|Across The Pond
Author: ShrinkingViolet713 PM
A phone call from London sends Mac and Stella across the pond on a mission that will change their lives forever.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Family - Mac T. & Stella B. - Chapters: 2 - Words: 8,662 - Reviews: 24 - Favs: 12 - Follows: 28 - Updated: 09-01-10 - Published: 01-11-09 - id: 4784810
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Leaving her apartment for ten days was easier for Stella than one would have expected. She didn't have pets though she liked animals, and Mac liked to tease her that the only plant she couldn't kill was a cactus so those were out too. She threw away any food that would expire before she returned, made sure the windows were shut, and the coffee pot turned off, and locked the door behind her.
As they stood in the elevator going down, Mac reached over and linked fingers with Stella. She smiled reassuringly and rested her head against his shoulder. "I was thinking while I was packing," she said softly.
"I think we should call Lindsay and Hawkes to come over tonight so we can explain everything to them. It's not fair to Hawkes to drop the bombshell that we'll both be gone for ten days and he's in charge without a heads up. And we're asking a pretty big favor of Lindsay."
"Do we want to tell them the truth?" he asked, rubbing Stella's hand with his thumb gently.
"That's up to you," she answered. "We'll have to tell Lindsay though."
He nodded. "I think we should tell Hawkes too. He and Peyton were really close."
"Are we telling the team everything tomorrow?"
"I don't think so," Mac answered as the elevator dinged and he rolled Stella's suitcase out. "They'll have so many questions and I don't have the answers yet."
He loaded the suitcase into the back of his Suburban and opened the door for Stella. "We have to find a daycare facility," she reminded him. "Unless you want to use the one at the lab?"
"I don't know," Mac sighed, sounding overwhelmed as he started the car. "Is the facility at work good?"
Stella shrugged. "I haven't heard any complaints. Why don't we stop by tomorrow before we leave?"
"Okay. Call Linds and Hawkes when we get to my place?"
Stella nodded. "I'll have them come in about an hour. That should give you time to pack and me time to look around and make sure my list is complete."
They arrived at Mac's townhouse and unloaded Stella's suitcase from the car. While Mac went upstairs to pack his own bag, Stella pulled out her cell phone and dialed Hawkes first.
After three rings the CSI picked up. "What's up, Stell?" he asked.
"Hey, are you busy right now?"
Hawkes glanced at the computer chess game he'd been playing. "Nope, where's the scene?"
"No scene. Can you come by Mac's place in an hour? We need to talk to you."
"Sure, is everything okay?"
Stella paused. It was a typical question, but she honestly had no clue of the answer. So she lied. "Yeah, just come by."
Hawkes hung up and Stella took a deep breath before making the next call. "Hello?" the voice on the other end answered, followed by a squeal and an annoyed, "Stop it, it's Stella."
"Hey Linds, um, are you with Danny?"
"Yeah," she answered, obviously confused. "Do you need to talk to him?"
"No! I mean, I need your help on a project, but Danny can't know about it."
"O…kay," Lindsay said as she stood up and walked away from her boyfriend. "What's wrong?"
"Can you meet us at Mac's place in an hour? I'll explain then. And I'm sorry to interrupt your date with Danny."
"Yeah, I'll see you in an hour. Are you okay Stell?"
The obvious concern in Lindsay's voice made Stella even surer that they'd picked the right people to help. "I'm fine, kiddo. Thanks."
Realizing that she needed more help than just her memory to finish making the list for Lindsay of what the townhouse would need to become baby-friendly, Stella grabbed her pen and paper and sat down at Mac's computer. Within minutes she was scribbling furiously and jumped when Mac rested his hands on her shoulders.
"Sorry," he whispered, pressing a kiss to the top of her head. "I thought you heard me come in."
"I was double checking my list for what we'll need against some of these lists online."
"Are they coming?"
"They'll be here in," Stella looked at the clock on the computer. "Fifteen minutes. I think Lindsay and I should look at some of the decorating things tonight online so you can have some input."
Mac smiled. "I think I'll leave the decorating decisions in your and Lindsay's capable hands."
"Does Peyton know when we're getting in?" Stella asked.
"I haven't called her yet," he answered. "It's 1:15 in the morning in London, she's sleeping. She sounded so exhausted when I talked to her."
Stella stood up from the computer and gathered her list from the printer. "We'll call her tomorrow morning. I also made reservations at a hotel for us. I wasn't sure if Peyton would be up for two houseguests."
"You're an amazing woman, Stella," Mac murmured, drawing her close to him and brushing his lips against hers.
