Connections 6
Caller ID

Rina

5/13/00

Disclaimers: Since John Woo and Alliance stopped playing with them, I suppose it's okay for me to grab the boys and have some fun.

There was something about hospitals that Victor Mansfield hated.

If asked, he couldn't have pin-pointed it exactly, but the combination of the antiseptic smell along with the cold, sterile atmosphere and the fact that being in one meant that either Vic or someone he knew had been injured, all added up to an intense case of dislike for the places.

So why, if I hate them so much, am I here? There was no easy answer to that question, and he continued down the long hallway, feeling like a condemned man approaching the gallows. The closer he got to his destination, the greater his sense of trepidation, until the former cop was having to force himself to take each step.

Aware of the nurses' close scrutiny at his sloth-like pace, Vic made himself take the final steps toward his destination, stopping outside the closed door. Raising a hand to rub at the back of his neck in the hopes of dispelling both his lingering hangover as well as the tension headache that had started the moment he walked into the hospital, Vic sighed. This wasn't going to work, he couldn't go through with it, not now.

Part of his ambivalence came from the simple fact that Vic had no clue what he would say to Mac when he saw him, or even if he wanted to see him at all. A request for an explanation would be a good start, and the desire for one was what had him here in the first place. Well, that and the Director's 'suggestion' that he check in on Mac today. The rest of his reluctance was because given what had happened, Victor had no desire to hear Mac gloating about how he'd 'gotten' him, and gotten him the ex-thief had.

This wasn't going to work. There was no way he could go in there, make small talk, and act as if nothing had happened. Even with all the shit they had been through, Victor had trusted Mac to watch his back. Now he wasn't sure if he even trusted himself in that regard.

Fuck.

Vic glanced from his half-raised hand to the beige door in front of him, then took a step backwards. The Director could take whatever chunk she wanted out of his hide, it didn't matter. Whatever she did would be less dangerous and painful then walking through that door.

Stuffing his hands in his jacket pockets, Vic spun on his heel and hot-footed it out of the hospital, moving as if there was a bomb on its final countdown within the building.

"You're moping again."

"Am not," Mac muttered, his sullen tone a good match for the petulant pout of his lower lip.

Li Ann leaned against the corner of her former lover and current partner's dining room table and shook her head in exasperation. "Fine, you aren't moping, you're brooding. Is that better?"

"I'm recovering from an injury sustained in the line of duty. Doesn't that entitle me to some pity and compassion?"

"Not when you've milked it for almost two weeks, it doesn't. You'd better get back soon or you're going to lose your parking space."

Mac tilted his head just enough to look at Li Ann fully. "Maybe if I stay out longer I'll lose my job as well."

"Maybe if you stay out any longer the Director will send someone to bring you in."

"You mean she didn't send you to do that?"

"No, I came all on my own with the mistaken idea that you might prove to be ready to listen to rational arguments regarding this. She's not going to let you sit around here forever. I can't understand why she's let it go this long."

"It's not like I'm not working," Mac replied, quick to defend himself. "She's got me looking up the most stupid facts known to man on the internet. The average export of mangos per capita from Colombia, the mean rainfall in Costa Rica. I'm beginning to feel like a walking Trivial Pursuit game or something."

"Poor Mac." Li Ann chuckled and ruffled his hair, arching an eyebrow when he didn't automatically reach up to straighten the disheveled strands. "Well, she has one more assignment for you too. She wants the final report on the Kirkdon case in her e-mail tomorrow morning."

Mac sighed, closed his eyes, and thumped his head against the back of the couch. "Great. Just how I wanted to spend my evening, reliving that." One dark brown eye slitted open and he stared at Li Ann accusingly. "I thought you said she didn't send you."

"No," Li Ann tucked her purse under her arm and breezed toward the door, "she didn't, but she did ask me to pass on the message if I saw you. If I were you, I'd get it done." The door closed behind the young woman before Mac could reply, then popped open again. "And stop moping!"

"I'm not moping!" Mac shouted, growling when it was clear that Li Ann wasn't coming back to continue the argument. "I'm not," he mumbled. "I'm reviewing my life. That's it. Oh fuck, who am I kidding?"

Taking care not to twist his bound arm and shoulder, Mac pushed up off the couch and went out onto the balcony, resting his good arm on the railing and watching the traffic below. This was so pathetic. He was so pathetic, so screwed up, so fucking in love with Victor Mansfield that it hurt.

God it hurt.

He hadn't seen or heard a trace of the older man since that fuck-up of a day and, to tell the truth, that was the main reason Mac had been avoiding going back to work. "Great, now I'm a coward on top of being pathetic. Why did this happen to me? I liked my life the way it was. Chase some bad guys, have a few drinks, find someone to go home with..."

