he returned and handed her two pills.
„Here, take these, that should help you," he smiled.
„Thanks," Stella replied and swallowed the pills. „Alright, let's go then" she said with a doubtful look at the boat, then to the sky and over the water.
"Wait a second," Mac said when his cell phone started ringing. "I've gotta take this." He reached inside his coat.
Stella grabbed his sleeve. "Don't you dare leave me alone here… I know where you live, I know where you work, I know what car you're driving. If you try to sneak out of this, I'll find you. And it won't be pretty…" she hissed into his ear.
Sullivan witnessed them and pressed his lips together to avoid a chuckle.
When Mac had ended the call a few moments later, Stella helped him to climb aboard, still looking suspicious.
"Don't worry, she's been made for such weather conditions, this boat won't sink," Sullivan tried to comfort her.
"Yeah… right. That's what they also said about the Titanic," Stella dryly returned, causing both men to grin.
When they reached the leaderless boat, Sullivan maneuvered their boat until both boats were moving side by side, then he climbed over and tied them together with a thick rope that Stella handed him over the railing, several old car tires at the side of their own boat prevented both boats from colliding in the storm. First Sullivan helped Stella to move over to the other boat, then he got back and gave Mac a helping hand while Stella reached out for him from the other side.
"I'm gonna stay here and keep the lady in place," Sullivan shouted over the roaring wind.
Stella nodded and led Mac to where she had spotted the body near the rear end of the little yacht. She guided his hand towards the railing so he could steady himself, then slowly walked around the body, taking pictures of it and the area nearby.
"Caucasian male, 35 to 45 years, about 6 feet and approximately 180 pounds," she described. "Looks like blunt force trauma to the head, no other apparent wounds or injuries. Head wound doesn't seem to have bled all that much, yet there is an enormous amount of blood around here..."
"Maybe it's not our victim's?" Mac asked from where he was standing, trying to picture the scenario from Stella's description in his head.
Stella looked at him questioningly. "You think there's another body on the boat? Or maybe..." she instinctively reached for her weapon, "... someone else who is still alive?"
"The Coast Guard didn't search the boat after they discovered the body and the blood on board in order to preserve the scene," Mac said. "It would be better to search under deck before continuing to process up here."
Stella nodded and looked over to Sullivan who was watching them.
"I need to go down and take a look around," she called out. "Can you keep an eye on what's happening up here, just in case we have company that we don't know off yet?"
"Sure, no problem!"
"You stay here near the door and wait while I go down," she told Mac after she had guided him to the little door that led to a narrow flight of stairs. A few minutes later, she came back up.
"Nothing," she told him. "No sign of anyone else around, nor is there any sign of struggle. Looks like whatever happened, only took place up here."
"We need to finish up here!" Sullivan shouted. "The storm is increasing, we need to see that we get the body and the boat in!"
"Ten minutes!" Stella shouted back and started processing the victim, taking more pictures and collecting evidence, bagging his hands and feet in plastic bags, as well as his head to protect the wound for further examination at the morgue. Then she got up and moved over to the railing.
"We're good to go," she told Sullivan.
"There's a little problem," he slowly replied.
"I don't really appreciate you saying something like that in a situation like this," she slightly winced. "What's wrong?"
"This boat only has room for three people," Sullivan explained. "The radio isn't working anymore, so I couldn't call for backup to take the body in. We need to split up... I assume you would want the body to be taken in as soon as possible so it won't be compromised by rain more than necessary, so ... either one of you goes with me or I'll take the body alone and get back here as fast as I can to pick you up."
Stella stared at him and swallowed hard. "You want to leave us alone out here?"
"Not alone, remember?" Mac softly said, a hand resting on her upper right arm.
"But this boat is disabled!" Stella wasn't in the mood for soft comfort under the circumstances. "What if..."
"She's not running, but she's safe," Sullivan interrupted her. "The anchor is dropped and the cable chain is pretty new, she won't be going anywhere. You're safe out here, I promise. I wouldn't leave you here if I thought otherwise."
"Won't be going anywhere but up and down and twisting left and right and going down and up..." Stella muttered under her breath, then she nodded. "Alright, let's move. No need to drag this on any longer then absolutely necessary."
Sullivan reached them a light, portable stretcher and with Mac's help, they managed to move the body onto it and push it over to the other boat where Sullivan took over.
"I'll be back soon!" he promised again. "Stay below deck, it will protect you from the storm."
"Be careful!" Stella called after him, partly out of concern for him being out in the storm, but partly also out of worry that if something happened to him, they would be trapped out there for God knows how long.
After Sullivan left, Stella lead Mac to the stairs leading under deck again and helped him climb down. They found a small bench at a table in what seemed to be the kitchen area, or mess as they were called, and sat down to wait for the return of the coast guard officer.
