Title: Complicated
Fandom: CSI: NY
Pairing: Don Flack/OC
Rating: M
Synopsis: Does it have to be this hard? Flack/OC


4. Memory Lane

Chapter Four


Simona You're getting older Your journey's been Etched on your skin

James Blunt - 1973


It was late when Grace got home. The case they had been working on was far from over but Mac had also pointed out that both her and Stella needed their sleep and their test results could run over night. Despite the fact Grace agreed with Mac she doubted that she would be getting much sleep tonight. Her mind was still churning over the thoughts and facts of everything that had happened today, from the horrendous bloody foot to the disjointed emotional mess that was between her and Don.


Her slim fingers toyed with the silver chain at her throat. The pendant of St Michael, the patron saint of cops came to rest in the space between her breasts underneath her white tank top.


Don had given her his necklace the first night she had stayed with him. She remembered his handsome smile curving across his five o clock shadow as the two of them lay naked entwined in each other and entangled in his sheets. His fingers were deft as Grace kissed his mouth not once, but twice. He unclasped the sturdy silver chain and replaced it around her own neck. She had tried to take it off, to give it back to him because she knew how precious this necklace was in terms of his heritage, of his honour but Don had refused.


It'll give you strength, he promised in his native New Yorker accent as his fingertip traced the line of her collar bone causing her to shudder with need.


That night Will had used his cigarette to drive the burns into her left shoulder when she'd gotten back to the apartment. It was afterwards when he had apologized for his violence and was soothing the wounds with a damp flannel that she had clasped the St Michael pendant and told herself she couldn't take this any more.


She had packed her escape bag that very night, returned to the Crime Lab in time for her shift and stowed it had the bottom. She had been planning to run, where she hadn't decided but before she could formulate a plan, Stella was dragging her up before Mac and demanding she show him what she had been hiding for the past few months.


Grace couldn't stand to look Mac directly in the eye. She rolled up her wrist length sleeves at Stella's gentle urging, showing him the purple and black fingermarks that decorated her forearm.


"Show him the rest." Stella said in a hushed tone, her own arms wrapped around herself as she reviewed Grace with sorrow.


It had been impossible for Stella to detach herself from this. Grace knew she would have felt the same way if the shoe had been on the other foot. Grace turned around, glad that she didn't have to see the expression on Mac's face. She didn't want to see the disgust and surprise on his features when she tugged up the shirt and revealed the worst.


The cigarette burns were bloody and raw, the skin around each one was singed black with vivid redness flaring around the flesh surrounding each burn. There were five in total, each circle was dotted in a random order upon her left shoulder.


"And now the ribs." Stella requested, swallowing hard as she forced herself to watch the grotesque strip show Grace was preforming.


Grace sucked in a breath, the humiliation flushed across her cheeks as she slipped her shirt back over her shoulders. Her fingers were still holding onto the hem, gripping it until it came to her bra line before she turned around to face Mac.


Mac's expression was unreadable, his hand was by his mouth as he reviewed her body. It was a change for her to feel as if she was underneath the microscope, she found she disliked it. The bruising looked worse this morning then it had last night.


"Have you had that looked at?" Mac asked, raising an eyebrow.


Grace tugged her shirt the rest of the way down and folded her arms over her chest before shaking her head.


"Because you didn't want to report it?" Mac asked, raising to his feet and stepping around his desk.


Grace sniffed, keeping her jaw clenched shut at the emotion that was threatening to overwhelm her as she nodded. Mac paused coming to stand in front of her. She could tell he was reviewing the lines of her face, looking and searching for all of her secrets. If she was hiding something he would know and as their eyes met it was clear that he knew that she had just bared all of her secrets except one. One that she very much so needed to keep.


"Get Hawkes and a medikit." Mac requested of Stella who nodded her response before disappearing out of the door.


Grace's mouth was already open, ready to protest. She didn't want anyone else involved. It was bad enough she was in this position in the first place. Mac raised a hand to silence her and to her own surprise and his, she flinched. It was the first time she had let the abuse filter through to her work, and the fact that it had changed the game completely.


"I'm sorry." she responded, taking a step back and raking a hand through her loose dark hair.


Her body was vibrating with stress, she could feel the shock of her response twitching inside of her brain as her hand rubbed across her mouth in agitation.


"You don't have to apologize." Mac said, his tone low and firm as he met her gaze with a fierce one of his own. "But you can't let yourself be a victim any more."


"I don't know how I let this happen." she told him, her voice breaking as she rubbed both hands over her face.


"Where is he now?" Mac asked her, his expression one of ultimate seriousness.


Grace pressed her hands together in front of her mouth as if in prayer.


"At work." she told him, watching as Mac processed the information.


"You can't let him get away with this." Mac told her, his eyes meeting hers intently.


Her fingers wrapped around the tiny St Michael's pendant nestled underneath her shirt as she squeezed it. Even now, being here in this situation it gave her a great sense of security. She exhaled deeply, responding to Mac's statement.


