Title: Falling Shattered
Summary: How do you heal from something that is more than pain?
Disclaimer: I am, unfortunately, not Jerry Bruckheimer. If I was, Miami and Vegas would have ended differently -.-
Feedback: Boost my ego and maybe I'll post something that's not depressing. Like that really random wedding one-shot I have sitting on my desktop somewhere, for all you Mac/Stella fans. --grins--
A/N: Okay, I'm not exactly sure how much—if any—of this is canon, as I have yet to see season one. --sends a very pointed look at one of her friends-- If you see something that isn't canon, let me know and I'll see what I can do about it.
Spoilers: None that I know of, but once again, I have yet to see season one...
"When I saw you I fell in love, and you smiled because you knew." William Shakespeare
NYPD's Crime Lab supervisor, Mac Taylor, was so intent upon what he was doing, so intent upon not thinking about the memories, that he was completely oblivious to the sound of something falling out of his locker and shattering. He was so focused on avoiding the pain for as long as he could that he never realized he'd dropped something until he heard the sound of cracking glass, nor did he realize what it was until he bent down to pick it up.
They'd met at the mayor's fundraiser—one of those events that no one really wanted to attend but had to because their jobs demanded it of them. This particular fundraiser had been the only one that had not been a complete waste of time.
She was the bold one—always had been—according to her parents. From the moment she'd seen him, she'd known she loved him, but because of who he was, it had taken an extreme amount of both determination and patience to get him to notice her. But once she had, they were inseparable...
He cut his hand on the glass as he picked it up. Not that he noticed—the image was demanding all of his attention. It had been taken the day everyone on the team had finally said "Enough!" and taken the day off so that they could relax in Central Park. Someone had brought a football and they had decided to play. Someone—probably Aiden—had captured the moment when she'd caught her first and only touchdown, and Mac had been there to tag her—it had been the last innocent moment they'd had together before she died.
Mac had been in the break room with one of his friends, discussing his birthday plans for later that day when he was the news: an airliner had crashed into the World Trade Center. Claire was in there.
He never was exactly sure how he'd gotten there. All he could remember were flashes of the hurried, frantic search for Claire and the anguish that had threatened to overwhelm him when they finally did. She'd looked so peaceful lying there, like she was sleeping—if you could ignore the nine-foot pole protruding from her stomach. That was all he could remember of her. He tried so hard, but he couldn't remember anything about her except for that one image of her as she'd been found, and it followed him everywhere, no matter where he tried to hide.
A strangled sob escaped his throat as Mac Taylor gazed at his wife's face for the first time since that fateful day, months ago. And as he did, he felt something in him die.
It had always been the two of them together—Mac and Claire, never just one or the other, never just Mac. Losing her when the Towers fell had been like losing half of himself. He hadn't thought he'd survive—hadn't been sure he wanted to. It was so hard getting up everyday. So hard to have to dream of her, only to wake and realize that it was a dream, that she wasn't coming back. Facing that every day destroyed a part of what was left of his soul. But he never cried. No matter what, he wouldn't cry.
The only relief he could find was music. Everyday after work, she'd drag him home, fix dinner, and make him eat, and then spend hours playing the piano until he fell asleep. She'd spend hours just playing the piano for him, trying to fit the shattered pieces of his soul back together. She was the last thing he saw at night as he fell asleep to her singing in Greek and Italian, and she was the first thing he saw in the morning, still playing the piano and singing as if she hadn't slept and instead played straight through the night....
He was so intent on the picture that he didn't realize there was anyone else in the room. All of the feelings that he'd kept locked up for so long came flooding to the surface, and he let out one last, strangled, anguished cry as he fell to his knees.
Strong arms caught him before he landed on the glass, strong arms that wrapped him in an embrace that could chase away all of his fears and pain—if he let it.
"She's gone," he whispered. "She's really gone and there—" He choked on the words, unable to finish. "Why?" he asked finally.
A hand forced him to look up, and clear, fiery green met clouded, pain-glazed blue. "No Mac," Stella Bonasera whispered, never taking her eyes from him. "I can't tell you that. I wish I could, but I can't. No one has ever been able to say why people die before they're ready. Maybe it's because Claire had fulfilled her purpose in life, or maybe she was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. But neither you nor I can answer that, and one day you're gonna have to understand that finding the answer isn't worth killing yourself over.
"One day you'll understand it's not your fault. One day you'll understand that there was nothing you could have done. But until then, please don't throw your life away because you think you have nothing to live for. Please, Mac. Please."
Somehow, in those long days after the attacks, she'd become his rock—the only constant in a world that was suddenly constantly changing and suddenly very strange. But all of those sleepless nights were starting to have an effect on her, too, and Mac had refused to let her suffer for him any longer. So he'd forced himself to care about living again, if only so she wouldn't worry about him.
So he'd thrown himself into his work, becoming completely consumed by it. But still the memories came—the pain had still haunted him. He barely ate and had refused to sleep for fear of the dreams that had haunted him since he'd forced her away.
He'd done it all so that she wouldn't worry—but she still did. Even in his pain-filled haze he could tell that. So he'd tried even harder to convince her that he was fine, and to some extent he succeeded. She'd no longer asked him if he wanted her to go home with him, no longer asked if he needed her. And that had hurt. He hadn't been sure why it hurt, but it had. So he'd tried pushing her farther away. But in the end, he couldn't—he needed her too much to push her away like that. And to be honest, he could see the pain in her eyes when he'd tried, and that had hurt him more than almost anything else had.
Eventually, he'd settled into a routine that he clung to like a lifeline. Slowly, he'd rebuilt the life that had shattered when the one person who was always supposed to be there suddenly vanished. The memories had still haunted him, the pain still a constant companion, the dreams still waiting for a chance to attack, but he had learned to live with them, had learned to accept them as the price to be paid for failing Claire and for hurting her. And because that was the price to be paid, he had refused to let anyone—even Stella—try to ease it.
Something in Stella's voice managed to pierce through his pain, managed to hear at least part of the message she was trying to send him. A shimmer just beyond Stella caught his eye, and, looking over her shoulder, he realized it was Claire. Hazy, yes, and not fully visible, but she was there. And on her face was that oh-so-familiar blend of love, annoyance, exasperation, and resignation that she'd get whenever he'd do something so stupid, so irrevocably male that there was nothing else she could do to argue with him.
It was the look she used to give him when he was being a stubborn idiot. Her words—not his.
Then he met her eyes, and she smiled. She didn't move her lips, and he didn't understand what was being said, but whatever it was healed something in him that he'd thought had died. It didn't replace it—that was impossible—but it did start to heal what had been left behind, and in healing it allowed him to move on.
"A friend is one who knows who you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still gently allows you to grow." William Shakespeare
Summary: How do you heal from something that goes beyond pain?