It was past midnight when Don Flack walked into his apartment, feeling tired, exhausted, and like he could sleep for a week. He hadn't seen his place for more than a few hours, mostly to sleep, in the past week. A seemingly straight-forward case had made a complete turn-around and turned into a back-breaking and mind-numbing horror. The discovery of a several bodies in different locations had turned out to be one gigantic slave ring. People were imported from mostly Eastern European countries to work as prostitutes or cheap labor under a tight and rather barbaric rule and horrifying circumstances. Whoever went out of line or was no longer useful was 'removed'. That meant killed. Don had seen more bodies in the last few days than the whole year. And it was already mid-November!
Mac and his whole team were investigating the case from the scientific side. They had made progress, but the leg work and the stake-outs were Don's side. He had put whoever he could on the case and they were closing in.
Sighing, feeling a slight headache, Don stripped off his clothes and took a shower before he collapsed onto the bed. He hadn't seen more of Mac than what they had talked about on duty, and sometimes a brief phone call was what he had had throughout the day. He missed his lover, wanted to simply sleep beside him, feel him close, but their crazy hours and Don's duty kept them from even that.
It was three days later that the case cracked when the evidence finally came through. The last piece to complete the puzzle had been with the victim found in the early morning hours of the day before. Don and a whole squad of officers stormed a seemingly innocent office building of a company specializing in copy products, and they had made numerous arrests. Scared men and women, barely speaking or understanding English, had been found in the back rooms. They had been taken into protective custody and social services would try and find shelter for them until it was decided whether they would be deported or not.
Don rubbed his aching arm. One of the suspects had kicked him hard, slamming his arm against the wall and had come just shy of breaking it. Flack knew he would have more bruises, and it didn't help that some of them were already visible around his neck. The same guy, a hulk of a man, had grabbed him around the throat to strangle him.
It wasn't until he tried to insert his key into the lock and it didn't fit that Don realized he had driven to Mac's place. His exhausted mind had probably just shut down and made him come here. So he picked the right key and let himself in, hoping that Mac didn't mind. His lover was probably still at the lab, wrapping up evidence from the case.
Flack had some clothes over at Mac's place, so he showered and changed into sweat pants and an old t-shirt, sinking onto the couch with a relieved sigh. Everything hurt. He felt like one big bruise.
He must have drifted off because when he woke next it was to the presence of Mac Taylor, carrying a mug of what looked like tea, already changed out of his suit and tie, and smiling down at him.
"Hey," Don murmured. "Uh, sorry. Must have dozed off."
"You look tired, Don," Mac only remarked.
"Feel like hell."
"Danny told me about the arrest. It was tough."
Flack got up, stretching carefully. Everything twinged painfully and he barely suppressed a wince. Mac had left the tea on the table and now ran a close eye over the younger man. He reached out, finger tips barely touching the ugly bruises on Don's throat. He carefully cupped the injured neck and Don let himself get pulled into a kiss.
It was so wonderful to touch his lover, to feel his warmth, to kiss the man he hadn't seen in over a week. He slid his arms around Taylor, pulled him closer, ignoring the protests from his side, his arm and his neck.
"Missed you," Mac breathed when they separated.
Mac was still caressing the injury.
"I'm fine," Don told him.
"You're not. I know what happened. You hurt."
"It's okay, Mac, really. It's not like it hasn't happened before." He gave the older man a slightly wry smile. "And right now I don't care. I just want to be with you."
They kissed again, deeply, lovingly, with a simmering heat. Mac's hands slid under the old t-shirt, caressing bare skin, and Don murmured his approval. With the couch behind him he was trapped in Mac's arms, and he didn't mind. Not one bit.
"Want you," he said once more, enforcing the need with his hands running over Taylor's butt.
"You're exhausted," Mac replied, nuzzling his neck.
"I can sleep later. Mac…"
The gray-blue eyes sparkled and Mac kissed him once more, more hunger in the intimate contact, and those strong hands were suddenly a lot more explorative. Flack groaned as his rising arousal was squeezed through his pants.
And then Mac was suddenly on his knees and pulling down the sweats. He gave Don no time to think as he took the semi-hardness into his mouth. Flack groaned again, hands on the back of the couch, hips pushing forward, and he grew harder in the hot mouth.
"God, Mac, yes!" he hissed. "Yes!"
His lover was ferocious, sucking hard, giving him no time to catch a clear thought. Hands fondled his balls, fingers brushed over sensitive skin, teasing, caressing, driving him nuts. A cry left his lips as Mac suckled at the head, then swallowed him once more.
Dear god, the man was too good. It wasn't the first time Don received a blowjob from his lover, and every time it had left him breathless. Just like now, as he whined helplessly, wanting more, wanting Mac, needing Mac. One of those maddening hands slid around his hip, squeezing one buttock, teasingly sliding close to the ultimate goal, but Mac didn't touch him there.
Don protested faintly, reaching his limit, reaching a climax that would shatter his self-control. He pleaded, he begged, he pushed his hips into that hard suction, and then he came with an outcry of relief.
His knees buckled and Mac caught him as he sank down, back against the couch, breathing hard, eyes glazed. Mac was still stroking the sensitive erection, smiling almost wickedly as Don moaned softly into the hard caresses.
They kissed. Mac was still overpoweringly strong, demanding access and Don granted him. He was pushed onto his back and Mac pushed off the sweats the rest of the way.
"I want you, Don," he said roughly.
Flack felt his breath catch in his throat. As much as his body ached already, the very though of his lover inside him turned him on.
"Lube," he murmured.
Taylor chuckled. "Always prepared," he answered and pulled out the tube and a condom from his pocket.
Don laughed. "Boy scout."
"Marine," Mac begged to differ.
It got him a growl and he licked his lips in anticipation as the other man started to undress, revealing his own proud erection. Don reached out, but his hand was swatted away. Mac looked rather bothered, aroused to the point where he didn't need any more foreplay.
Don was too relaxed and too well lubed to feel much pain when his lover slid into him in one firm stroke. He enjoyed the sensation of fullness, heard Mac grunt, and then the other set a strong, steady rhythm.
"I love you," Mac said roughly as his hips twitched forward. "I love you, Don."
Flack gripped the strong arms, pushing back. "I know," he replied, groaning as Mac hit the little gland inside his body that had liquid fire race up his spine. "Oh gawd…"
Mac hissed, then snapped forward once more. He groaned his lover's name as he came and Don felt a few more drops spill from his own renewed erection.
They lay together, panting, on the floor, and Mac chuckled.
"What?" Don asked drowsily.
"It's been a while since I did it on the floor."
Mac hummed, rubbing a calming hand over the flat stomach. "It was good."
Don turned sleepily into his embrace.
"Bed," Mac ordered and dislodged his lover under Don's protest. "C'mon, Don."
Flack muttered, but he got up. They cleaned up and Don almost stumbled to bed, much to Mac's amusement. He turned into Taylor's embrace once more, snuggling close, and the let sleep take over.
Mac watched as his younger lover dropped off into sleep. He kissed the dark head, enjoying the closeness, the still present tingle of their rather hot sexual encounter, and he stroked over the lean back in a loving caress.
"Love you," he repeated.
* * *
After the amount of work that had literally piled up on Sid Hammerback's morgue tables, it was a pleasantly almost body-free week so far. December had started slow, with a few homeless freezing to death. Then there had been the death of a young woman who had dropped dead in the middle of a busy street, but that had been a brain aneurysm. No foul play. Sid had readied the papers of the slave ring victims and as of yesterday the coolers were clear of them. He had room to spare and could rent out, he had joked with one of his assistants.
Hammerback looked up from the autopsy report he was reviewing when he heard soft steps walking into the morgue - steps he didn’t recognize. He had memorized most of his colleague’s steps. When he took in the sight of the man in front of him he felt the hair on his neck stand up, something inside of him switching to high alert immediately.
Sid was alone right now. Two of his assistants were outside, cleaning instruments and doing their own paperwork in the small office just off the main autopsy room.
The man standing in the room looked like he had slept in his clothes – several times – a rough stubble dusted his jaws and his eyes were sunken in and shadowed, containing a haunted look.
“Can I help you, sir? Are you lost?” Sid asked neutrally, still trying to catalogue whatever made him uneasy around the guy.
But it was his job to deal with distraught, upset, or potentially volatile family members who had lost a loved one, having to identify sometimes unidentifiable bodies, or possibly critical situations. A situation like this?
