Disclaimer: CSI NY and the characters don't belong to me - just the ideas in my story. No copyright infringement intended; no profit being made.
Note: Hi everyone - I recently joined the site and this is my first fan fiction - please let me know your thoughts, whether negative or positive. It's just what it says it is - a mixture of friendship and romance, so don't expect too much action! Perhaps a bit of humour, if I got it right. It's possible the rating may change after a couple chapters, depending on where my muse leads me.
A Nice Dinner: Prologue - Hunger
Jo Danville gathered her phone, keys and a couple file folders from her desk and crammed them unceremoniously into her bag. She reached over and flipped off her desk lamp, plunging her office into near darkness, the only illumination coming from the hall lighting and the distant office lights of the surrounding buildings. She rolled her eyes, glancing at her watch – after 8:00 p.m. She hadn't realized it was that late already. The team had finished up the Cragen homicide case a few hours before and nearly everyone had headed out for drinks rather early, even for a Friday. Even Mac had said he would join them a bit later, once he'd returned a few calls.
Jo, on the other hand, had declined, having a mound of paperwork she wanted to go through before leaving. She wasn't sure why – she was all alone this weekend. Ellie was spending the long holiday weekend with a girlfriend's family – heading off for one last early autumn camping trip before the weather got too cold. Tyler had left for Boston with some college friends for the weekend and wouldn't be around for their usual Sunday morning brunch. Jo had intended to finish all her work at the office and enjoy a completely relaxing few days puttering around her apartment, exploring the city, taking in an exhibit, whatever popped into her head. A rare, completely unplanned weekend.
But in retrospect, she wasn't sure exactly what she was going to do with herself for three days, completely alone. She was on call Saturday afternoon, and again Monday morning, but otherwise wasn't scheduled for an actual shift the entire weekend, until Tuesday. It happened so rarely that work or her family didn't take up all of her time, she realized that perhaps she'd been a bit lax in keeping up with her personal life. Here she had a whole block of free time and no one to share it with. Maybe she should have joined the team for drinks tonight. She wondered vaguely whether Mac had shown up - whether he was perhaps still there. She smiled ruefully at the thought that she was always encouraging Mac to join them, be more social, have a life outside the office. And the one time he said he'd go, or that he at least might make an appearance, she'd decided to stay behind. She supposed she could still join them – she expected they'd be there into the early hours. But they'd be in full swing by now and she wasn't feeling her usual exuberant self for some reason. Perhaps she'd just grab some take out and watch one of the movies she'd recorded last week.
She sighed as she stood up, but as she passed by the office doorway to grab her jacket from the rack, her stomach rumbled loudly. She glanced rather sheepishly towards the hall, as a night shift lab tech happened to walk by at the same moment. But he didn't seem to even notice her, let alone the roaring of her empty stomach, which to her seemed to echo cavernously back and forth throughout her office. She hadn't eaten since, . . . well, she wasn't exactly sure when. Come to think of it, she'd skipped any sort of real lunch, so it must have been that apple and cup of coffee Mac had shared with her early this afternoon, on the way back to the precinct to meet with Flack after the arrest of the suspect.
She smiled as she pulled her coat off the hanger, remembering their easy banter in the truck during the drive. She nearly laughed out loud as she recalled one moment, when she'd told some silly joke. Jo couldn't even remember what it was now. But she'd been mesmerized by Mac's silly smile, the way his eyes jerked sideways to meet her gaze then quickly turned downwards, the slight pinkish tinge that colored his cheeks, as she'd made some off-hand, slightly sexual remark. She could always get him with her flirtatious comments and mannerisms, but she was pretty sure that deep down, he enjoyed it. And on the rare occasion that he actually reciprocated, or even better, initiated it himself, it made it all worth it for her.
As she grabbed in her coat pocket for her keys, she suddenly felt the corners of a well-worn sticky note that she'd stuffed in there at the precinct. Damn, something she'd forgotten to take care of after the case. It would have to wait until Tuesday now – too late to make the call on a Friday evening before the holiday Monday. She strolled back to her desk, grabbed a new sticky note and scribbled a quick reminder to herself, slamming it on the only empty space around the edge of her computer screen. That done, she tossed the pen back on her desk, but it hit a stack of files and careened off onto Lindsey's desk, sliding across the pristine work surface until it hit a small cotton ball sculpture that Lucy had made in daycare. Both the pen and sculpture fell off onto the floor somewhere under Lindsey's chair.
Oh for Christ's sake, thought Jo. Lindsey was amazingly tolerant of Jo's inability to keep her space clean, but one thing she didn't tolerate was when the mess started encroaching on her side of the office. Jo was always careful to maintain her mountains of files and sticky note collages within the confines of her own area. The pen probably wouldn't be a big problem, but good heavens, the cotton ball sheep, or cloud, or whatever it was supposed to be was priceless and had to be retrieved.
