Chapter 8

Two hours later they were sound asleep on Stella's couch. Both mentally and physically drained from the evenings events, neither could bear to keep an eye open. At the sound of snoring Mac cracked an eye and peeked around the room he was in. It was dark, the only light coming from the lamp at the end of the couch. His shoulder seemed a bit heavier then normal so he craned his neck, cracking it a bit from being positioned in once spot for so long, and looked at the sleeping form of Stella lying on him. Memories of the evening flooded back into his mind and all he could do was sigh. He knew he wasn't good at showing emotion, though he's had feelings for her for so long. But now that he's let her in on his secret, he's afraid he'll screw it up. He knows she's been though so much with previous men…one tonight in particular, and the thought of something serious happening his hard to wrap his mind around. He wants to protect her, to be her knight in shining armor, but he doesn't think he can let her in emotionally.

She finally begins to stir and her eyes flutter open right into Mac's. A smile appears on her face which tells him she's obviously happy with their arrangement.

"Hey," she let's out in a raspy, sleep filled voice.

"Hey back." He states simply.

"How long have you been up?"

"Not long…I was just thinking."

"About what?" She asks.

He doesn't respond right away and makes her a little nervous.

"Mac…what were you thinking about?"

"You mostly…and us I guess. I don't know where to go from here Stella. To say I'm a little scared is an understatement." He tries to explain but his inability to let her know how he's feeling comes to the fore-front.

"What are you scared of? Me? This relationship? You need to be a little more specific Mac."

"That's just it Stella…I can't be more specific. I can't let you know how I'm feeling. I'm just not good at it, which is why I think we're not right for each other, no matter how much I love you!" He says, voice rising with each word spoken.

Frustrated she lets out a deep sigh. She brings her hands to her forehead a rubs her temples, digging her fingers roughly around the hair line and over the bridge of her eyebrows.

Mac moves his hand to her back to rub small circles of comfort but she brushes him off.

"Mac…this is ridiculous! You love me, said you'd give us a chance, and now you're too scared? I've been through so much hell in my life this past year…do you remember?"

He nods.

"Good…because the one person who was there with me through all of it was you…how were you so able to do it then, keep me in check and sane, but you can't do it now?" A hint of tears shine in her eyes.

"I didn't know you felt anything for me…it was easy to keep that part heart hidden away. Now all I wanna do is share the whole thing with you, but I don't know how. I wish you could understand that." He sighed…more annoyed with himself then her.

"I do understand Mac…I do. I'm scared too. I've met some real bastards, you know that. I'm afraid to let my heart out in the open again. I know you wont hurt me though, and just that alone makes this so much easier!" She faces him, tears now freely pouring down her cheeks.

"I will hurt you Stella. Every time you ask what's wrong and I can't answer you'll be hurting inside. When I have a bad day or case and just wanna be alone you'll be hurt because I'm not with you. It's never ending!" He explained.

Dropping her head in her hands she began crying loudly, clearly frustrated with him and his actions. Mac moved closer and wrapped his arms around her, trying to offer an ounce of comfort. It was really the only thing her knew how to do well…hold Stella. She removed her hands from her face and swung them around his back, gripping at his shirt and sobbed into his chest.

"I love you Mac…you promised me a chance remember? Why are you taking it away from me now?"

At Stella's pleading, tears came to his eyes. He was hurting just as much as she was, and now was as good a time as any to show her.

"Stella I'm so scared to hurt you like those other men did. I would never do anything physically, but emotional pain is just as bad. I'd never forgive myself for neglecting you, or pushing you away. You mean too much to me." He sniffed as he spoke, trying to mask his own tears.

"Never say that!" She fought the urge to slap him. "You are nothing like any of the men I dated this past year. You could never be compared to them in any way, no matter what happened between us. I'm not gonna beg you anymore Mac…you wither want to share a part of my life or you don't. The ball's in your court now."

Mac separated himself from her grasp and sat back on the couch, thinking for a moment at the words she just spoke. When he came to a conclusion, he gently grabbed her hand and placed it in his lap. Shutting his eyes for a minute he sighed, then re-opened them to see her staring back at him in anticipation.

"I love you. I have for years, but you know how I am. I guess what I'm saying is I wanna share my life with you Stella. You mean everything to me, and though I can't promise that every day will be the best, I can promise that my love will never end." He declared.

Smiling brightly at him, she leaped forward into his arms and kissed his neck. Fresh tears now falling from her eyes.

"Good!" Was all she could form words for at the moment. She was just happy to have the man she loves in her arms, and willing to stay there.

"Just bear with me ok? I know I say that a lot…"

"Mac…I'll take anything you're willing to give. I love you, and that's all that matters. I'll take the good and the bad because I know that love out weighs both."

With Stella in his arms he slid their entwined bodies down along the couch and just laid in each others arms. Once breathing returned to normal Mac could feel Stella succumb to sleep once more. It had been an emotional toll on her mind and body, and he hoped to not ever cause her such stress and turmoil again. But in the back of his mind there was always a little pang of guilt and regret. He knew her heartache wasn't over…it would take time for them to truly be happy together, but he was one hundred percent willing to stick it out as long as she could.