A/N: This is the end of the road. Twenty-six chapters, 43,706 words sans the author's notes and extras, 85 US Letter size pages, Times New Roman 12pt, single space, 1-inch margin all around. Four months of updating, reading and reviewing.
What I'm going to miss from this is all your wonderful reviews. I promise that I will try my best to write more SMACked fics but I can't guarantee that they'll be all like "Since That Cold November Day". I hope you've enjoyed those four months that my story ran through and I also hope that you'll give similar support to my other stories to come.
I don't think I can thank you guys enough – whether you review every time or just once in 25 chapters. Every little thing is appreciated so much, you guys have no idea. Writing this has been an experience. And I am so happy – so very happy – that you all loved little Dylan Christopher. Trust me, this is not the last time you'll hear of him.
I won't impede your reading any longer. People, this is the very last chapter of "Since that Cold November Day". Thank you.
It was Dylan's first Christmas outside of California and also his first one with his father. We spent the day at Central Park, playing in the snow and ice-skating. A day before Christmas Eve, we invited the team to dinner. Dylan was very fond of Don and he would follow the said homicide detective around every time he's with us. He had also taken to Sid.
Like Mac said, he bought gifts for Dylan every Christmas and his birthday. That Christmas, he had a lot of boxes to open and by the end of the morning, it looked like Mac had an improvised carpet made of wrapping paper.
New Year's Day was fun. It was very special to me. We were celebrating in the lab, Dylan on Don's shoulders watching the crowd on the streets and counting down until the New Year. Mac and I were in his office, blinds drawn up and doors wide open to let the music in. A few seconds until the ball lit up, Mac wrapped his arms around me and whispered in my ear, "Will you marry me, Stella?" as we slow danced to another music in our heads.
I stopped and looked up at him. I wasn't expecting this at all. Not to mention a ring. He was holding a velvet box in his left hand, reaching for my hand with the other. "I know you love these little boxes," he joked. "But I'm sure you'll love what's inside more." He opened the box and the most exquisite piece of rock was sitting in there.
That's when I started tearing up. I could hear the countdown starting in the background. He might not have gone down to one knee and asked me again but the way the ring felt warm and snug on my finger… there was only one thing to say. "Yes," I choked out just in time. Our lips met as everybody in the city greeted each other 'Happy New Year'.
A very happy new year indeed. When Mac popped the question, I said yes (of course). What I didn't think of is getting married right away. He wanted us to tie the knot before I went back to LA. At first, I was having second thoughts but in the end, I felt that it was right. We have known each other long enough and well enough to finish each other's sentences. We've been through everything together that we are sure we can champion every thing else that will be thrown our way. Plus, we have Dylan – we love him, he loves us; we love each other.
One Sunday on the 3rd week of January, we invited the team and some friends to our house. Mac had already gotten a judge to preside over our civil wedding. We figured that a church wedding would come later, when we have more time and money for such. I called Andrea and told her the good news. She wanted to be there but I promised that she'll be maid of honor on the church ceremony.
I think Lindsey cried more tears than I did during the whole thing. Dylan was our ring-bearer and he understood what was happening. "Mommy an' Daddy, marry!" he said happily when we told him the good news. He hugged us both and he burst into tears.
Then, it was time for us to go back to LA. Dylan had to go with me. There was no sadness this time around because we were sure as hell that what we have is permanent. The matching rings on our fingers, Mac said it felt weird having a ring on again after so many years, stand for the vow we made. Forever. The kisses are sweeter; the hugs were more felt – not to mention the love was richer than before.
I left LA as Stella Bonasera. I went back as Stella Bonasera-Taylor. My students and co-workers were happy for me. Andrea was over the moon about it. Yet, they were a bit sad because I also told them that that was the last semester for me with them.
But that wasn't all. During the mid-semester, I found out that I was pregnant. Usually, it's Dylan who would throw up at breakfast if his tummy didn't agree with the food. "Ooopsie," he giggled when I gargled after throwing up. I smiled at the memory – once again I know when exactly I conceived.
It was a week before I had to leave. Mac and I decided to take a chance. After all, we were already married and we do want another child. He came home early one night and we had a quiet dinner. He played cops and robbers with Dylan for a while and then he went to bed with me.
Even in the heat of things, we managed to keep it down. The bedroom door was locked and I made sure Dylan had a glass of water ready at his bedside in case he wakes up thirsty. Only our erratic breaths, lusty moans and the squeaking of the bedsprings pierced the air. I knew that I was in for a toe-curling, sheet-gripping ride.
