Summary: Detective Josephine Danville needed to take a step back from the man she didn't recognize anymore. She didn't believe that reconnection was at all possible, but was it? JAC.
Categories: CSI: NY - Ship Ahoy! > CSI: NY Other Het Pairings Characters: Mac Taylor, Other
Genres: Angst, Drama
Warnings: Adult themes, Non-consensual
Chapters: 13 Completed: Yes
Word count: 16942 Read: 9357
Published: 14 Mar 2016 Updated: 16 May 2016
1. Chapter 1 by CSI Ballistics
2. Chapter 2 by CSI Ballistics
3. Chapter 3 by CSI Ballistics
4. Chapter 4 by CSI Ballistics
5. Chapter 5 by CSI Ballistics
6. Chapter 6 by CSI Ballistics
7. Chapter 7 by CSI Ballistics
8. Chapter 8 by CSI Ballistics
9. Chapter 9 by CSI Ballistics
10. Chapter 10 by CSI Ballistics
11. Chapter 11 by CSI Ballistics
12. Chapter 12 by CSI Ballistics
13. Chapter 13 by CSI Ballistics
As the shabby door to the small room fell shut and she was finally left alone, Jo released her breath. The harsh gaze that had tainted the brunette's face did not soften for one second, though, as she sank down on the old, dusty couch and eyed the messy room: the shreds of dirty aluminum foil and used needles, smoked cigarettes (mostly joints) and half-empty bottles of several types of hard liquor, of which not a single one was unopened.
She took in a sharp breath through her nostrils and ripped her gaze away from the scene, leaned her head back and allowed her tired, unusually listless eyes to fall shut if only for one brief moment, Jo's other senses heightened for now. She was left alone rarely, and she suspected the fact that they had begun, lately, to give her more such moments alone now, meant that she had somehow proven to be trustworthy enough to those she was undercover with -- and that was essentially a good sign for her investigation.
To the non-perceptive onlooker, Josephine Danville seemed rested and even at ease, but to anyone who looked more closely, to people who knew her, it was clear that she was not at all at ease. The discomfort was visible in her tight, taut expression, the way she clenched her jaw together prepared to snap if needed, which she had to do to survive in this kind of climate. One moment with her guard down now, and it could be the end.
She had known that this would be a hard job, known not to underestimate just how tough it would be. It wasn't that she regretted her choice per se, to volunteer for this, but she thought of her children very often, and that made it harder. "Sanchez is off to score some more from a local dealer. I can tell he doesn't have enough faith in me to let me come yet," Jo spoke in a low tone before she released the small headset that put her in touch with the lab and dropped her hand. She shook her head slightly to let her long hair fall over her ear again so that the device was no longer noticeable.
This opportunity, or so she had seen it at first, had come only two days into Ellie's summer holidays. It had been Mac's suggestion for someone to go undercover hours after the former FBI employee had dropped her adopted daughter at JFK to go to soccer camp with some girl friends for the next five weeks. Ellie would stay with her brother and his fiancée for the rest of the holidays, in Virginia. The decision for one of his own team to go undercover had been Mac's only solution for a breakthrough in a case that had been on the table for a few weeks without any progress. The discovery of a fourth victim had pushed him to take this risk.
A few girls between twenty and twenty-seven had been found, raped and strangled, not in that order per se, in Hell's Kitchen, about two months prior to the day Jo slipped undercover. Whereas there wasn't any proof at all that they had been killed by one person, there were enough similarities for all of them to assume it. Their only lead had been a long, grey hair on the sleeve of one girl's vest, and that hair had been tied to a man convicted for drug crimes in 2004 and released merely eight months prior to the first victim's death. Alejandro Lizarro had apparently disappeared, though, and all they had on him was information on the drug cartel he had been associated with back then and suspicions that he would, very likely, be back in their circles.
Jo had stated that a trained professional was the best option, and she had suggested she go herself. She argued her case very and noted that she had been the first investigator on the case and was as familiar as could be with the evidence, yet she hadn't been there when the felon was first convicted in 2004, which kept the detective's true identity unknown to the drug cartel.
Mac and the rest of the team had countered that she had a family, had children, and that she might not be the logical choice to go, but she had stated that it was what she wanted to do for the case, that she would be okay and that she had just wanted to get down and dirty -- and had for a while. That was not essentially untrue, but such feelings had grown since Mac had returned to work. There was a strange distance between both of them now that she had desperately tried to close, but she hadn't managed to do so.
She had felt the need to get away from the lab for a while. After all, desk duty was not why she had joined the Feds back then to begin with either. If things ended badly, she had to, quite grudgingly, admit that both Tyler and Ellie were old enough to take care of themselves if needed. Nevertheless, she wasn't that far over the hill yet that age caused her more disadvantages than 'advantages' -- or brought her any more danger than she would be in normally, given the position she was in. Instead, Jo's age made her more experienced in life, with people in particular, which was a plus when undercover.
Of course, it was impossible not to be a part of any of the things that happened in a tenement of squatters, at least without raised suspicions -- or worse -- so she had smoked and continued to smoke on a daily basis, when surrounded by the people she needed to stay in favor with. Anyone younger might have succumbed under the urges and pressures. All day, she was confronted with, as well as surrounded by, men who tried to get it on with her, who didn't give up on a chance at what they saw as a 'free pussy', and it was a challenge to refuse their advances but stay in favor, to say no yet remain 'vulnerable' still. Jo Danville could deal -- for now.
"Mac," she acknowledged, voice low so that no one who was, by happenstance, nearby could hear Jo's conversation as she lay on top of one of the intermodal cargo containers, ready to ship off from the harbor. It was located at the end of the aisle, that housed all of the freight ready for transportation, as well as several warehouses, both used and unused. Sanchez, one of Lizarro's men, and his crew, which now included Jo, had made a 'home' for themselves in one of them.
Detective Danville had discovered that it was hard to keep in touch with the lab in a discreet manner, especially at first when they hadn't trusted her at all, and they had followed every move that she dared to make. She and Mac filled each other in at night, mostly, when she saw her chance to be 'at peace', insofar possible. Jo's 'free moments' were incredibly sparse the first few days that she had been undercover, but now, they let her go for a short walk, most evenings, as long as she didn't take longer than half an hour w22;w22; the time Sanchez had set for her. Of course, she hadn't met the top men of the cartel yet. She doubted she ever would.
"I heard Sanchez and Hernando talk earlier," Jo informed Mac, in the same hushed tones. "I bet I wasn't supposed to. I do believe now that they plan a transfer with the Japanese drug cartel, as you had already predicted. Ha Ming's name was dropped in the conversation. I'm relatively certain that he's pretty high up, from what I heard."
She could nearly hear him nod at his end of the line as silence dictated their 'conversation'. When Jo couldn't take the awkwardness anymore, when she opened her mouth to say good night to Mac and turn the headset off for now, Mac's voice sounded once more. "Jo, how are things for you now?"
She was a tad shocked at first, when the question came, and it took her a minute to tell herself he really must have meant for her to hear and answer. "I'm all right," she said, at long last. "I'm still hopeful. If I can stay in Sanchez' favor, maybe I can warm up to Lizarro and force a breakthrough... as well as ensure his cartel and all of his comrades go right down with him. If they plan a transfer and I can pass on the right information in the right time frame, I can take more than one cartel down. From what I garnered, Ha Ming wants it to happen really fast if they go through with all this."
"Okay," Mac stated. He paused. "That's not an answer, though."
Jo Danville bit her lip. Why didn't he let it go? Why did he hold her back and point at her lack of a personal, or more personal, answer? If Mac had asked the same question two months ago or longer, she would have been likelier to be open with him, to tell him her thoughts and feelings, whereas now, she felt as if a strange, invisible force held her back. Then again, if this situation had arisen all but two months earlier, she very likely wouldn't have opted to go on the mission herself, or felt like she needed to just take a break from the lab w22;w22; a break from him.
"I'm fine, Mac. I miss the world I live in, but the thought that I can put an end to all of this helps me," she spoke and released a bit of the truth.
When he spoke next, it was softly, rather than harsh like it had been since his incident. "You're so strong, Jo. If there's anyone who can put this to an end, it is you," he said. "What do you miss most if you could have your pick?"
Jo frowned in thought and slumped back slightly, against hard and cold metal. She stared off in the dark, starry night and, unconsciously, relaxed a bit as she thought of the things she loved and picked the things she thought to be worthy to mention to Mac, like she had before he got shot, before Christine. "Mhmm..." she thought. "You know, I miss late nights in my pajamas, curled up on the couch with a burger and a movie. There's not a lot of pajamas and movies in this hell hole here."
A small laugh resounded in response, but she heard the tension in Mac's laugh as well, and she could tell he was nearly afraid to laugh. "When all this is over and we've got the perps, I'll get you a ton of movies to watch and a fair bit of time off to watch them. Maybe I will throw in a bottle of scotch."