She smiled and kissed him back. "Thank you. You're pretty amazing yourself. Did you get everything packed?"
"I think so. Clothes, IDs, I should be good." Mac took Stella's fingers and led her to the couch, sitting down and tugging her with him. "I want to warn you about something Peyton said to me tonight."
"What?" Stella asked, eyebrows arching. They'd already had so much thrown at them that day that she couldn't imagine what else could happen. "Does she not know I'm coming?"
"Actually, I told her that I was hoping to bring you. But she said that you'd be a good mother to Emily."
Stella's eyes grew wide. "Wow Mac. I'm flattered, but Peyton will always be Emily's mother."
He smiled, brushing his knuckles across her cheek. "That's more or less what I told her. I just wanted to make sure you knew that Peyton knows that you're going to be very important to Emily. And she's okay with that."
"Thank you," Stella whispered, a small smiled on her face. She leaned in to kiss Mac again but before she could the doorbell rang. "They're here," she whispered.
"I'll get it," Mac said. "You answering my door might cause questions."
"Right, because we're not going to have enough of those tonight," she mumbled, running her fingers through her curls.
Mac opened the door to find both Hawkes and Lindsay standing there, obviously confused. "Thank you both for coming so quickly," he said, standing aside to let them in and taking the light windbreakers they'd both worn.
"Mac, Stella called us both over here, but wouldn't tell us why. What's going on?" Hawkes asked, looking around the townhouse.
"Are you guys okay?" Lindsay asked worriedly. She'd noticed Stella's suitcase by the stairs and knew that something was definitely wrong.
"Come into the living room," Mac answered both questions by not really answering them at all.
Hawkes and Lindsay exchanged a confused look, but followed Mac into the living room, Lindsay toeing off her shoes first. When they entered, Stella stood up from the computer.
"Thanks for coming," she smiled slightly. "Have a seat. Do you want something to drink?"
"I'm fine," Lindsay answered, growing more perplexed by the minute.
"What's going on?" Hawkes repeated.
Mac glanced at Stella who nodded and began. "Tonight, I got a call at the lab from Peyton." He paused and drew a deep breath. "She told me that she found out several months ago that she has cancer."
"What?" Sheldon gasped. "What kind? What stage? Who's her oncologist?"
Mac sighed, he knew that hearing this would hurt his friend, but it had to be done. "She said that she has breast cancer, but by the time they found it, it had metastasized to her stomach, liver, and lungs."
Linsday gasped, one hand flying to cover her mouth and Stella reached out, gently resting a hand on Mac's back, supporting him.
"She said…she doesn't have much longer and she needs me to come to London."
"Why?" Lindsay asked, hoping the question wouldn't sound too insensitive.
"After I left London, Peyton found out she was pregnant. She needs Stella and I to come get my daughter."
"Oh my God," Lindsay whispered.
"Why didn't she tell me?" Sheldon murmured. "We've kept in touch…"
"I'm sorry to have to tell you like this, Sheldon," Mac said softly, understanding the man's pain. "But the reason we asked you here is that we have favors to ask of both of you."
"Anything," Lindsay said immediately.
"With both of us being gone," Mac glanced at Stella, who nodded. "We need someone to run the lab. Sheldon, we'd like to ask you to fill in for me while we're gone."
Sheldon's mouth opened and closed a couple of times. "Okay," he finally said slowly.
"It'll only be for two weeks," Stella added, speaking for the first time since Mac had begun to explain. "I could only get two weeks emergency leave. Mac will have six though. Lindsay, we need your help getting everything ready here. Obviously, Mac's place isn't baby-proof, or set up for a baby."
Lindsay nodded. "How old is she? What's her name?"
"Emily Claire," Mac answered. "And she'll be one next week. Why don't you ladies start on that project and I'll go over some things with Sheldon."
"When are you leaving?" Sheldon asked, standing, still somewhat in shock.
"We're on a 4:00 flight tomorrow from JFK. We want to meet with the entire team tomorrow before we leave, but we're not going to tell them any more than we're going to London."
Sheldon nodded and followed Mac to his office while Stella took the pad of paper she'd made her list on and sat down next to Lindsay.
"Ready to get started?" Stella asked softly. "I'm sorry to throw you into this Linds, but we don't have a lot of time."
Lindsay nodded. "I understand." She took a deep breath and blew it out. "What do you need me to do?"
