Clear As Day

He can see it in her eyes as clear as day: there is something she isn't saying, something she isn't telling him. He doesn't know how to feel about that. They're best friends. Talking about how they're feeling is what they do – or so she's told him on the many occasions she's tried to get him to open up.

In reality they don't talk as often as she suggests they do. With their eyes, they can communicate what words just can't say. With their eyes, they can tell what the other is thinking and feeling. Usually.

Usually they don't need words.

Today though, he can't seem to get a read on her. He can't put together exactly what it is that's going on with her. He knows there's something, but what it is remains a mystery to him. He looks her over, concern in his expression. He puts a hand on her shoulder, waits until she lifts her gaze to meet his. "Are you okay?"

He sees a glimmer of fear and then nothing.

She pulls away and takes his heart along with her. "I'm fine, Mac."

He lets her leave, but he knows she isn't fine. She isn't herself.

The moment she is out of his line of sight, he changes his mind. He can't let her leave like this. He can't. No matter what she might say, she isn't fine. She needs intervention; she needs support. She needs him.

Chewing on his bottom lip, he abruptly starts for the door. He makes it through and heads in the direction she left in. He breaks into a run when he sees her by the elevator. The doors slide open and she steps in even as he calls her name. "Stella!"

She doesn't turn around. She doesn't look at him. A man who'd already been standing in the elevator when the doors opened glances up at him for the slightest second and it hits him. She's ignoring him. For some reason that he can't put words to, she's ignoring him.

He frowns and takes the last few strides to the elevator, slapping his hands on either side of the door to keep it from closing on him. He enters and stands beside her. She refuses to meet his eyes. Instead she focuses on the floor and picks at the fingernails of one hand.

"Stella?" he says firmly. "Didn't you hear me?"

No response.

The doors close and they start moving.

"Stella." She slowly drags her gaze from the floor to look at him. "Are you okay?"

She sighs, loudly. "We've been through this, Mac," she tells him. "I'm fine."

"I know we've been through this, but I don't believe that you are okay."

She stares him straight in the eyes. Defiantly. "I'm fine. Really."

He shakes his head but says nothing. The elevator stops and the man moves past him and outside. She stays put. "Not getting out?"



The man disappears from sight as he rounds a corner and the doors to the elevator close shut once more. He watches her stare blankly at the silver of the doors and swallows, hard. Whatever is wrong, it's something big. Stella doesn't just run off without reason only to change her mind at the last minute and turn back. Does she? Does he really know her as well as he thinks he does?

He frowns and steps backwards until he's leaning against the cool back wall of the elevator. It's hard on his back and just what he needs. He needs something to lean on, to support him as he's trying to support Stella. He needs her.

She's not available right now though, so the wall will have to suffice. He'll have to figure out what's going on without her help.

Halfway between floors, he makes up his mind and pulls the emergency stop lever to jar them in place. He barricades it from her so when she reacts and heads straight for him to start it up again, his body is in the way. Her fists land firmly on his chest.

He doesn't budge, doesn't move a muscle. He doesn't speak. He's tried talking to her. It didn't work. If she's changed her mind, it's now up to her to talk to him.

"Get out of the way," she practically growls at him.

Progress, he muses, though not much.

"I mean it, Mac."

"Tell me what's wrong and I will," he says.

Her eyes narrow at him and she roughly shakes her head. Whether it's to clear her head or to signal 'no' to him, he can't be certain. And then she does the last thing he expects from her. Her bottom lip quivers, her eyes fill with tears and a sigh escapes her lips.

She moves back and presses her body against the wall adjacent to his and drops her head down so that her chin is resting on her chest and her hair obscures her face. Stop lever forgotten, he rushes to her side.

"I'm tired, Mac," she tells him. "I'm bloody tired."

He carefully places a hand on her shoulder and can instantly feel the tension built up there. Swallowing, he tightens his grip and gives her arm a gentle squeeze. He hates to see her miserable like this and to be honest, it's scaring him.

Stella is the strong one. She needs no one. That's the impression she has always given. He has known her a long time and it takes a lot to break her. It takes even more for her to admit it to anyone.

"What happened? Are you okay? You're not...hurt?" He rushes calculating eyes over her as the thought occurs to him. Was she hurt?

A glimmer of wearied amusement lights up her eyes for a flash and then is gone. Her mouth twitches up slightly at the corners though so he knows he didn't just imagine it. "I'm fine, Mac. Hell, everything is fine. I just..."

"Yes? Go on."

She considers him for a moment. Shrugs. "You know those days where every little thing happens and it builds up until you can't take any more?"

He nods. "Yeah."

"Today is one of those days," she admits. "Usually I can deal with them fine. They're just little things. Insignificant things. Any other day I'd just move on and forget about them."

"But today is one of those days," he repeats her line.


"Wanna talk about it?"

She shakes her head. "I want to go home. I want to sleep. I want this day to be over."

He offers her a soft smile. "I'll give you a lift."

When she doesn't respond he presses the button on the elevator to get it moving again.