Jo was the one with the smile this time, as he remembered her love for good scotch after work. "To be fair..." she began. "I don't reckon that I will have scotch or any other alcoholic drinks for a long time after this is over with. Most everyone's wasted here every second of every day, and I live between half-emptied bottles strewn across the floor and the shabby furniture that they've got."
Silence fell between them again then, and Jo thought that it was really nice to be able to talk to Mac again that way. This time, there wasn't any awkwardness at all. That's when all of a sudden she heard a harsh voice scream at the top of its lungs, on her side, "VALERIE?! Where the fuck are you?!"
"Shit," she mouthed as she realized she must have lost any and all idea of time as she and Mac talked. She should have already been back. "Shit," she said as she sat up and broke her connection with Mac. She knew that if she didn't get a move on, and fast, that it could be the end of the operation. She felt her heart race as she thought about the consequences.
Jo Danville breathed in through her nose sharply as she turned her head to face, once again, the man she knew as Sanchez, cheek burning from where he had just hit her for the fourth time. She clenched her jaw to try to keep resisting the urge to fight back. She knew that if she did, she would blow her cover entirely, and then their entire operation would have been futile. It was not in her nature to just let things happen that way, though.
You need to know your place, bitch," Sanchez spat. "If I tell you you gotta be back in time, don't try to walk in even a second later. You having your evening walks is a privilege that can be revoked any time, understood?"
The brunette didn't even blink when she responded. "Understood."
A small nod in the direction of a hallway of sorts, after one brief glance at Jo's face w22;w22; no words spoken w22;w22; indicated that Jo, or 'Valerie' as he knew her, was free to go. That was, free to go to her room w22;w22; one she shared with this blonde girl called Shelly. Shelly had, apparently, been with them forever, receiving coke on a daily basis, in exchange for what Jo had discovered were sexual services.
Jo closed the door and fell back against it slightly, letting her gaze fall upon the girl that lay curled up on top of the bunk bed.
Despite the layers upon layers of makeup on her face, partially faded, Jo had never thought her to be any older than in her early twenties. While she would have preferred to have her own room, Shelly was high at least half the time and thus wasn't much of a threat. It did pain her to see such a young girl that way, especially since Jo really thought the girl could be so much... more. One time in the past two and a half weeks, when she had been less high and more talkative, she and Jo had had a nearly normal conversation. Shelly had confessed that she had wanted to be a doctor before she ran away from home because her stepfather abused her and her mother wouldn't believe her. Typical, sad and unoriginal story. She must have rolled into the business when she was about Ellie's age.
Pushing away from the door at last and walking ahead to the small bathroom, she closed and locked that door and halted at the cracked, rectangular mirror, letting her fingertips run over her sore cheekbone, which had begun to pulse and bruise already. She had been too cocky. She had taken far too much of her allowed freedom too soon. Damn it. This was probably a setback in the investigation. He hadn't discovered that she was a cop yet, though, which was good. It had been a last minute action, all but a half second just before Sanchez saw her, but if she hadn't swallowed the tiny earpiece and he had found it instead, it might have resulted in the end of her life on top of the end of the operation.
Sinking to her knees before the toilet, she closed her tired, aching eyes and prepared mentally to empty her stomach's contents. A deep sigh eschewed from Jo's mouth as she raised a hand and opened her mouth, sliding two fingers down her throat, tickling her very own gag reflex just long enough for her to taste bile, its acid burning her throat. Eyes tearing up as she emptied her stomach, she sat and heaved a few seconds after it stopped before she opened her eyes again. As she did, she noticed a small black device in contrast against the yellowish bile. Relieved, she reached for it and plucked it from the bowl, straightening up and moving towards the sink on wobbly legs to look for potential damage.
She let the cold tap water run for a few minutes, both to rinse the earbud off as well as possible and to calm herself as the cold liquid ran over and across her pale fingers, down into the drain. Watching it flow was as much of a Zen moment as she could have in this place right now. When she turned the water off, she held the earpiece up to eye it better. She didn't see any damage at the moment, even though she knew she had taken a risk swallowing it, for the acid of her own bile could have ruined it. Sanchez finding it had she not swallowed it, though, would have ruined more.
There was one way to know if it still worked. Aware that she must have frightened Mac earlier, with the abrupt end to their little talk, even if Jo knew he was aware things like this could happen when one was undercover, she thought she should at least briefly let him know that she was safe.
Ripping a few thin slips of toilet paper off the roll, she gently dried the earpiece off and, with a sigh, lifted it up and slipped it back in her left ear. Soft buzzing, harsh scratching and white noise filled her head when she turned it back on, and it alarmed her. She couldn't handle the earpiece being damaged now. "Oh, no," she mouthed as she tried to think of ways to get back in touch with the lab, with Mac, to inform them of what was happening. Her mind was whirring at a top speed, as she tried to think of a good solution, when she heard a soft, familiar voice, albeit crackly.
"Mac," she released in a sigh of relief. "I've got to be careful. I've got to lay low now for a bit, but I will be in touch soon."
She had only just switched the receiver off when she heard a loud banging on the door, followed by an angry voice that seemed to address Jo specifically. She knew that there was no way that she could keep the next from happening w22;w22; not anymore. She would have to comply with a few of Sanchez' wishes to get back in his good graces again. The mere thought made her sick, but it was Jo's only option not to get caught.
This time when the undercover detective looked into the cracked mirror of the tiny bathroom next to Jo's own designated room, the bruise on her left cheek looked a bit darker and a lot more painful than it had, just enough time having passed for it to fully develop. The bags underneath her eyes were more pronounced as well, and she looked like she hadn't had a good night's sleep in weeks. This was not untrue, per se.
The laughter of the man she had had a one-on-one encounter with in the next-door room resounded as he undoubtedly bragged to his little friends about having gotten the 'older chick' to suck his dick. It made Jo's stomach turn. She couldn't exactly hear what he was saying, though. She eyed herself carefully in the mirror and saw that she was only a ghost of the person she had been before the undercover operation started. The fresh memory of the kinds of things she had had to do to stay in and not blow it, made it really impossible for her to stay there right now.
She knew that she was taking a risk, but she also knew that that risk was quite small. Sanchez or his pals wouldn't bother her anymore tonight. In fact, after he had emptied himself in her mouth, he had told her very literally that she could go as often as she pleased if he got that in return. It was the last 'that' she would ever do, though. She needed to leave this place for a few hours. Pushing off of the sink, she let her gaze fall upon a window that she could disappear through rather easily, if she wanted. So that is what she did.
Gently pushing the window down a bit but not entirely so that she could get back in later, Jo Danville set off into the unknown, sure not to return for the next few hours, no matter what happened. Her feet carried her to the harbor, the only place in this toxic neighborhood where she felt remotely like the person she truly was and not like the person Jo was pretending to be.
Resuming her spot right on top of the container that she had taken as her own for the past few nights, Josephine Danville lay back on the cold metal. The detective's mind swam. How the hell had she gotten into all this mess? She had been on top of things. She had followed the rules. She had hung with the gang in the beginning, had been invited to come to the squat four days later and had been allowed to smoke some joints with Sanchez and his friends that evening. She had been accepted as part of the gang the next week, so to speak. They had all predicted that it would take her longer, and it was odd that it hadn't, but beneficial, so she hadn't worried too much. She maybe should have.
She sighed, turning on the receiver end of the earpiece, only to listen to silence. Her sleeve fell back on its own far enough for her to be able to read her watch's dial when she raised her dominant hand. She noticed that it was after 11PM, already. While she had seen him still at the lab past that hour more than once, she realized the Lieutenant had better things to do now with his time than listen to her. In emergencies, of course, she could switch to another receiver with a tiny button within the headset and call for back-up, but overall, Mac was her only contact at the lab. "I wish you were awake," she whispered to herself more than anything. She assumed that he was having a night with Christine, and he deserved the down time for all the hard work he did and the many years of long hours he had wasted at the lab. Christine had been the Lieutenant's reason to leave earlier the past few weeks, even if he did still live at the job more so than anyone else she knew.
When she heard the voice, she felt a bit taken aback, tensing up for a few seconds before relaxing. She hadn't expected him to still be listening for her right then, and it shocked her a bit that he was after all. Lots of thoughts and questions were going through her mind, but she didn't let him know. Mac seemed to feel that something wasn't entirely right, though. Maybe he had heard that small crack in her voice that she had heard herself as well.
"What's going on?"
"I just didn't expect you to still be awake, I reckon," Jo responded slowly, telling herself that that was not a lie, per se.
"Jo... I'm no fool."