“I’m looking for my daughter,” the man said.
“Tell me her name.”
“To find your daughter, sir, I need her full name.”
“Lizzy is dead. And dead people come here.”
Okay, that settled that.
“Sir, please tell me your name or the name of your daughter, if you want me to find her. Otherwise, please talk to an officer in the precinct above.”
“I don’t want to talk to an officer. I want Lizzy!”
The last was shouted at him angrily and suddenly Sid Hammerback was looking into the barrel of a gun.
“Sir,” he tried, feeling his mouth go dry within a second, eyeing the weapon carefully, “I'll do what I can to find Lizzy. If she’s here I'll find her. But I need you to lay the gun down first.”
“I want Lizzy…“
This time it sounded like a wail, and suddenly Sid understood what had him on the edge with this guy. Great. Now all bets were off.
Unfortunately someone else chose this very moment to enter the morgue and Sid swore inwardly when the man whirled around and waved the gun into the direction of the intruder.
“Sid, I… Oh my god…!”
And then a shot rang.
That was all that greeted Mac when he stormed into the morgue, closely followed by a whole bunch of uniforms.
Hearing that somebody had actually managed to bring a weapon into the precinct and had fired it, followed by an 'officer down' announcement, made his blood run cold. It wasn't Don, because his lover was at his side, but he hadn't caught sight of either Lindsay nor Stella.
The morgue was a mess. People were running around, shouting orders or following them, but all in all obscuring his view. When he finally got through them his heart sank.
Blood. Everywhere. Or so it seemed. And in the middle of it a small frail human body, female.
He could feel her life ebbing away. No, not ebbing. Pouring out of the young body in a speed that meant Lindsay Monroe would be dead in minutes if he didn't do anything. Sid drew a shaky breath as his instincts took over, as he pressed a hand over the wound to staunch the blood flow and simultaneously started to feed healing energy into the weakening body.
She was dying.
He wouldn't let her.
The world narrowed down to the woman struggling to live under his hands. It narrowed to the broken skin, the torn flesh, the foreign object in her chest. He was acutely aware of the bullet's path, of the damage it had done.
Sid shuddered as he fought the blood flow, the vital fluids pumping out of a torn artery, and with both precision and the butchering qualities of first aid, at least it was butchery for such a talented healer, he forced the aortic wall closed. Sid gathered what he had left and threw it at the weakening life, feeling it tear out of him with a painful gasp.
Then the paramedics were there and he let go of Lindsay. Lindsay, whose life was hanging by a thread.
Sid was trembling, unable to focus, and he just fell back, connecting with the wall behind him. A soft sound escaped his lips, but he doubted it was even audible.
The world did a sharp tilt and threatened to black out around him.
Mac. It was Mac's voice. His fading senses were aware of the other paranormal close-by, then even that didn't register any more.
All Mac Taylor saw, tunnel-visioned, was Sid Hammerback hunched over the still form of his CSI. There was blood pooling around the young woman's body, and Hammerback was up to his elbows in it. His pants were stained with the red fluids, his front was spattered with more blood, and the pale, drawn expression on the healer's face as he pushed down on a chest wound had told Mac more than he wanted to know.
Desperate eyes from behind glasses met his.
He barked orders at the police officers swarming the place, yelled for an ambulance, for someone to take the other hostages away, to get the shooter removed. The body of the shooter. Someone would have to take pictures, secure the evidence of the man who had somehow gotten in here armed, but right now Mac couldn't really bring himself to care.
Then he was at Sid's side who did what was in his powers to keep her alive. Mac knew Hammerback was probably much more than just putting pressure on the wound. He was at his side within seconds.
"What can I do?"
"Hold this." Hammerback's instructions were firm and clear, and from what he was doing Mac understood he needed room to pour energy into the body beneath them.
Lindsay was unconscious, her skin color more than just pale and she was losing blood fast under his hands. But when he looked again the blood flow decreased until it only seemed to trickle.
"Hold on, Lindsay," he whispered, more for himself than for her.
"Sir, make way. Let us help."
The paramedics rushed in and Sidney sat back, pale as a sheet, trembling.
Mac got to his feet as the gurney was brought in and Lindsay heaved onto it in one fluid, professional move. More people were now in the morgue and he shouted at them to close off the crime scene, to get non-essential personnel the hell out of here. Mac looked around, finding the chaos was organizing itself.
Stella and Hawkes were on a scene. Danny was in the lab. Flack was with him, trying to bring order to the chaos. There were uniformed officers, some assistants to the ME, some other personnel, all outside the hastily erected barrier that kept the curious from ruining the crime scene.
Sid was sitting a few feet away, leaning against the wall where he had made way for the EMT's.
Mac frowned as he looked at the medical examiner. His eyes were closed and he looked... not good. The already defined, narrow features seemed more prominent than ever, and the skin was of a whitish-gray color.
Worry raced through him. Mac went down on his knees. He didn't care about the blood that soaked his pants, and laid a careful hand on the healer's arm. Sid slowly opened his eyes.
"Tell me it was enough," he whispered hoarsely.
Mac could only nod. There was a faint smile on Sid's lips, then the green-gray eyes closed and the hand became lax in his grip as the man slid down the wall into unconsciousness. Mac anxiously searched for a pulse, but all he felt was a little trembling flutter.
"Shit!" Realization hit him with a baseball bat. "Don't do this to me, doc!"
And he started compressions.
Mac looked up and met his lover's eyes. "Call an ambulance!"
"Was he hit?"
"No. Get the damn ambulance! And Don - he's a healer."
He saw his Flack's eyebrows shoot up to his hairline. There was no time for Don to be shocked, surprised or to ask questions. He just nodded and pulled out his cell, punching several numbers.
Mac only prayed that the ally network worked fast as he continued compressions.
* * *
The ally network did work fast. Mac was silently amazed as he watched the arrival of two paramedics who immediately homed in on Sid, and how Don talked to one of them. Mac didn't hear everything, but his gut feeling told him that even though the conversation was about the shooting, Don was relaying ally information. Flack told them that Sid requested Park hospital and they just nodded as they got the unconscious healer onto their gurney and hurried out with him.
"Why Park?" Mac asked softly.
"They have a specialized wing," was all his lover answered.
And Taylor understood. Park was a hospital for paranormals. While Flack followed the paramedics, Mac stayed behind and coordinated the crime scene and talked to the officers who had arrived first, one of them shooting the suspect. Stella and Hawkes had returned in the mean time, their crime scene processed, and they had walked right into the next one. Mac had updated them in a few sentences, then left the morgue to them as he discovered Danny. Messer was pale, eyes wide, as he surveyed the blood-covered main autopsy room. He had probably heard everything through the grapevine in the lab, and the way he looked around, he had heard a lot of gruesome details that might or might not be true.
"Mac?" he asked helplessly.
"We had a shooter. Lindsay was hit."
Danny swallowed hard. "Is she…?"
"She's on her way to Park."
No reason to send one of his people to Trinity while the other was treated at Park. Since Sid had healed Lindsay enough to keep her alive, cover might be needed here as well. And who could better supply it than a specialized hospital?
"Danny, focus!" he ordered, voice hardening as he took in the glazed expression. "You with me?"
Messer nodded. The shock sat deep and Mac understood. The emotions between his two CSIs were strong, though neither had made a step yet. Danny was still teasing, Lindsay was reacting to it, but nothing had come out of it yet.
Mac held the slightly glassy eyes, voice hard and determined. "Go to Park, keep an eye on Lindsay. I'll send someone over to recover the bullet."
"I can do it," Danny replied almost on automatic. "I can do it, Mac. I can!" he insisted.
Mac looked into the turmoiled eyes, aware that this was another emotional blow to the younger man's psyche. First Louie, now Lindsay. His brother was just barely holding, still in a coma, and from what Mac had heard, there might be brain death. Now Lindsay had been seriously wounded, in their own building, and Mac knew that without Sid's intervention, she would have died right then and there.
"Okay," Mac said slowly. "Send the bullet over, you stay with her."
Danny nodded faintly. "It should have been me," he whispered.
"I… I was supposed to check on Hammerback, see what he had on our latest case, but she said she'd do it. I was joking around and she… she went. And… it should have been me, Mac…"
"Danny, listen to me," Taylor said, voice hard and close to Marine sergeant level. "Nothing was your fault. This man came in here, armed! Whoever is responsible for this faux pas, it's not you!"
