Well, here we are.The end.From the top, bottom and middle of my heart I cannot thank you guys enough for all of the happy pills/reviews. It means more than y'all could ever understand. This fic really did turn into my new baby. I was writing it on my train rides home on fridays, and the car journeys back to College on the sunday. Not to mention the lectures in between ;)
This was all born thanks to Providence and the amazing emotion and capability Melina Kanakaredes puts into each performance. She really is awesome. Not to mention Mac/Gary totally shipable! lol
Thank you all so much again! I hope this last chapter is enjoyable. It took me so long to fight the urge to go on a complete fluffy escapade...I think I resisted enough, but not so much that there isnt enough, because, lets face it, Mac and Stella deserve fluff!
Maybe see y'all in the future! Thanks again x
Three months, one weeks and 4 days later…
Stella swung her door open and kicked it closed behind her. She dropped her keys into the dish and toed-off her sling-back shoes.
She was at a loss. She just stood there, her bare feet on the hardwood, her back against the door, for what seemed like hours.
The door shook behind her slightly as a knock sounded. Straightening her skirt and feminine blazer, she took a breath.
"Hey" she smiled, seeing Mac.
"How are you?" he asked, closing it behind himself
"I'm…okay" she sat down on her couch, curling her legs to the side.
Black really wasn't Stella's colour, Mac noted. He draped his jacket across the back of the seat, sitting down next to her. "I have something for you. Well, technically."
Stella scrunched her eyes in confusion, before Mac continued.
"Anatoli came to me before…" he tapered off, not sure if he should say those words. "He asked me to give you this after he'd gone". Mac placed a gift bag between them.
Uncurling her feet from the couch, she gingerly placed her fingers around the rope handles. Mac's eyes encouraged her, as she looked at them instead of catching a first glance to the contents.
Taking a breath, she let her focus fall to the baby blue box inside. She brought it out onto her lap.
Mac turned to the side, curling a leg in front of him and bending his arm onto the couch back. He put the bag onto the floor so he could see what was inside the mystery bag. When Anatoli had come to him, nearly a week ago now, Mac was of course curious about what was in the present. But his pale and weak demeanour caused him worry to no end. He thought that right then, Anatoli knew his time was soon.
Anatoli had given Stella more than she could have hoped for, so she couldn't fathom what was inside. She grasped at the ends of the lid and wiggled it free.
An envelope lay atop of some tissue paper.
She took extracted a sheet of white paper with a handwritten script, reading aloud:
"Stella, my little star,
If you're reading this, then my time has come and I have gone. That, or Mac broke his promise.
I want you to know that you always was, and always will be, in my heart and in my mind, whether I am in this world or the next. You are my baby girl's baby girl. Rest assured I will be telling stories of our too-short time together for the rest of eternity.
You're mother will be so proud to hear of your scientific nature, and you're father just so proud. You are more than any of us could have ever wished for as a next generation of Nastasi-Bonasera.
It is so easy to see your parents' influence on you, regardless that you only spent 4 short months with them. You have your mother's features, as I've told you before, and your father's demeanor. You take no mess, and that is so admirable. Promise you will never change.
If I could give you any advice, it would be to take chances as you find them. Experience everything. Love everything you do.
Granpa Anatoli xxx"
Stella sniffed back tears, as Mac rubbed at her shoulder. He asked her what the Greek had meant, to which she replied "I love you". She unfolded the little lip at the bottom of the page, revealing more writing "and Mac? Look after our girl"
They both chuckled lightly at the sentiment. "I swear he thought of you as a grandson-in-law"
Mac smiled, "I didn't mind"
She gave another look to the letter, before carefully folding it back into the envelope and setting it on the side. Her fingers gingerly peeled back the tissue paper below.
"Oh-my-gosh" she chuckled, holding a small pastel yellow baby-grow against her chest
"You never fitted in that" Mac chortled
She swatted him on the arm and pointed to the embroidered star and 'Stella' on the front. "I can't believe it" she muttered, passing it to Mac as she delved back into the box on her lap.