"Stell," Mac panted as his thrusts became faster, "Oh…" I held on to his strong shoulders as I felt myself nearing climax. We reached the crest together and fell back on earth, a tangle of heavy limbs and pumping hearts.
We haven't caught our breaths yet when we heard a faint knocking and a muffled, "Mommy? Daddy?" then a sob.
I pushed at Mac's shoulders with little strength and said, "It's Dylan. He needs something." But he wasn't budging. He was still panting and sweat was running off his body. Dylan knocked again. "Get off me, Mac," I chuckled as he finally rolled to his side of the bed.
"I'll get it," he croaked, getting up and putting on his boxers and undershirt. I hated it when he put his clothes back on so soon after making love but I love him just the same because he was caring for our son. I reached for my robe and put it on just in time as Mac opened the door and kneeled down to Dylan's level. "What's the matter, buddy?"
Dylan was standing there in his blue footie pajamas. Yes, I know he's three years old but he likes them. He was chewing his lower lip and he couldn't meet his father's eyes. "I had a ak-see-dent," he said warily. Oh yes, he did. The lower part of his pajamas was darker than the top. He was wiggling his toes – something he did when he thought he did something wrong. "Sowry."
"That's okay, Dylan," Mac said, taking his hand. "I'll change the sheets for you." That was my cue to pitch in.
"Okay, little man," I said leading him to the bathroom. "Had too much milk and forgot to go to the bathroom?" I asked and he nodded slowly. "Let's get you cleaned up and changed."
"Mommy, I don't have diapers," he said as I peeled off his wet pajamas. "I'm not a baby no more." I smiled and kissed him on the nose.
"Sure, you are," I replied. "You're my baby."
"You're my baby, too," Mac said when he walked into the bathroom with the bedclothes in his arms and put them in the hamper. Dylan chuckled and gave us both a 'kissy'.
When I called and told him the good news, he actually dropped the phone. There was a clatter the second after the words, "I'm pregnant" left my lips.
"Mac? Mac, are you there?" I asked frantically. I thought he passed out. There was some scrambling going on at the other end and then I heard him again.
"Yes, love, I'm here," he said breathlessly. We laughed and I waited for him to collect himself. "Wow… wow."
"Rendered speechless, I could hear," I joked. And he was. With Dylan, he found out about the pregnancy in the worst circumstances. I don't think he knows how to react to it properly – if there is such a thing. "Mac, by the time I go back there, I'd be at least four months along."
I listened to his evening breathing. I could almost hear him thinking. Then he finally spoke, "That's okay. As long as both of you come home safe – that's fine by me. After all, there's another five months until… you know."
"I give birth, you can say it," I laughed. I wish I could see his face. Everything's so new to him.
"Yeah, until you give birth… to our baby," he finished. "I can't wait, Stella." He tried to mask a sob but I caught it nonetheless. "I wish you were here, you know."
"Me, too," I admitted. My hand was on my still flat tummy; Dylan was sleeping already in the other room with Blue by his bed. When we fly over to New York, we're taking our dog with us. "Dylan says he loves you."
"Tell him that I love him, too." We were silent for a while, just there with our phones against our ears. Then he said, "Love you." I don't think I could ever get tired of that.
June seemed so far away but it finally came. Some of my graduating students were teary-eyed during their commencement activity when I gave an address. It also served as my thank you and farewell speech. After the event, my students all gathered in one of the dorms and gave me a proper send-off. Even Dylan had a special part in the party.
When the time came when we were finally leaving, Andrea and Margot were crying so much that Dylan was bawling on the way to the airport. He almost didn't want to go. Joel was the only one sane in the car – oh, and Blue. "I'll miss you, Dylan," Margot sniffed, holding on to his little chubby body. "We'll see each other again, won't we?"
Dylan only nodded and cried harder. They treated each other like siblings. It was heartbreaking to see them that way. Andrea on the other hand couldn't let go of my hand. It reminded me of the time at the orphanage, the nuns were packing what little she had and handing them to the family who adopted her. She said she didn't want to leave without me but we both knew that she had to.
"Make sure he takes care of you, okay?" she sobbed against my neck. "If he doesn't, I don't care if he's a cop I'll…"
"Alright, Andrea stop that," Joel chuckled, pulling her off me then she continued crying on his chest. He turned to me and shook my hand, "Stay in touch, you hear me? We'll be saving off next year's Spring Break for your church wedding."