Just that small comment from him on the other end w22;w22; just that w22;w22; created a flare of warmth, of familiarity, of home, within her, despite the fact that she had felt icy cold ever since she had opened the door to Sanchez' face and knew what she had to do. Maybe even before that moment, when he had called the name of the woman he knew her as and she knew that she would have to pay for her cocky attitude. It was somehow nice to know that she couldn't fool Mac, that he still knew her well enough that he heard that something was up with her even across the distance, even after Christine w22;w22; or rather, during Christine, Jo Danville reminded herself. She felt a bit cold again, all of a sudden. It was so hard not to be as open as she once was, to just be herself then. She was so far from whom she truly was, had pretended so much for so long. She wanted to be her again, if only for now. "I've had to go a lot further for the sake of the operation than I would have imagined," she admitted.
"What did you do?" Mac asked, and a sharp edge came to the Lieutenant's voice, his thoughts running wild with the possibilities.
She opened her mouth to say it, but she felt that she couldn't just tell him that she had given a blowjob to an 'associate' of the man they were investigating, someone who gave her the best shot at finding 'the target'. Lizarro hadn't shown up at the squat yet, though, and that was discouraging, especially since she hadn't even heard anyone speak of or about him. An acid taste filled her mouth all over again. Jo's non-answer was answer enough.
"Jo, it isn't worth that much. The operation ends now."
She should have known that he would answer that way. She shook her head, then spoke, "No, Mac. Then it won't have made a difference. I'm not ready to give up yet. I agree, though, that if I don't see or hear anything about Lizarro by, say, the end of this week, it will be time to give up. I just need to have tried all that I can."
Mac's response was a long pause on the other end of the line for a few seconds before a low voice sounded, "Okay… but if there's no more on Lizarro by Saturday, the operation ends."
Silence overtook them once again then, both seemingly lost in their own respective thoughts. Mac was the one who broke their silence, in a voice so soft and kind that she didn't remember when she had heard it that way last. It must certainly have been before Christine. "Are you all right, Jo?"
"I am now," Jo admitted. Hearing Mac's voice that way, the care that had somehow always characterized their friendship again evident, reassured her a great deal and gave her all the strength she needed. She felt herself long desperately for evenings with him at 'their' burger joint, talking about absolutely everything and nothing all at the same time. A mixture of intense feelings and emotions overtook her right then. She couldn't do these things with him anymore since he was with Christine. She wouldn't with anyone else's man. Their little evenings together had never, really, been more than close friendship shared, but there was no denying that their friendship had changed a lot since then. They had been two very responsible adults, who −− especially she −− had flirted a bit with their exchange.
It wasn't that she thought Mac Taylor not to be attractive, not at all. She had thought on several occasions maybe she felt more for him, but she hadn't been able to determine her feelings before it hadn't mattered anymore, before their entire relationship changed into this, something she didn't even really recognize anymore. Looking up at the sky, at the dark black mass overhead that was dotted with tiny, sparkly spots, she wished she could go back to that time before.
"Have you ever gone stargazing with someone you love, Mac?" Jo asked all of a sudden.
"Hm. No, I can't say that I have," Mac admitted from the receiver end, before small chuckles sounded. "I wonder where that question comes from. I have long given up on trying to keep up with your train of thought, though."
A small smile appeared upon Josephine Danville's lips as well. She was known for jumping from one subject to another, which was confusing for most people who didn't know her at first. "It came from looking at the sky right now," she said. "I am terrible at recognizing constellations, though. It is kind of sad."
Waiting patiently as she heard the sound of footsteps and several doors opening and closing, she wondered what exactly Mac Taylor was up to. She parted her full lips to ask when she heard the line crackle on the other end and she heard his voice again.
"So. You're looking up at the sky right now?"
"I am…" Jo responded in a slow, drawling tone.
"Do you see the three stars in an upward line?"
Frowning, Jo searched the sky for what he had described. She was just about to tell him that she couldn't find three stars in an upward line when her eyes fell upon exactly that. "I see them!" she announced, happily.
A small chuckle came from Mac's lips at her obvious enthusiasm, having found the three stars he had mentioned, which he was looking at as well, before he responded in a calm and teacher-like voice, "That is Orion's belt, an asterism in the constellation of Orion. It is one of those constellations that can always be seen all over the world, named after the hunter in Greek mythology."
Squinting at the stars that she had located earlier, Jo tried to see some kind of shape of a hunter or anything close to a figure, but despite the fact that she had quite the imagination, she couldn't see what he meant. "Is the reference symbolic, or is there really supposed to be the shape of a hunter in there?" Jo wondered aloud.
"If you really focus on it, you can see two bigger stars, above the belt, and two smaller ones below it. The one above the belt on the right is called Bellatrix…"
"Wait, like in Harry Potter?" Jo put in, laughing a bit as she tried to find the stars above and below the belt that he had told her about. She could see the belt he had called Orion's belt, but there were way more than two stars surrounding it, and none of them looked clearly bigger to her than the others. She didn't see a shape in them at all, never mind a human-like one.
Mac, having a fair idea of what was going on, stated after a few minutes, in the most sweet voice possible, "You don't see it, do you?"
"No, I don't…"
"I will show you, sometime, when the operation has been handled," Mac stated with certainty in his voice, "I promise I will show you."
She smiled at the starry sky a few seconds longer before realizing it was probably late already and time for her to return, even if she wasn't being closely watched. The smile disappeared, and it was as if Mac felt what was going on in Jo's head.
"Be careful, Jo."
"I will be," Jo whispered in a soft voice, before she reached up with a hand and turned the headpiece off, a frog in her throat. She couldn't say more.
When she got back, she was very surprised to hear Lizarro caught in conversation with his old pal, Sanchez, at the back of the squat.
Crouched, Jo carefully, inconspicuously eyed the interaction between the men, breath held at the pure exhilaration she felt in the moment, finally seeing a sign of Lizarro. She crouched slightly more at the side of the warehouse, both to not give her location away as well as to be able to hear them more clearly. She couldn't get any closer without the risk of being seen there, which was unfortunate but a fact.
"Papi says that the big transfer has to go down tomorrow. He's convinced that the longer we wait, the bigger a chance we have of getting caught. He's pretty sure that the cops aren't onto us yet, but he says they've been watching, so we've got to get that stuff as soon as possible, before they get too suspicious for us to go through with that shit," Lizarro sounded. "He said you can keep a bit to yourself in exchange for the blonde chick. He's wanted that pussy for a long time now."
From where she sat crouched in the bad light, only a few faraway street lights shining onto the pair, Jo saw that Sanchez' face looked somewhat shocked. Apparently, he had no problem using women as if they were some kind of chattel, like in the old days, but apparently an exchange that was not directly for his pleasure, was a step too far. She saw the way that he swallowed nervously before he responded in a slightly choked, thin voice, "If that's what he wants."
"It is, so be on time. Ha Ming wants to get away with his tribe as soon as the exchange has happened."
At that, Lizarro turned, looked left and right while feeling what she suspected to be his gun in his belt, so that he could shoot whomever might have appeared, before he bowed his head and made to leave. She was very tempted to follow him. Jo was certain that if she did, she would get more information she needed from wherever Lizarro was headed than from Sanchez' little squat. The detective wondered what role, exactly, the Mexican man played. Sanchez didn't call the shots, she could tell, but he seemed to be a key player nonetheless. Detective Danville assumed he was only a lowbie set up as a minor dealer and in the harbor area, to watch for influx of more load, but how he was related exactly to Lizarro, she couldn't rightly tell.
Then she made a quick and impulsive decision and made to move from her spot to follow Lizzaro. If the big transfer was to go down tomorrow, Sanchez wouldn't have time to worry about her not being there. After all, 'Papi' had asked for the blonde. It was quite a big risk she was taking that moment, she knew, but she had heard far more interesting things in just a bit of the conversation between Sanchez and Lizarro than she had during the whole three weeks before he had shown up. She had to do this.
If Mac knew the risk she was taking that night for the sake of the operation, she would be in so much trouble. It wasn't like her to take that kind of risk, but she just wanted to go home, whether she did admit it or not ── to herself as well as to anyone else.
Lizarro walked on at the same steady pace, and Jo began to wonder what his destination was after a few moments. It was going to be hard to keep up with him without being seen if he held that pace. At that stage, she doubted she would be able to find her way back to the squat if she lost him now. If he got in a car that he had parked far enough away, she was pretty screwed. It would mean the end of the operation. The insane luck she had had just now would have been used up by her thoughtless, impulsive decision. Fuck it. "Danville, you're so stupid..." Jo told herself in a whisper as she began to reconsider her decision.
Jo's internal panic was brought to an end as all of a sudden, Lizarro made a small turn to the right and stopped. They had apparently reached their destination.
She crouched by a stack of a few tinier containers, squinted in the darkness as she saw Lizarro turn and look at his surroundings, before nearly imperceptibly leaning against the building and slipping through what she assumed to be the entrance. The place didn't look particularly abandoned at all. Jo could swear it was still in use. They must have managed to create a place for themselves in a section of a building still-in-use, or they must have paid off some employees there to get away with it right under the state's nose. She had to tip off Mac, and as soon as possible... She had missed part of the conversation, though. She didn't know what place, what time, and if the whole team had to prepare so quickly to act, there was no time to be lost. That was the issue as well, though. They had to, yet they couldn't without further instruction.