"I was supposed to come down here…"
"Stop it, Messer!" he snapped and Danny flinched, almost coming to attention. "Pull yourself together and get your ass over to Park. Get the bullet, send it over, stay with Monroe, you got that?"
Danny hurried out of the morgue.
"It's hard on him," Stella said softly.
Mac hadn't heard her approach. Now he just nodded. "It's hard on all of us," he answered levelly. "If he breaks apart now, I can't pick up the pieces."
Stella's brows twitched a little, then she met his eyes and smiled briefly. Mac was aware of the fledgling relationship between his two CSIs, and he knew Danny was starting to feel more, though he probably hadn't realized it himself yet. It would need time, a lot of time, and patience.
Right now, he couldn't give this relationship more than a passing thought. He had a dead shooter and a crime scene, a wounded CSI and a nearly as seriously hurt healer. The latter wouldn't appear in any reports.
* * *
He woke to a headache he could only associate with one thing – overtaxing his healing powers. Sid blinked, trying to understand where he was. He was flat on his back, it had to be a bed, and from the smell… hospital. He blinked again, fighting the headache, and a small groan escaped him.
"Hey," a voice greeted him and he turned his head, the blurry image of Mac Taylor swimming into focus.
"Mac?" he croaked.
"Yes. Take it easy, Sid. You're in a hospital."
He finally managed to keep his eyes open, but the headache persisted. He raised a hand and rubbed over his forehead. At least he tried. He felt weak as a kitten and his muscles were jelly. Each thought seemed to be an effort.
"Headache?" Mac asked.
"Yeah. Always happens. How long have I been here?"
"You slept for twelve hours. You depleted yourself, Sid." There was a fine note of criticism in Taylor's voice and he met the stern gaze. "We nearly lost you."
He let that settle, but strangely enough the near-death news didn't really hit him that hard. Sid had known what he was doing, had known the risk, and he had accepted it easily enough.
"How is she?" Hammerback asked.
"Lindsay is fine. You saved her life."
"I only kept her alive until the paramedics were there," he corrected softly.
"Which saved her life. She would have bled to death otherwise. The surgeon said it was close, but she'll make a full recovery. Thanks to you."
He closed his eyes. He had never wanted to do this again, but he couldn't have let the young woman die. She would have. Sid knew that. She would have bled to death if he hadn't poured his energy into her, keeping her heat beating, her lungs breathing.
"They know about you," Mac went on. "Why you're here. Your cover is that the shooter hit you on the head, that you lost consciousness because of it later, and that it's a concussion."
"What hospital?" Sid wanted to know.
Damn, he was so very weak, his mind was working like molasses.
Park was known to have a qualified staff of allies and some paranormals, and whenever a paranormal needed surgery or help in any other way, he came here. Sid had never been here before.
“What’s with the shooter? He was looking for his daughter.”
“Jeffrey Henderson, age 46. His daughter Elisabeth was raped and murdered four years ago, at the age of fifteen. No mother. Henderson’s psyche was unstable to begin with but obviously it didn’t survive the death of his child. He became mental, paranoid Schizophrenia. Ran away from the psychiatric clinic three days ago. Stella’s still investigating how he got hold of a gun.“
Sid nodded slowly. That explained a lot.
"Who's the ally on my case?" he asked, almost suspecting who it was, but Mac confirmed it no second later.
"You told him?"
"I had to."
His eyes closed once more and he wanted to sleep. Just sleep. For a week.
Mac patted his hand. "You get some rest, doc. We'll take care of things."
Flack would, Hammerback thought to himself. He was already drifting off once again.
* * *
Don Flack had his work laid out for him. Jeffrey Henderson was dead and it had been quite clear what had happened from a criminalistic point of view, so he had little to no work in that regard. Internal Affairs quickly reviewed the shooting the two officers involved were cleared. Nothing serious there. Henderson's body was autopsied, the cause of death confirmed, and that was that. Lindsay had come through surgery, but was weak and needed extensive hospital and rehab time. That only left Sid Hammerback, the healer.
Don had called a contact, had talked to the healer at Park, and he had laid out a cover story that was water and air tight. There were no holes, no contradictory evidence, no loose ends. Park took care of the appropriate medical paper work while Don dealt with the mechanics of police work and crime scene investigation. It was actually a rather easy cover thanks to Park and their help.
Mac had simply watched it all silently. There was this wordless amazement on his lover's face that told Don that Mac had never really had much to do with allies and their work. Well, Seekers rarely needed them and mostly allies worked with and for vampires.
It was the evening of the second day after the shooting. Don hadn't gone to see Sid. He didn't need to. Mac had visited him, had told the healer that Don was working his case. Allies remained in the background. Flack had spent a lot of time with a severely distraught Danny, had taken him to dinner, had distracted him, had offered him an open ear whenever he needed to talk. They were very good friends and while Don didn't know if Danny suspected or knew about him and Mac, he wouldn't put it past Messer to have know it already. Sometimes Danny made small remarks that either told of his knowledge or were really good shots in the dark.
That didn't matter right now. He was there for his friend. It took time away from him and Mac, but Flack hoped his lover understood. Coming home from keeping Danny company and stopping him from running himself into the ground, or drink himself into oblivion, he found he had almost automatically headed for Mac's place. Taylor was home, watching "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?".
"Hey," Don greeted him as he shrugged out of his jacket.
Mac twisted his head, smiling at the younger man. "Hey. How's Danny?"
"Home and hopefully asleep. At least he better be. I told the nurses at Park to kick his ass home should he make another late night appearance."
"He's worried," Mac replied quietly, making room for Don on the couch.
"And I understand the worry, but he needs to rest. He keeps blaming himself for the shooting and I was this close to bashing his head against a convenient wall. He's not listening."
Mac leaned over and kissed him. Don sighed into the kiss. He craved the closeness, had wanted it all day long, and he sometimes wondered how he had been able to stand evenings alone after hard cases. Being with Mac was… different. Neither of them was big on displaying their emotions, but gestures, touches and expressions showed what they felt. It had taken Don a while to get used to the older man's subtle shifts in expression. Mac had the perfect Poker face. But in the privacy of their homes he shed a few layers of control, and Don saw what he needed.
A hand ran a gentle caress up and down his thigh, and Don felt himself relax even more.
"I'll talk to him," Taylor told him. "It's not his fault, never was and never will be, and I doubt Lindsay will blame him."
Flack snorted. "As if she ever would."
"Want dinner?" Mac offered.
"Not hungry. I had something with Danny."
Mac gave him a quirky smile, patting the flat stomach. "You're a stick."
"I don't see you complaining about it," Don purred.
The hand continued the soothing caress. "Am not. I know how much fast food you eat. I'm amazed actually… that it doesn't keep."
"I've got a good metabolism."
"Hm-hm," Mac mumbled, more interested in kissing the eager lips.
Don was only too happy to comply, not complaining either. Quick hands worked his shirt out of his pants to slide over his stomach, across uneven, scarred skin, pushing up the clothing that was in the way. Even quicker fingers unbuckled his pants and went right for the first prize. Don arched his hips off the couch, groaning.
Mac gave the growing hardness two-three hard strokes, then claimed his lover's lips once more. The stress of the last hours cumulated in this release and Flack let all thoughts about shootings and injured people disperse in the pleasure his lover brought him.
"Don, I want you," Mac breathed, eyes alive with desire.
Flack threaded his fingers through the short strands of dark hair, hungrily meeting the kisses that grew in intensity. The whole situation had gone from calm to heated to needy within minutes and he felt his own desire rise exponentially. Sex had always been a good way to undo tension, to reduce stress, for them both and he eagerly responded to the rough demands.
The bed was close, but the couch was closer, and even though Mac had to leave him for a moment to get the condoms and lube, Don didn't care. He stripped off the last of his clothes, groaning at the sight of his naked lover.
Damn, he had it bad. Really, really bad.
Preparations were done with care and thoroughly. While Mac had been bottom a few times by now, Don didn't want to hurt him.
"Don, now!" Mac moaned.
"Pushy," Flack replied breathlessly, discarding of the lube.
"I want you!"
He blanketed the sturdier form, hands spreading over the heated skin. "You've got me."
"Inside!" Mac demanded with a growl, pushing up.
Don almost laughed. He placed little biting kisses between his lover's shoulder blades, then Mac rolled onto his side, raising one leg. Don supported it as he positioned himself and slid slowly into the tightness that awaited him.
