Yes, after 12 years, I have finally finished this fic.
My apologies to anybody who started reading it back then.
Hopefully you'll think it was worth the wait.
Title: Breaking the Ice
Characters/Pairing: Flack, Stella Eventual Flack/Stella
Summary: Flack is in trouble, Stella looks out for him
Genre: Het, hurt/comfort, a little romance (hopefully!) on the side.
Notes: Started writing this mid-way through S3, so no spoilers past then.
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the CSI NY characters, I'm only borrowing them, and I promise to return them in minty fresh condition when I'm finished.
Previously on CSI NY – Don got hit on the head while on the job, Stella went with him to the hospital. When his doctor refused to let him leave unaccompanied, Stella offered to let him spend the night at her place.
Don stifled a groan as he pulled the t-shirt on over his head, knowing that if Stella thought he was in too much pain, she’d have him back in the hospital so fast his head would spin, again. In fairness though, the painkillers *were* having a positive effect on his aching head. Unfortunately, they were also making it very difficult to concentrate on what he was doing. He’d stood there with the t-shirt half on and half off for a full minute, trying to remember whether he was getting dressed or undressed.
Finally, Don managed to get fully changed into the sweatpants and t-shirt that Danny had retrieved from his locker. He’d been intending on lifting a few weights after his shift, but right now he felt barely able to lift up the bar of soap on Stella’s sink. Sniffing at the floral smell, Don wrinkled his nose. Man, Messer would have a field day if he got a whiff of him wearing this. But then again, the doc had signed him off work for at least forty-eight hours, so any scent would have faded by then. Sighing, Don made a lather and dabbed halfheartedly at a few flecks of blood which had been missed when the nurse had cleaned him up.
He managed to make some semblance of brushing his teeth with the spare toothbrush Stella had produced. He drew the line at flossing though, and as for shaving, forget it. He eyed the disposable razor that Stella had left for him along with the toothbrush before deciding that it could stay in its wrapper. The way he was feeling, he’d likely end up slashing his throat, and God knows Stella had spent enough time cleaning up blood in her bathroom for one lifetime. Maybe in the morning, if his hands, not to mention the rest of him, were feeling a bit steadier, he’d give it a go.
Making his way back out to the living room, Don saw Stella making up a bed on the couch.
“I’m afraid it’s not very comfortable to sleep on,” said Stella, plumping up the cushions that were going to act as pillows for the night. “I wanted to get a proper pull-out bed, but there just wasn’t room.”
“It’ll be fine,” said Don, unable to stop a yawn from escaping. “The way I’m doped up, I could sleep on a bed of nails!” He sat down on the couch, a little heavier than he’d intended. Stretching out, he didn’t protest as Stella tucked a blanket around him.
“I’ll check on you in a few hours,” said Stella.
“You don’t have to,” said Don, “I’ll be fine.”
“Concussion, remember? Somebody has to make sure you haven’t slipped into a coma.”
Don nodded slowly, closing his eyes. He opened them again when he felt Stella pat him lightly on the arm.
Catching her hand before she took it away, Don squeezed it gently. “Thanks Stella, I really…really appreciate what you’re doing. Couldn’t stand being cooped up in hospital again.”
“See if you appreciate it when I’m shaking you awake for the third or fourth time,” said Stella, smiling. “But you’re welcome. Now sleep. You’ll feel better in the morning.”
He was asleep before she even left the room.
Stella reached blindly for her phone, wondering who was calling her at this ungodly hour. It took her a few seconds to realize that it was the alarm on her phone going off, rather than the ring tone. For a few more seconds, she stared bleary eyed at the phone display, wondering why on earth she’d set the alarm for the middle of the night, and then it clicked, “Flack!”
Flinging back the bedclothes, Stella gasped as a wave of cold air hit her. She groped beside her bed for the sweater she’d removed earlier, and quickly pulled it over her head. “It shouldn’t be this cold,” she told herself, as she made her way out into the hall. She’d noticed the last time she’d checked on Don that the temperature was cooler than she’d expected, so she’d turned up the heating slightly, not wanting him to get a chill on top of his injuries. But now she cursed under her breath as she looked at the temperature gauge. All winter the heating system had been giving trouble. The building super had promised it would be fixed before the next cold spell, but clearly hadn’t lived up to his word.
Stella carefully made her way to the couch and crouched down beside her guest.
“Don?” she said gently. “Wake up.”
He mumbled something in his sleep and clutched the blanket closer around him.
“Don.” Stella reached out and shook him gently. To her consternation, she noticed that he was shivering under her hand. Finally, his eyes opened, and he stared blearily at her.
“Do you know who you are? Do you know where you are?”
“Flack, Detective Don Flack.” Don mumbled. He blinked a few times before focusing on her, a look of confusion on his face. “Stella? What…” His face cleared as he remembered where he was. “Think I’m at the North Pole,” he muttered.
“Not quite,” said Stella, a wry smile on her face. “I’m afraid the heating hasn’t kicked in properly.”