She dropped her bag onto her chair, threw her coat on top, sending the chair spinning wildly around, and moved to Lindsey's desk to retrieve the pen and "sculpture". Pulling out the chair, she immediately spotted the pen and grabbed it, tossing it randomly back onto her own desk. But the cotton ball creation was nowhere in sight, so she kneeled down, searching further under the desk. She couldn't see it anywhere. It must have tumbled back under the desk, she thought. She couldn't reach it from where she was so she crawled further under, stretching out her upper body and arm to feel way underneath the drawer section of the desk.
Meanwhile, Mac had just switched off his office light and grabbed his coat, ready to head home. He was supposed to go out for drinks with everyone, but one thing had led to another and he was just now leaving. 8:15 - too late now, he thought to himself. Besides, he'd only agreed to make an effort to show up because he assumed Jo would go; she always did if she didn't have obligations with her kids. He wasn't sure he'd enjoy it as much if she weren't there. She knew just how to push his buttons, although she never went too far; just far enough to relax him a bit and allow him to truly enjoy himself. But right after he'd agreed to come, she'd come up with some lame excuse as to why she had to stay late at work.
He was just approaching the elevator when he turned to look down the hall. It appeared that Jo's light was off, but she hadn't come by to say good night, something she always did and something he'd come to look forward to each evening. It was nice to take a few minutes to check in with her at the end of the day, once the office was nearly empty and relatively quiet.
He furrowed his brow, wondering if she was still here somewhere. Or perhaps he'd been out of his office when she stopped by. He couldn't recall leaving his desk in the last couple hours . . . except to go to the bathroom. He sighed. She must have stopped by then. He wondered for a moment what she had planned for the long weekend; he'd intended to ask her when she came by but, well, now it was too late. He turned back to the elevator, debating whether to swing by Senor Chow's for take out or just grab a pre-made sandwich from the corner deli. He was about to press the elevator button when a sudden shriek caused him to turn his head back towards the lab. He set off at a quick pace down the hallway in the direction of Jo and Lindsey's office, from where he was sure the sound had come.
Still stretched out on her knees under Lindsey's desk, her bottom up in the air, Jo had been sure she'd felt something, if she could just reach a bit further under the damned desk. Her hand had touched something initially fluffy yet somewhat sticky, even a bit tickly. She'd jerked it out suddenly, only to see the remnants of what was clearly a huge dust ball caught up in a spider web, along with a rather large, disgruntled brown spider crawling across her hand. She'd shrieked, startled, and begun frantically shaking her hand trying to get the spider, the web or the dust off. She didn't particularly care which.
Mac came skidding to a stop outside the dark office, his hand resting gently on his gun in its holster, as he first noticed Jo's purse and coat strewn across her chair, which was still spinning slightly. Looking down, he then noticed Jo's feet and bottom sticking out from under Lindsey's desk. Not at all sure what was going on, he silently moved into the office until he was directly behind Jo. He saw no one else, just her back half, her head still under the desk, and her hands wildly shaking. He removed his hand from his gun, a small smile tugging at the corner of his mouth.
"Jo?" He asked tentatively.
She gasped, completely startled at the sound of someone's voice, and rose up way too quickly, banging the top of her head on the underside of Lindsey's desk.
"Owww, damnit," she cursed, finally extricating herself from under the desk and glaring up at him as she rubbed the sore spot on her head. "Mac Taylor you scared the living daylights out of me. What are you doin' sneaking up behind a woman in the dark?" She sounded annoyed, but he could clearly see the glint in her eyes.
He stifled a laugh at the sight of her as she slowly began to stand up. Her hair was completely disheveled, her hand was covered in dust or something and there was a small brown spider crawling up her white t-shirt, just above the waistband of her jeans, climbing steadily upwards. He reached his hand out to brush it away.
"You have a spider on your . . ." but he was cut off before he could even finish as she jumped straight up, both hands flailing wildly around, brushing off her black jeans, her shirt, her hair, anything she could reach.
"Where is it? Get it off . . ." her voice hysterical, on the verge of panic.
He couldn't help but chuckle as he reached out to steady her, placing both his hands on her shoulders in a calming gesture.
"Stay still. It's on your . . . chest, just here . .."
She finally stopped moving and he reached out again to brush off the spider, which had now left her t-shirt for the tangle of her necklaces, just above her cleavage. With one swift movement of his hand, he brushed it away, sending her necklaces jingling every which way.
"Is it gone?" she asked quietly, her frantic movement of a few seconds ago now replaced by a fearful stillness.
He smiled. "All gone. It was just a little spider."
She looked up at him, her eyes narrowing a bit, her hands suddenly planted on her hips. " 'Little'?" she mocked. "That thing was huge."
He laughed again softly. "Ok. I didn't know you were afraid of spiders."
"I never said I was – it just startled me." She frowned back at him, trying in vain to regain some of her composure now by smoothing her hair and untangling her necklaces. One seemed hopelessly intertwined with the other and as she struggled to get a good view of the tangled knot, he reached out a hand and took them gently from her grip. "Let me."
As he worked to disentangle the two chains, his rough hands kept brushing her skin, between her cleavage and her neckline. He didn't seem to notice, focused as he was on her jewelry, his eyes squinting in the dim light, but she was all too aware. A sudden warmth spread through her body and she thanked the heavens she'd not turned the lights back on, as she was sure her cheeks were flushed by now. Just when she thought perhaps she should back away and take over herself, fearing what she might do if he continued to touch the bare skin of her lower neckline, he finally let them drop. "Ta da!" he exclaimed and moved back surveying his work with a quirky smile on his face.