First things first, she thought. She should try to reach the Lieutenant first. She raised a hand up to the earbud and waited a few seconds. "Mac?"
When no answer came, she slumped back against the tall container stack in defeat. She felt alone, more so than she ever remembered having felt before. She felt anxious with Mac's lack of response. She remembered her conversation with him from that night and the one before. Somehow, somewhere, not even twenty-four hours ago, he had given her the strength that she had needed to make the decisions she had made, to what she hoped to be the end of the operation. Their seemingly stupid, maybe childish, conversation about stars had made her see the man she had missed so much ── the man he had been with her before Christine became a part of his life in that way and the man she felt she could rely on at any time. As if the man she hadn't seen in him for so long had popped up again across the distance, while just talking to each other, reconnecting, but to what end?
"I'm here, Jo. What's going on?"
Josephine Danville couldn't help the small sigh of relief. She felt her heart rate calm slightly already. She felt safe despite her position, even if he was not anywhere near. "I caught Lizarro in conversation with Sanchez when I returned from my walk and followed him."
"They plan to transfer tomorrow. They have their suspicions that we are going to catch them soon if they don't get it through fast, unaware that I'm here."
"Damn. I'll set things up; I'll be in touch."
Jo, certain that Mac was occupied right then with setting things up with the Special Forces and with their own team, decided to crawl from her hidden spot to try to get closer. When Lizarro had opened the mostly concealed door, she thought that she had seen a large open space -- one that she was certain had to be some sort of hallway to the rest of the warehouse-like structure. They had very limited time to set things up and to learn as much as possible. Any information that she could still get to help them... She needed to try.
Sure, she had offered them some good information, but it needed to be clearer. 'Tomorrow', but at what time exactly? She cursed herself for not returning to the squat earlier. She cursed herself for not having caught Lizarro before tonight. It couldn't be possible that that had been the first time Lizarro had 'visited' since she became close with Sanchez and his group.
She slid closer still, foot by foot, carefully listening, carefully watching, to ensure that she wasn't catching anyone's unnecessary attention. The darkness provided quite a good cover for her, but altogether, it provided good cover for anyone who was keeping an eye on her as well. Jo Danville shook slightly; particularly her precarious position brought this upon her as she slid down near a parked vehicle on the left side of the building, where Lizarro had entered. Then she heard the sound of an engine not that far in the distance. Jo's breath caught in her throat when she heard it, and she looked for a better spot to hide, debating moving further back only to conclude that there was not only no time but rather too much risk for her to move from where she was. This would have to do. It had to.
She squinted, tried to look for the source of the engine sound while she stayed up, then waited, then ducked back down, until several seconds after the sound had gone and she began wondering what it had been and why it had stopped. Listening carefully, perking her ears, Jo was certain that she couldn't hear it anymore and that she could consider herself safe. She thought it would be okay to move now and made to rise up from her crouched position, to try to get into the building, when she heard footsteps, just before a voice sounded that didn't bode well.
"I already thought I had seen something," it announced, before its owner yanked her up by her arm hard, so roughly that she felt her shoulder nearly slide from the socket, his hand coming to her mouth to stop her from screaming if she chose to do so, the other locking her other arm against her waist. Screaming was the last that she would do, though. One man, she might just take on, but not more than just him. If she alerted the rest of Lizarro's friends, a group of men she knew didn't hesitate to rape and kill, she would get herself in only more trouble.
She kept perfectly still.
"I bet you're the bitch Sanchez already talked about, but he was oh so sure that you weren't a threat in the end. We'll see what Lizarro has to say about it."
Jo took a breath and did her best to gather all of her thoughts. She knew that if she let the guy take her inside, to Lizarro and whomever else was there, that it would be the end of her and the operation, all in one. Jumping up with all the strength she could muster and yanking at her one arm, she managed to free it, using it to slam her elbow back into her foe's stomach. The shock of Jo's actions made him release the detective enough for her to free herself and turn towards him, knocking him down with all her weight, hands at his shoulders and her knee on his torso as he toppled down with her on top of him.
Jo's first instinct right then was to get off her attacker and run for her life so that she could alert Mac that she was in trouble... but if she did that, the guy would run inside and tell Lizarro and his little friends, and then all of it would have been for nothing. The Ha Ming drug deal wouldn't go through, and they could forget all about that as well. She had to keep the man from telling. Of course, if he didn't return and report back to them, they would begin to wonder as well, but it might just buy them enough time... With that mash of thoughts running through her mind, she forced herself not to resort to her first instinct to run, and instead acted rashly, with little thought. She focused only on the result she wanted, balling a hand into a fist and slamming it into his face as hard as she could as he opened his mouth to yell -- the last she needed him to do now.
When he made to reach for his broken nose, screams muffled, she felt compelled to hit him again and again with all the strength she had, both of her hands pummeling his head until he stayed down, unmoving, the adrenaline slowly draining from her body, back to a certain, base-like, level. It was when the adrenaline finally dissipated that she felt how much her hands hurt. She praised her Tae Bo classes and Police Academy courses. Nonetheless, as she eyed her somewhat bloody, shaky hands, she was a bit taken aback at her own actions, a bit shocked.
Then she looked down at him more closely and saw that he was just a boy, maybe close to Ellie's age -- a druggie that they used, very likely. A pang of intense guilt filled her for a moment as she saw this, but it was followed by relief. If he had been an adult, she doubted she would have been able to take him on. She needed to make sure that he wouldn't be able to move and talk for a while, but that could wait at least a few minutes. First things first.
Hands still shaking, she reached for the tiny earbud. "Mac? Please, Mac." She cursed silently when she didn't hear any kind of response from his end of the line. She slumped as she tried to think of her next option.
"Jo? I am busy setting things--"
"There's no time. I got caught," she interrupted, "We'll have to change the plan."
Jo Danville cast her gaze upwards, towards the soft sounds of what she knew to be footfalls, and she saw dark figures take their positions on top of the next-door building, as well as between and on top of the cargo containers. She didn't know if they were inconspicuous enough. Jo had given Mac all the information she could about where she was and what she was seeing, circling the warehouse several times to check for potential exits. That way, Mac had been able to determine where exactly she was and which was the best course of action for the team and the Special Forces unit that he had called in on a whim's notice to overtake Lizarro and his friends, both there and where Sanchez and his group were. She waited for confirmation from Mac now that Sanchez had been taken in first, before they would go for Lizarro's gang. She had no idea how many of them there were. The risk had just been too great.
The detective suspected Mac was with the others, at Sanchez'. She felt a bit anxious, to hear from him. She didn't know what was going to happen. They had to go with the flow and just deal with things as they came up, as a consequence of her getting caught. Taking calming deep breaths to stop her mind from racing too fast and thus causing her to lose the focus she needed, she knew all she could do was wait patiently. How long had it been since he had told her that he had arrived at the scene? Minutes? Hours? She felt very unprotected all of a sudden at her knowledge that she was barely armed. She tightened her hold on the cold metal of the nine mil that she had grasped from the belt of the young man she had taken down earlier. Her hands still hurt from the contact with his firm jawline. She had four bullets, no more. If she needed more than those, there wouldn't be any.
"Jo? We've taken in the three guys you described and found the young girl."
A small sigh of relief escaped Jo's lips as she heard Mac's voice. Soon, she would see him. For one reason or another, she knew that she would feel a lot safer when he was there with her. It was of importance to everyone that they move as quickly and as efficiently altogether.
"Alright. I am by the south side, so I will wait here for you."
"Okay. Danny and some agents are taking these perps to the precinct. Stay there and do not move. Don and I are on the way right now. Are you armed? I should have brought you a Kevlar."
"I got a gun off of the guy I knocked down, but it has only a few bullets left."
"I brought a spare with me, in case. I will hand it to you when I see you."
Jo's intestines became a little less tight as she heard this. The gun in her hand didn't really feel like it belonged there. It was weird that you could get attached to a weapon. She suspected that it was psychological and it had something to do with the unconscious knowledge that that gun had been used in the kinds of practices she didn't condone, that she was doing her best to put an end to.
Jo stayed seated against the side of the warehouse, waiting. Minutes, or for all she cared hours, continued to tick by as she waited for them. She waited and waited, until suddenly she was surprised by a loud sound. For all but two seconds, she wondered if that could be Mac and Don, but she quickly determined it couldn't be, especially when she saw the Special Forces unit move on top of the building in the direction where she had heard that sound.
Not knowing to whom in particular the voice was directing itself, Jo thought it best to pay heed to the words anyway. She lifted herself up from the dirt and ran off in the same direction as the men's thundering footsteps. As she rounded the corner, she saw the reason for the sounds immediately. The sound of metal bullets being fired filled the air, and hot casings falling upon the rooftops. She tried to discern bodies and movements in the dark, not knowing how she could help, when she heard a loud scream from a man and more bullets being fired.