“Mmm, okay,” said Don. “See you in a few hours then…” His teeth were chattering even as he tried to burrow back under the blanket.
Stella made a split-second decision and shook him again. “Don don’t go back to sleep. You need to get up.”
“You kicking me out already?” Don’s voice was muffled.
“No. I’m bringing you into the bedroom.”
This got a reaction and Don emerged from the blanket and looked at her in some confusion.
“This room is only going to get colder,” said Stella, almost blushing under the intensity of Don’s gaze. “The bedroom is smaller and should keep the heat for longer. If we’re both under the blankets together, we’ll keep each other warm…that’s all.” She stood and held out her hand to Don, “Well? Do you want to freeze for the rest of the night?”
Don wasn’t sure if he was still dreaming, or maybe hallucinating from the painkillers. But Stella was Stella, and he knew better than to argue with her, even if she was just a figment of his imagination. Don let Stella pull him to his feet. She grabbed the blanket he’d been using and wrapped it around him as she guided him towards the bedroom.
Stella pushed Don gently towards the right-hand side of the bed and she moved round to the left, where her phone lay on the bedside table. “I’ll set the alarm for eight,” she said as she picked up her phone. “You can have breakfast here and then I'll drop you back to your place before I head into work.”
Don nodded as he climbed into the bed.
“Oh, and Don, just to remind you,” said Stella. She took a pillow from the bed, “This is a pillow,” she said, putting it in the center of the bed. “These are not.” She gestured to herself.
Don groaned, “I don’t suppose you could hit me over the head again and make me forget about earlier.”
“Not a chance,” said Stella with a smile as she climbed into the bed. “But I can promise that I won’t say anything about it in the lab.” Reaching over, she turned out the light. “Of course, I can’t answer for Mac, you know how much of a blabbermouth he is!”
She heard Don laugh in the darkness.
“Night Stella,” he said, in a voice already tinged with sleep and it was only a matter of minutes later when Stella heard his breathing settle into the slow rhythms of sleep.
Stella didn’t think that she was going to find it quite so easy to sleep. It had been well over a year since Frankie, and this was the first time since then that she had shared a bed with man. Oh, she’d had a few dates and had even managed a few sexual encounters. But she’d made a point of never staying the night afterwards and she’d certainly never allowed any of them to come to her home.
But now here she was, trying to sleep, with Don an unwitting looming presence beside her. Stella shifted position in the bed, trying to get comfortable while also trying to avoid contact with him.
The additional body warmth was however a comfort in the cold, thought Stella, and she knew and trusted Don enough to know that he would never pose a threat to her. But the mere fact of another body, a male body, so close to her was reviving memories of the incident that she would rather forget. “It’s only for a few more hours,” Stella told herself. “As soon as it’s light out, I can get up. I’ll bring Don home, and everything will be back to normal. Stella tensed slightly as she felt Don moving beside her, but he was just shifting position and appeared to be still asleep. Glancing across the bed, there was just enough light coming in from outside for her to see that Don had curled up on his right-hand side and was now facing her. She remembered that he’d off-handedly mentioned one day that he couldn’t sleep on his left side anymore, even after all the stitches had been removed and his injuries had healed. Stella sighed. It was going to be a long few hours she thought, even as she yawned.
Don had been drifting in and out of sleep when he heard the sounds in the bed beside him. He’d been dreaming about trying to arrest a photo booth on an assault charge, only Mac had been telling him that the prints didn’t match. Don had been hoping Mac could make a case against the photocopier that had been bad mouthing him all day, and then he found himself staring at an unfamiliar wall, convinced that he could hear someone crying.
It took a few seconds for Don to realize that he was no longer dreaming. Wearily, he pushed himself up to a seated position and glanced across to where Stella lay beside him. Her eyes were closed, and her lips were moving wordlessly and even in the dim light, Don could see tears running down her cheeks. Don bit his lip, wondering what he should do. He knew that everybody said that you shouldn’t wake a sleepwalker.
And if somebody was having a nightmare then maybe it was a good thing to wake them from it before it got too intense. But just lying there crying in their sleep, Don wasn’t sure what the best course of action would be. But then this was Stella, and he couldn’t bear to see her upset like this, even if it was just a result of a bad dream.
“Stella?” Don called her name softly but got no reaction. He tried again, a little louder, “Stella, wake up, Stel.” Finally, he reached out and gently shook her by the shoulder. “Come on Stel, snap out of it.”
Stella felt a hand on her shoulder and a voice calling her name. Reaching out blindly, her hand brushed against something. Feeling the stubble under her hand, she reacted instinctively, pushing back against it, even as she tried to scramble backwards, away to safety.
“STELLA!” All Don could do was watch as Stella disappeared from his view and landed on the floor. A few seconds later, she stood up, an expression of confusion on her face as she looked at him in the half light.
“Stella, are you okay?”
“Don…I…I thought…” Relief flooded Stella’s body as she realized where she was and who was with her. Wordlessly she climbed back into the bed and lay down, pulling the blankets around her as she turned to face Don.