"I don't know what we'll bring back with us, though I'd assume most of her clothes and toys. I haven't looked at anything specific yet, but we'll need pretty much everything on this list. All furniture, bottles, baby gates, bibs, some clothes and toys…"
"Um, Stella? I really hate to bring this up because I realize this is an emergency…"
"We'll leave you Mac's credit card so you don't have to worry about cost. I'm thinking that furniture should be a dark cherry to match the rest of the furniture. I also want to warn you that I'd suggest refraining from anything overly frilly. She's a little girl, but she's Mac's little girl. I think too much pink would make him uncomfortable."
Lindsay nodded. "No problem. Do you want to start looking at ideas now? I really want you guys to be happy with the nursery."
Stella grinned. "Good plan. Are sure you're going to be okay not telling Danny this?"
"I wish I could tell him, I'm going to be spending a lot of time on this. But I'll keep it a secret. You will let me tell him eventually, right?"
"When we get back, we'll come clean. But Mac's worried that they'll have questions we don't have answers to. Which right now, is most of them."
Lindsay nodded as Stella gestured to the computer. They sat down and Stella typed "baby bedding" into the search engine. She clicked on the first link that came up and began scrolling through the options. Some looked decent, but Stella clicked on one of the pictures to enlarge it and both she and Lindsay gasped in horror.
"It…it looks like a deranged clown designed that," Lindsay managed to get out between laughs, her eyes the size of saucers.
"That's appalling!" Stella laughed. The room was designed in black, white, and hot pink with the colors swirling through a variety of patterns, polka dots, stripes, and large flowers. "That wouldn't soothe a baby it would give the poor thing nightmares! Okay, that's an example of what NOT to choose."
"No kidding," Lindsay laughed, slowly calming down. "I'm guessing no characters either?"
An hour later, Hawkes and Lindsay left and Stella wrapped her arms around Mac from behind. "It's late," she said softly. "And we have a busy day tomorrow."
"I don't know if I'll be able to sleep," Mac answered. "Too many thoughts are going through my head right now. You go on."
Stella shook her head. "Not without you. Come on, at least change out of your work clothes and get comfortable."
Mac sighed and turned, wrapping his arm around Stella's waist as he headed for the stairs. "Sheldon's nervous about taking over while we're gone."
"He'll do well," Stella assured him.
"I know. Is Lindsay okay with her assignment?"
"She's nervous about lying to Danny and that we won't like the results. But she'll do a good job."
They readied for bed automatically, but when Stella looked at the bed, Mac just shook his head. She wasn't surprised really, she'd known Mac Taylor for many years and when he had something on his mind, he didn't sleep.
"We've done everything we can do tonight, Mac."
"I know. I just, I wish I'd known about her, Stella. I have a daughter and, as terrible as it sounds, if Peyton hadn't gotten sick, I might never have known about her. I deserved to know."
"Yes, you did. But we can't change that. You know about her now, and you're going to be a good father."
"How do you know that? You can't predict the future, Stell."
That made her chuckle. "I know. But the evidence is on my side."
"Evidence?" Mac arched an eyebrow and held out his hand, pulling her close.
"Evidence," she repeated. "The way you put up with Lindsay's demonstrations, every time, the way you handle Danny and Adam having chair races down the hall or playing hang-man on the walls."
Mac laughed softly. "Somehow, Lindsay's never grasped the difference between boss and guinea pig."
"Try to sleep, okay? We're meeting with everyone at 9:00 tomorrow morning."
He was going to resist, but saw the tired look in Stella's eyes and knew that she'd stay awake with him. "Okay, we'll go to bed."
Much to Mac's surprise, when the alarm went off the next morning, it woke him up. Stella was tangled in his arms, her head on his chest and her arms wrapped tightly around his waist. She groaned at the noise and snuggled in closer. "Turn it off," she mumbled.
Mac hit the snooze button and pressed a kiss to the top of her head. "Go back to sleep."
But instead, she stretched and looked up at him sleepily. "Did you sleep at all?"
"Surprisingly, yes. Ready to meet with the team?"
"Mind if I shower and get dressed first?" she smirked.
"Oh, but you're so cute when you first wake up," Mac grinned.
Stella smacked his chest and sat up. "You're in a better mood."
"Well as much as it pains me to admit it, you were right. There's nothing I can do until we get to London. We've made as many plans as we can and things are going to be taken care of here."
Stella leaned over and kissed his cheek. "Good, you're learning. I'm always right."
"Uh-huh. Just get ready."
She smiled and cupped his cheek, suddenly serious. "It'll work out. We'll make it."
"Thank you." He kissed her once more before getting up to shower.
When they entered the building, Mac glanced at his watch. "I think we have some time to check out the daycare center."