Mac gave a hiss of pleasure, pushing back, wanting more, and when Don was finally settled, he gave a soft sigh of appreciation.
He took it slow, movements rather controlled and each stroke long and satisfying. He wanted this to last and he knew it could. Dark blue eyes, alight with pleasure and need, met his own brighter blue ones, and Don pushed in deep, drawing a gasp.
He drew their climax out, trying to make it last, but when Mac demanded more, demanded a harder rhythm, his own need took over. Don's movements grew faster, his breath escaping in harsh pants and he finally groaned loudly as he came. He dimly heard Mac's own gasp, felt the warm wetness spill over one hand, then he sank forward, trying not to smother his lover.
Mac's arm came around him, held him, and both men just lay together. Harsh breathing was all Don could hear, together with his thundering heartbeat. When Mac moved, he gave a moan of protest, but his lover was relentless. He managed to get off the couch and came back with a towel, cleaning them off. Don just lay on his back, feeling faint ripples course through him and when Mac cleaned the softening erection, he almost yelped. Taylor smiled mischievously.
"Bastard," he muttered.
He was rewarded with a kiss and a caress. Don was very sensitive after climax and Mac liked to tease. His lover drew lazy paths over Flack's skin, relaxing him even more, and even the fingers skipping over his vicious scar didn't have him flinch away. Don had slowly come to terms with the hideous mark and Mac's insistent touches and caresses of that special area had done a great deal of making him accept.
They enjoyed the warmth of being together, silent, trading kisses and touches. No words were needed.
* * *
The whole team visited their downed Chief Medical Examiner, as did some colleagues from the morgue. News flashed fast in the closed environment that was the precinct. Sid was touched by it all, but he craved the silence after each visit, when he could collect his thoughts, listen to his healing body. He felt like a limp noodle, a discarded rag doll, and while all of it was normal, he didn't like it. The nurses took care that no visitor stayed too long, and he was frequently checked, especially his energy levels. They were the greatest worry and as a healer, Hammerback knew exactly what he had done to himself.
Danny Messer walked into the room two days after the shooting, alone, and though Sid wasn’t able to read auras at the moment the man’s was flaring even to his naked eye.
“Doc,” Danny greeted him quietly.
He looked tired, exhausted, his face pale, the stubble standing out. His blue eyes were more dull than normal. He had his hands stuffed into his jean pockets, looking a bit indecisive.
“Danny. That’s quite the surprise.”
“Uhm, doc, I…“ Danny started, looking everywhere but at him.
Finally he unearthed a small package from the bag he had slung around his wiry frame and placed it onto the nightstand.
“Thank you. That really wasn’t necessary,” Sid said quietly.
“It’s nothing. Look, Sid, I wanted to say thank you. You know, for saving Lindsay.”
“Hm. Though my field of expertise is pathology I am a surgeon after all. I know my way around a body.”
“You’re a surgeon?”
Sid raised his hands. “What did you think? These hands were made for handling a scalpel.”
Danny fell silent, but it was clear there was something else on the other man’s mind.
“Hm?” Blue eyes regarded him.
“You’re giving me a headache. If you want her, for Christ's sake, do something about it.”
Danny looked startled, even a bit shocked. “What you’re talking about, doc?”
“Danny Messer, you’re as subtle as a ten foot neon sign. You like that girl, go and get her. And stop bothering me.”
Danny stared at him like a deer caught in the headlights. He stammered something, then shook his head.
"You got that wrong, Sid."
Hammerback smiled. "I do? Well, my bad. But she might enjoy a visit from you anyway," he shooed the CSI off.
Danny left, looking confused.
Sid still smiled, clearly aware of the vibes between the two. It was only a matter of time and it would be interesting to watch.
* * *
Danny paced up and down outside Lindsay's room, then finally took all his courage together and pushed open the door. His eyes were immediately on the person on the bed. Lindsay looked frail, too pale, too still, and with too many tubes and lines leading in or out of her. The surgery had been touch and go and the doctor had told him and the others that without Sid's immediate help, she would have died.
Lindsay had woken briefly after surgery, able to answer a few questions, and after that she had drifted in and out of sleep. Danny had seen her twice, always asleep, and it had always hurt him to see the usually so vivacious young woman so lifeless.
You like the girl.
Sid's words. And yes, he liked her. He liked her quietness, her subtleness, but also her temper, her power, her drive, her fire. Lindsay was different from the women he had met in New York or worked with. Yes, she was a country girl and her view of things was sometimes a bit too innocent, but she was hardened enough in the field. She had been up to her elbows in tiger dung. She had processed decayed bodies. She had eaten insects with him. She pursued cases with relentless energy. And she wanted to know. She was inquisitive and she wouldn't give up until she had the truth.
Danny also knew she sometimes missed her home. He had tried to show her that New York was beautiful. He loved his city, his home, but she loved hers as well. He had never seen wheat fields, had never been in the country. His 'wild' was this place, this city.
Maybe one day she would show him her home, he mused as he sat down beside the bed.
Danny reached out and carefully touched one hand. It was the one without an IV. It was warmer than the last time he had touched her. Life was coming back. It would take a while for Lindsay to recover completely, but there were no complications expected.
"Damn," he murmured and bowed his head.
He had nearly lost Lindsay.
You like the girl.
It had started slow. He had found her good on the eyes, had liked her fresh attitude, and slowly but surely Detective third grade Lindsay Monroe from Montana had grown on Danny. He was around her more often, teased her differently, actually looked forward to a beer or dinner off work. He liked to hear her talk about home, about what she had done in Montana, and he had told her about his life.
"Yeah, I like you," he murmured.
The hand in his grip twitched a little and Danny looked up.
Brown eyes from under heavy lids met his gaze.
"Hey!" he exclaimed. "Montana! How are you?"
"Just peachy," she whispered.
"Yeah. Not like a bullet can keep you cowgirls down."
She smiled more, looking so very tired. Danny was still holding her hand, fingers curled around it, and he had to be smiling like an idiot.
"Danny?" she asked softly, already sliding off into sleep once more.
"I like you, too."
Now it was a goofy grin and even though she was asleep once more, Danny couldn't stop.
"Hell, yeah," he said shakily. "I'll take you out to a great dinner after you get well. And we can go see a movie. Maybe something about Montana." He laughed a little. "'Cause I like you a lot, Lindsay."
* * *
It had started to snow throughout the night. With December now in its second week, it wasn't much of a surprise. Weather forecasts had announced heavy snow fall for the next few days and everyone who was looking forward to a white Christmas was ecstatic. Everyone who had to work in this weather was cursing it.
Crime had been on a downward spiral due to the cold temperatures, but this respite wouldn't last long. Everyone was just readjusting to the conditions, police and criminals alike.
They were together in Mac's apartment, Mac making dinner. The snow was a white blanket over everything, turning into gray sludge within minutes of coming in contact with the streets and the cars driving them. From inside the apartment the world looked strangely surreal and somehow fascinating. Mac had found himself gazing out the kitchen window now and then, lost in his thoughts as he watched the fat snow flakes drift by.
Don had come in from the precinct a few minutes ago, looking a bit harried, but he hadn't lost a word about work. He had slipped out of his heavy coat, left the snow-covered shoes at the door, and quickly changed into something more comfortable for the warm apartment. He had placed a few more calls from his cell while Mac was chopping vegetables. Ally work again. Don and someone at the hospital had added more details to the initial report about Hammerback..
It was fascinating to listen in and Mac wondered what lengths Don had gone through before, when neither had been aware of the other. And after that, when Mac had been the occasional fuck buddy and had shared little of Don's life. Their intimacy spread beyond sex. Don was giving him an insight into his life in the paranormal world.
When Don hung up, Mac smiled at him. "I'm impressed," he said.
Flack shrugged. "Normal work."
"For you, yes. For me, it's the first time."
Don grinned and gave him a little kiss. "Your first time, huh?"
Mac tossed a piece of cucumber at him and Don laughed.
"Since when have you known?" Flack asked as he went to set the table.
It was the first time since the shooting and the revelation that Sid was a healer that he breached the topic. There was no anger in his voice, no reproach. He had been an ally long enough to understand that secrets had to be kept, even among lovers or spouses. Don had never asked Mac if Claire had known either.
"Ever since I first met him. Seekers know, Don."
He nodded. "Yeah. And him being a healer, he knew, too."
"Yes. We never talked about it."
Flack looked thoughtful. "A healer as a Medical Examiner. Not unheard of, but unusual."