“What happened Stel? I tried to wake you, but you looked at me like you didn’t see me…” He lay back down on his side watching her carefully. “Some kind of bad dream?”
Stella nodded, “It’s stupid, I know. I mean, after all this time, I shouldn’t still be dreaming about it.” There was no need for her to elaborate as to what ‘it’ was.
“These things take as long as they take to get past. Leastways that’s what the department shrink told me.” Don grimaced at the thought of the mandatory counselling sessions he’d had to sit through before being allowed back at work. True, the guy had been kind of helpful and hadn’t pulled any bullshit psychoanalysis on him, but Don still had been happy to see the last of him.
“You were having nightmares about the blast? I thought you didn’t remember anything about it.”
“I didn’t…at least not at first,” said Don. “Then some stuff started coming back. But a lot of it, I wasn’t really sure how much of it was stuff I was actually remembering, and how much of it I was just sort of visualizing from what Mac had told me. You know, like when a witness gives you a statement and you try to get a picture in your head of how it went down. Anyway, Mac didn’t try to sugar coat it or nothing for me. Probably my own fault for wanting to know so much. Typical detective, can’t stop asking questions.” He smiled wryly. “The shrink said that the best thing to do was to talk about it…said that it sort of acted like when a doc had to drain an infection.” Don laughed mirthlessly, “Something else I’d had to deal with back then. But he said that the more of the poison that comes out of the body, or in this case the mind, the less would be left inside to do any damage.”
“And did it work?” Stella knew that she probably should have had more sessions with a counsellor after her ordeal, but after the visit to the department psychiatrist which had been mandatory following a fatal shooting, even an off duty one, she had been in no way inclined to open up to anyone else.
Don shrugged, “Mostly. Sort of. I mean, I don’t get them anywhere near as much as I did at first. When I was in the hospital, it felt like every night I was back there. Either stuck under debris, not able to move as I bleed out…” He hesitated a few seconds before continuing, “Or worse…I’m the one standing there, and it’s Mac or other people I care about and they’re covered in blood and I’m just standing there and not able to do a damned thing to help them.” His fist was clenched, and Stella reached out, gently stroking his arm until the muscles relaxed.
“Sounds like we’re both pretty messed up,” said Stella, sighing heavily.
“It gets better though,” said Don. “You just need to hang in there.” He lifted his hand and gently cupped Stella’s cheek. “And you know I’m always here for youze. Any time you need to talk or anything…just say the word.” He started to pull away, but Stella put her hand over his squeezing it gently as she lowered it to the mattress between them.
“Do you mind if I hold on for a bit,” she asked, in a voice so low that Don could hardly hear her.
“Hold on as long you need to,” said Don. “Anybody wants to hurt you in your dreams tonight, they’re gonna have to go through me first.” He watched until Stella closed her eyes and waited until he could feel the tension ease from her body before he too closed his eyes and let himself fall asleep.
Whether it was his kind words or the gentle touch of Don’s hand, Stella didn’t know, but it felt like only minutes later when she found herself lying on her back, looking up at the ceiling as the dawn started to light up the room. If she had had any dreams, they had clearly not been memorable. Even in her half-asleep state, Stella could tell from the amount of daylight that she probably had another thirty to forty minutes before her alarm would go off. Closing her eyes again, she rolled onto her side, snuggling against her pillows and reaching out one hand to pull any errant ones into her orbit.
The vibration of barely supressed laughter made her eyes shoot open and she lifted her head just enough to find herself looking into Don’s face.
“Just to let you know,” he said, his voice filled with amusement. “That’s not a pillow.”
Stella followed his gaze and blushed as she realised that her hand was inches away from a sexual harassment charge. She pulled it away as it had been burned.
“I didn’t say you had to move it!” Don rolled onto his side and propped himself up on one elbow. “You sleep okay?” His voice was tinged with concern.
“Yes,” said Stella, “Thank you.” She reached out and squeezed his hand. “How’s your head?”
“A little bit sore,” admitted Don, “But way better than it was last night. You know I really appreciate you taking me in like this.”
“Well, I’m just sorry the accommodations weren’t up to scratch.”
“Nothing wrong with them from where I’m standing.” Don clasped Stella’s hand in his.
“Yes, but you’re not standing, you’re lying down,” teased Stella. She somehow wasn’t surprised when he slowly brought her hand to his lips and kissed it. She also wasn’t displeased about it. But there was a time and a place for everything. Gently she freed her hand and cupped Don’s cheek. “Careful, I might think you’re still concussed, kissing my hand like that.”
“And what if I kissed it after the docs give me the all clear?”
“Maybe you should try it then and find out. But for now, let’s just share some body heat until the alarm goes off.” Stella wriggled a little closer to Don and he put his arm around her.
“Just one thing, Stel,” he said. “I think I heard the heating come on like an hour ago.”
“I know,” said Stella, smiling at him. “I know.”