Taking Chances

"Don't know much about your life

Don't know much about your world

But don't want to be alone tonight

On this planet they call Earth"

There is a soft knock on the door before he enters, "What are you still doing here?"

She turns from the table, surprised. "I could ask you the same thing."

"I asked you first," Mac smiles lightly. "Besides, I was on my way out, and you're still busy working."

"Someone killed this little boy… and I can't find a single thing to identify him," she says, exhausted.

"The boy or the killer?"

"Both. Nobody has reported him missing, and it's been over two days."

He sighs, "You can't let things like this get to you; I know it's terrible, but we have to separate ourselves in order to do our job."

"I know, Mac; think with your head, not your heart."

"Let me help you out," he puts his lab coat on. For the next hour they comb over everything brought back. With nothing to show for their efforts, he peels his gloves off. "There are some cases that can't be solved."

Stella looks at the picture of the little boy's face. "He deserves justice. He was so young, had so much ahead of him. Who could do such a thing? And why hasn't anyone noticed he's missing?"

"As hard as it is to accept, he could have been killed by one of his parents; they wouldn't report him missing if they killed him."

"Maybe Sid will have something after he does the autopsy."

Silently the two clean up, knowing the file would most likely be sitting on a desk for some time to come. "Do you want to get something to eat with me before heading home?"

She looks at her watch, "It's almost eleven, Mac."

"So? Haven't you ever heard it called the city that never sleeps?"

Shaking her head, she smiles. "Okay."

"What are you in the mood for?"

"You pick. But no hot dogs at a dog show."

"All right. How about a nice little Italian place?"

"You don't know about my past

And I don't have a future figured out

And maybe this is going too fast

And maybe it's not meant to last"

"How have you been?"

"Fine, I guess."

"Nothing new for once?"

"Nope. I don't think anything's happened since Drew," she avoids his gaze.

"Stel, I'm really sorry about that. You shouldn't have been involved."

"Of all the times he insisted, I only accepted once. He said… it'd just be drinks, but he had set up dinner too. Luckily I got a call for a case."

"Still… and I told you to take a risk."

"I didn't listen to you anyway. Something was telling me he was way too persistent for it to work out."

"He… he wanted you dead," Mac reveals. "He wanted me to know how it feels to lose someone… someone I care about."

"I was supposed to be the one who walked through the door," she sadly realizes. "Why'd you tell me?"

"I thought you ought to know the truth of why he wanted to get close to you."

"You didn't have to tell me; I didn't need to know. I was over him anyway."

"I'm glad you didn't come through the door, Stel." Not knowing what to say, she remains silent. "If you're done, I guess we should get home."

She mumbles a thanks as he lays some bills of the table. "See you tomorrow."

"Wait, I'll take you home."

"I can take a cab to the garage and get my car."

"Let me drive you. It won't take much longer than going straight home from here." She accepts, knowing he won't give in, and follows him to his car.

"Thanks, Mac," she starts to slide out as he pulls in next to her truck.

He stops her with a hand on her arm. "Are you going to be all right?"

"Yeah, why wouldn't I be?"

"It was a rough day for you."

"But what do you say to taking chances

What do you say to jumping off the edge

Never knowing if there's solid ground below

Or a hand to hold or hell to pay

What do you say?

What do you say?"

"No luck?"

"He suffocated. Someone broke a couple of his ribs, one of which punctured his lung. It filled with blood, and he couldn't breathe. His chest is… almost all covered with bruises." Quickly she wipes her eyes before the tears can fall.

"All we can do is continue checking missing persons," he moves closer to her, resting a hand on her shoulder.

Stella collapses in his arms, her face buried in his shirt as the tears pour out. Her arms are wrapped tightly around him.

He returns the embrace, knowing it takes a lot to bring the strong woman down. "Sh, everything will be okay."

"No," she mumbles, "no, it won't. He's dead, Mac. If everything was okay, that little boy wouldn't be dead."

"You can't save everyone, Stel."

"I know. But I should be able to bring justice to those I can't."

To this he has nothing to say. He just continues holding her, soothingly rubbing her back.

Minutes later she pulls away, wiping her eyes. "I'm sorry, Mac."

"It was nothing."

"You're a good friend," she kisses his cheek.

"It's what we do," he blushes.

"Did I make you uncomfortable?"

"No," he says quickly. "No, I'm fine."

"I'm sorry. It was inappropriate at work."

"I'll, uh, see you later, Stel."

"Okay." She quickly exits to escape the awkwardness, Mac watching her go.

Flack approaches her, "We got another dead kid. Looks very similar to the other case."

"I'll follow you," she goes to get her kit while Don informs the boss. As she starts her car, Mac climbs in beside her. "What are you doing?"

"Helping you. Is there something wrong with that?"

"I guess not."

"Are we good?"

"Good with what?"

He sighs, "We're still friends?"

"I guess."

"I just want to start again

And maybe you could show me how to try

And maybe you could take me in

Somewhere underneath your skin"

"Better luck with this one?"