"He has his reasons."
The bright blue eyes looked sharp and knowing. Flack hadn't made detective because his father's name had come up a few times. He could read people, voices, emotions, without being an empathy or some magic user himself.
"Which you know," he now only remarked.
Don smiled. "I don't need to know, Mac. He told you in confidence and as an ally, I know what that means."
Taylor regarded him for a moment, then nodded. "Thanks."
"Hey, I've been working this job for a long time now," his lover teased. "I don't mind secrets and I know what 'in confidence' really means."
Mac nodded. "You do," he only said quietly.
With dinner ready, the two men sat down and changed the topic, talking about everything but what had happened. That was for when they were at work.
Outside the world turned into a fluffy white but chaotic place, with traffic accidents and people slipping or sliding on the icy streets. ERs were filled, traffic police had their hands full, but nothing touched either Flack or Taylor.
For once no emergency call on a crime was placed, no pager rang, and they enjoyed their evening together.
* * *
Sid had to give it to Flack, he didn't lose a word or even a meaningful look over this newly gained knowledge that their CME was a healer. Like Mac after his own discovery so long ago, Don didn't work any differently with him. Hammerback had gone back to the ME's office three days after the shooting, even though he had been told to take it easy. 'Against Medical Advice' was the term for that. Sid didn't care what it was called. He wanted to go back, wanted to leave the for him dreary environment of a hospital, and there was really nothing at home that would keep him there. The treating physician at Park hadn't argued for long, but he hadn't been happy.
"I know you know your body best, Dr. Hammerback," the man had said quietly. "I still suggest you take a day or two more off."
He had replied he'd take it under consideration, but he had returned. Work was the best way to take his mind off things.
Actually, work wasn't the best thing for him. Hammerback had felt it throughout his first autopsy, and one of his assistants had softly told him he'd finish, pushing him toward his office where Sid had sat and waited for his head to stop pounding, for the nausea to lessen, and for the hammering of his heart to quiet down. Not even a strong tea had helped and Mac had kicked his ass back home.
Sid hadn't protested much since he had nearly collapsed on his way to the restroom.
Mac's words had been very direct, very harsh and had ended with a few threats Sid actually took seriously. Taylor had been a Marine once and it showed. He didn't take crap like Sid's for very long and while Hammerback wasn't under his command, he was protective of his own. Apparently the CME was part of that little team. Sid appreciated the sentiment, though part of him rebelled. That part was quickly silenced.
He had taken a cab home, nearly dozing off, and he had made it up to his apartment feeling like a very old man. He was old, sure. Older than he looked. Some paranormals aged differently, healers among them. It wasn't the slow aging of vampires or werewolves, who seemed to be immortal, but Sid Hammerback had been around the block a few times.
Currently, his body felt as old as he truly was, and he was really looking forward to some rest. Maybe a bit of music, maybe an old TV classic, but aside from that he couldn't think of much. Reading would be too demanding on his over-taxed and concussed brain.
It came as a surprise when someone knocked on his door, and it was even more of a surprise when Sid found Detective Stella Bonasera standing outside his apartment, smiling at him.
"Stella," he greeted her.
She still smiled and glanced over his shoulder as he made no move to let her in.
"Is it a bad time?"
"Ah, no, it isn't. Come in." He was stunned.
Stella walked in, looking around his home, and Sid wondered what had brought her over. As if she was reading his thoughts – and she wasn't a paranormal, he knew that for a fact – she turned to him.
"Mac told me you were back at work and he kicked you back home."
"It's not like he's my boss."
"No, but he's looking out for you, Sid." A light frown of worry appeared on her features. "You're our friend and you went through a hostage situation, got hurt -- you need to recover."
He only shrugged. He wasn't used to having such close friends. At least not since the death of his wife. Ever since coming to New York he hadn't had visitors over. If one of his assistants offered to pay for drinks or coffee, they always met in the pub or coffee shop or bar. He had gone to dinners, lunches and coffee breaks, but no one had seen where he lived – or how. Hammerback wasn't ashamed of his home, but he wasn't into showing it off either.
"Coffee?" he offered, not sure how to answer the concern.
Stella nodded and followed him to the rather modest kitchen. Sid made a fresh pot of coffee and filled a cup for her. She added some sugar.
"How are you?" Stella asked openly.
"Fine. It's not as bad as Mac makes it seem," he lied.
Those fine eyebrows rose in disbelief. She wasn't a healer or other paranormal, but she knew people. And she was a woman. Sid had always believed in women having a sixth sense of a kind. Stella could see through lies – it was her job.
Sid smiled over his coffee at her. "I've been better," he corrected himself.
She nodded, accepting that. "Lindsay is doing better, too," she told him. "She was lucky you were there. You saved her life."
Sid didn't reply.
"You're our hero," Stella said, eyes smiling as much as her lips.
"I'm not a hero, Stella. I did what I had to do," he only replied.
"I think that's what defines a hero, Sid. You saved her."
He walked over to the couch and sat down, feeling tired. His body wanted rest, wanted to replenish the energy he had lost when he had saved Monroe, but so far he had given it little. He didn't want to think back, because thinking of Lindsay Monroe also brought flashbacks of another woman who he had tried to save, and who he had lost.
Stella followed, looking worried, but she didn't pester him with questions about his health, she let her eyes roam over his collection on medical books. It was extensive and it included several non-scholary books. She took out an ancient book on nature remedies.
"Your job is your hobby?"
"No, it's actually just one," he answered, glad for the change of topic. "I like to read up on ancient medicine. It can tell you so much. So many remedies were lost in the age of chemical medication, and today we're just rediscovering it."
Stella nodded and put back the book. "So, what do you do to spend your free time? Aside from old books and hanging out in a jazz bar."
Sid chuckled and he told her.
They were into their second soda and Sid had found some crackers and chips when Stella glanced at her watch.
"I gotta go. Sorry, Sid, but my shift's starting."
Hammerback was surprised when he checked the time and found almost three hours had passed with pleasant conversation and getting to know Stella Bonasera even better than he had on those Wednesdays he had come to the jazz bar. He still felt tired, but the exhaustion had made way for a pleasant sensation of being ready for bed, but not about to drop dead.
He accompanied her to the door.
"I had a great time, Sid," she said seriously, meeting his curious gaze.
"So had I, Stella."
And it was the truth. Nothing but. He had enjoyed the hours with her, had actually found himself wondering why he had never talked to her at length before. So far their encounters had been through work, though he had allowed himself the pleasure of flirting with her.
"Take care," Stella only said, then she turned and walked down the hallway to the stairs.
Sid closed the door and went back into his apartment, mystified as to what had happened to him in the past hours.
* * *
By mid-December, Lindsay Monroe was declared fit enough to leave the hospital and continue rehab on her own. She was still required to be cleared by the police department's councilor, but she had already had her mandatory sessions and would most likely be able to get her psych clearance. Physical fitness needed a few more weeks, so she was on sick leave until after Christmas and would be on lab duty after that.
Danny had kept her company in the hospital, had dropped by every day and they had talked about this and that. He had told her about the latest cases, she had entertained him with amusing hospital stories. It was amazing what one saw when one was mobile enough. They had never touched the 'I like you' topic again, but Danny was burning to take another step in that direction.
"I'm planning to fly home for Christmas," Lindsay told him the day she was released from the hospital and Danny had nodded his understanding.
It was when he was home alone that his mind started planning, too. And it ended with him booking a flight to Montana.
"You what?" Lindsay exclaimed.
"Uh, made reservations," he explained, suddenly feeling a bit awkward. He had made assumptions, had acted rashly, and now… it sounded stupid.
"Why?" Lindsay wanted to know, looking dumbfound.
"I…ah… well…" He fidgeted more. "I thought it was a good idea at the time."
"Flying to Montana," she said wryly.
"You. The city boy."
"Hey!" he protested.
"Danny, it's Montana. It's the wild country," she teased.
He shrugged again.
"And where did you plan to stay?" she asked pointedly.
"I'd thought you might have a room left?" he replied hopefully.
"You are so full of yourself, Messer."
"But you like me anyway?" he tried, puppy dog eyes on her.
Lindsay laughed, shaking her head. "You're impossible."
"Hey, I gave you a tour of my home. It's time to repay the favor," Danny argued.
"You had me look at the skyline, Danny," Lindsay replied wryly.
"So? Show me a wheat field," he challenged, grinning.