Put that way, it didn't sound like much of a life at all, only a lonely existence. Maybe that was where it all started, the simple desire to belong with someone that had unfortunately fixated on probably the worst choice on the earth.

"Could have been worse," he said with a painful laugh, "could have fallen for the Director." Mac couldn't stop the shudder that ran through him at that, then cursed as the motion jarred his arm. "Report. Yeah. By tomorrow. Whatever you want, ma'am."

One handed typing was not his strong suit, so after Mac had gathered up his laptop, a drink, and his headphones, he settled himself on the lounge chair on the balcony, ready for a long evening and an even longer night.

After four hours, a hundred curses and more backspacing then he cared to think of, Mac was ready to scream but, thankfully, he was also done with the damn report. It had been an exercise in creative writing as well as hunt and peck typing, but hopefully the result would get most of the heat off of Vic and onto his shoulders where it belonged. "Shit, I can't believe I'm actually doing this..." But then what else could he do? It wasn't Vic's fault. Now if only the Director would believe him.

"Don't know she why she would, hell, no one else does." Self-pity and the nagging ache in his shoulder conspired together to set Mac on edge and he pounded at the keyboard as he saved the file, then booted up his mail program to send the damn thing in.

"Get this mailed, take a pill, have a drink and go to sleep." Chanting this little mantra had gotten him through the last of the tortuous, redundant questions that filled the special report form - all ten pages of it - and now that the end was in sight, the words had a slightly hysterical edge to them. "C'mon, c'mon... Shit!" An IM box popped up on the screen and Mac prepared himself to blast whoever it was. He'd already started typing out a nasty response when he really looked at the sender's name, and his fingers stilled on the keys.

"Will you answer the damn IM, Ramsey," Victor growled to himself as he paced back and forth. This wasn't how he had meant to confront the younger man, but as he couldn't seem to bring himself to see Mac and Mac wasn't coming into work, it left few options.

What about the phone? Oh yeah right, and have one of us hang up. No, this is the only way.

The past two weeks hadn't been easy for Vic. Between his own conflicted emotions regarding everything that had happened and the snide comments that Dobrinsky kept offering up, he had been ready to tear someone's head off - preferably Mac's for putting him in this damn situation to begin with. Then he had happened to overhear a couple of the forensics guys laughing their asses off over what had happened and Vic found himself defending his partner - ex-partner - what-ever he was - with a vehemence that had sent the two lab rats scuttling back for their holes.

Couple that with the fact that every time he closed his eyes that damn vision of the lake popped up and who could blame Vic for being in a crappy mood. "I want my life back the way it was." It had been simple before all this - well, as simple as life could get for an ex-cop secret agent anyway. Pine after Li Ann, never mind that he had been doing less and less of that lately, play poker with the Cleaners, go a few verbal rounds with Mac, and take on whatever strange case the Director assigned them, knowing that his partners would be there to cover his back.

Maybe that was why this all cut so deep. Despite their bickering, Victor had trusted Mac and now - now he didn't know how he felt.

But he knew he had to find out.

TrueBlue: Mac, we need to talk.

LghtFngrs: I - umm, okay Victor, but don't you think the phone is easier? I've only got one hand right now after all.

TrueBlue: Shit. Forget it, I know you couldn't be serious about this.

LghtFngrs: Wait! Okay, okay, I'm sorry. I just... I didn't expect to hear from you, especially like this. I know I really screwed all this up and I'm sorry.

TrueBlue: Yeah, you did. I just needed to know...

LghtFngrs: What?

TrueBlue: Why? 

LghtFngrs: Why what? Why did I do what I did or why you?

TrueBlue: Either. Both. Why all the lies and crap? Was it that funny?

LghtFngrs: It started out as a way to make you relax about the whole assignment but then... It wasn't meant to be funny and I never lied to you.

TrueBlue: Cut the bullshit. If you don't call pretending to be someone else a lie, I don't know what is.

LghtFngrs: It was me damn it. Maybe the name was different, but it was me, without all the baggage and shit that we have between us. It was probably the closest to me that you'll ever see... Shit. Forget it, why am I even trying? Yeah Vic, it was just a game. You know me, always out to fuck with your head. Sorry if you took it wrong. If you feel like it, come on over and beat me up, can't fight back much right now anyway.

TrueBlue: Don't hand me the guilt trip, Ramsey. You started this whole thing, how did you think I'd react when I found out?

LghtFngrs: You're right, I didn't think - as usual. Now if you don't mind, I'm going to go and take my drugs like a good little boy and go to bed. Have a problem with that?

TrueBlue: Go ahead, run away. I notice you haven't answered my question yet.