"No ID yet. He died the same way. But I found a hair. It's running through CODIS now."

"How long has this victim been dead?"

"Sid said about twelve hours."

"Not enough time to be missing yet."

"Maybe we should put their pictures in the news; someone has to know these kids."

"No information about the case; just have them call the police department."

"All right," Stella turns to leave.

Adam stands in the doorway. "I, uh, got a match on the hair. Flack went to arrest him. Name is Anthony Martin; spent time for assaulting a woman."

She takes the file, "Good work."

Mac's phone rings, "Taylor." A minute later he hangs up. "They got him."

"Good. We can finally ID our victims."

"Stel, I'm not sure you should be the one to interview him."

"Why? It's my case."

"That guy's twice your size. He could hurt you almost as easily as he killed those kids."

"I can take care of myself."

"I just don't want to see you hurt."

"Mac, either you or Don will be in the room with me. He can't harm me."

He pauses, "I'm also afraid of what you'll do to him."

"If I lay a hand on this guy, he'll scream brutality, and we'll have nothing."

"Fine, but keep your emotions under control."

"I'll be good," Stella sighs.

"Don't give him any reason to touch you at all."

She rolls her eyes, "Like I want him to touch me."

He follows her out the door, "You never know. He'll be tempted anyway since you're a woman."

"Just let me lead, okay?"

"What do you say to taking chances

What do you say to jumping off the edge

Never knowing if there's solid ground below

Or a hand to hold or hell to pay

What do you say?

What do you say?"

"Ooh, they sent in a woman to question me," Anthony says, smiling as she enters.

She senses Mac tightening, but he remains back as promised. "Why did you kill them?" Stella shoves two photos across the table.

"What makes you think I killed them?"

"A hair we found."

"Their fathers helped put me in jail. One was the prosecutor, the other the jury foreman. I had to get revenge."

"You suffocated two kids that did nothing to you. They didn't deserve to die."

"You should've seen the looks on their faces. They were terrified when they knew they were drowning in their own blood," he reaches out to her.

She stands, ready to punch him, but Mac grabs her wrists from behind. "Let go of me. I have to kill that sick bastard!"

"Stella, calm down," he pulls her out of the interrogation room, letting Flack in to lock the man up.

"Let go of me!" she struggles against him. "He killed them. And he didn't even care."

"It's awful – I know. But your job is to catch them – and you did – not punish them." As she settles, he lets go of her.

She wraps her arms around herself, shaking her head. "Who can be that heartless?"

Unable to answer her, he opens his arms. She gratefully accepts the embrace. "Stel," he whispers a few moments later. "Drew was right."

"About what?" she pulls away quickly.

"I do care a lot about you. He had picked the person I loved the most to teach me a lesson," Mac reveals, not yet realizing what slipped out.

"Loved?" Stella barely manages to get out, shock still apparent.

He hesitates, figuring out his mistake. "Yes. I… do love you, Stel," he decides to go with the truth.

"I… I…" she's speechless for once.

"I guess now would be good time to repeat that line about taking chances."

"And I had my heart beaten down

But I always come back for more, yeah

There's nothing like love to pull you up

When you're laying down on the floor there"

"How long?"

"After Claire died, I guess. It just sort of happened, but I couldn't act on it. What about you?"

"Since the day I met you."

"I was married!"

"I never did anything, did I?" she sits, curled up next to him on the couch in his office.

There is a knock on the door, and Don enters. They make no move to separate. "What's going on in here?"

"Nothing."

"Sure, you want me to believe that? Anyway, I was going to talk to the families."

"Okay."

"What, you won't go talk to one and I'll talk to the other?"

"Nope," Stella says quickly.

"Fine, don't pity me," he leaves.

"Stel?"

"Hm?"

"Maybe we should go somewhere a little more private."

"We can go to my place."

"No, I know you don't like men in your apartment."

She sighs, "You've been in my place before. I trust you."

"Sure?"

"Mac, I rely on you to have my back everyday."

"Good point," he helps her up and kisses her cheek. "How come you never said anything?"

"You were happy with Claire. And then you were grieving her, and I couldn't say anything. Peyton came along before I realized you were ready to move on. And I was sure you didn't feel the same. Why didn't you say anything?"

"Frankie. When I finally realized how I felt, you were happy with him. I, uh, guess things would've been better if I told you then. And afterward you were broken and recovering. Peyton… came and since I couldn't have you…"

"We're both a little damaged."

"But you understand me better than anyone else. That has to mean something."

"Yeah, I've spent too much time with you," she teases.

"So talk to me, talk to me

Like lovers do

Yeah, walk with me, walk with me

Like lovers do

Like lovers do"

"Wow, you look…" he stares at her, "amazing."

She twirls around for him, "I guess you like it."

"Definitely," Mac smiles, stepping in and kissing her cheek softly. "Ready?"

"Let me find my shoes," she wanders away.

He waits patiently for her to return. As she walks back, she stops, frowning as she studies him. "What?" he look down to see if there's something on his shirt.

