Title: Broken

Author: Ki

Rating: T, just in case, because of how dark this turns out to be

Category: my usual, angst and romance; Stella-centric, mention of Mac / Peyton, slight M/S as well

Disclaimer: Don't own them. Don't sue please

Spoilers: Post-ep for 03.16: Heart of Glass

A/N: I know I know... I've been away for so long! Feedback / Comments would be greatly appreciated...

She was not drunk. She knew she wasn't drunk, but she was getting there. Still, she drained the half a glass of red wine in her hand in one gulp.

Her world was ending, and she had every right to want to drink herself to death first.

Granted, there were always scientific discoveries of cure; there was the chance that she wasn't infected because her blood was not on any of the glass. But really, she had never been that lucky, never. If she were lucky, her parents would haven't abandoned her (voluntarily or not) and left her in an orphanage. If she were lucky, she wouldn't have met the one professor who she thought to be a mentor but turned out wanting sexual favours in university. If she were lucky, she would have been married with kids that she loved so much by now. If she were lucky, she wouldn't have met Frankie and almost got killed in her own home. If she were lucky, Mac would –

She forced herself to stop. There would be no point in thinking about Mac in this context anymore. She had been one of the first in the lab to know about the relationship – she might even have been the first, seeing that Mac asked her if she thought going public would be a good idea. Her heart was still shattered from that conversation.

It was her fault that she hadn't triple-gloved at the crime scene, but really, how would that have mattered? The glass had cut her on her forearm, where she was unprotected by the gloves. The anti-viral regiment is now sitting in non-descriptive pill bottles that she bought. Her taking medications regularly was bound to be noticeable to the people she worked with, so would the many side effects that would accompany her for the next three months.

It didn't matter that she had gone to a private clinic and did the testing on her own, her team would notice, and her career would be finished.

Because, really, how could the city let an HIV-positive CSI continue to work the scenes? Plus, she would be too sick. She thought of submitting a leave of absence request for three months and hide out until she knew for sure, but she didn't dare end her time with CSI on such a defeatist note. There was nothing left for her now, but her work. She needed to work, if only to have something to cling to when she was too close to dying.

The potential of kidney problems should stop her from getting drunk tonight, but that was too far down the road. She might not live to need to worry about that. Or she might, but that would be the last of her problems at that point.

Normally she wouldn't have to turn to a bottle for consolation. She would have her best friend beside her as she poured her heart out, but time has changed and everything was different. It had taken all her will power to not cry openly in front of Mac when he told her of his plan to go public with Peyton. It showed how much Mac valued her – yet at the same time how strictly platonic he viewed their relationship.

She had waited, with hope, that one day, when Mac felt like he could let the past stay in the past, then he would open up to her and explore the tension they felt for so long. She never thought that she would be too late, that she hadn't even factored into his future.

Tears were pooling in her eyes, and she did nothing to stop them. Having the whole department know about Mac and Peyton; having heard that they showed up together from their date to a crime scene just made things so much more difficult for her, and she was finished playing the strong woman she projected, at least in her own home.

The knocks on her door came as unwelcome intrusion into her spaces. She didn't have any energy to deal with anyone, and she surely didn't want people know how broken she had been just by that one last case. Everything in her life had never gone right, and she was delusional to think that with Mac, she had a future and maybe things would go right for once. She had no one but herself to blame for the heartache, for being so naïve to believe she could beat the odd.

The knocks came again, and she wiped away the tears angrily before opening the door.

"What's happening, Stella?" was Mac's greeting once she came face to face with the man. He was looking at her intently, and she unconsciously tugged the sleeves of her shirt longer to hide the bandage.

"Nothing, just that I'm not feeling particularly well today."

He looked worried for a moment, and made a move to go into her space, but she quickly blocked him with a brief hold on his arm, then just as quickly took her hand away as if it had burned her. "Don't you have somewhere to be?"

"Stella – "

"Go home to her, Mac. Women don't like to be alone on nights when their boyfriends talk to another woman," she tried to sound coy, but the strain in her voice was evident.

"She's at the morgue," he answered briefly, as if it justified anything.

To Stella, it sliced her even deeper, knowing that she wouldn't be the most important person in Mac's life anymore, that she had lost so much, in such a short span of time.

"Still," she hardened her eyes. "You should go home then. I don't want any wrong impressions."

"You know you can talk to me, right, Stell?" he turned to face her at the threshold of her door. "You had us all worried, walking away like that. What is going on, Stella?"

"I'm fine," she muttered, looking away from his eyes. "I'm fine. I'll be fine."

He looked at her for a long time, and she willed herself to not show any of her panic, the pain, she felt inside her through her eyes.

Eventually, he sighed. "I'll see you tomorrow?"

"Tomorrow," she nodded, and without saying goodbye, she closed the door, blocking him out of her apartment.

Blocking him out of her life.