Jo turned back on her heel and began to run off in the opposite direction, the gun tightly in her hand as she made her way back towards the south side and louder sounds. She felt like she was running, running, running, towards the unknown, through the wide-open door in the hallway she had seen earlier when Lizarro slipped inside. She didn't look at what she was passing at all, tunnel vision completely overtaking as she ran towards the commotion.
Suddenly, she stopped, raising her gun when she saw a dark figure in a wrestling match with a strangely familiar face: Mac. Recoil spread through her right hand as she fired a bullet in the figure's lower leg, barely missing Mac's foot. A lot of people forgot how difficult it was to aim on the fly. This recoil was worse than her gun's, too.
The hooded man buckled over as the bullet landed in his lower leg, and a Special Forces agent that she had not seen before ── she assumed he must have run to the sounds of her shots immediately from wherever he had been ── took the chance to take him down. Mac turned back to look for the shooter, a small smile barely lifting the corner of the Lieutenant's mouth, already disappearing before it blossomed.
Jo didn't have a chance to look back when both Mac and she heard the very distinct sounds of a gun being shot nearby and hitting what sounded like a window. She heard his scream of warning as she already felt herself get blasted backwards by the impact of another shot, which didn't miss this time; she was right in the perp's direct line of sight. The sound of shattering glass rang loudly in her ears. She felt the air leave her lungs as she made contact with the cold concrete floor underneath her. Her eyes filled up with tears, and she felt her heartbeat pound in her temples, as darkness tried overtaking her vision.
"Mac..." she murmured, as the man sank down beside her, not even having seen him approach at all. "I'll be okay. Don't worry."
She could see him look her over quickly, seemingly attempting to assess the damage to decide what he had to do. She couldn't be alone. That's when Mac's eyes fell on the Special Forces agent from earlier who had apparently decided to return to them after, assumedly, having turned over the man Jo had shot to one of his colleagues somewhere. It was only when she told him that he could go, too, that he squeezed her shoulder and got up. "I'll be back," he said, making for the door that would take him back in open air and into the line of fire. "Take care of her!"
Jo winced when she leaned her head back against what felt like a tall, cold metal plate. She lifted her hands up, having instinctively extended them to try and break her fall, and looked down at them from under heavy lids. Her gaze was hazy and unfocused, and she made a mental note to herself to take it easy, because it could mean that she had a concussion. Tiny bits and pieces of glass were embedded in her palms here and there, and she saw several bloody scratches, which stung like hell w22;w22; as did more places on her body that she couldn't even name or indicate right then.
Jo couldn't help the idea of a long, hot shower in her own home now. A bath would be even better, though, and she wished that she had one, desperately. You typically only realize the worth of something when you don't have it, or rather don't anymore. She hadn't thought she would need one after having had a bathtub in the house she and Russ had shared and having barely used it.
As Jo's focus slowly returned to her surroundings, she frowned. No matter what was going on right now, no matter what was the cause of the noises she couldn't place or even properly discern, the operation would be over that day. It was unfortunate that all of her sacrifices from the past weeks were worthless now w22;w22; or so it felt. She would see this all through until the end, though, even if it was the last she did. Taking a deep breath and mentally steeling herself for the pain she knew was going to shoot all throughout her body, she placed her palms beside her and pushed upwards, ignoring the Special Forces agent beside her, who made to push her back down, to wait for the medical help he thought she must need.
A small cry escaped her before she muffled it by sucking her bottom lip between her teeth and forcing herself to get up in one go, just to get it over with, like a Band-Aid that needed to be ripped off. She shut her eyes for a moment as she swallowed the bile that bubbled up in her throat at the insane nausea that overcame her. A few deep breaths as she opened her eyes slowly made Jo feel okay enough to move again a moment later. Casting her hazel eyes down, noting the gun lying on the floor beside her, she bent down and retrieved it with her right hand, forcing the dizzy spell back with a shake of the head before placing one foot before the other and making her way to the door. Mac had told her to stay put. That was not going to happen.
As she continued one step at a time with the Special Forces agent in tow, towards the door where she had seen Mac disappear through earlier, the noise grew louder and louder. Taking her gun in both hands for more stability, she kicked the slightly ajar door open further, enabling her to pass through it. She ducked and slid down by the corner of the building, so as to not be in anyone's direct line of view and thus risk getting shot. Jo let her eyes slide over the scene before her, trying to see what was happening where and exactly what would be the best way for her to help. From the corner of her eye, she saw two Special Forces Agents use their weight to their advantage and slam an opponent down, and a little farther, she saw Mac do the same to another man, single-handedly. She felt her heart skip a beat for one reason or another that she quickly suppressed, before properly exploring her feelings further. Mac Taylor was made for this job, no denying. Maybe she wasn't as much made for the job as she had once thought she was, though, given the situation they were all in now because of her.
She just managed to locate another figure approaching Mac in a less than friendly way. Making her decision in a split second, Josephine Danville came upright and ran, half-ducked, for the man, using her gun to fire off a bullet at him when she saw him reach for his. Jo's bullet missed, but she had at least distracted him enough, so he no longer had a chance at one shot at her colleague, and she had also alerted Mac to the danger.
Don Flack came from the direction the felon just had and reached him, first, throwing himself on top of him, the men struggling for some seconds before the detective managed to overpower him on the cold, hard concrete, and pulled his hands to his back harshly. "Son of a bitch!" came Don's cussing tone.
Special Forces reached their side, coming as if from nowhere to take over, so that both Mac and Don could get to their feet and catch their breaths, the culprit led away by Special Forces. The Lieutenant eyed his surroundings with his suspicious gaze for a few more seconds as they stood in the middle of an open space, good targets for whoever wanted to harm them.
"We're all clear. Barrow called back-up as soon as the first shots were fired, and they have secured a perimeter. I thought that one was going to go down easily, but he made me run for it after all," Don said, a head shake from him indicating the man Jo had tried to shoot. "That's twice she saved your life today, pal. You're lucky she saw him," he added, addressing Mac Taylor.
The Lieutenant regarded Jo, and a small smile of thanks pulled at Mac's lips. "Indeed. I owe her," he said, before turning away from her again, back to Don Flack, poised to ask a question that Don had apparently already known was coming. Before Mac could form words, Don Flack was responding.
"I'll go check up with Barrow," he confirmed, nodding at Jo and Mac both before he turned his back to them and followed in the Special Agents' wake to find the commander and get an update on their action.
They both looked after him for a few seconds before turning to each other.
"Ha Ming got away. I'm sorry, Jo," he spoke before Jo had a chance to ask the question he knew she was burning to ask now.
"Damn it," Jo mouthed. Ha Ming and his gang had only managed to get away as a consequence of her stupidity. They could have gotten so much more from this operation than they had, if she just hadn't been caught too soon.
She didn't know how or why, but the next Jo knew, she felt herself wrapped up in Mac's arms. She could tell in his movement that he was careful and conscious of her wounds, which he had undoubtedly meticulously located and saved up with his keen mind for further reference, but his embrace was also incredibly tight and meaningful at the same time. She didn't believe he had ever held her tighter in her whole life.
"Jo, this is not your fault. I know you have given it your all and that you couldn't have prevented what happened earlier," he spoke. "We've got Lizarro and a fair few of his guys, as well as two from Ha Ming's gang sent to observe. I highly doubt they will talk and that we will be able to take the wider drug supply down anytime soon, but we've got what we wanted. Lizarro can do what he wants, but we can tie him to at least one of those victims."
She couldn't help but admit to herself silently that this was exactly what she needed. Mac's familiar embrace empowered her understanding that it was over, that the operation had ended and that she could pick up where she had left off. She was the intimate kind of person to her family and her friends, and she had been placed in the role of a cool yet needy stranger for the past weeks, someone far from whom she really was. This is what she truly needed. Then a thought struck her, or rather, a person: Christine.
Forcing herself to begin to peel back from him, she let go of the warmth they had shared and took a step back, standing at arm's length and looking up at him. She forced a small smile upon her lips, but she could tell he wasn't fooled. He had been the one who always ended every embrace they had ever shared. She didn't even remember the last time that they had held each other like that, though. Things had changed a great deal.
She saw the questions in his eyes; questions that he would never ask because it was not in his character. She saw them, though, very clearly, very well. He had noticed her being colder towards him in multiple instances. He had noticed her being more stand-offish lately. He had noticed her pushing him away physically and emotionally. "I've seen the looks that Christine gives us. She doesn't appreciate it."
There was a storm of words worming its way inside her chest, her mouth. If she opened her mouth now, it would spill, and she didn't know if she could stop talking anymore. All of her feelings and all of her thoughts about him, about them, would be in the open, and they would never really be able to turn back from that. She would tell him of how she wanted the best for him, how she wanted him to be happy. She would tell him how she thought he deserved just that, more than anyone that she had known in her life. She would also tell him that she was glad he found happiness with Christine and that she wanted them to work and be happy together. Maybe she would tell him then, too, that even though she wanted their success as a couple, she secretly wished that it was her he left work for earlier, whom he could relax with.
