Spoilers: Happens after 2x24, spoilers up to 3x01
A/N: for juana_a.
This is probably not happening, and he is probably still in the hospital, doped up to his eyeballs with morphine or whatever it is they give people who had their chests blown open and their insides tied up with shoelaces. This would explain the weird shit that's going on, and there's a lot of weird shit going on.
(And yes, thank you very much, he does have a wider range of vocabulary available, for describing both surreal and insane, but he likes falling back on the good ol' cliches, if you it's all the same to you.)
Of course, the main problem with the morphine theory, is that it all had started in the hospital, with a pressure on his fingers, and words whispered close to his skin, in a voice that could be Mac's, if Mac ever sounded tender.
No, weird shit, did he mention that?
It's a bad idea, and she has a long and proud history of bad ideas, but usually she knows when to back off and run for the hills. Ignoring the instincts only leads to having to cut your restraints with razors, and... And she was not going to think about it. The obligatory therapist says she should think, and talk, about this, but to hell with it.
And when, of all people, Mac says something along those lines, about getting it off her shoulders, she doesn't know if it's the right moment to laugh or punch him, because when Mac Taylor lectures you on avoidance, you know the world has finally gone insane.
And maybe the fact that the world has gone insane makes it alright, makes this whole thing a good idea.
It feels like a good idea, no, it feels better than that, fingers on her skin finally easing away the tension she had no idea was still there, thumbs smoothing down the tendons coiled like springs.
She doesn't care if it was a good idea, or a very bad one. If anything, she can always say, half-truthfully, that it wasn't hers.
He took to coming to the hospital every second day, with a coffee cup and a newspaper. He sits next to Don's bed and reads, and sometime he reads out loud, when it's late at night and he is almost certain no one will come in and catch him at it.
Stella, especially, as she is here almost as often as he is. She would make fun of him for days to come; not that she usually doesn't, but he's reluctant about giving her new material. She has plenty of her own, the classics: about insomnia, and workaholism, and obsessions, and his ties (which he isn't even wearing anymore, not that it stops her), and some new repertoire, especially since she had caught him on calling Flack 'Don'.
He's still not sure how this happened. Maybe it's a side effect of holding someone's life in your hands, of the warm blood slipping through your fingers. You don't get more intimate than that.
And maybe that's why he keeps on coming back to the hospital, even after Don is awake and sitting up, and conscious through the majority of daytime. He doesn't bring the newspaper anymore, but he talks about the cases, and pretends to need Don's insight, and thankfully Don lets him keep up the lie.
"What's up with Mac?" Flack asks her one day, and she just looks at him for a long while, trying to place the question and fit it with the billion things that are usually up with Mac, and are usually wrong with Mac. She has a list, somewhere. And then, Flack's expression tips her off, the wide eyes, and the flush, and the damn hopeful look, and she laughs, warm and long, and God, she hadn't laughed like that in a long time.
"I don't know," she says, still smiling, wide and open. "What's up with Mac, Don?"
She smiles all the way back to the lab, and stops only when it starts to hurt around the edges.
He picks Don up on the day he's released from the hospital. They don't talk on the way to Don's apartment, as Mac maneuvers the SUV through the streets and is damn tempted to put up the light and siren, to speed the ride up.
Don's hands are pale against the dark interior of the car, his fingers tapping against the gloves box, a steady rhythm that in no way should sound like a heartbeat.
"Could you stop that?" he asks finally, and Don's fingers still, and he slowly draws his hand back.
Mac wants to tell him not to apologise, but he doesn't, just keeps his eyes on the road.
Danny once said that Mac never knows what he damn wants.
Don had barely caught that, then, as it was muttered under Danny's breath, and understood it even less. But now, watching Mac grip the steering wheel just a bit too hard, he thinks he gets it. Or really doesn't, but hey, he never could stop himself from doing the stupid shit.
"Will you be fine with getting to your place?" Mac asks after pulling over by Don's building.
He shrugs. "Sure. I'm fine," he says, and just as expected, it's enough to make Mac grimace and turn the engine off, and wordlessly get out of the car, waiting for Don. It's low, yes, but playing on the guilt complex always works, and he really, really would prefer not to get shot in the car parked on the street.
He doesn't really see any outcome of this that wouldn't end up with him getting shot, but he's gonna try anyway. Stupid shit, told you.
It's like watching a train wreck, she thinks. You see the collision track, and know the outcome, know that it's gonna end in a disaster, but can't move, can't do anything to stop it.
And with some morbid curiosity, she doesn't think she wants to stop it. When Mac asks if she wants to go with him to pick up Flack from the hospital, she says that she has a hot lead on the case, and that she'll join them when she can, if she can.
It's a sure sign of how fast the train is going, that Mac doesn't even call her bluff.
Surprisingly, he doesn't get himself killed.
It's a near thing, because he's pretty sure he shouldn't have pushed Mac against the door quite so hard, as he feels his chest aching, and for a second, wonders if he had pulled his stitches.
