Title: Six and a Half Steps
Author: Cyclone
Rating: K+ Summary:
Eleven steps later and she was standing in the doorway, exactly six and a half steps away from the sink. From him.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Yada, yada, yada.
Notes: For Kate - Happy Birthday!


Stella pulled herself up from the pile of soggy tissues that littered the couch and walked determinedly towards the kitchen. Eleven steps later and she was standing in the doorway, exactly six and a half steps away from the sink. From him. He must have heard her pad across the floorboards because he turned, the suds from her dinner dishes clinging to his arms (and even in her drug-induced state – or maybe because of her drug induced state – she couldn't help but think there was something sexy about a man who did dishes), and smiled.

When all was said and done, she was going to blame the drugs. Her doctor had conveniently prescribed something for her flu-like symptoms that was messing with her inhibitions and better judgement. She was lucid enough to know this; to know that in the morning she would probably regret what she was about to do, but the consequences of her intended actions seemed a long way off.

She took half a step forward and smiled back as a tiny part of her brain pointed out that this was premeditation, and any kind of premeditation invalidated her theory of impairment. She continued smiling as the more devious part swayed that voice of conscience into submission with the argument that she held a genuine 'get out of jail free card' up her sleeve if things were to get too weird or messy, and she'd be stupid not to take advantage.

Six steps.

The thought had materialised from nowhere sometime after he'd appeared at her door bearing chicken soup, orange juice and trashy magazines. She'd been pleasantly surprised to see him, surprised even more when he'd ordered her back to the couch, settled the throw rug over her legs and disappeared into the kitchen. A few minutes later the smell of chicken soup had wafted into the living room, and a few minutes after that he'd reappeared with the soup, a glass of juice and her medication on a tray that she had no recollection of even owning.

Five steps.

It was funny that once she thought it for the first time it was impossible to unthink it, and the more she tried to stop thinking about it the more she actually thought about it. It didn't make a whole lot of sense to her and she had no idea where the original idea had come from in the first place, but she was sick and he was taking care of her like he really cared, and she couldn't fight the sense of peace and belonging that gave her. She knew – in the back of her mind, she really did know – that she shouldn't; that it would just reveal a twisted path that she wasn't sure she even wanted to walk down, but she thought that if she did it she'd at least stop thinking about doing it and then she'd be able to sleep. Besides, she was only five steps away now and she wasn't about to be deterred by common sense that wouldn't even kick in for another six hours.

Four steps.

Plus she was still legitimately drugged. Sort of. And curious as all hell. So when he brought his hand up wipe something off his nose, leaving a dollop of bubbles just above his lips (So. Damn. Sexy.), she quashed that last minute pang of reason, she quashed it good.

"Stella?" He took his other hand out of the sink and wiped it on a towel. "Was there something that you needed?"

Three steps.

He was dripping bubbles; looking all domestic and sexy (and she wasn't sure when she'd began to equate domesticity with sex appeal, but she guessed the combination of drugs, a fever and an ex-marine wearing bubbles in her kitchen was doing strange things to her libido) and he was asking if there was something she needed?

Two steps.

She tried to dislodge the sudden want that that question prompted, because although yes, there was something that she needed, something that involved skin, sweat and panting (and not necessarily in that order), neither of them was ready for her to make that particular move. Not yet, anyway.

One step.


"Shhh, Mac. I just need to . . ."

She took the last step, laid one hand on his chest and wrapped the other around his neck, and kissed him. Half a second later his arms had enveloped her in a warm embrace that smelled like Old Spice and felt like home, and he was kissing her back.

She thought she was in control, but she wasn't prepared for the pang of regret that washed over her, taunting her that this is how it should always have been; nor the shock that somersaulted through her veins, sparking something in her blood that made her warm and light-headed and had absolutely nothing to do with her fever. She wasn't prepared for that at all.

It occurred to her, as they slowly drew apart and she stood there surprised and confused and still a little bit hazy (and with bubble transfer sliding down her face), that not only was this a path that she very much wanted to travel, but a path that she wanted to skip down while singing at the top of her lungs. Which in itself was weird because a) she hadn't skipped since she was eleven and still played with dolls, and b) she was tone deaf and hadn't sung in front of anyone after Sister Maria had once compared her voice to a pair of street cats fighting.

As he stared back at her, wearing a strange, wistful smile, looking just as surprised and confused as she did, she realised she wasn't in control at all. And he still hadn't let her go.