She made to wrap her arms across her body, but Mac's hands stilled Jo's movement with a shake of his head. She stood stock still for a moment, looking into his eyes and silently asking him why he was doing what he was doing. She wished he wouldn't. Right now, she felt that she needed to put distance between them, for her own sanity, to stop herself from wanting him to hold her a bit longer and stay with her. He needed to move on, to go and take care of the things she had fucked up.
"Christine and I aren't in a relationship, Jo. What she thinks or doesn't..."
It didn't really matter? It didn't affect him?
In one way, it bothered her that he didn't end the sentence, but, in another, it didn't, because it was like him to want to say the sorts of things but not know how exactly to put them into words ── so he would just not say them at all. Most of all, she was too shocked by his statement to hold onto that too long or too much now.
"I thought you and her were pretty serious actually," Jo whispered as she lowered her hands, his still upon hers, a bit taken aback at the news she had not expected to hear, least of all now. She had just been banged into a tall glass panel at a warehouse right after saving the life of the man who had managed to set up this entire team, in a matter of an hour, to save her sorry ass.
Letting his hands slide gently down her wrists until he had her cut and damaged hands in his, Mac fleetingly looked down at them, running his thumbs slowly across a small patch of unharmed skin over her knuckle. "I think maybe it was heading that way, but it wasn't supposed to be as complicated as it was, with me being a cop and her something entirely different, and we decided, mutually, it just wasn't going to work."
Silence overtook them then, both Mac and Jo looking down at their hands. It was slightly... awkward, maybe, but not uncomfortable.
"Listen, Jo, I am glad that you'rew22;" Mac began, breaking the quietness, when he was interrupted in his gentle statement by a loud wailing siren, from the ambulance that was obligated to come to the scene if a cop had been hurt. It was protocol in the jurisdiction of New York City.
Jo looked up at him before he could say anything. He would have her get thoroughly checked at the scene when the paramedics got there, maybe even the hospital after. That was protocol, too. "Please, Mac," she groaned. "Please, just... let me go home and take a shower and everything. I'm really not up for all of that fuss right now."
Jo's bundle of keys clinked as she dropped them on the small, glass hallway table. She felt a weight fall from her shoulders when she took in the familiar albeit dusty smell of her own home, walking into her small but satisfactory half-open kitchen. She inhaled through her nose and took it all in, her shoulders lifting and falling as she exaggerated the motion. She didn't let the small chuckle she heard just before the door clicked closed interrupt her. Instead, she just looked over her shoulder at Mac with a raised brow, a soft smile on her lips, when she was satisfied with how much the homey smell had managed to penetrate her nose.
"I won't hear a word from you, Mac Taylor. I've had a few rough weeks, and I am glad to be home," Jo stated, the small smile that played on her lips reminding him that she was just teasing and not trying to be hard on him or upset with him.
"I know," Mac spoke, and though he knew she was only teasing him, the smirk he had sported at first faltered a bit at the seriousness of the situation. She had been through Hell and back in the past few weeks, and he was glad that she had come back from that Hell remotely okay in the end.
Jo raised a damaged hand and reached over, placing it on his shoulder and squeezing gently to tell him that it was all right.
The corner of his mouth lifted up again, and she knew he appreciated the gesture. His smile widened just a bit more as a look of mischief crossed his eyes, barely noticeable yet there, as he nodded towards the door and spoke once more, "Do you have any special requests for the burger and the stack of chick flicks I promised you?"
"Mac, you don't have to do that for me. I can take care of myself..."
Mac gently laid his hand on hers on his shoulder. Somehow, she had never really taken it off, and as he placed his hand across hers, she was made acutely aware of it. "Jo, please just let me do this for you. You definitely deserve a fat and greasy burger after what you've done."
Biting down on her lip then, Jo directed her gaze towards the half-open curtain that was letting quite a lot of daylight in by now. It had become morning during the duration of the operation and Mac clearing things with Don before taking Jo home, insisting that, if he was going to let her forego further check-up at the hospital, he would be the one bringing her home and ensuring that she was as comfortable as could be.
The brunette's gaze travelled to the big, round clock on the wall between the kitchen and living room. 10.20AM. It was then that, as if on cue upon the realization of how late it already was, that Jo's stomach growled w22;w22; audibly. She didn't remember the last time she had eaten remotely decently, and she hadn't thought of how very hungry she was until just now. "As for movies, I'm not that picky. You can bring back anything you want except for documentaries or western-type movies. You would reckon I'm exhausted after the past weeks, but I'm not tired at all," Jo stated, "I'm sure it is the adrenaline that is still in my system. As for burgers, I'm totally up for a Black Label from Schnipper's, or probably even closer to two, but..."
"I'll make it happen for you."
"Mac, you know they don't do take-away."
"The owner owes me a favor."
Shaking her head with a wider smile on her face than had crossed it in a long time now, she watched Mac shrug with a big grin on his own face as if to say he couldn't help it that he knew a lot of people in New York City, and if not, a lot of people knew him. Their entwined hands fell from his shoulder as Jo began to pluck at her leather vest's left sleeve. "You're terrible, Mac Taylor," Jo stated as she moved to pluck at the right sleeve to attempt to peel the article of clothing off of herself.
"Does that mean that you're not interested in the burger anymore?" Mac asked, teasing right back. "You know, if you aren't interested in it, you just have to say so, andw22;w22; Jo? Are you all right?"
Biting down on her lip to try and muffle her wince, Jo halted her movements when all of a sudden, she felt the pain on her left side increase considerably, maybe tenfold. When she had begun to peel her jacket off of her shoulder, having to pull her arm back to do so, she had felt incredible pain shoot up a really specific area of her side. Halting for a second longer without answering Mac's question, she then resumed the movement and shrugged the vest off of her, depositing it on the kitchen counter.
Jo's eyes, which she had half-shut, opened to look at the man before her when she heard him say her name in a gasp. Seeing the look in his eyes, she followed his gaze and saw, at once, the reason for his worried expression: a long, thin sliver of glass was still imbedded in the side of Jo's right breast, her top ripped enough to show it.
"I should have had them check you over more thoroughly before you left," Mac spoke in a strangled sort of voice. He knew he should look away from an area that private, but he couldn't bring himself to do so. He just kept staring, his gray eyes locked right onto the piece of glass embedded in pristine, barely tanned skin.
They both just stood there unmoving, not saying anything, both of them fixated on the wound that, or so it looked, must have stopped bleeding not too long ago. Jo broke the trance after a few silent moments by crossing her arms before her and grabbing the hem of her shirt, peeling it off over her head very slowly, very carefully, forcing herself not to wince and thus alert Mac of how painful it was, when she had to rip the tainted fabric from the dried blood that surrounded the wounded skin especially.
Mac knew that Jo was a very open kind of person. Realistically, he knew that if she were dressed in a swimsuit, in some alternate universe where they went to the pool or beach together, he wouldn't see any more or less of Jo's upper body, but he couldn't help feeling the way that his breath hitched at seeing her the way she was. The Lieutenant watched as if he were caught in a trance as the ripped top fell to the floor beside her and she laid a hand upon her breast, lifting it gently to be able to look at the wound half an inch from the edge of her bra. The sight before him and how deeply imbedded the glass seemed to be made him blink, as if bringing him right back to himself at last. When Jo looked up at him and parted full, dry lips, he knew what she was going to ask, so he just saved her the trouble, "I am not going to pull that piece of glass from you. I don't know just how deep it is."
The look in her eyes spoke volumes, and he guessed he should have known better but to try and argue with her. "Well, I am not going to the hospital for this. Either you do it or I will, and you realistically have a much better angle there than I do to get it, without injuring me any further."
She did not wait for him to argue with her any more, it seemed. Replacing her left hand with her right before slowly moving the former up, she slid a single finger below her bra strap and pulled it down so as to enable him a slightly better view.
At this point, he couldn't look any longer and had to blink away, slightly ashamed, slightly caught by himself at how he had been staring at her, when she had only just managed to escape the claws of a w22;w22; somewhat horrid w22;w22; undercover operation. He opted to look at the small collection, or so he thought, of spice shakers neatly arranged upon the brunette's kitchen counter. Jo's voice brought Mac's gaze back to hers. "Mac, will you please just...?" she asked. "I promise I will be fine. There are tweezers in that small jar over there," she stated, nodding at a small porcelain jar beside a strange statue of an rabbit eating grass that looked like one of Ellie's art creations.
Holding her gaze for a second longer, reading the sincerity in Jo's eyes, Mac Taylor eventually sighed and located the jar that she had just indicated. Noting a small silver-colored object, he reached over and pulled the tweezers she had mentioned single-handedly from the jar. When he turned back to her, he noticed she had turned her body slightly to allow Mac a better view of the wounded area, face turned.