Our plane started to board and then it was time for us to go. I gathered Dylan up and my hand-carry and bade them goodbye. Margot was holding Dylan's hand until the last minute. In the plane, he was sobbing against my chest. But when I reminded him of why we are going to New York. He held tightly to my hand and tried to smile.
The whole flight he was asleep; crying wore him out. When we arrived finally, Mac was waiting for us there. Dylan ran over to him right away and gave him a hug. I waited for him to walk towards me, "Detective Taylor," I said.
"Missus Taylor," he said, emphasizing the first word. Dylan was hugging his father's legs and looking up at us. We looked at each other's eyes for a long time as people walked past us in the fairly crowded airport. I was fighting back tears… finally; I'm back in New York City. "Let's go home?" he asked.
"Home!" our son cried out. Mac collected him in his arms as he helped me with the luggage. Dylan continued to say in a singsong voice, "Home, home, home…" swaying his head from side to side.
In the car, we were still quite silent, sans Dylan's babbling. Mac was holding my hand all throughout the ride. My other hand was resting against my growing belly, four months along and barely noticeable. But I knew that the tight shirt I was wearing was enough to show Mac that I was indeed pregnant.
"Daddy," Dylan said from his car seat, bouncing Mr. Cheeks up and down, "I'mma have a baby sishter or bwother. Mommy's pregnuts." I have to stifle a full-blown laugh. I told him that I am pregnant with his little sibling but not exactly how I became that way. I looked at Mac and found that he was also chuckling.
"I know, baby," he said with a little laugh, "I know." He looked back at me when we approached a red light and gave me a kiss. "I know," he repeated against my ear.
Our moment was interrupted when we heard Dylan laughing. We looked at him and found that Blue was licking his little toes. He had removed his sneakers inside the car and now, our dog was 'counting' his toes by licking them. At that, we realized fully that this would be a start of a beautiful life.
When I first met Mac Taylor, he was a happy and contented man with a beautiful wife, great job and satisfying life. I remember being jealous of that… and of Claire for having such a person for a husband. I used to admire them from afar – how they look at each other, talk; I saw how she made him feel alive. Then somewhere there, I recalled saying to myself that someday, I want a part of that too.
We became colleagues then eventually, we became best of friends. We began spending time with each other after work, drinking, having meals with the missus… our just plain talking after a long and tiring shift. I was pleased with having just those moments with Mac – just the two of us and a pitcher of beer or water.
The more time we spent time with each other, the more I fell for him. Him falling for me was wishful thinking. He was happily married and Claire was the perfect wife. He had all he could ask for and there was no room for me in that ideal panoramic picture. But all of that came to a sudden halt on September 11.
Mac leaned on me for strength; something I had little of at that time but still, I remained at his side. He was my rock and I was his. We survived that chapter of our lives together only to start the next one apart. I was happy, though, that he was standing back up on his feet, party because of me. I kept on egging him to go dating again but it seemed like he's married to his work. But because of work, he found new love. Yet, it didn't last.
Just when I thought he gave up altogether on love… he managed to see that I was alive. Even I haven't realized that I was just waiting. I thought I was just there for him and nothing else. Never did I think that there was something more waiting for me.
I can honestly say that I have always loved Mac Taylor. That's why I said that I would take whatever Mac Taylor you have. He seemed so far away and I thought he was too much for me; that I didn't deserve him. Yet, here I am… sitting beside him in the car, pregnant with his second child, his ring on my finger and our eldest son singing away in the backseat.
"Mommy, Daddy," he said.
"Yes, Dylan?" I answered, turning slightly to look at him. It's times like these when I was thankful of New York traffic. Mac was looking at him too.
He was silent for a few seconds, just gazing at us with his sweet smile. I could see that he was happy. "I love you," he said.
I couldn't help but sob. I reached out and took his smaller hand in mine and said, "We love you, too, Dylan."
Yes, this is going to be a beautiful life.
I wish I could thank every single one of you – at least have a message for each one but I think "thank you very much" sums up everything. Thanks for staying with me on this writing experience. Thank you for loving/liking Dylan. Thanks for encouraging me to go on when things got a bit stalled and/or boring. Thank you for testing the T-rating with me. Thank you for listing this story (and my profile) in your alerts and favorites.
Sorry if it did become boring halfway through. Sorry if I failed to rise up to your expectations. Sorry if I didn't reply to some of the reviews. And sorry… if I took too long to upload this baby up.
So I guess this is it. I'm closing the hardbound cover of yet another SMACked fic.
Thank you and I love you all!