So this is longer than normal but something tells me you might not care. (=

Just so you know, this is possibly going to be the last you'll hear from me story-wise for a while. Its the last month of school and I lost my teaching job which means I need to move back to the US (which will happen in June). Then I need to find a job and all that fun stuff. So things are going to be busy for a while. If I have time I'll post a random one shot now and again, I have several in the works and would like to get them on here eventually. I hope to use the time for an actual real story, one with a plot and everything, case included!! But that's not getting on here for a while I can promise that.

XXX

Stella stood on the roof, looking out at the darkened city, seeing nothing. Several days had passed since her day with Mac. She could not help but be thankful that he had warned her about his state of mind; while he had not been cold toward her, neither had he been his usual self. It was obvious that something was on his mind and instinct told her to wait this one out, that pushing would not be advisable in this situation. So she went on with her life as if nothing were unusual, taking care to treat her best friend with just a little more care , though nothing too obvious; an extra touch here, a lingering look there, just one more kiss than she might usually give.

Over the last few days she had frequently caught him looking at her and when she did, he'd meet her eyes as if looking for something, and only after a longer than usual gaze would the contact be broken. It was as if he were trying to decide something and that something had to do with her. She only hoped it was nothing that would break her heart. In fact, she could not stop the hope that it was quite the opposite. But she refused to dwell on it and instead allowed her mind to retrace the day.

They had gotten a case early. Arriving before the sun she had been unsurprised to see Mac already there, standing stock still, as if in shock. But it was his face that had literally caused her to stop in her tracks: it was clear that he was close to tears, in fact, traces of a few were on his cheeks.

"Mac? What's going on? Where's the scene?"

He gestured with a nod. A young girl no older than 15, lay on the ground, for all appearances sleeping, save for the nasty gash on her arm.

She could not fathom why such a scene would cause this reaction in him. They had seen far worse. She asked about the girl, wondering if the information he had for her would give her insight on his demeanor.

It wasn't until Mac raised his arm that she noticed the purse in his hand. He had clearly been through the contents; an ID was in his hand and it seemed that the little bit of plastic was the cause of his distress.

"Cause if death seems to be exsanguination from the looks of that cut. It seems like she was dumped by the position of the body. According to this she's only 14."

"Name?"

A long pause. Too long. Then, "Her name is…was…Stella." She could tell how valiantly he had tried to keep his voice from shattering as he said it, but it still broke as the last word came out. If had been the time she would have said something but it was not to be for Flack had been headed their way with more information.

It had been a fairly simple case, turning out to be an accident. The girl had been in fighting with her parents in their car and had jumped out as they drove along. Her parents had called the police to report her missing when she did not come home by 6 am. Checking the car it became obvious that she had cut herself as she had jumped out. The detectives had found large amounts of blood leading away from the place where she had finally succumbed to the loss of blood.

Through out the case it had been obvious to all involved that Mac was greatly affected, he had barely spoken and when he did there was a brittleness to his voice, as if his will were the only thing keeping it together. He had avoided Stella completely. The reason had been rather obvious from the start. She had allowed him his space, knowing if he needed to talk he would. She'd have reacted in a similar manner had the situation been reversed.

She heard the door to the roof open and before she could move, found herself rather forcibly, though not un-gently, turned around and pulled into Mac's strong arms. There was desperation in his touch, as if he were trying to reassure himself that she was still alive.

It had indeed been the girl's name that almost broke Mac. It had taken every ounce of his self control to make it through his day. Finally after it was all over he had found himself at Ground Zero for the second time that week. He had more to think about but had not been there long before he blurted out "To hell with it." Swiftly he had made his way back to the lab and soon thereafter on the roof. Danny had mentioned seeing her head up there.

Something had snapped inside. He could think and process and work through things until the sun stood still but he would never come up with anything new. He could agonize about telling her and say nothing under the guise of protecting her, all the while knowing it was out of a selfish fear. Or he could do what he had been trained to do so very long ago; take action. Refusing to think, he determined to tell Stella how he felt.

And now here he was, on the roof, holding on to her as if he had almost lost her.

Remaining in his arms, putting her own around his waist and placing her head on his shoulder she broke the silence first.

"Mac, are you ok? What's going on? And I don't mean just today; that part was obvious. Truth be told, I'd be upset to have a case where the victim shared his name with you. But I'm talking about lately; since that day, did I do something?"

His arms tightened as he buried his face in her hair. "I can't ever lose you Stella." His voice was low, causing her to pull back to face him. She waited for him to go on.

"I can't lose you." He repeated. 'I've known for a while that you are more to me than a best friend and the other day I finally faced the fact that I am in love with you. I have been trying to figure out a way to tell you but today…today, I realized that there comes a time when analyzing and figuring things out only takes you so far and that I just need to take action."

As his final words penetrated her mind she found her lips possessed by his. He was soft, questioning without words as he touched his mouth to hers and she gave her equally wordless answer with an intensity that told him just how long she had been waiting for him. Hands left torsos and moved to faces, to hair, pulling their lips closer together.

It wasn't until the oxygen in their lungs was spent that they broke apart, eyes closed, foreheads touching, his hands twined in her hair, her own hands clasped behind his neck.

"Can you do it Stella? Can you take me as I am, a workaholic, emotionally distant, control issues, dangerous job? Will you give us a chance?"

"No."

His eyes flew opened. If she were not willing to give him a chance than why had she kissed him like that?

Seeing the look of shock bordering on hurt in his eyes she explained: "I will not give you a chance Mac Taylor because chances are for people who need to prove themselves. I need no proof of anything from you. If you say you love me I know you mean it. I know that you will do all in your power to take care of me as I will for you. So no, no chances. Only hopes for the future. Because my future is you."

"Are you sure?"

Her answer was to pull him down to join his lips to hers.

Finir

XXX