He wondered if she had turned her gaze because she couldn't look at it when he pulled the glass from her side, from her breast, or if she felt a bit ashamed as well. The thought had only just bubbled up in the Lieutenant's head when he noted the blush on Jo's cheeks. He opened his mouth to say something, to tell her he would be as gentle as he could, but she knew that without him having to say it.
"Are you ready?" he asked her in a soft whisper.
"Yes," Jo whispered back, and knowing that he was looking at her like that ── although he had to to remove the glass ── just made Jo blush harder. For one reason or another, the brunette's shame and the accompanying blush hadn't really hit her until seconds before. She was quite a pragmatic person. First, she had wanted to take a look at the wound more closely. Then, the detective had relied upon her problem-solving nature and her knowledge that the glass had to be removed and the wound cleaned before anything else. Then, when the practical things had been cleared up and it had been decided what had to happen, somehow, somewhere, she had become conscious of her state of undress before Mac.
Both of them blushing, Mac Taylor both needed and wanted to just get it over with ── on one hand so that Jo could be relieved from pain, on the other to just get past this awkward moment.
Luckily for both of them, Mac managed to grasp the edge of the glass piece and then gently remove it from her skin in one go. Jo never had time at all to tense up or to scream or any of the sort before it was already over.
"Thanks..." she whispered, barely looking over her shoulder at him and offering him a sincere smile before turning her body more, gazing down fleetingly to confirm the wound wasn't bleeding all too badly, fortunately enough. She would still need to thoroughly clean it, though.
Clearing his throat a bit, nervously, not really knowing what to do, Mac nodded before offering her a smile in return as he laid the tweezers and dangerous glass down on the counter, barely looking as he did so. "I, uh, I will go get your burger and movies then. I will be back in not too long," he announced. "Will you be okay until then?"
Swallowing, Jo nodded at him. "I will be. I'm only going to take a good hot shower and get in something more comfortable," she spoke. "That will make a really big difference, I'm sure."
"Okay," Mac responded. "Well, I'll be back in not too long. Take all the time that you need," he said, giving her one last awkward smile and turning on his heel to leave. The next Jo knew, he had already disappeared from Jo's kitchen in a rush, and she could already hear the door fall shut. She was left standing there half-naked in her kitchen, slowly releasing the deep shaky breath she had been holding in.
Wrapping her large towel about her very tightly, Jo felt incredibly exposed as she padded on bare feet towards the door. It was a towel that fell to her knees when wrapped about her frame, but she still felt incredibly self-conscious w22;w22; especially in light of what had happened earlier. She should have just given Mac her key so he could get in again when he wanted. Blinking up at the large clock while moving into the hallway, she noted that it was close to 11.40AM. She had taken a longer shower than she had thought. At least she felt a lot better than she had, so that was an advantage she had.
She felt clean again for the first time in weeks and more refreshed than she remembered feeling just an hour before. Her mouth watered already at the idea of being properly nourished, particularly from the burger that was waiting just a door away. She knew that Mac would have managed to get her Black Label even if Schnipper's didn't do take-away per usual. As she reached for the doorknob and felt the slight sting in her hands, the skin surrounding the many tiny cuts pulling as she grasped it, she made a mental note to herself to make sure that she disinfected the wounds later. It was when she pulled the door open for Mac to enter and she felt the cuts sting again like madness that she momentarily thought maybe she should have had herself properly checked. They likely wouldn't have been able to do more to care for her wounds than pull the glass from them and disinfect everything, but they did know what they were doing.
As Mac stepped through the door into her hallway, a mix of wonderful smells overwhelmed her nostrils. The first she caught was the smell of the delicious Black Label burger that she had been looking forward to many a night when undercover ── and even more so since she had told Mac about it. The next she smelled was fresh rain, and she noted the droplets upon Mac's vest. She blinked towards the open window, noting only bright sun reflected from it. It must have been a temporary cold shower on a bright summer's day. She let the door fall shut again, Mac having passed through, and turned back to follow him to the kitchen, where she assumed he was going to put the bag from Schnipper's as well as the tall stack of DVDs with colorful covers he was carrying under one arm.
Upon entering Jo's home, Mac had had to force himself to blink away as soon as his eyes fell upon her, clad in only a big cerulean blue towel, her shoulder-length hair wet and wild and dripping onto her bare shoulders. He had felt his breath catch in his throat as he looked away and all but ran for the kitchen to deposit her desired food there, along with the small stack of movies he had thought she would enjoy.
Jo and Mac accompanied each other to the kitchen in some sort of haze, Jo following in his wake despite being in her own home. Silence ruled as he placed the bag on the table, then the pile of DVDs. When he turned back to look at her, Mac Taylor smiled his slightly crooked, familiar smile. Somehow, somewhere, she could tell there was still a bit of awkwardness left from earlier, and it made her feel very self-conscious. Nonetheless, she smiled back at him and unconsciously grasped the towel tighter, the soft blue fabric catching on the rough skin of her wounds.
"I'm so grateful for this, Mac. I can't tell you how much this means to me."
Mac's smile grew wider, and she noted that when it did, the awkwardness that had still resided in the expression was gone. "You're very welcome. Is there anything else that I can do for you now?"
A small chuckle left Jo as she nodded at the bag of food on the table. The smell was licking at her nostrils pretty desperately now, drawing her in and begging her to come closer, take a look, and stuff her mouth full. "Well, I sure hope there's a burger in there for you as well. They're best shared, or so I believe. I also hope you brought a lot of food, because I am starving," she spoke as she made for the bag on the table, unable to resist the smell any longer.
Mac just shook his head as he watched her gently reach for the paper bag and unfold it before peeking inside, the smell wafting up to her nose and filling the small kitchen even more than it had before. He could see the smile on her face visibly enlarge, and with a pang, he realized that she had smiled quite a bit this morning despite the horrendous situation. It had been a while since he had seen her smile that much. If he or if his actions had anything to do with that, he was glad. He had missed seeing that smile, he admitted to himself, thinking of the past few months and how strained their relationship had been. No time or even desire to go grab burgers together or do anything together anymore.
"Unless you brought four burgers for me alone, I am glad that you decided to share lunch with me," she spoke as she looked up at him, then stood on tip-toes, leaning in to leave a kiss on his cheek.
It was not like she hadn't kissed Mac's cheek before. It was not like she had never been that open with him, but this was somehow incredibly different. She had also never felt her lips burn so much after contact with his skin. The feeling promptly shut her up and made Jo's words stick in her throat w22;w22; uncharacteristic for her.
Even the thought of her good, greasy burger hadn't been able to make her feel like she could stay in the room with Mac after their kiss, and she had given into her need to disappear for a bit and collect her racing thoughts. Jo released a deep but shaky breath as she leaned back against the inside of the door to the bathroom, her eyes fluttering shut. She still felt her lips tingle where they had touched Mac's skin. Lifting a hand to them blindly, she slid the tip of her forefinger slowly across her lips and tried to calm her fast-beating heart. It was not like she had never kissed Mac's cheek before, but it had never felt like this, so alive.
Opening her eyes at last as she felt her heart slow down a bit, she let her eyes fall on the pile of clothes that she had set down, before she had jumped in the shower. Padding over, she let the towel drop and reached for her underwear. To say that she was careful in her movements was an understatement. Her muscles and entire body felt tense and stiff, and her hands and the side of her breast were downright sore. She felt torn. She wanted both to lock herself in the bathroom for a while and to just run back to Mac ── plus, she was hungry, and it would be impolite to leave him to his own devices now. It was a strange feeling she had. She figured that it would take her at least twice as long to get dressed in her current state, so it would be a nice break. She would have at least a few minutes to calm herself from the electricity she had felt between them before returning to his side in a bit.
Mac was a little taken aback at Jo's sort of run to the bathroom ── not to mention, confused. He stood there not knowing what to do for a few minutes before he let loose a deep sigh and picked up the stack of movies he had brought Jo, as well as the paper bag of food, figuring that he would carry it all to the living room. He knew from experience after having had dinner with her before that she didn't like to eat in the kitchen but on the couch before the TV. The couch would be more comfortable for her anyway in her state.
He had made a step in the direction of the living room with his purchases in hand when he realized that he should probably try to find trays that they could put their food on so they could eat more easily without risking spilling anything on Jo's couch. Depositing the movies once more, as well as the bag of food, he looked up and slid his eyes over the cabinets, attempting to guess where she would keep trays until he figured he didn't know and his best chance was to just start moving from the left to the right until he found what he was looking for.
It was the second closet from the left he opened when he saw a small stack of thick, sturdy trays with blue sea patterns on them at the very bottom. A small smile to himself at his luck, he bent down and took a hold of the top two, sliding them from the closet and closing it, then turning back to the table, when he was confronted with an issue. The trays were rather large and too bulky to hold under one arm as he carried the movies and paper bags in his hands.