LghtFngrs: ::sigh:: What question?

TrueBlue: Why did you do it?

LghtFngrs: Oh, that one.

TrueBlue: Yeah, that one.

LghtFngrs: If you don't know, I don't think I can tell you in a way you'll understand.

TrueBlue: Humor me.

LghtFngrs: Fuck.

LghtFngrs: It's like I said. I wanted a chance for us to talk without out all the shit from our past hanging over us. Without having to jump through the macho, one-up-on-each-other hoops that we dangle in front of each other. I just wanted for you to see -

TrueBlue: What?

LghtFngrs: Me. What I really think.

TrueBlue: Which is?

LghtFngrs: God, you aren't going to give an inch, are you?

TrueBlue: Put yourself in my place. Would you?

LghtFngrs: Probably not.

TrueBlue: So, why should I?

LghtFngrs: Yeah. Maybe I wanted you to see that I'm just not an arrogant, amoral slut. Maybe I wanted you to see that there's more to me then the reckless fuck-up. Really screwed that up, didn't I? Only good thing that came out of it is that I got to dance with you. I can't get that scene out of my head sometimes.

TrueBlue: Me either.

LghtFngrs: What?

TrueBlue: I close my eyes and it's there, only now I can't remember how it was with CJ because you're there.

LghtFngrs: Vic, I am CJ.

TrueBlue: I know that! But I didn't then and I can't tell what I feel about any of it any more. Damnit Mac, why?

LghtFngrs: I'm sorry Victor. If I could do it over again, I wouldn't, but since I can't... I'm sorry.

TrueBlue: You still haven't told me.

LghtFngrs: I can't, I mean what's the point? You won't believe me anyway.

TrueBlue: Tell me to my face and I'll believe you.

LghtFngrs: I would if you were here.

TrueBlue: Open your door.

LghtFngrs: Oh right.

TrueBlue: Mac, go open your fucking door. I'm tired of standing out here leaning against the wall and typing on this thing. Besides, the charge is almost gone on my cell phone.

<LghtFngrs has signed off>

While waiting for Mac to come and open the door, Vic shut down his computer and disconnected it from his cell, purposely shutting the phone off before shoving it into his jacket pocket. This was going to be difficult enough without any interruptions.

The quiet click of the well-oiled locks disengaging preceded the inward swing of the door, and Vic found himself face to face with his definitely worse for the wear partner.

"Victor." Mac's voice was subdued as he stepped out of the way to let Vic in.

"You look like shit." The comment was offered up without the heat of emotion, just as a statement of fact. Mac did look like shit, haggard and scruffy, dressed in wrinkled clothes - now Vic knew that the younger man was serious, there was no way the fashion plate ex-thief would allow himself to look like this otherwise. Mac shrugged his good shoulder, then closed the door behind Vic. "Ironing with one hand is not something I'd recommend for the faint hearted. Want something to drink?"

"No." Vic set his equipment down on the coffee table and waited, arms folded across his chest. "You know what I want."

"Yeah." Mac wandered aimlessly around the room, rubbing at the canvas sling that supported his injured arm, looking anywhere but at the older man. Finally coming to a stop by the armoire that used to hold his stereo, Mac raised his head, risking a glance at Victor. "Maybe this would have been easier to type," he sighed out.

Vic remained silent, taking a seat on the couch, avoiding the ridiculous red inflatable 'chair' even though it afforded a better view of the ex-thief.

"Or maybe not," Mac continued, "at least this way I can tell if you're going to pull your gun on me rather than being shot through the door."

"You're stalling again," Vic stated, glaring at the younger man with a gaze that could at best be described as neutral.

Mac nodded at that, centering his attention on the floor in front of him. "First, why did I do it. I suppose that's the easier of the questions to answer." He sighed and leaned back against the polished wood, trusting the heavy piece of furniture to hold his weight. "It's like I told you, at first I was trying to get you to relax, to give you someone unthreatening to talk with to help you loosen up. Let's face it, Vic, you weren't exactly racking up points in those rooms with the retiring flower bit. Kirkdon liked shy, not invisible."

The former thief focused on his foot as he rubbed his toes over the light oak of the hard-wood floors, and continued before Vic could voice whatever protest he might make. "I enjoyed it, the chance to talk to you without all of this blowing up between us again. Hell, I liked being able to flirt with you and when you flirted back... I know that it was wrong to lead you on like that, but it got to the point that... Tiew. If you could have seen the shit I was telling Kirkdon - I needed it to keep me sane. I thought maybe that I could explain when we met, that you'd give me the benefit of the doubt." Mac lifted his eyes at that to look at Vic. "Wrong as usual."