Stella nodded. "I think we should wait before we make any firm decisions. We won't know if this facility is a good fit for Emily until we know her. But it won't hurt to look."
They walked into the daycare and looked around. It seemed to be a nice facility, a good teacher to student ratio, 1:3 in the infant room, very clean, and most importantly, open 24 hours. But Mac just looked at Stella blankly. He had no idea what was the correct choice and was terrified of making the wrong decision and harming his daughter in some way.
Stella nodded and told the day care director that they'd be in touch. They walked to the elevator side by side, careful to keep a distance between them since they were at work. Once the doors closed however, Stella linked hands with Mac, silently letting him know she was still with him.
Once the doors opened, Stella and Mac headed to their own offices to gather what they would need for the trip, tie up what loose ends they could, and sign some paperwork. Twenty minutes later, Lindsay knocked on Stella's door.
"You coming, Stel? It's almost 9."
Stella looked up and smiled. "Yep. Here are my open cases. I'm really sorry I'm dumping all of this on you…"
Lindsay took the files and rested a hand on Stella's arm. "Anything I can do, Stella."
"Thanks, kiddo." The women walked into Mac's office and found the rest of the team, plus Flack and Sid already assembled.
Lindsay took a seat on the couch next to Danny and Stella stood next to Mac who cleared his throat.
"Thank you for coming," he paused, unsure of how to continue. "Today, Stella and I are flying to England for ten days."
"Why?" Adam asked, brow furrowing.
"Last night, I received a call from…a friend in England, requiring my help. Stella is coming with me."
"Is there somethin' you're not tellin' us?" Flack asked suspiciously.
"Until Stella gets back, in two weeks, Hawkes is in charge. Lindsay's second in command. We'll be checking in daily."
"When will you be back?" Danny asked. "An' you didn' answer Flack's question."
"I'll be back in six weeks. And I didn't answer Flack's question because I don't know all of the answers yet."
"Are you sick, Mac?" Sid asked worriedly.
"Are you?" Flack demanded before Mac could answer.
"If you're sick, we're gonna wanna come with an' support you," Danny added firmly.
Mac sighed, pinching his nose between his thumb and forefinger. "I'm not sick, I promise," he ground out. This was not going the way he'd hoped it would. Though why he'd thought that some of the top investigators in the country wouldn't question him picking up and leaving, he didn't know.
"Did someone die?" Adam asked, voice quiet, trying to be sympathetic.
Mac nearly groaned. "Fine. Peyton called. She's sick, very sick. Stella and I are going over there for two weeks. And any other questions not related to the running of the lab will have to wait until I get back."
"I've given Lindsay my open cases," Stella jumped in, wanting to let Mac off the hook, at least a little.
"Why are you going with?" Adam asked. "No offense, but it seems like it would be a personal thing…"
"That will be answered in due time, Adam." Stella arched an eyebrow, letting him know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the subject was closed.
"Yes ma'am," Adam answered.
"Does anyone have any questions about the running of the lab while we're away?" Mac asked. When everyone shook their heads, he nodded. "Though just to be clear, there will be no chair races, paper airplane fights, and no blowing up of the lab in my absence."
Flack snorted. "No, only you get to blow up the lab."
"And with that, we have a flight to catch," Mac looked meaningfully at Stella who nodded.
"Call if it's an emergency, otherwise we'll be checking in daily." Stella hugged everyone good-bye and she and Mac walked into the elevator.
Once the doors closed, Mac linked fingers with her. "They want answers."
"Of course they do, they're our team. And we'll tell them when we're ready."
Mac smiled thankfully at her and they walked together to the SUV. The ride to the airport was silent, both lost in their own thoughts. Glancing at Mac, Stella saw the trouble in his eyes. She reached over and laid her hand on the console, palm up. After a few seconds, she felt Mac's warm palm in hers and squeezed it in silent support.
Mac glanced at his long time partner and couldn't help but smile softly. He may have only been dating Stella officially for six months, but the decade of friendship that preceded the romance was what had solidified the relationship. When they had first been introduced as partners Mac's more taciturn nature had been slightly overwhelmed by Stella's vivacious personality. But over time, their personalities had rubbed off on each other. She had drawn Mac out of his shell, but patiently. And after September 11th, when Claire had died, Stella was the one person he'd been able to talk to. In turn, she had mellowed slightly. She was still far more outgoing and talkative than he was and, if Mac was honest with himself, Stella was much better at playing politics than he was, in a good way of course.