She looked at him strangely, not expecting that particular expression from Mac. "Thanks," she mumbled, her hands moving up to feel her necklaces, to feel her skin still heated and tingling from his earlier, subtle touches. Although she'd considered moving away from him just a moment before, now she missed his closeness.
She shook her head slightly to clear the haze from her brain. What the hell am I doing? she thought to herself. She looked back up towards him. He didn't seem affected in the least by what had happened. That's because nothing happened, you idiot, she chided herself.
She was brought out of her reverie when Mac spoke again. "What were you looking for down there anyway?"
"Oh darn." She'd almost forgotten. She glanced down and immediately noticed the cotton blob stuck to the wheel of Lindsey's chair. She reached down and carefully disentangled it, holding it up in triumph for Mac to see. He gave her a quizzical look. She merely smiled back. It looked somewhat worse for the wear, but given it hadn't had any precise shape to begin with, she began to remold it as best she could, finally setting it back down on Lindsey's desk.
"It was a present from Lucy – I knocked it off the desk on my way out." She said simply, smiling and brushing past him to grab her things from her chair. She'd best get going; she needed some air.
"Ah," he replied, having no idea what more he could say.
As she was putting on her coat, she suddenly paused and turned towards him. "I thought you said you were actually going to go out for drinks tonight?"
He smiled ruefully. "I was considering it, but I got a call, which lasted longer than I'd ever imagined possible, then I got distracted after, and, well, now it's . . ." he glanced momentarily at his watch ". . . after 8:30, so I figured I'd just head home." He looked at her a moment, his eyes narrowing. "You didn't go either." He continued, somewhat accusatorily.
"I wanted to get all my work out of the way – I've got the whole weekend to myself and didn't want to be bringing any paperwork home." She shrugged. "But I'm sure they're still there. Why don't you go join them?" Jo looked up at him as she grabbed for her bag.
"You're leaving too; why don't you go join them?" He threw back.
She squinted her eyes at him. "I asked you first."
He shrugged, shaking his head. "I'm not sure I'm really in the mood."
She raised her eyebrows at him as she slung her bag over her shoulder. "Are you ever in the mood, Mac Taylor?" And she walked past him, pausing outside of her office as she waited for him to join her.
He frowned slightly after her, catching the double entendre in both their comments. He moved slowly towards her, and was just about to open his mouth, hoping some witty response would be forthcoming when her stomach rumbled so loudly he could clearly hear it from 5 feet away. He stopped dead in his tracks, watching as her face turned a bright crimson shade.
He smiled smugly, their previous exchange forgotten for the moment. "Hungry are we?"
"Ugh, I could eat an entire side of beef." She glanced sideways at him as he approached her and they began walking towards the elevators together. "You know, that half an apple and coffee you so gallantly provided for lunch, didn't quite make the cut. A Southern woman needs her food, you know."
He scoffed. "I wasn't aware I was buying you lunch when I handed over my half eaten apple so I could drive. But if you're free, I'm happy to buy you a burger and a beer. You know, to make up for my earlier shortcomings in the lunch department."
She stopped as they reached the elevator bank. An idea surfaced in her mind and before she talked herself out of it, she went with it. "You know Mac, what do you say we go out and have a nice dinner together?"
He eyed her for a moment. " You mean seated at a table, with a tablecloth, china and wine glasses and an array of confusing silverware, instead of stools at the counter, plastic plates and beer in a bottle?"
She frowned at him slightly. "Oh come on, the burger joint's a little nicer than you make it out to be; and I'm sure you know your way around an 'array of confusing silverware,'" she chided. Then she turned serious. "But yeah, I just thought it might be nice, you know, for a change. If you don't have any other plans . . ." she trailed off and he smiled somewhat sadly, his eyes heavy. She knew he didn't have plans and she expected he knew she knew.
He'd told her a few weeks past that Christine had broken up with him a while before he'd returned to work after the pharmacy shooting. They were still friends, but his near death experience had hit her hard. Brought back all those memories of her brother, who hadn't been quite so lucky. And while she'd been by Mac's side throughout the recovery and the rehab, she'd made it clear that she just couldn't live with that overriding fear that he might not make it home at the end of any given day. Jo had felt terribly sorry for Mac. It was such an effort for him to open up to someone, to let himself become close to anyone. But she understood Christine's fear and appreciated that she'd let him know as soon as she knew herself that she couldn't move forward in their relationship.
She looked at him a moment, unable to read behind his expression. She feared that perhaps she'd offended him with her assumption he had no other plans. But a moment later, his face broke out in a shy smile. "A nice dinner sounds perfect." He sighed dramatically. "Besides, the last time we had burgers, I distinctly recall spotting a rather large spider crawling up the wall over the counter." He glanced at her and noticed her eyes widen. He leaned closer to her. "I wouldn't want you to be traumatized twice in one night," he stated matter of factly, as he reached out to press the elevator button.