She pulled out many surprises, dating from her childhood, to even her parents' childhoods. The very last thing, on the base of the box, was a photograph.
Stella has a smile on her face as she brought it out, but a tear fell from her eyes as she recognised it.
"It's…from the restaurant" she whispered. Stella has managed to repay Anatoli for what she classed as a ruined meal, and took him to Massimo's restaurant. Massimo himself had insisted on the photograph being taken.
Just Stella and Anatoli.
Granddaughter and Grandfather.
Stella got up from the couch and set it pride of place on the fireplace in the lounge. She took a step back and smiled sadly.
Mac joined her, laying both hands across her shoulders, "You gonna be okay?"
She thought for a moment, then nodded, "I'm going to be fine". Stella spun around, Mac's hands staying on her shoulders. "Listen, I just wanted to thank you for the last few months. I really couldn't have done it without you"
"You've been there for me more times than I'd like to remember. This is the least I could do" The sincerity in Mac's eyes as he whispered his thanks for a lifetime of tragedy broke Stella's heart. No man deserved to have gone through what Mac had gone through, and especially not this amazing man who stood before her: tie slightly loose, shirt crumpled and pain all-too evident in those brown eyes.
She gently stroked at his face, her thumb circling on his cheek. Claire used to do that. Stella knew she did. She thought it might have brought him comfort, but by the way he covered her hand with his own told her otherwise.
She looked to him in confusion and embarrassment. But his eyes only replied with a darker aura of brown. She'd never seen them so dark before. He slowly brought their entwined hands down.
Stella watched involuntarily, as his eyes darkened a shade more as he held her other hand.
She was captivated. The usually soft, inviting, yet eternally tired, eyes had taken on a lust-filled edge…from holding her hands?
Mac shortened the distance between them. He took her by surprise, tilting her chin up to meet his lips.
It was just a quick kiss. By the time Stella's mind had stopped screaming "What the hell?" it was over.
She licked her lips, just to check she hadn't imagined it. No. It had happened. He'd kissed her.
Mac Taylor had kissed her.
Her. Stella Bonasera.
Mac's eyes quickly registered panic and embarrassment at Stella's silence. His mouth opened to apologise, but Stella seized it.
She gave her kiss more of a meaning than Mac's peck. This was Mac's turn to register shock, surprise and apparent immobility.
He was quicker than Stella though. His brain had stopped screaming "What the hell?" a lot sooner, leaving him enough time to reciprocate.
Stella snaked her arms around Mac's shoulders, clasping her hands around his neck. As Mac's hands found their way to the small of her back, the already small distance between the two shortened even more, their bodies now touching.
Why wasn't this weird? She was kissing her best friend. Her boss for God's sake! Surely it should be feeling weird! Not strangely…familiar. May even, dare she think it? Natural?
As they separated, purely for out of the need for air, not from a desire to stop, Stella took a moment before taking hold of Mac's right hand.
She gently drew shapes at his bare ring finger with her thumb, "You sure about this?" she knew Claire was still a bit part of his life, she didn't want him going into a relationship like this if he still wasn't ready. Just because he'd taken the ring off didn't necessarily mean he had healed enough to embark on a new chapter of his life.
He took his hand out of her grasp and entwined their fingers. "If you are"
Stella couldn't hide the giddy smile that crossed her features as they leant in to each other again.
"You knew didn't you?" Stella asked aloud. She wasn't expecting an answer, as she traced the letters on the headstone:
Husband, Father, Grandpa.
1920 – 2005'
"You mentioned once that my smile around Mac was like Mom's around Dad. I just blushed and pushed to the back of my mind. And then all this happened. So you knew, huh?"
"He knew" Mac smiled, joining Stella at the grave site. He wrapped an arm around her waist.
She smiled as she clasped her hand around his at her side, "Yep. You ready?"
"Sir" Mac nodded at the stone, before leading Stella back to the car.