“I love you,” are the first words out of his mouth when he sees Mac again: alive and almost well and sitting up in his hospital bed in a way that can only be described as cheerfully pained.
…And, okay, those weren’t meant to be the first words out of his mouth in any scenario. But Mac smiles as if he was expecting them, and so they’re almost alright and almost acceptable and almost understandable and almost-
Almost, “Shit! Sorry, I didn’t mean-“
“It’s alright, Don,” Mac’s voice is, miraculously, as calm as ever – it’s Almost (so (too) many things have been almost today) reassuring, “sit.”
…He hesitates for a moment anyway.
Obeys only reluctantly. Slowly lowers himself into the most uncomfortable chair besides the bed (he figures he deserves it), probably accompanied by an expression almost (that word again, he’s practically considering renaming today almostday) like a horse about to bolt.
“So,” Mac ignores it, looks at him like he wants to talk.
“…Erm,” a pity that he doesn’t want to – a pity that he’d rather run a marathon than say another word on whatever the subject may be, “I assume Hawkes told you everything about your, er, condition?”
“That you were shot in the back and almost went into cardiac arrest and will experience severe internal bleeding if you attempt any movement beyond a sedate stroll?”
“And that I’ll be perfectly fine as long as I avoid all implied running, walking an general bending for half a year,” Mac only arches an eyebrow, he’s always been able to see through those sort of tricks. Through any sort of tricks, really, the man has X-ray eyes that suspicious wives and college frat boys would kill for, “he mentioned it, yes.”
“The general bending might be a bit of an exaggeration, but-“ he mumbles - turns bright red as that eyebrow arches even higher, scurries on before he can actually explode, “I also assume that Danny told you about the case?”
“That the guy, who you shot, had his girlfriend waiting outside the store. That she heard the gun and hurried in and shot you in revenge the moment you turned your back on her, then went on to shoot the guy on the till and steal several pills-“
“That was what I gathered from Danny, with a few more curses thrown in and Lindsey holding him back from tackling me” …Mac’s eyebrow is impossibly high now. He wonders if he should call a doctor, ask if over the top eyebrow lifting is likely to set off any further cardiac arrests, “Yes, again.”
…It’s deeply unsettling, at the very least, “interesting, don’t you think?”
“We caught her, by the way,” Deeply unsettling – in a way that makes him want to pace around the room and bounce on the balls of his feet and blurt more secrets into the air without properly thinking through, “The perp, the one who shot you… Actually caught her, despite the fact that she shot you. We didn’t-“
“-Kill her, not like last time one of ours was-“
…He’s forced to pause, for a long moment with the breath almost (that word again, he thought he was rid of it) choking in his lungs. Mac’s eyes remain on him the whole time, his eyebrow remains thoughtfully arched.
Pointedly arched, he half thinks that a blade right in his heart would feel better, “Flack-“
“Not like last time,” much better – as everything falls out in a rush, the words tumbling over and over each other until he can half feel his tongue tangling, “not like when Jess… Not like when I killed Simon Kane. Shot him point blank, right in the head. I knew, still know, that it was the wrong thing to do, but- But I didn’t do it this time and-“
…That was practically a bark.
He shuts up – hangs his head, closes his eyes, swallows down the bile and waits for Mac’s verdict as quietly as he can.
“I knew that” …And he wasn’t expecting that, but he’ll take it – he might throw up in the middle of taking it but at least it doesn’t look like he’ll die or be carted off to prison, “Have known that for at least the past three years, in fact. But, as I said to your imaginary self, you’re a good man and a good cop and didn’t deserve to be pulled in for it.”
He might just end up almost gawping, actually.
…No, no, scratch that: he will end up gawping. At great length. With so much enthusiasm that he practically deserves a medal.
“M-my imaginary self?”
“It’s complicated,” a small smile graces Mac’s face, doesn’t lower the eyebrow and so doesn’t ease his gawp, “and we have bigger matters to focus upon, I’m sure you agree.”