"I didn't intend to."


Two hours later Will was lying in a pool of his own blood on her living room, glass Fingerprint Analysis trophy inches away from his face. As it turned out Will hasn't gone to work that morning, he had discovered her passport missing and some of her clothes removed from the laundry pile and called in sick. She had walked in, thinking she was alone and Will had come at her like a bat out of hell.


Grace's thumb traced along the line of the silver chain around her throat. This necklace had brought her some good luck after all. Will had meant to kill her that day, that much she was sure of. He'd been going for her gun when she'd lashed out with that trophy. A few minutes later and it would have been a completely different crime scene.


Grace stared at the white Nike shoe box sitting on her coffee table. She was still sitting cross legged on the floor in her NYPD sweats and tank top. She kept all of her most treasured belongings in this box, if there was ever a fire this would be the first thing she grabbed.


The lid was already off and the items spread precariously across the surface of her coffee table. She picked up the plastic four leaf clover Adam had pulled from her hair during the St Paddy's day parade three years ago and set it down on top of several photographs, ones from the crime lab nights out that hadn't made it onto the mantle piece. There were ticket stubs to plays she had attended with Stella or Sheldon, hockey and basket ball games with Danny or Don.


There were things she had won out of Christmas Crackers, a compass from her brother because she was always getting lost as a child, a pink stuffed hippo with red lips that Don had won from a trip the two of them had taken to Coney Island a few months ago.


At the bottom of the box she found the thing that she hadn't realized she had been looking for, a keepsake from that same time they had spent at Coney Island.


The tarot card was of The World, it was etched with markings from the old gypsy stalls she had visited at fairgrounds as a teenager. Grace had picked it out of a deck after dragging Don into a purple psychic's booth.


He had laughed at her when she had caught his hand and pulled him along. He said it was ridiculous, the two of them dealt daily in facts, putting their fate in the hands of a psychic was hilarious to him. Or at least it had been until she'd pulled out that card. She wasn't the only one who was haunted by the words the gypsy psychic had spoken.


This man will be in your life forever. The gypsy had told them. He is everything good and strong that you will ever need.


The psychic had given her the card afterwards for luck. It will be a tough road, she murmured inGrace's ear, but the two of you are destined.


Grace had no idea if that was true but it was in moments like this that she chose to believe. She had to believe that there was something better than this darkness she trod through day in and day out, something good had to come out of all the evil they saw.


Grace let out a deep sigh of frustration as she gathered up all of the knick knacks from over the years and placed them back inside the white shoe box as carefully as she could.


The two tickets to the Mayor's charity ball were sticking out from underneath the shoebox from where she had dumped them on the table when she had first gotten in. Stella had handed them to her as she was leaving tonight. Stella couldn't make the ball because she was due to lecture in Michigan that day and her flight was due back as the ball was ending so she had asked Grace to represent the Crime Lab in her place. The date part was optional.


Grace picked up the tickets, rubbing the two of them together between her fingers in thought.


Maybe it was time to start taking chances again.


Home, they say, is where the heart is. Unfortunately for Don he was finding this sentiment to be truer now than it ever had been for him. He was laying in bed, flat on his back at stupid o' clock in the morning staring at the bleak ceiling. He was wide awake, he couldn't tell whether that was from the thoughts that were whipping around his brain like a tornado or the fact Grace's scent was torturing him from her pillow as he lay motionless amongst the sheets they had made love in last night.


Made love.


He hadn't used that phrase before he met Grace.


It was hard to keep reminding himself that that she was safe alone in her apartment these days, that Will Hamlin was still locked up. Him and Danny had helped her move to a new place with no forwarding address and she had changed her phone number. Even if Hamlin did get out the chances of him finding her were slim.


Don turned onto his good side and found himself staring at the empty bedside that she usually occupied. It became her side from the very first night he had taken her to bed. His thoughts flitted back to that evening, it had been when their relationship had shifted from friendship into something deeper.


It was the night everything had come to ahead.


Stella's off the hand comment about what Grace was going home to had started it. It wasn't long after that the pieces had begun clicking into place for him. He thought about the long sleeves she wore throughout the summer, the glimpse he's gotten of the occasional bruise or the pain that she had been in after what she claimed had been a rough tackle. He had believed every single one of her excuses because the nature of their job was rough and tumble.


Grace had left her cellphone upon his desk on the way home by accident when she'd dropped by with a cup of coffee for him. Her hands were full and she had been juggling it, alongside the cellphone and her car keys. By the time he had realized it was there she had had seven missed calls from her boyfriend.


They had met outside her apartment later on that afternoon. He had noticed she was favouring her right side, the palm of her hand was constantly rubbing over her ribs on the left side of her rib cage as she winced.