"What is that?" Stella pokes him rather forcefully in the chest. He doesn't respond. "Get it off, or I'm not going."

Reluctantly he sighs and pulls off the tie. "What is wrong with my ties, Stel?"

"They make you too tight and boss-ish."

"Technically I am your boss," he points out.

"Not right now," she wraps her arms around his neck.

He smiles and rests his hands on her waist. "I think I'm more nervous than when I went on my first date."

"Relax," she laughs. On an impulse, she leans up and gives him a kiss, short and sweet. "We'll be fine, no matter how bad this goes."

"Bad?"

"Mac, first dates are always bad."

He gently takes her wrist and checks her pulse to see if she's as scared as he is. Her heartbeat is quicker than his. "It seems to me that you're the one that needs to relax." His hand tucks under her chin, and he kisses her lips, passionate and long.

Eventually she pulls back. "You know doing that isn't going to keep my heart from racing."

"Is it still a bad first date?"

"We haven't even gotten to dinner yet."

"At this rate, we'll miss the movie. Although with the way things are going now, we might not be watching much of it."

"Mac, that's immature! We're not teenagers out on our first date."

"It feels like it. When you're young, you always think it's true love and nothing can stop that. I do believe that it is true love because I've never felt this strongly about someone, not even Claire," he takes her hands.

"I love you too," Stella whispers.

"What do you say to taking chances

What do you say to jumping off the edge

Never knowing if there's solid ground below

Or a hand to hold or hell to pay

What do you say?

What do you say?"

"I had a nice time tonight," she smiles.

"Me too. I guess I'll see you at work tomorrow."

"Yeah." They stare at each other for a moment before kissing. "Good night, Mac."

"Night, Stella," he heads to the elevator as she enters her apartment.

Before closing the door, she pauses, looking back toward him. He turns around after pushing the button, and their eyes meet. They walk toward each other, meeting in the middle. "Do you… want to stay?"

Instead of answering, his lips meet hers, slow and long and full of love. Carefully they maneuver back to her apartment without separating and find their way to the bedroom. "Stella," he breaks away, "are you sure? We can't go back to normal after this."

"I don't want to go back. I love you, Mac, and I'm willing to take the risk," Stella admits. "If you are too."

"I love you too. Just… don't let me lose you as a friend."

"We'll be fine."

Chances

Mac's eyes open slowly, adjusting to the light. He rolls over, expecting to find Stella, but she is not there. He sits up; she is not in the room. Shrugging off the covers, he stands, pulling on his boxers and pants and grabbing his shirt.

She sits in the kitchen, already dressed and ready for work, with her coffee. When she hears his footsteps, she turns around. "Morning."

"I guess I didn't realize you're an early riser."

She watches him button his shirt up. "Habit I guess."

"So everything's okay?"

"I'm fine. We're fine."

"Dinner tomorrow then? If I didn't have the stupid budget meeting, we could go tonight."

"Sure," she pours him a cup of coffee. "You're not planning on driving all the way home to shower and change, are you?"

"Why?"

"You won't be at work on time."

"Cover for me?"

"Mac, shower here. When we get to work, you can change; I know you keep sets of clothes at work."

"They might get suspicious if my hair smells like coconut."

Chances

"Stel, did you just get here?" Danny catches up in the hallway.

"Yeah, why?"

"I was going to see if you knew what was up with Mac. When he came in, I swear he had a red shirt on, the same as yesterday. But when I saw him in his office, he had a blue one on."

"Maybe he as a girlfriend," she shrugs.

"Wouldn't he tell you if he did? You guys are close."

"We don't normally talk about our love lives."

"Go ask him."

"Why don't you?"

"He'll tell you; he won't tell me anything."

"Fine," she enters the office. "Hi, Mac. Danny wants to know if you have a girlfriend."

He smiles, "Yes, and I'm very glad I finally told her how I feel."

"So I am," Stella moves closer to him. "Some chances are worth taking."

Fully aware of Danny watching and knowing he will tell the others, they kiss, too in love to care.

"Don't know much about your life

And I don't know much about your world"

A/N: Wow, I'm already posting stuff for you guys and I just finished that other one. Hopefully I can get quite a bit of typing done this weekend. My brother has baseball games everyday this weekend. And Monday I think too, but I have band so... can't do much unless it's a later game. For football games, we have one song we play and march at halftime, then we just stand and play two more. This year we're marching to the Indiana Jones theme. Which is also what my mom wants me to dance to next year. But by the time dance starts in the fall I'll already be sick of playing the song. Flutes don't even have the main theme part to the song. Must be just trumpets and other brass. Maybe saxes. The other songs are just old ones I've never heard of like in years past. They won't tell us what contest is though. And I really want to know. Well... I think I'm all caught up with editing and printing everything I have typed so far. It's not all posted yet, but I'm getting there. Of course, when that stuff's posted, I'll have the other stuff typed. I will probably start the next story Sunday... one about Stella's father. I hope you enjoyed this one, and please review.