A/N: Oh yeah, I'm 18 years old today. September 17, 2006. And I can't have it pass without a fanfic post. To make it better, a SMACked fic post.

I have not finished this little project yet. This is the first installment. I need all the help I can get, guys! This'll be a long ride. I hope to see you with me 'til the end. Thank you and enjoy!



I've known you for so long
You are a friend of mine
But is this all we'd ever be?

Like a million nights before, the whole team (including Don) was having an after-shift drink at Sullivan's. All of us are having beer and Lindsey bought a pizza from John's Pizzeria. Normally, we would just poke fun at the stupidity of the perps we cross out everyday or just plain old catching up with each other. Ever since we lost Aiden, we made it a point to spend time with each other as much as we can outside the lab. Life is too short to throw away on meaningless things and activities. Friends are too important to take for granted.

But you know, sometimes I feel that I am taken for granted. By someone I consider my best friend, no less. Well, he doesn't really ignore the friendship I'm giving him… he's ignoring my love.

"I don't know what it is with you women," CSI Danny Messer babbled on after a swig of his drink. "First, you don't want to be apart from us men. Then, all of a sudden, you want a miles-worth of space." Shaking his head, he continued with a mouthful of pizza, "I mean, we're not some yoyos you can play with, you know."

"Well, Mr. New York boy," Lindsey Monroe replied, "You should understand that we women just need enough space to breathe. When we say we need space, we don't mean the distance between Manhattan and Bozeman."

"She got you there, Danny," I say clinking my beer mug at Lindsey.

Mac was silent through the whole thing. But not long after, he spoke up, "I understand what you mean. But it depends on the experience of the person. I mean, Peyton…"

And I didn't hear the rest of it. When I heard her name, everything went in slow motion. Peyton… Dr. Peyton Driscoll – the ME from upstate who transferred some months ago to our unit – Mac's…

"She would call me in the middle of the night only to ignore me the day after," he continued. "Then when I start giving her the space she asks, instead of upping the calls, heck she keeps her space as well."

The whole team is listening. Mac has that effect on all of us. As usual, I disappear – nobody ever cared about how I feel. Except…

"Am I right, Stella?" his face is a breath away from mine.

I draw back a bit with a chuckle, "I'm the wrong person to ask, Mac. Like you said, it depends on the experience of the guy. The same with us women."

"Touché," Sheldon said from beside Lindsey.

I've loved you ever since
You are a friend of mine
And babe is this all we ever could be?

We talked some more after that. For some reason, we were digging up our past love life experiences. Can you believe that? It's like going back to high school. Personally, I didn't have anything juicy to share. I avoided every question and for the rarest time, Stella Bonasera kept her mouth shut.

The kids called it a night, leaving Mac and me alone in the booth with our usual steaming mugs of Irish coffee. It's my favorite parts of these kind of days – when I can be alone with Mac; there he shows his true colors… with me. But I guess this day is different. "You're quiet today," he said. "Want to talk about it?"

"Huh? What, I can't be quiet, Taylor?" I joked. "It's nothing, really. All these talks about love lives and relationships still make me uneasy. Reminds me of how a loser I am."

"Stop that, Stella," he abruptly said. Oh here we go with his stern tone again. "Stella, listen to me. You can move on from Frankie. You're the strongest woman I know; don't let someone like him bring you down. Look at me, I moved on…"

With Peyton, I wanted to add but I managed to hold back. "I'm happy now. No matter how long it took, that is what's important – I have my happiness back. Thank you for being with me during those times."

My head was racing, processing his last sentence, "Are you implying that you don't need me anymore?" I said to myself. I couldn't look at Mac in the eye after that.

"Stella, I want you to be happy… as I am," he said slowly.

I could just smile. "I'm happy for you, Mac. I really am." But inside, it hurts. It hurts because I'm not the one causing that happiness.

"I'm glad you're my friend, Stella Bonasera."

And that's all we ever could be.