He couldn't pretend that he wasn't see it. She was crying for help even if she never asked him straight out for it. There was a potent urge to do something. Ignoring this situation went against everything he believed in as a cop and as a man. It wasn't like him to go beating around the bush so he had come straight out with it. He knew that she needed help and he was going to see to it that she got out of this situation whether she wanted him to or not.


Stubborn as she was Grace hadn't turned him down when he had offered to take her to his place to check out her ribs. He knew a thing or two about patching people up, and she refused point blank to go to the hospital as she would have to report the incident.


Don had never seen Grace like this before. She was quiet, abnormally so, if that wasn't a tell tale indicator that something was wrong he didn't know what was. Currently she was sitting before him clad only in a simple black bra and dark blue denim jeans. Don inhaled deeply as he catalogued the detail of each injury that marred her body. Broad hand marks on her forearms, purple bruising down the left side of her ribs was already beginning to show. He had to bit his lip to prevent himself from cursing out loud.


Seeing this made him want to break each and every bone in her boyfriends body for marking her beautiful flesh. Underneath the bruises she was still stunning. Don knew if he was seeing her like this under any different circumstance he wouldn't have been able to resist her charms.


"It hurts to stretch." she told him, tilting her face away so she didn't see his fist clench or his eyes darken.


Don forced himself to take a deep breath to steady his nerves and calm his temper. She was safe right now, she was here and he wouldn't let anything harm her.


"I need you to lie down." he told her, trying to regain his composure.


It sickened him to see her like this. It terrified him to know that this was going on right under his nose and he had never suspected. She nodded her consent before laying flat on his bed. It was the opposite side from which he slept. Grace put her hands up by either side of he head to keep them out of the way of his examination. She was giving him free reign, an omission of surrender so he could do what he wanted with her. Don had been dismissing fantasies like this for years. He knelt on the floor beside the bed so his face was close to her navel, he breathed into his fingers to warm them up before he began prod her tender flesh.


"How long has this been going on?" he questioned as her grey eyes stared up at the ceiling.


"It started with a some bad investments a few months ago." she answered quietly.


He heard her sharp intake of breath, her body jerking as his fingertips smoothed across the lines of her lower ribs.


"It hurts there?" Don asked, his blue eyes searching her features as his thumb caressing the area softly in a bid to reassure her.


"Yes." she said quietly, her emotions strangely absent.


He recognized that as her way of protecting herself. Grace had shut down completely to deal with the agony she was going through. Don didn't blame her but more than anything he wanted to bring her back. He wanted her to know that human contact didn't have to hurt, that it could be given freely, that the price wasn't pain.


"The good news is nothings broken or cracked. They're just bruised." Don submitted, biting his lower lip as he shook his head at the mass of damage in front of him.


It could have been worse, he had no doubt that the next time it would be. His palm lay flat upon her stomach covering the worst of the bruising as his thumb followed the line of her ribcage up and then back down again. There was intimacy in that gesture, more than he cared to admit.


"You can't stay with him, he's hurting you."


"I know." Grace said, coming back to him.


She was there again beneath his hands. Her soul back in her body and ready to communicate because his presence gave her peace. He made her feel secure, nothing could touch her when she was with him.


"You deserve better than this." he whispered as both of her hands came to settle on his splayed out fingers, holding them in place.


He brushed the stray curl back behind her ear as her grey eyes fastened on his daring him to make the next move. He knew what she needed and he wanted to give it to her. Don wanted to show her what it meant to love someone, to care about them so deeply the idea of losing them drove you crazy. That's how he felt right now, she was slipping from his hands and he wanted to hold on as tightly as he could.


His thumb smoothed over her lips as he bent his forehead down to rest upon hers. Their eyes were wide open, he could see into her soul and he knew that she must be able to see his. Her body relaxed entirely, she sighed as his lips brushed the corner of her mouth before she uttered the words.


"Show me."


Making love to Grace was a different experience from the sex he was used to having. It was slow, tender and passionate. Each one of her moans was like a symphony in his ears, her nails raked across his skin as she responded to every single stroke. He had kissed away the doubts she had about her self worth and taken away her fears at least for one night. If he could have done it for a life time he would have.


Being inside her was incredible, the sense of completion she gave him was like no other. He had never connected with anybody the way he had with her and falling sleep holding her so close had stilled every single worry he had ever had in the world.


Don didn't sleep right when she wasn't beside him and now that it was all over he wasn't sure what he was going to do. Both of them had agreed to walk away and he knew it was in his own best interests to cut and run. Yet to walk away completely was cruel on both their parts.


The two of them had been friends for years, Grace had kicked his ass through psychical therapy after the explosion that had left him broken and scarred. She had sat by his bedside for days on end holding his hand and willing him to open his eyes. She had coached him through the depression that dogged his steps not long after. Don couldn't forget everything she had put into him over the years, not after everything they'd been through.


Don screwed up his eyes and buried his face into her pillow with a antagonized groan. There wasn't a chance in hell he was getting any sleep tonight.

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