…Nope, doesn’t ease the gawp at all, actually, almost makes it worse, “what-?”
“Your imaginary self also told me that you never told Angell you loved her before she died,” far worse – until it’s practically become the largest gawp in the city (if not the state, country and possibly world) and something to be gawped at itself, “was that true?”
Mac patiently, always patiently, waits through his stuttering with expectant expression still intact.
Still firmly intact.
So firmly intact that it isn’t even rocked by another one of those small smiles, isn’t even ruffled as Mac nods slowly like he’s pleased, “neither of us have ever been very good at expressing our emotions. It’s an unfortunately shared fatal flaw.”
“Yeah,” he has to lick his lips before he manages more, “unfortunate. Did you… Ever tell Claire you loved her before she, uh, you know?”
“Not as often as I should’ve.”
Mac watches him as he licks his lips again – quietly, calmly. Both expectant expression and eyebrow merrily intact, “she had an imaginary form too, you know.”
“Yet another thing to expand on in the future,” merrily and firmly, a potent mix that still has him reeling – about to tumble off the chair and sprawl over the ground and prove an obstruction to the nurses when they inevitably come in “…I’m only mentioning it now because I’ve figured out that only the people I deeply care about had imaginary forms.”
They might have to give him another bed, actually. Cart his unconscious form to rest away from this sudden insanity for a few days.
“And also because I told her that I’d found somebody else.”
“Did-“ A few months, maybe. A few years, quite possibly. His brain currently feels so hot that he might never recover from this stupidly seething insanity “…Oh, erm, did you now?”
“She told me that she approved” …Never, “and also that I should be happy. Or, at least, as happy as I actually can be.”
There’s a long moment of silence.
“O-o-oh, we-well that’s-“
Before Mac reaches out. Rests a warm, almost soothing (actually trying to soothe), hand over his own, “I love you too, Don.”
The slow stroke of Mac’s thumb is also warm, also almost soothing (also actually trying to soothe). It practically gets him back into his seat, does actually ease him from a full blown panic attack before he can make a complete and utter fool out of himself, “what you said, blurted, when you came in. That’s my answer: I love you too.”
…Actually allows him to simply stare, eyes far too wide but everything else absolutely fine.
Mac keeps stroking, “it’s odd how almost dying makes things much clearer to you.”
“I-“ he can only draw his hand away, cover his face and laugh - loud, shaky, possibly a step away from wet as he senses Mac patiently smiling (again (Always)) by his side, “I’m not sure what to do about this. I love you, I know that, but-“
“I know,” Mac offers, still smiling.
“…I’ve never even been with a man before,” he still has to confess, in a voice so small that even the cockroaches would have trouble hearing it, “and I don’t know if our potential relationship, God, would be breaking any ancient rules that we could both get kicked out for. And we’re both a lot screwed up, no offence, and what if you get shot again and I love you and-“
And Mac’s hand covers his again.
Slowly draws it away from his face – down to the bed, almost resting over his thigh, “we’ll work it out, if you’re willing.”
…They stare at each other for a long moment.
“I love you,” he replies, almost experimentally.
“We’ll work it out,” Mac repeats in turn, entirely firm.
They stare at each other for another long moment. A hopeful one this time: with his gut turning oddly and his veins fizzing strangely and a frankly bizarre feeling in his chest (like he’s about to burst into song and dance and a thousand other humiliating things unfit for any public space).
“…Can I kiss you?” Comes out of his mouth, almost unbidden.
And Mac’s smile, Mac’s proper smile that could set the clouds alight and the birds into chorus, is answer enough, “no bending for at least half a year. Weren’t you listening, Don?”
“Yeah, but I’m still sure that that’s an exaggeration,” he can only beam in reply, and lean in to kiss the man so quickly that he almost brains himself on the IV.
…That’s love, after all. And it’s well worth a headache as Mac smiles into his mouth and draws him down.