But neither felt the need to fill the silences with words. Stella had learned the hard way that when Mac was thinking something over, sometimes he needed to be pushed and sometimes he needed to mull things over by himself for awhile. She knew that when he was ready, when it counted, he would talk it out with her. They made their way through security and Mac glanced at Stella. "Do you want to get a coffee before the plane takes off?"
She chuckled, but shook her head. "I try to avoid airplane bathrooms if I can. I won't be able to this flight, but I can at least put it off as long as possible."
That made Mac laugh. "Noted. And probably a good policy. You're sure you're okay with this, Stel?"
Understanding what he meant, she linked fingers with him and leaned her head on his shoulder. "It's not going to be easy, I'm not trying to pretend it will be. But we'll make it through. I'll take my cues from you this week, do whatever you need me to do."
"You're amazing," he whispered, kissing the top of her head.
Stella just smiled as they sat to wait for their flight to be called. An hour later they boarded their flight and eight hours later Mac and Stella began waiting to go through customs. They hailed a cab, but when Stella told the cabbie the name of their hotel, Mac shook his head.
"I want to head straight to Peyton's."
"Mac," Stella sighed patiently. "I know you want to meet Emily but it's 7:00 in the morning. Let's get checked into the hotel and unpacked and we can head over in a few hours."
"I don't want to wait, Stella! I want to go over to Peyton's, meet my daughter, and figure out what is going on."
"I know," she soothed. "But we're tired, we haven't eaten, and frankly I smell like airplane. Let's check in, and we'll call Peyton to let her know that we're here. Even though she knows we're coming, she would want a heads up. We're going to figure this mess out and make it work, but we'll both be better equipped to deal with everything after we've had a nap and some breakfast."
Mac opened his mouth to argue, then stopped. Stella was right and he knew it. As they'd gotten closer and closer to England, his anger at Peyton for hiding Emily from him had begun to grow and boil. Undoubtedly Stella had picked up on that fact.
"Fine. I'll call Peyton and tell her we arrived." As they drove through the city, Mac dialed Peyton's number.
"Hello?" a strange British voice answered.
"Hello, I'd like to speak with Peyton?" Mac said, his brow furrowing.
"One moment, please. Ms. Driscoll?" the voice called out. A few moments later, the voice was back. "Ms. Driscoll is, um, unavailable right now. May I take your name and she'll call you back?"
"Sure. My name's Mac Taylor. Just tell her I'm in town and to give me a call." He hung up and Stella looked at him, concerned.
"The nanny said Peyton was unavailable. But she knew we were arriving today…"
"Maybe she's in the shower. It's okay, Mac."
"I don't like feeling so out of control."
"I know." She reached over and squeezed his hand. Stella knew Mac was upset and she understood. It was hard though. She was angry for Mac, sad for Emily and Peyton, and worried for all of their futures. And she was extremely nervous about their upcoming meeting. She was truly hoping that some sleep and food would give their nerves a chance to smooth out and let them calm down, at least a little.
The hotel was nicely appointed and, more importantly, close to Peyton's house. When they opened the door, Mac's jaw dropped. "Wow Stel, this, this is really nice."
She smiled and lifted her suitcase onto the bed. "I thought we'd need some space if we bring Emily back with us some night. She's almost definitely crawling and possibly walking, so she'll be mobile. Plus, I thought it would be nice to unwind someplace a little nicer than a typical hotel room."
"Thank you," he said with a smile, wrapping his arms around her waist. "And you were right about resting first. Let's get unpacked and lay down."
She grinned and turned in his arms, wrapping her own arms around his neck. "I'm glad you realized I'm always right," she whispered as she kissed him, then hurried into the bathroom with her bag of toiletries.
"Hey, I didn't say always!" Mac exclaimed, following her.
"I know, the always goes unsaid." She smiled as she came out.
But Mac's new calm slowly evaporated when, after unpacking and taking a nap, Peyton still hadn't called. Stella convinced him to walk with her to a bakery for some late breakfast where he was still exuding so much tension that it was rubbing off on Stella who found herself getting cranky. Finally on the way back to the hotel at 11:15, Peyton called and suggested that they come by around 2:00 so Emily would be almost done with her afternoon nap.
"I'm going to call Lindsay and tell her we arrived," Stella said when they got back to the hotel.
Mac nodded. "I'm going to see if I can find a toy store."
"Happy shopping," Stella smiled and kissed him briefly. "I'll see you back here when you're done."
Finally, at 1:30, Mac and Stella left the hotel with Mac clutching a stuffed cat for Emily. "I'm nervous, Stel."
"I know. Let's go meet your daughter."