"All right. Pack warm things," she just shot back. "I'll call my parents. I think we can clean out the shed."
"I'll pick you up," he replied, smiling widely, ignoring the remark. "Flight's at noon, right?"
"Yes. How did you know?" she asked suspiciously.
He shrugged sheepishly. "I'm a CSI, right?"
She huffed. "Well, don't be late." She turned and walked away.
Danny just kept grinning.
* * *
The flight was eventless. They had seats next to each other, enjoyed a small in-flight meal, and a rather boring movie. Lindsay dropped off to doze and Danny did his best not to constantly watch her. It was hard to do, and it got even harder to ignore her when Lindsay's head rested even closer to him, almost touching. He touched her hand, briefly curling his fingers around hers, then removed them almost guiltily.
Great Falls airport was tiny compared to New York and Danny felt the country life hit him right in the face the moment he left the gate. No bustling people, no shoving, no pushing, just… a normal crowd. He felt like a stranger and followed Lindsay outside where she was looking around for their pick-up.
The 'taxi' came in form of a large SUV and a tall man in his mid-thirties. Lindsay broke out in a wide smile.
She was enveloped in a bear hug by the man. Danny felt a brief stab of jealousy, but that died quickly as he saw the resemblance between them the moment the man let her go. Same hair, same dark eyes, same features.
"Danny, my brother Jarod. Jarod, my friend Danny Messer. We work together."
Jarod shook Danny's hand and Messer felt the calluses from a life in the country against his palm.
"Nice to meet you. Lindsay called ahead and told us she's bringing a guest. She said you want to have some quiet time from the city, huh? Nothing like ranch life then."
Danny shot Lindsay a dark look. "She did?" he grumbled. "Right. Quiet. She promised to show me the sights."
"Oh, there's a lot to see. We got some fresh snow just last night."
Danny nodded, not really looking forward to snow.
They got into the car and when Jarod pulled out, whiteness greeted him. Messer sighed to himself at the amount of snow. Oh fun…
Lindsay elbowed him gently.
"Welcome to Montana."
He only grimaced.
* * *
"Danny went to Montana?" Don asked, voice laced with disbelief.
"He said he didn't want to let Lindsay fly on her own, what with her recent injury and all," Mac explained.
Don's eyes sparkled. "Riiiight. As if! The boy's so in love with her, it's almost painful to watch."
"Infatuation turning to love?"
Flack smiled at him and leaned in for a kiss. "Wouldn't be the first time," he murmured.
Mac wrapped his arms around his taller lover and pulled him completely against him. They had decided to spend a lazy Saturday at home, Mac's home. It had meant sleeping in and a very late breakfast. Don had gone out for a quick shopping run while Mac had answered his mail and email, then they had simply lazed around.
"Hmmm," Mac agreed, trading small kisses with Don. "It wouldn't. Took us what? Four years? It's been just a year for them."
"And I think it'll take a bit longer," Flack said. "Danny might be infatuated, but he's also careful. And with Lindsay being shot, he's now in protective mode."
"Know that too," Mac murmured. "All too well."
His kisses trailed down the slender neck and he lightly bit here or there. Don shuddered. Mac's hand slid under the dark blue t-shirt and met naked skin. They remained there, warm weights against his lover's stomach and ribs.
"He nearly lost someone he started to care a lot for," Taylor went on, voice holding a distant quality. "It's an eye-opener. It's scary. It's your most horrible moment."
"Especially when you weren't clear on what you felt before, when it was so convenient to take…" the older man went on, gray-blue eyes meeting bright blue ones. "You stop thinking about what's always there, what you readily get whenever you need. And when something happens, something terrible…" He stopped.
Don's hand cupped his neck and the back of his head, drawing Mac into a gentle, reassuring kiss.
"Still here," he said softly. "Still with you."
"And I love you, Mac Taylor. I love you very much."
Mac's face softened, reflecting a myriad of emotions. "I know," he repeated.
The next kiss was longer, but not deeper, and Mac relaxed again, sliding his hands around the slender man and resting his head against one shoulder. It felt good to feel Don's living, breathing warmth.
* * *
Meeting the Monroe family had been an exhausting, exiting and downright new experience for Danny. He had grown up in a large family, but in a different kind of environment, a different kind of city. Hell, he had grown up in New York and not the wild country!
Lindsay's father Cooper Monroe was a head taller than Danny, broad-shouldered, his face sun-burned, his hair so blond Messer wondered where Lindsay had her dark hair and eyes from. He shook Danny's hand with a welcoming smile, cracking jokes about city slickers.
Danny took it with good humor.
Ella Monroe was a mirror image of her daughter, with gray shot through her dark hair, her brown eyes sparkling with Christmas spirit and a good nature. Danny suspected she was just shy of giving him a hug.
Jarod had disappeared after dropping them off, carrying the luggage to go who knew where, and instead of the big brother, Danny was inspected by the little sister. Theresa Emily Monroe was two years younger than Lindsay, coming more after her father, and appeared like one of the stereotypical cowgirls, right down to the jeans and blouse.
"Uh, hi," Danny said.
"Danny, my sister Terry."
She gave him another once over, then nodded. "You'll do. A bit scrawny, but hey, that's the city for you."
Danny shot Lindsay a confused look and found her chuckling.
"I think I need a translator," he groaned.
Jarod's wife – his pregnant wife – Victoria chuckled. "I'm from Canada, Danny. I learned, so you can, too."
"Jarod worked in Alberta for a while and married the best souvenir he ever brought home," Terry teased.
Victoria laughed. "And it wasn't easy to convince him."
Lindsay gave Danny a friendly push, barely hard enough to even move him an inch. "C'mon, I'll show you around."
And he followed, taking in the house like a crime scene, noting many little things. The pictures on the walls, the hand-made rugs and throws, the trophies from some kind of contest or other, and how clean everything was. Not spotless, but clean and well-kept.
"This is your room," Lindsay announced. "It's the old guest room."
The room looked large enough and had a sturdy, probably hand-made bed. It had a comfortable, homey air and despite the strangeness of it all, Danny felt at home here.
"Grandma's coming over, so she gets Terry's room, and Terry stays with me. The old guest house has storm damage from earlier this winter, so there's no extra room available," Lindsay explained.
Storm damage? Earlier this winter? Wild country indeed. Danny found his bag was already in the room and so he followed Lindsay to the kitchen where Mrs. Monroe offered him coffee and cookie, or home-made pie if he wanted to. Looking at the offerings, Danny was suddenly quite sure he'd gain a few pounds by the end of this visit.
* * *
"That's a wheat field," Lindsay announced, smiling widely at her friend.
"Uh… it's… a field of snow…" Danny said slowly, looking at nothing but whiteness.
"It's winter, Danny."
"I know that. It's damn cold!"
Lindsay smiled more. Like Danny, she was bundled up in a thick jacket, a woollen hat, a scarf and gloves. They stood near the back of a huge barn and were looking at… well… snow. The barn easily fit a two-story house and it was long enough to have small races inside. There was also a stable, which held horses, and another one with cows. Lindsay had given him the grand tour and Danny knew he probably reeked of animals.
"Didn't you bring anything warmer?" Lindsay now asked.
"I did bring something warm!" he protested.
"For New York maybe, but this is Montana."
Danny muttered indignantly, shoving his gloved hands into his jacket, shivering again. Lindsay took pity on him and they trudged back to the ranch house, the main building, and were soon in the kitchen again, drinking hot chocolate.
"So what do you do all day in a weather like this?" Messer asked, clutching his mug.
"What weather? This isn't weather," she answered. "This is a great day. You can go for a ride, you can check the fences, work on the machines, go to town for necessary things…"
Danny just listened to her talk, finding he enjoyed it even more than just looking at Lindsay. As weird as being in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by snow, was for him, being here with Lindsay made this a really nice experience.
* * *
Snow in New York never survived. At least not as the white fluffiness many people associated with winter snow. It was a gray or almost black slush by the time New York was through with it. Winter brought with it people freezing to death in alleys, failing to break on icy roads and a dozen more incidents. There were store robberies, people getting bludgeoned over their shopping bags and wallets, and the household fights with a deadly end where one party shot, stabbed or fatally hit the other over something menial.
Don was a busy detective that close to Christmas and he spent more time outside in the cold than he really wanted to. CSI was just as busy, trying to figure out whether it was a suicide, murder or accident.
Sid was back in his morgue, determining cause of death and performing autopsies, much to the relief of the interims CME who had taken over his job until he was declared fit for duty again.