"Come closer, it will keep us both warm," Mac suggested quietly when he noticed that Stella was shivering, although he couldn't tell if it was from the fact that she was cold due to rain and low temperatures or from being afraid.
Stella willingly agreed, glad to have someone to hold her. She covered them both with a few blankets she had spotted in a corner of the room and snuggled against his side. When Sullivan finally returned several hours later, she was almost asleep from exhaustion.
Several days later, Stella received a call from Sid. "I got something for you, would you mind paying me a little visit?"
"I'll be over in five minutes!"
When she entered the morgue, Sid was working on a body.
"What happened to him?" she asked as she got closer.
"Stupid guy ran into a knife," Sid replied.
Stella frowned and looked closer.
"Yeah, repeatedly," she determined. Then she paused.
"He's wearing a condom?"
"He was 'engaged' with his brother's wife when he 'ran' into the knife," Sid returned with a look over the rim of his glasses.
"I figure the brother was on the other side of said knife?" Stella asked.
"See? That's why you are my favorite CSI," Sid grinned. "As smart as you are beautiful."
Stella rolled her eyes in return, but couldn't help a smile.
"Alright, smarty-pants, I assume he was not the reason why you wanted to see me?"
"I don't need a reason for wanting to see you," Sid kept his flirtatious attitude, but cautiously took a step back. "Right," he got back to business, "the reason for my calling you is the gentleman on table three over there."
"Doesn't look too good," Stella commented after a short glance at a second body.
"That's because he was buried in the snow for some time and is just slowly defrosting right now," Sid explained.
Stella raised her eyebrows in surprise. "You mean that's our victim from the Adirondacks?"
"If there wasn't more than one body out there at the same time, it sure looks that way," Sid confirmed. "Rangers found him this morning several yards off a little side track, looks like he got lost in the snow."
"COD?" Stella asked curiously after she had spotted a wound at the victim's right upper thigh.
"Hypothermia," Sid replied. "It would seem that he lost a lot of blood due to a severed artery in his leg which slowed him down considerably, probably he was limping heavily, stumbling and falling frequently and eventually was too weak to keep moving. He tried to find cover underneath a bush, but when the snowstorm got too strong, he didn't have a chance. And here's the best thing, guess what?" he whispered mysteriously, lifting a chart from a nearby table.
"Preliminary DNA test shows a perfect match to the foreign blood you found on the boat along with your other victim!" he announced triumphantly.
"No kidding!" Stella's eyes widened in surprise. Talk about a small world... "How the hell..."
"Here's what I'm thinking," Sid offered an explanation. "Mountain guy and boat guy are on the boat, having a fight over something. Boat guy hurts mountain guy, most likely with a knife - which was probably thrown overboard during the fight then - severing his artery, causing massive bleeding. Mountain guy smashes boat guys head, who eventually dies, and takes off. Probably with a little rescue boat, but he might have swam as well, the distance to the shore wasn't that far after all and in the cold water, the bleeding would have slowed for a while. Maybe he also put some sort of pressure bandage on it before he left the boat. Either way, this guy is the killer of your other victim and he himself died by accident, even though it was in the aftermath of an attack. But since his attacker is already dead as well..."
"Brilliant conclusion, excellent report," Stella nodded. "Send me your findings when you're done with everything, then I'll finish the report when we have all the results from the lab. Thanks, Sid. Good work!"
He was sitting on her bed, his shirt unbuttoned, shoes already taken off. She smiled at him as she started to open the first button of her blouse.
"Don't," he interrupted her, causing her to stop and look at him with confusion.
"Mac? You... you can see?" Her eyes slowly filled with tears.
"Not one hundred percent yet. It started a few hours ago, there was suddenly lights and shadows, then it was gone again. It's like you can't feel or smell something, then it's there for a moment, then gone the next. I wasn't sure, so I didn't say anything. Now it seems to get better and better, it's still very blurry and dark, but I can make out shapes and some colors and light and dark parts."
He held out a hand to gesture her to get closer.
"Let me do that," he whispered as he slowly pulled her to him.
Standing between his legs, she looked down at him, watching him slowly opening one button after the other. Her breath got caught in her throat when his fingertips lightly brushed the exposed skin of her cleavage and her hands instinctively reached for support, touching the bare skin of his chest and shoulders, sliding his already open shirt down over his arms.
He had imagined what it would be like to feel her hands on his skin for almost as long as he had known her and reality was even so much more than his imagination had ever been able to create.
More than he ever imagined he deserved.
The touch of your hand says
You'll catch me
Whenever I fall
You say it best
When you say nothing at all
I really hope you like it! More to come soon, I promise - keep up the good spirit :-) littlesheep