Vic met the younger man's troubled gaze head on, refusing to flinch or cave in to the raw regret that was all too visible in Mac's dark eyes. "And the other question?"

"Why you? God, I wish I could answer that myself. I don't know when exactly it happened, but the first time I consciously realized how much I wanted you was after Michael almost killed all of us. There we were, barely alive, bruised, burned and bloody and all I could think of was that if you had gotten yourself killed trying to save me I would have kicked your ass. And then I wanted to take you home, wrap myself around you and never let go. It was total, complete insanity to even think of it, so I pushed it aside. I mean, what was the point? One, you didn't like men that way. Two, you tolerate me most of the time but I'm not going to pretend it's more then that. Three, I knew who you loved. And then came this case and several of those notions headed south for the winter. So I had to try."

Mac turned and leaned against the armoire, rubbing at the back of his neck with his left hand. "I never meant for you to be hurt by all this or for it to get that out of hand, but then when do my plans ever work out like I expect them to? You didn't ask that though, you wanted to know why you. Why did Mac Ramsey decide to fall for Victor Mansfield. It's - shit, I don't even know if I can explain it. You're my center. I know whatever I get into, you'll have my back. It started because I trust you, and it ends because you don't trust me, not that I blame you."

"So it all comes down to the fact that I'm loyal? How fucking flattering. Maybe you should get a dog if that's what you want." Whatever Vic had been expecting, Mac's rambling admission certainly hadn't been it. Fast, loose and easy, that's what he thought the younger man preferred. But maybe he didn't know Mac as well as he thought.

"Don't want a dog, want you," Mac whispered.

"Because I watch your back? C'mon Mac, that's a load of crap and you know it."

"No." Mac spun and glared at the older man, depression and self-pity giving way to anger. "Because I want you so fucking much I can't think. Because most nights you're the last thing I think of before I go to sleep - after jerking off thinking about you - and the first thing I think of in the morning. Because when I'm out, I see something, or hear some music and wish that I could show you it. Because..."

"Because what?"

"Oh no, you got the rest out of me, but not that."

Vic set aside his own feelings about the matter for the moment and looked at Mac. The younger man's lanky body was taught with nerves and a muscle jumped under the darkly shadowed skin of his jaw. Did he believe what the other man said? Mac could run a con with the best of them, but the few times Vic had seen him emotionally involved in a situation, like with his father, or Clare, he had carried himself in this same manner.

What do I want from this? There was that damn question again. Before tonight, Vic would have said retribution, or revenge, but now those thoughts were strangely absent. God, part of him wanted to take Mac into his arms and soothe the anguish from his face, to coax a smile back to those full lips. But not now, it was too soon - for both of them.

Pushing himself off the couch, Vic moved toward Mac, hyper-aware of the way the other man's eyes warily tracked his steps. "Relax, I'm not going to slug you," he sighed. "This is... Where's your stereo?"

Mac's brow wrinkled in confusion, then he managed a one shouldered shrug. "Scrap yard probably, not much anyone can do with one that's in a pile of scraps."

"Kirkdon trash it?" "No, it was already that way when he got here. I... was a little upset when I got home."

Vic nodded at that. "I think I'm familiar with that emotion. Spent my night downing half a bottle of Scotch, then woke up with the Director in my bed giving me what for."

Mac couldn't stop the shudder that ran through him at that, then groaned as the pain in his shoulder announced itself forcefully. "My condolences."

"Yeah, wasn't one of my favorite moments," Vic said. "Is it time for your meds? Looks like that hurt."

"They're as needed, but they knock me on my ass. I'd prefer that we get this done before I take them and really start babbling."

"Mac..." the ex-cop growled. "You are so damn stubborn. Take the pills if you need to. We can talk about this more later."

The younger man couldn't hide his look of surprise at that. "You mean you're actually going to keep talking to me?"

Victor smiled wryly. "It's that loyalty thing I guess, can't walk away even when I should."

Mac gave a ghost of a smile in response. "You know, it's not just that. The Director was right." At Vic's perplexed look, he continued. "You do have killer eyes and a great ass."

"Don't push it, Ramsey. Take your pills and get some rest, we can finish this later."

"Okay," Mac nodded, his expression quite meek - for him. "Let me know when you decide you want to."

Wondering if this indeed was the best course of action, but aware that it was indeed what he wanted, Vic reached up and touched the now faded bruise he'd given Mac two weeks before. "I think I owe you a triple shot almond cappuccino. How about I pick you up tomorrow afternoon and we go get one?"

Mac's smile was instantaneous and blinding. "I say I like the idea."

Vic shook his head and flicked the end of Mac's nose. "So do I, partner, so do I"

~end~

  since 02-04-07

Translation from Cantonese: Tiew = Fuck

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