Don had spent some time in the morgue, going over autopsy results with one of the assistant ME's who ruled the man's death as non-violent. It had been a coronary. Weak heart. No third party responsible. When Flack turned to leave he was intercepted by Hammerback.
"I failed to thank you for your help, Detective," the healer said quietly.
Don shrugged, face giving nothing away. "All part and parcel of the job."
"I still owe you my gratitude."
Don smiled a little. "I think we all owe you for Lindsay, Doc."
Sid said nothing, the intense gaze holding Don's. "As a medic, I'm obliged to help."
"As a healer you're not required to almost kill yourself over it," Flack replied softly.
There was no one else around, they were in private, but still the statement seemed to shock Sid. Don let the words sink in, then only nodded.
"You know where to find me," was all he said, then left the morgue, aware of those eyes on his back.
Don had no idea what was going on with Hammerback, but he knew from Mac's behavior and the brief meeting now that something about the healer was far from how it should be. As an ally, he accepted the secrecy. As a detective he had to fight his natural instinct of 'I want to know'. Maybe he would find out one day. Maybe never.
All part and parcel…
* * *
"What the heck is that?"
"It's called a horse," Lindsay explained patiently, stroking over the animal's nose.
She had two of them, a brown one and a reddish-brown one, both saddled, both with their ears pricked and looking alert.
"I know what a horse is, Monroe! Why are you leading them here?"
"Because we are going to go for a ride." Lindsay smiled widely at him.
Danny just stared at her in shock, eyes nearly bulging. "I'm not going to ride on that!" he exclaimed.
"Oscar's perfectly harmless, Danny. He's a school horse."
"I'm not going to ride! I can't ride!"
"I'll teach you. Come on…," she wheedled.
Danny shook his head violently. "No way, Montana! Now way!"
"Daniel Messer, afraid of a horse?" she teased.
"I'm not afraid!" he protested immediately.
"Then get up. He won't bite."
"Are you even allowed to ride?" Danny tried. "You got shot. This can't be healthy!"
"I'm fine as long as we keep it an easy gait. Now get up."
Danny grumbled to himself, but he approached the horse. He eyed the much larger animal warily, expecting it to do something unexpected. He had seen horses before, of course. There were mounted policemen in New York and they had handled a case with a horse, but he had never been on one. He had never ridden one.
Getting onto the horse was awkward and he clutched the saddle, feeling strangely unsettled. It didn't help that Lindsay got on her horse without a problem, looking elegant and like she belonged on an animal that was so much larger and heavier than her.
"Relax, Danny," Lindsay advised, adjusting the stirrups.
"Easy for you to say," he muttered. "Where's the safety belt?"
She laughed and it was a nice sound. Danny really liked to hear her laugh.
"Relax," she repeated. "Oscar will follow me, so just let him carry you."
"Huh." He prayed she wasn't in for the fun of seeing him fly off the horse in a full gallop.
As it was, she let them walk at a slow pace, and Danny tried to adjust to the rhythmic movement. It wasn't hard, but it also wasn't as easy as it looked. Especially when you looked at your colleague who had apparently been born in a saddle.
For a moment, envy flared, then was smothered by admiration. Danny relaxed into the easy gait of the horse, Oscar, and enjoyed the sight of Lindsay in front of him.
After a few miles Danny had found his balance on the equine’s back that indeed was steady as a rock, and he took the chance to carefully take in the landscape everywhere. Lindsay led them through lots of land and finally up a gentle hill, pausing and waiting for him at the top. When he came to stop at her side Danny held his breath at the sight of the wide open country that presented itself to him. It was all covered in snow, sure, but even now, with the sun glistening on the pristine white on the widespread meadows, soft hills and little patches of forest it was breathtaking.
“That’s Montana, Danny,” Lindsay said softly and when he glanced over to her he could see it - the love for her country was written clearly all over her face.
Lindsay took a deep breath and Danny blinked when he heard her soft voice – sing?
“Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above, don't fence me in. Let me ride through the wide open country that I love, don't fence me in…”
She had a beautiful singing voice which he hadn't expected and the soft tunes carried a longing he hadn’t heard in her before. She finished the verse, smiling at him, and she looked so relaxed, open and free it clenched Danny’s heart. His Lindsay was a country girl through and through. Wait a sec – his Lindsay?
“That was beautiful. What was it?” he asked instead, not wanting to give that thought any more room.
“Old Bing Crosby song. Mom liked to listen to this oldie music since I can remember and sometimes it just sticks. This one just – fits.”
Shrugging, she leant on the saddle horn, eyes roaming over the countryside before them, and that soft smile was tugging at her lips again.
“This is home,” she murmured.
Don’t fence me in, indeed. Even in that huge cage made of steel and stone called New York City.
They rode back in silence.
* * *
Sex is good, Don thought fuzzily. Really good. And really good sex with Mac Taylor had him swimming in a heaven of bliss. His older lover knew some really interesting things about male love, and he was teaching them to Don.
Hands stroked over his exhausted form, brushing over dark nipples that still ached pleasantly as reminders of fingers and lips and teeth that had tenderly worked them into a state of utter sensitivity. Don gave a breathy moan of appreciation and lazily kissed his lover, enjoying the sloppy, sated contact.
"I didn't know you were into toys, Mac Taylor," he murmured, running his own hands over heated skin.
Mac chuckled. "I'm experimental."
Don hummed. He felt so relaxed and sated, it was almost a crime. "Experimental, huh? I like experimental."
Two orgasms in such a short time. No wonder he was a limp weight on the mattress.
"Just don't expect me to get up any time soon."
The blow-job had been fantastic, but the simultaneous stimulation with a dildo had brought him over the edge in a blast of an orgasm. That Mac had gone for round two not much later had Don wonder about his lover's past experience with men. They had never talked about it, neither about Flack's, nor Taylor's bi side. Their work confronted them with what people experimented with in the sexual department, but he hadn't taken the ex-marine as such a daring, open person when it came to toys.
Not that he complained.
Not at all!
Mac stroked over his back as Don turned onto his stomach, and he teased the slippery cleft. Don felt sore, very sore, but it had been incredible. He felt his breathing hitch a little as those teasing fingers dipped deeper, and he suppressed a groan.
"Don't worry," his lover breath, kissing the spot between his shoulder blades.
He wasn't worried. He just didn't think he'd survive a third round, toy or the real thing. He was wasted in a good way.
They lay together, enjoying the closeness. Outside it started to snow again. Don watched the white flakes sleepily. He prayed there would be no call, for either of them. At least not tonight.
* * *
Danny had never really celebrated Christmas like the TV advertised it. Huge tree, eggnog, loads of presents, cookies to gorge yourself on, happy family singing songs… no, that hadn't been the world of Danny Messer. Christmas was a day like almost every other for him and he usually spent it either at home watching DVDs and ignoring the Christmas specials on TV, or at work.
Now, here in Montana, things were different. There was an actual, huge Christmas tree, lavishly decorated. There were cookies, there was Christmas music, and Lindsay seemed to glow.
Whoa, wait a second, Messer!
But it was true. Lindsay had literally bloomed here, in this wilderness. Spending time outside, on horses or just walking through the snow, her skin all flushed, her eyes bright, she was someone Danny had rapidly fallen more and more for. His earlier infatuation from months ago had developed and grown into this. His interest in the new girl on the team had outgrown itself and become something much more serious.
He liked her. A lot.
The Monroe family was a very colorful and interesting mix, too. Danny had gotten to know them all and despite her earlier brusque greeting, Lindsay's sister Terry had taken a liking to him as well. She teased him relentlessly about not knowing about horses and cows and ranch life, and he teased her back about her missing out on the big city life. She wanted to know about New York, about everything he did and saw, and it was like story-telling sometimes.
Danny had invested some money into getting Lindsay a present for Christmas and when it came to exchanging gifts, he fretted over what she would say about it. The present had fit into an envelope, which he gave her with a nervous smile.
"Tickets?" she asked as she pulled out the stiff paper.
"Uh, yeah. I know you like opera, but nothing they have fit you. So…"
"Musical tickets?" Terry piped, glancing over her sister's shoulder. "Cool! Romantic, too." She winked at Danny, who cleared his throat.
Lindsay smirked a little as she met the nervous blue eyes. "Oklahoma the Musical?"
"Couldn't find anything about Montana, so I thought it's as close as home as it can get." He shrugged.
