Disclaimer: The characters of CSI: NY do not belong to me however this story is of my own and should only be used after permission has been asked and given. No copyright infringement intended and no profit is being made.
Summary: AU. SM, DL. It wasn't always fun to have a trained investigator for a parent. Then again, being a single parent was no easy feat either…
Notes: Notes at the end, read on.
Life As We Know It
"Daniel Messer, if I have to buy you another pair of glasses then it'll be coming out of your allowance," Stella Bonasera's stern warning drifted from down the hall.
"But it wasn't my fault!" the insistent complaint of the six year old followed. "Toby bet me I couldn't race him through the jungle gym but my glasses fell off and he stamped on them by accident when he jumped down," he explained before hastily adding, "after me, of course."
Mac Taylor rounded the corner and stood in the doorway of the break room, watching the exchange between mother and son. Stella stood with her hands on her hips, her expression showing her irritability whilst Danny sat on a stool, his legs swinging.
Stella sighed and held her hand out. "Let me see them."
Danny obligingly stuffed his hand into his pocket before pulling the small set of spectacles out. The middle was snapped, one half hanging pitifully and there was a large crack in the right lens. Mac heard her mutter in Greek as she inspected the damage.
"It's no good, we'll have to get a new pair," Stella finally said in English. "You're lucky the lens is cracked or else I would have taped them back together and made you wear them. And, seeing as I'm not sure just how bad your eyesight is I'm going to have to insist that you don't watch television until we can get you a new pair."
Danny looked horror struck. "But why?" he demanded.
"Because who knows what kind of damage staring at something and concentrating on it could do your eyesight?" Stella asked sombrely, enjoying her brand of punishment.
Danny opened his mouth to angrily protest before a grin stretched across his face. "I 'spose you're right, but in that case I'd best not do my homework until I gots new glasses either."
Mac entered the break room, chuckling. Stella spluttered indignantly before groaning as she realised she'd been bested by her six year old son. Mac ruffled Danny's hair.
"Gerroff Uncle Mac!" he complained, ducking out from his hand.
Mac retreated to the coffee machine, still chuckling. He poured coffee from the pot into two mugs before also picking out a juice box from the fridge. When he put his mind to it, Mac knew that Danny could be incredibly smart. Even at kindergarten level he was showing signs of a promising future and Mac just hoped he stuck to his studies and didn't end up like his father. Louie Messer was an uneducated schmuck who ran with a bad crowd, as far as Mac was concerned. He'd played the part of a respectable car dealership owner, winning the heart of Stella before turning around and stomping on it. When it had been time for him to step up, he'd turned and ran, uninterested in playing daddy and even Louie's parents had shunned both Danny and Stella, claiming there was no place in their family for an illegitimate lovechild bastard. Stella, alone and afraid, had turned to the only people left in the world for her – the team.
Mac, Hawkes, Aiden, Adam and even Sid had insisted that they'd be the only family she and her son would ever need. As far as Mac knew, they hadn't let either of them down yet.
Mac passed Stella her coffee who smiled gratefully, sipping from it before giving Danny his juice box. Since starting nursery school, Stella had refrained from hiring babysitters and instead Mac had allowed her time off each day to pick her son up from school before bringing him to the lab on the condition that he stayed either in her office or the break room and he completed all of his homework. Stella had been grateful, thanking him profusely, and Danny had even kept up his end of the bargain. Each weekday he stayed within his boundaries unless escorted otherwise and worked on his homework until 6pm when Stella was off the clock and able to take him home.
"So what all important prize did you win that made you climb through the jungle gym and break your glasses?" Mac asked, leaning against the counter as Stella slipped into the stool beside her son.
"I got a kiss off of Cindy Smith, right here," he pronounced proudly as he tapped his puckered lips.
Stella opened her mouth to scold him but was cut off by a voice from the doorway. "Did I just here that right?"
"Oh, hi Aiden," Danny greeted with a shy grin as the Brooklyn detective entered the break room.
"So you've been kissing girls, huh, hot shot?" she teased him.
Danny's grin widened. "Don't worry, you're still my bestest girlfriend, Cindy's just my second bestest."
"Is that right?" Aiden asked with a laugh. She turned to Stella. "You'd better watch this one."
"Don't I know it," Stella replied dryly.
"So what homework have you got for today?" Aiden asked to which Danny grinned at his mother.
"I not gots none."
Mac left them to it, returning to his office with his mug of steaming coffee. He sat at his desk, still smiling at the presence Danny created in his lab. Even at the young age of six he was a person of his own and Mac was sure he'd grow into a good man someday. His eyes drifted to the framed photograph which stood proudly on the corner of his desk.
Encased in the arms of her mother, the young girl beamed at the camera with two missing front teeth. Her dark blonde hair was pulled into a plat and curls inherited from her mom framed her face. Her chocolate eyes were warm, filled with happiness and Mac's heart ached.
9/11 really was the day that changed the world. Prior to the September attacks, he had been a happily married man who worked hard but also loved his wife. When the towers had fell, so had his world. He'd frantically run through the streets, searching every face and looking for a wisp of honeyed curls or beatific smile. His phone had eventually rung and he'd barked into it, receiving news that his wife was in hospital and she was asking for him. He'd thought the worst, wondering whether he was being summoned to say goodbye and when he'd ran through the doors of the hospital it was to be met by a sea of people. The frantic search began again until finally he'd heard the sound he so desperately needed. Claire was stood by the wall, pressing a cold compress to her forehead and staying out of the way of those in desperate need of help. She'd fell against him sobbing as her resolve crumbled and Mac felt his own strong walls crack.
That night they'd comforted each other, but in the morning he found he'd been biding his time after all. Claire was leaving him. She told him she didn't want to, but she had to. She loved him, really she did, and she realised that maybe they'd been given a second chance but it wasn't enough. She couldn't always be the one who stayed behind whilst he worked. She couldn't always be waiting for the phone call that told her their plans were unexpectedly cancelled again. She understood his job, his hard work, his commitment of protecting the city and in no way did she want to take that away from him but she also couldn't live her life waiting for him. Then she'd lightly touched her stomach. They couldn't live their lives waiting for him.
He'd understood, hated it, but understood.
And so he was a phantom in his daughter's life. He sent her money each Christmas and Birthday which Claire probably claimed was from a distant relative and in return he was sent a photograph of his daughter each year. The last had been taken shortly after her sixth birthday and whilst this one stood pride in place for the next year, the other five were being kept safe in a shoebox beneath his bed. She lived with her mother and stepfather in Montana, completely unaware that he existed on the other side of the country.
To her, he was just a steady flow of anonymous money and an annual portrait. But to him, Lindsay Conrad Taylor was his world.
Notes: Okay, so, what do we think? I know, I know, it's incredibly AU but it just wouldn't stop niggling. You see, the basic storyline of characters as children has been in my head for years, back when I was writing in a different fandom but it never seemed to quite fit whereas when the idea returned and I began writing here it seemed to flow better. I'm just gonna say, give it a try and we'll see where it goes.