Disclaimer: Probably to their relief, the characters are not mine

Notes: Another little story in this series, this one slightly more perilous than the last :D Many thanks for all the reviews for the last scene!

Thanks to Ballettmaus for reading and providing detailed comments, and also to Lost in New York and Little Miss Lou who read an early draft and gave me some pointers. This was also inspired by some prompts from Blue Shadowdancer. Enjoy!

Red Roses

It had begun with coffee. Coffee, alfresco, on a perfect April day. A day of primrose sunlight, a gentle warmth, a breeze which had stroked their skin... Now dust coated her skin and the sunlight was a faded memory.

Stella groaned and let her head tip back against the heap of rubble behind them, her skull hitting the stone with a soft 'thunk'. She shivered. There was nothing but cold and the waning glow from Mac's cell phone. The atmosphere was still as death.

Wrapping her arms round her, she tried to breathe as slow and shallow as possible. The air tasted acrid and dry in her mouth, desiccating her throat and lungs. When she moved her gaze sideways, she caught Mac's eye through the gloom and knew he was as afraid as she was.

How long they had been there, she had no idea. Surely though someone would have missed them by now and realised that they, too, had been caught up in the apparent explosion? They could only hope so.

After all, they had only left the lab to get coffee; something which had been Mac's suggestion. Pleasantly surprised that he had been the one to ask, Stella had been more than happy to agree.

They had held hands as they walked to the cafe, something they had been doing more often recently. Still, every time they did, it caused the warmth from their joined fingers to spread through her, all the way to her smile.

Now her fingers were numb, stiff with cold, lacerated by their attempts to try and scrabble a way out of their subterranean prison. But in the darkness, they had reached for each other by instinct, their fingers entwining. When the cold crept deeper into her, she tightened her grip on Mac, moving closer to him, grateful for his reassuring warmth beside her as she remembered earlier.

Probably only a few hours earlier, when they had finished their coffee, Mac had insisted on paying. She had let him, conceding with a teasing smile and the reminder that it would be her turn next time. That 'next time' had brought a rare, wide smile to his face. A smile that had lit his eyes as their hands joined again as they strolled along the sidewalk together.

They had passed a florist, the buckets of roses outside snagging her attention. Mac had noticed. He had seen her gaze tugged towards the blood red blooms and with a different smile flowering on his face, he had led her into the store, catching up a bunch of the reddest blossoms and paying for them. With an almost shy look on his face, he had presented them to her. With no shyness at all, she had kissed him, her lips on his; a trace of rose pink in both their cheeks when they had pulled back...

Where those roses were now, God only knew. Somewhere underneath the rubble that had entombed them both. Crushed, probably, into an obliteration of petals, smashed stems and broken thorns. Somewhere down here, in the gloom. In the first dazedness of waking, she had felt around for them in the confined space, but had laid her hand on only grit and stone. A sensation so different from that she had experienced earlier.

After they had left the shop, she had clutched her flowers, regardless of their thorns, delighting in the richness of their hue, and even more, in the impulse behind the gift. Her wondering gaze had fallen on Mac every few moments. That smile of his, satisfied and a little shy, had played round the corners of his mouth. His eyes when they turned to meet hers had held secrets she wanted to explore further.

Now, she craved only to see his face in the daylight again; to know they would both feel sun and rain on their skin again...

Hours before, having seen the blue skies above them fade to grey, and then dim to a smoke colour, they had hurried to get back to the lab. Not fast enough. When the clouds were sliced open by lightning, bleeding rainwater with a howl of thunderous pain, they had run. With her roses battered by the torrents of water, Stella had hauled Mac into a subway entrance. She had taken a step back, to let someone pass and in that instant, their haven had exploded; everything had fallen down, blackness had collapsed on them.

In the near total darkness they were still trapped in, she had come to, lying on her back, serrated pieces of concrete digging into her, with Mac chafing her hand, uttering her name urgently. He had helped her sit up as much as they could in the limited space, watching her anxiously as she coughed dust out of her lungs. His forehead and the front of his hair were clotted with blood; that she had seen as soon as her eyes had adjusted.

Neither had she escaped injury; there was a dull, wearying ache in her stomach where a sliver of stone had stabbed her and coagulating blood on her scalp. In quick, matter of fact tones, Mac had explained the situation. It seemed that something had detonated in the subway and they had been caught in the explosion. And they were trapped. As far as he could tell, there was no way out.

So it had been proved. They had called, tried to move what they could, to no avail. No answering cries, no escape. When they had brought a rock fall down on them, the swirls of powdered concrete almost smothering them, they had stopped and accepted the truth. They were trapped. There was no way out.

No way out...

Trapped...

Her head sagged onto Mac's shoulder, her mind roiling, woozy. Maybe lack of oxygen or blood loss, maybe the blow to her head. Whichever it was, she was beginning not to care, and in her stomach the gnawing pain was becoming steadily worse. Sensing it, perhaps, Mac drew her closer, his lips brushing the top of her head as she heard him murmur that it would be okay; that they'd find a way out. To his last shreds of hope, she clung, too. And moments later, accompanied by cascades of grit onto their heads, they heard voices above them.

But it was the last thing she heard, as when Mac pulled her out of the way of the tumbling stones, the movement caused a knifing agony in her abdomen. All she could do was utter a cry before sight, sound and sensation swirled into an indecipherable muddle, followed by oblivion.

How much time passed, she had no idea. She was aware of nothing but muffled sounds, intermittent voices, Mac's somewhere amongst them, then silence, further darkness. Until she felt light beyond her eyelids, felt a caress of sunlight on her skin, heard a voice clearly.

After one failed attempt, her eyes opened and looked into Mac's, and of its own accord, a smile appeared on her lips.

He took her hand, raising it, his lips touching the back of it tenderly while her fingers curled round his. Where she remembered a gash on his forehead, there was now a cleaned and dressed wound. On his cheeks and chin, his skin was drawn and his eyes held clouds, but the longer his gaze held hers, the faster they fleeted away and she could see the sun behind them.

And in a vase at the side of her bed were a dozen red roses, fresh with velvet petals and she smiled anew; knowing what they had begun, they would continue.


Thanks for reading, reviews are very much appreciated - let me know what you think! Lily x