But the only blood is what he tastes on his tongue, and he's not really sure whose lips are bruised. He wonders, absently, if it's really happening, but it must be, as there's no way in hell he could imagine the sound Mac makes when Don runs his fingers up along the side of his neck.
Really, for someone who got his chest blown open, it's not the worst way to end up.
The door is right behind him. He knows, because he can feel it against his back, the doorknob pressed against him in a decidedly uncomfortable way. It shouldn't take too much effort, to reach and open them, stumble to the corridor, and walk away, no matter how his legs are shaking.
He places his hands on Don's chest, probably to push him away gently, but somehow his fingers end up tangled in Don's shirt, and when Don's tongue trails down his neck he just throws his head back with a soft thud against the door.
"You'll pull your stitches," he tries when he thinks he can keep his voice fairly even.
"Good thing you'll be here to sort me out, then," Don says, and it sounds morbid and suggestive at the same time, and the entire thing is just way to insane to even try.
Which just means he will try, of course.
The moment Flack opens the doors, she knows she should turn around, march back to the lab, drink some coffee, and start on the second shift, trying to forget this.
"Look at you, all standing up," she says instead, and doesn't move.
Flack smiles, and steps aside. "For my next trick, I'll astonish you with making coffee, all by myself."
"Quite probably. Your coffee is astonishingly terrible."
"I'm wounded," he offers, hand on his heart, and she throws him a look. Too soon, she wants to say, but bites her tongue.
A jacket is thrown over the chair, and she recognizes it instantly, doesn't need to look at the pin, even. She sits down, as far from the offending chair as possible, and starts talking about the case she closed, as Flack makes the coffee.
"He's asleep," he says quietly, placing the cup in front of her, and she stops mid-sentence. She should pretend she doesn't understand, really. For all their sakes.
"Really? So that's what it takes to get Mac Taylor to sleep through the night. Man, I should have tried it years ago," she smiles, and takes the sip of her coffee. It does taste awful. And somehow, all the sugar she added doesn't make up for the bitter taste in her mouth.
He thought the morning would be awkward, but it's even more so with the three of them.
Stella turns the coffee cup around, the liquid spinning and swirling, and he instinctively starts to tell her to stop before she spills it, but then just changes it into a good morning. A rather awkward good morning, but still.
"Fancy meeting you here, Mac," she says, and there's something about her tone, it's too light, too cheerful, and he takes a step towards her, hand extended hesitantly, and she shakes her head, standing up. "I should go. Thanks for the coffee, Don."
"Stella," Mac says, and it comes out as a sigh, as it often does, but there's no exasperation this time, just a plea. "Stay."
"I have a case," she lies, and damn, she's failing at it even more than usual.
"No, you don't," Don mutters, and his arm encircles her waist, stopping her from pulling away. "Just stay."
Her eyes meet Mac's, and he nods at her. He shouldn't, and they shouldn't, but for the moment, he really doesn't care.
"Fine," she says, and something softens in her face, the curl of her mouth is not as tight, doesn't look pained anymore. "But Mac makes the next coffee round."
They don't get around to more coffee, but he doesn't exactly complain. He can taste it, anyway, on Stella's lips, and it tastes much better that way.
She looks dazed, her eyes clouding the moment Mac's fingers touched her skin, and he knows exactly how it feels, the calloused fingertips, working away the tension. Her hair tickle his nose, as she leans against him, her back against his chest, so close that she seems to melt into him, and when Mac touches her hip, it feels as if he was touching Don as well.
Stella moans impatiently, and Don laughs against her hair, surprised at Mac's surprise when she sneaks her hand inside his pants, her hips moving in circles, brushing against Don in a way that draws a moan from him as well.
"Bedroom," Mac mutters, and his voice is strained enough to elicit a smile from Don, and a laugh from Stella.
"Somehow, it seems just like work," Stella mutters, speaking for Don as well, and he hides his grin behind her. Somehow, he doubts this voice would be very effective at a crime scene.
Then their smiles disappear, almost at the same moment, as the sobering thought hits them. The consequences, and would it be too much.
Mac just pulls at Stella's hand. "It's too late, anyway," he says quietly, and fuck, Flack thinks, it is.
In the evening, Mac makes the promised coffee, and fills a flask for himself, saying he'll drink his on the way to the lab. It's her cue, as well, and she reaches for her coat.
She doesn't kiss Flack goodbye, just hugs him tentatively, and touches Mac's shoulder before she gets into her car.
She can see the final station, and even though they had avoided the disaster, they won't meet like this again, she knows that in her bones.
Two weeks later, they get a new ME, and she smiles and welcomes Peyton back, and ignores the small smile in the corner of Mac's mouth.
Two months later, Flack comes back, and she hugs him, and doesn't say anything when she catches him throwing cards with phone numbers away.
Mac doesn't lecture her on avoidance anymore.