Lindsay chuckled and then leaned forward, giving him a kiss on the cheek. "Thank you."
Danny knew he was blushing lightly. "You're welcome."
She carefully placed the tickets back into the envelope and then reached for the present reserved for him.
Danny unpacked it eagerly, glad to have something to do instead of looking at the various family members. Ella was smiling indulgently, Cooper Monroe had this fine grin on his lips, and Jarod was openly amused about it all. The amusement rose when Danny unpacked a thick scarf, specially insulated gloves, and a hat.
"For the next ride," Lindsay only chuckled at his incredulous look. "You nearly froze out there the last time."
Danny grinned. "If you'd have heated saddles it wouldn't be such a problem."
"City boy," Cooper commented.
"New York is plenty cold enough," Danny defended his home. "But the cars have heating."
The light banter continued and Danny felt rather relaxed in the family circle, though his eyes were drawn to Lindsay more often than not. Jarod had a watchful, big brotherly eye on him, but there had been no one-on-one talks, there had been no warnings to keep his hands off his sister, just the presence of a brother who didn't want to see his sister hurt any more than she already had been wounded by a bullet.
It was after dinner that Danny stepped out onto the porch, shivering in the icy cold of the evening even with his thick jacket and new scarf and gloves, and found Lindsay there already. He joined her as she looked out over the dark, snow-covered lands.
"It's so beautiful," she said, her voice holding that calm, faraway tone.
Danny stuffed his hands into his armpits. "'S cold."
Even in the dim light coming from inside the house, he could see her amused smile. "New York is cold, too. And it lacks beauty."
"New York is plenty beautiful!" he protested immediately.
"It's concrete and steel and glass and dirt."
"And this is dirt and mud and snow fields and probably infested by insects in summer."
"New York is stifling hot and has bad air."
"There's nothing here!" Danny complained. "Just… landscape."
Lindsay's expression softened even more. "I like landscape."
"New York has skyline, Montana. The greatest in the world."
"You've never seen Glacier National Park then."
He huffed, his breath clouding in front of him. He hopped a little on his feet. Damn, it was cold. "I like New York."
"I like Montana."
For a moment there was silence and Danny didn't know what to say. His Lindsay was a country girl and he was a city boy. They were so different, had nothing in common…
And then she was suddenly right there in front of him, her hands curled around the scarf and she pulled him close, and down, and closer, and then their lips met. Danny's frozen lips met equally cold ones, but then there was heat. Startling, moist heat. He managed to untangle his hands from underneath his armpits and then he held her and kissed her and the cold was chased away to warmth and heat and something he had never felt like this before.
A shiver raced through him and Lindsay stepped back, smiling.
"We should go inside before you turn into a popsicle," she said calmly.
She released her hold on the scarf and for a second Danny felt bereft, was slightly off balance, but he immediately followed her inside. The blast of warmth had him shiver again and he peeled out of his down jacket, gloves and scarf. Terry was shooting him knowing looks and grinned widely. She gave him a thumbs up.
Danny smiled a little, then took another cookie and settled next to Lindsay on the couch to watch some old Christmas movie until it was way past midnight and everyone went to sleep.
Nothing else but the kiss happened that night, but it was monumental for one Danny Messer.
* * *
There was an unspoken agreement between Mac and Don about Christmas. No gifts. No exchange of little or larger presents. If neither was on duty, they would spend the day together, enjoy each other's company, maybe go out to a movie, to lunch, to dinner.
This Christmas, with Danny and Lindsay gone, Mac was on duty and he refused to trade his day with Stella, who had offered. She was on call already and that was bad enough. Christmas brought out the weirdoes. Not as much as Halloween, but it was enough.
Flack had decided to trade off his Christmas day with a colleague who had thanked him profusely, and so they were on the same crime scene in the late afternoon, looking at a badly mauled body of a young man. Robbed, beaten up, and then some. The crime scene had been taped off and Mac and Hawkes were busy with the evidence collection. Flack was interviewing the couple who had found the mutilated body.
The victim was wheeled away by the coroner, then Mac swept the scene once more, finally declaring he was finished and would return to the lab. Flack just nodded at him. He had a few leads to follow on his own, people to call.
It turned out to be a late Christmas evening when both got home. Mac had actually finished early while Don had been stuck talking to an informant who had been halfway across town by then. Scared but willing to give him a few right pointers for the right money.
When Flack finally made it home, it was to Mac's message on his answering machine that if it was already late that he should sleep at his place and they'd meet up for breakfast.
Don sighed and tiredly undressed. He looked around, found his apartment depressingly silent and empty, and grabbed his overnight back. It was always ready in case he was on an overnight case. It contained a clean suit, another pair of pants, a shirt, underwear and toiletries. He left his apartment and drove over to Mac's place. Don used the key to get in.
"Don?" Mac exclaimed and got up from where he had been reading. "What are you…?"
Don dropped the bag and shrugged. "I felt lonely."
"I left a message."
"It was too quiet."
Taylor stared at him, then his expression softened a little. "Idiot," he only said.
"Is this okay?" Don asked.
Mac only pulled him into a kiss. "It is," he murmured. "Tired?"
"Yeah," was the honest answer.
Don didn't want to go into what the day had been like for him. He was looking forward to a bed, to Mac, and he wanted to spend the morning having a nice, big breakfast before he had to go in again.
He was granted two of his three wishes not much later when he lay on the big bed, in his lover's arms.
"Merry Christmas," Mac murmured.
Don mumbled something in return and fell asleep not much later.
* * *
"What do you know… it's alive."
Don blinked blearily into the morning light, grimacing at a rather awake and chipper Mac Taylor. From the way his lover was dressed and looked, he had already been up for a while, gone out for a jog in the cold winter morning, and had taken his shower. Hair damp, wearing his dress pants and shirt, the tie still off, Mac smiled at him.
"What time is it?" Don groaned.
He groaned again, flopping back into the bed. "I hate you."
Mac sat down on the mattress and leaned over the other man, kissing him. "No, you don't."
"I do," Flack insisted. "Early bird."
It got him another kiss, then Mac got up. "I'll make coffee."
Don sighed and finally peeled out of bed, muttering to himself. He didn't have to be in until nine and he usually had coffee on the way and a bagel at the precinct. He could have slept another thirty minutes.
He showered and quickly dried himself off, then dressed in the clothes he had brought along. The smell of coffee was already in the air and Mac was reading the newspaper. Don chose a dark blue tie to the light gray shirt and finally joined his lover. Mac gave him an approving look.
They shared a coffee, then were on their way. Flack dropped by his favorite coffee shop chain to get a bagel and arrived after Mac had already gone into the labs.
Business as usual.
* * *
There had been no follow-up on that kiss. Danny had been too confused about what to do next, even though he had never been out of his depth with women before. Lindsay was different, though. He didn't know what she expected, or what he really wanted. He desired her, but to approach her in her parents' home was a bit… strange. So they had spent that last night in their respective rooms, Danny tossing and turning and looking a bit tired the next morning.
Ella gave him a hug load of cookies to take home, Terry told him to go and get Lindsay before someone else did, and Victoria just hugged him. Cooper Monroe shook his hand, losing no word about Danny's fledgling relationship with his daughter, and everyone wished Lindsay a safe flight. Jarod drove them to the airport and only when Lindsay was out of ear shot did he address Danny.
"Don't wait too long," he said. "You might lose her."
That was all that was said and it left Danny slightly bemused.
The flight home was eventless and when he was back in New York, he felt strangely adrift. The wide open space was now a million people city again, his home, and it didn't really fit the woman at his side.
It was cold, it was windy, but it had nothing against a Montana winter.
No wheat fields, snow covered or otherwise, either.
"I'll see you tomorrow," Lindsay said as they stood just inside the sliding doors that opened to the cab area.
"Uh, yeah," he murmured.
Blue eyes met brown and Danny tried to kick himself to finally do something.
"Lindsay, uh… well…"
And again it was Lindsay who took charge and leaned forward, kissing him softly. "What are your plans for New Year?" she asked calmly.
Danny's head spun and he didn't know whether to touch her or not. He finally allowed one hand to gently rest against her thick jacket.
"Got none," he answered.
"My place? Eight?"
"And you bring the pasta."
Danny smiled. "I'll bring whatever you want."
Lindsay smiled mischievously and picked up her bag. "You and pasta. Everything else I have."
And with that she walked out and hailed a cab. Danny watched her, then grinned and followed to catch his own ride home.