The simplicity of it hit him at that moment. For how intelligent he was, he could be very dense and show an acute lack of common sense every so often. He shook his head as he pushed past what being in Jo's presence then was doing to him. It made him feel very nervous ── him, the Lieutenant of the New York crime lab. Jo and he hadn't been very close lately, despite how incredibly close they had been for so long, nearly instantly after she moved down from Virginia. All of this made the feelings he had suppressed for so long now come to the surface again, fuller and more persistent than before. What had he given the relationship they had had up for? What had he given her up for? He should have been aware that Christine and he weren't going to work, that despite how hard they had tried and how attracted he had been to her and she to him, she hadn't been the one for him. Sliding the trays back from under his arm, he placed them flat on the table and stacked the things he had intended to take to the living room on top of them. A tray was meant to carry things after all.
He set the trays down on the low table between the couch and the TV and took a hold of the DVDs, picking his spot on the far left side of the large couch and waiting a few moments when he heard the sound of a door in the hallway open. Soon enough, it was followed by the sound of Jo's footsteps on the parquet and then by her appearance in the doorway, a smile on her face: a smile that warmed him. She was dressed in a knee-length, khaki button-up blouse-dress that he had seen her wear with a neat belt and high boots before. He figured she was not up for tight jeans – he didn't believe she owned any pants that were not tight unless they were pajamas.
"If you just pick the movie you want to watch, we're all set," Mac spoke in a soft voice that seemed to shake her awake and made her move into the room at last.
He couldn't shake the feeling that she was acting a bit strange, as she made for the couch and sat down on the far right side, reaching over for the DVDs Mac had brought her. She seemed to take her time inspecting first the covers, then the backs, reading the summaries of all six movies before she slipped one from the stack. She leaned over to set the others back on the table before getting up to put the selected one in the DVD player when Mac stood as well and extended his hand. "I'll do that," he said. "You busy yourself with the food."
"Sounds like a plan."
He tried to push past the idea that Jo was acting a little oddly and decided to just enjoy spending time together with her the way they had in the past. Instead, he busied himself with the DVD: taking it from the cover after opening it, opening the DVD player and sliding it in, closing it, and finally putting the empty DVD case on top of the DVD player. He rose back to his feet again and walked back to the couch, finding that Jo had already neatly divided all of their food.
They ate quietly, just watching the movie. Mac had to admit that he was not really following the story, though. He felt dead-beat tired, and it was costing him all of his energy to make his jaw operate and chew his food; he didn't have the presence of mind to follow what Jo would call a 'chick flick'. It was strange to him that she was so quiet during their dinner, but he figured that if the reason was everything that she had been through, he was not in a place to force her to speak to him. He glanced at her sideways a few times, but she didn't pay any attention to him, so eventually, he figured he would let her be.
When he was halfway done with his second burger and he felt that he was going to explode, Mac Taylor laid his half-eaten sandwich down, with the rest of his extra large fry pack. It was only then that he heard Jo speak in a bit of a shy voice, rather than the light tones she had used in the past when she had asked this question.
"Are you going to eat that still?"
Glancing up at her, Mac was surprised to find her tray devoid of burgers or fries, just full of flat, empty wrappers. With a smirk, he slid his tray on top of hers to indicate she could have her way with his leftovers if she wished. This time, his eyes remained on her as she finished the rest of Mac's meal. He was too impressed with how much she could put in her stomach to look away. She didn't seem to care that his eyes were upon her as she ate and continued to watch the movie that he was not at all paying attention to anymore. He knew that she knew he was looking at her; she was way too perceptive not to notice, even if only from the corner of her eye.
When she had popped the last piece of burger in her mouth, he stood and took the trays off of her lap, placing them on the low table between them and the TV so that she didn't have to get up. As he sank back in the couch after his thirty-second rise-up, Jo's voice sounded, "Thank you, Mac. I really needed that."
Mac's eyes connected with hers as he turned back to face her. He had meant to say something, but he fell silent as he looked at her. Her lips were redder than usual from the salty food that she had just had, and a blush had formed on her cheeks now as well. He had seen her without make-up before, but he didn't think he had ever thought of how beautiful she was without artificial enhancements. He was glad that she was okay. He wanted to tell her this, but he somehow found he couldn't. A part of him felt that words would break the trance between them.
As Jo looked into his grey eyes, she thought of all the nights she had sat up talking to him, his voice and his words keeping her sane just long enough to bring the operation to a good end, even if her plan hadn't worked to bring down both Lizarro and his gang as well as Ha Ming's. She felt her lips spontaneously begin to tingle again, and a warmth spread over her as she tried to look away and push past what she was feeling. Their relationship had been strained to say the least, and it was not right to jump into something as soon as she was back. They hadn't properly talked about what was going on and not going on between them.
Mac's voice broke the spell as he stood and told her, "I don't have to be at the lab for an update for the next few hours yet, but I think maybe I'll look through some files before."
Jo gently shook her head to clear away the shock of his sudden desire to part. With a pang, she realized she wanted him to stay more than she had thought. She stood as well, as he seemed to wait by her to say something of a goodbye. Had she chased him away by her lack of responsiveness? "You don't have to go," she said.
Mac, however, seemed to shake his head at her words. He felt like he had to leave her to her own devices for now. "You don't have to be at the lab until tomorrow morning to give your statement about the operation. Take your time to relax and sleep a bit in your own bed.
With a sigh, Jo's face fell as she realized that she had chased Mac away indeed. Standing on tip-toes, she leaned in to kiss his cheek again as an extra thank you for all he had done for her this morning, when she felt a cramp in her right lower leg that made her lose her balance as she meant to pull back. Mac only just managed to reach around her and hold her in place before she would hurt herself, smashing them closely together with a soft 'umpf'.
As soon as he was sure she could stand without risking toppling over again, Mac released his hold on her and made to pull away, when Jo only tightened her hands on his upper arms, looking up into his grey eyes. She felt her lips tingle like mad as she let her eyes rove over his face, and she decided to act on her impulses, leaning in once more, but this time reaching for the man's lips with her own, purposefully avoiding his cheek. She wanted to go for his lips.
This time, after she pulled back and they looked at each other for a second, gauging each other's reactions, they leaned back in together for more, both of them pouring their deepest feelings, however long-buried into the kiss, their lips and tongues sliding and moving together. Jo's arms slid around his neck for better leverage as she remained on her tip-toes, passion flaring high between them, not only her lips but also the entirety of her body now tingling, pooling specifically on her nipples and the apex between her thighs, ripples rolling down her spine and creating shivers that made her tingle more.
Mac, aware that it was no easy feat to be able to reach his height and kiss him like this, let his hands slide down to her butt, lifting her slender frame without much effort and turning as he did, plopping down on the couch as softly as he could, Jo in his lap, one of her legs on each side of him. Mac's arms and hands seemed to flay a bit as he didn't quite know what to do with them, afraid to put them somewhere where he would hurt her. Jo, noticing this even as she was occupied kissing him with the pent-up lust and love she had held inside for so long, took hold of his hands gently. She guided them to her breasts, using his hands to unclip the first few push buttons so that she could slide his hands past the fabric and inside her bra, his hands touching her nipples directly.
First off, Mac ripped his lips away from hers to try to form sentences, "Jo– Are you– Am I not hurting... you?"
Jo's response to the doubts she knew he had was to lower herself even more onto his lap, increasing the pressure on his growing manhood ── caused mostly by the contact of his bare skin on her nipples ── as well as to encourage him to squeeze both of her breasts, the right significantly more gentle than the left. She knew he was worried about going too fast. She knew he was worried about hurting her. She knew she needed to dive headfirst into this, needed him to not scrabble back.
Mac's agreement came in his lips upon her neck, gently sucking and licking, enabling her to throw her head back in passion and open her mouth wide to pant loudly. She needed to feel him in the deepest of her core. Blindly, she reached for his belt, his kisses on her neck and his hands on her breasts making her mind swim and her hands slip off of the metal of his belt and zipper several times before she managed to free him.
It was when his manhood hit the air that he seemed to pull back a bit again, the hands on her lower back clamping onto the fabric of her dress tightly. Jo felt that a man who could kiss her that way couldn't not want her. She knew that this was just his gallant worry over whether it was too soon or whether he was hurting her. With one hand, she steadied herself on the back of the couch. With the other hand, she pushed up her dress, slipping between her legs to push aside her underwear and take a hold of him, leading him inside her and sinking down. She felt every inch of him slide inside her as deep as it would go. "Fuck, Mac..." she groaned as he filled her.
He felt every inch of him slide inside her, her muscles warm and wet and pulsing around him as she took him in entirely. As he fitted inside her, there was no doubt in his mind anymore about whether he wanted this. There was no need for them to move yet. He was comfortable just being inside her.
It was then that Jo realized the talking that they had done while she was undercover had been all the talking they had needed. The rest would follow. They could mend, both themselves and each other, in this way, too.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.