Once again, I'm posting a fairly short oneshot in the name of the lovely Lily Moonlight. I meant to post it weeks ago, but a blizzard in my home town had me without power.
Not to mention cold as hell.
"Unbelievable," I mutter under my breath, staring out the window at the heavy snowfall. It's hard to see beyond a couple of feet now, and it's barely started. "I really cannot believe it."
"You and the rest of the city," Lindsay laughs from behind me, signing off on the last bits of evidence of the day so it can be packed away and logged into the system elsewhere. It's a never ending system, seemingly. You have to love the chain of evidence, God forbid it should ever be broken.
"They're saying we may have a foot by midnight," Lindsay continues absently, "Maybe more. It's an interesting way to bring in the New Year."
"No doubt about it," I reply. "What does the Messer family have planned?"
"Well, Lucy's usually down for the night around seven or so," she tells me absently, working diligently, "After that, I think Danny and I were planning on just watching the festivities on television."
"Nah. I would hate to take away from someone else's plans," she says with a smile. "Besides, I think we'll both appreciate the alone time. With our schedules, this is a dream come true."
"Yeah, I get that," I reply, turning away from the blizzard to give her a smile. "I'm so happy for you guys. Every time I see little Lucy I just can't help but smile. The Messer family has it made."
Lindsay pauses in her work to beam up at me.
"We really do," she sighs, her big eyes alight with happiness. "I could never have asked for anything more."
We slip into comfortable silence for a few minutes, me admiring the snow and her finishing up her evidence box. She hums something absently, her meek voice quickly putting me to sleep. It's soft and completely pleasant, and I suddenly envy Lucy's bedtime songs. Maybe I could convince Lindsay to make a CD, and then I'd sleep better than I have in years. The thought makes me laugh a little under my breath, but Lindsay doesn't seem to notice. I'm actually glad, because I don't really plan to explain myself.
"What are your plans for the evening?" she asks suddenly, jerking me out of my thoughts. I take a sip of cold coffee and just smile.
"Just me and my apartment tonight, I'm afraid," I reply. "I thought about getting down to Times Square to see the ball drop, but then the snow started. There's absolutely no way I'm going out in this. I'll catch pneumonia."
"Wise decision," she agrees, nodding her head. "Of course you realize that you're always welcome at our home. If you want, you can join in on movie night. We'll have a little dinner, a drink or two."
"And break up your date night?" I ask incredulously, "No way. You just said how much you were looking forward to it just being the two of you."
"The offer's on the table."
"Thanks, but no thanks," I say, "I'll find something to do."
"Alright, if you're sure," she says, standing from the table and brushing her hands off on her slacks. "Well, this is it for me. I'm going to send this down to evidence lockup and head home for the night. I have to pick Lucy up from the nursery in forty-five minutes."
"You'd better hurry if you want to make it in time with this weather," I warn her. "It looks like it's going to be a long night."
"Will do," she says and heads for the door. "Goodnight, Stella. Have a great New Year."
"You too, Lindsay," I call out as she's leaving, "Drive safe!"
It's just before eleven when I finally close my office, preparing to leave for the night. The city is in an uproar on the snow, which is quickly approaching blizzard conditions. With the wind, visibility is low and people are getting reckless. I was tempted to stick around longer in case emergency workers needed help with car accident victims, but as the night went on I realized that it was fairly quiet throughout the building. Most people were already home with friends and family, eager to bring in the New Year. There's one person I know, though, who's in paperwork up to his nose and probably doesn't even realize that it's the end of a decade.
"Mac?" I inquire, peeking my head into his office to find him with a pen in one hand and a massive cup of coffee in the other. He lifts his head up and spares me a tired smile before going right back to what he was doing.
"Are you leaving for the night?" he asks me from his desk.
"Planning on it," I reply. "Have you looked outside recently?"
"No, why?" he asks, head up again. He turns to look out the window of his office and groans. "The roads are going to be ice rinks."
"Maybe we'll get lucky and people will take it easy on the way home," I hope, ever the optimist. From the look on Mac's face, he's not nearly so convinced. "Are you sure you want to stick around any later? You look and sound exhausted. Have you eaten?"
"I'm sure I want to stick around, I'm not exhausted, and I've eaten," he says with a scowl, hands on his hips. I know how my nagging irritates him. While I adore my best friend all the time, his displeased face is probably my favorite. He's too cute when he's annoyed. I would never tell him that, of course, but the observation is there nonetheless.
"So these are your plans for New Year's Eve?" I ask, "Paperwork and lukewarm coffee?"
"What are you talking about?" he asks, "My coffee is perfectly hot."
This time he does laugh, and I shake my head.
"Yeah, alright, I should have known better," I say and wave my goodbye as I head right back out the door. "Goodnight, Mac. Be careful getting home."
"You too, Stella."
I head for the elevator, a calm smile still on my face.
I love the man endlessly, but he really does need to take better care of himself. I know how he struggles sometimes, still, after all these years. I do my best, but there's still only so much I can do no matter how good my intentions are. He's work-oriented by nature, and he and I have that in common. All I can do is make sure he eats and sleeps, offering a sympathetic ear when I can. If that's that he wants, that's what he'll get. I offer him more when he's willing to take it, and he knows I'm always around if he needs me. As far as friends go, there's really not much we could feasibly hope for.
The voice calls to me before I can get inside the elevator, and I stop the doors with my hand to see Mac jogging up to me. He steps in the way of the doors so they don't close on him and faces me with a shy look that instantly has me suspicious.
"What's up?" I ask, wondering if he's decided to call it a night after all and was interested in sharing my elevator ride.
"Do you have plans?"
"No, not really," I say honestly, "Unless you count sitting in my pajamas in front of the television. Why?"
"Well, the roads are going to be rough out there," he starts before shaking his head and changing his tactic, "Feel like bringing in the New Year with a little company?"
"That depends," I tease. "Who's my company?"
"Who do you think?"
I offer him a smile that he quickly returns despite his sarcasm.
I link arms with him and leave the elevator behind, pleased beyond words that he thought to seek me out. We head back to his office, where he's managed clear most of the paperwork from his desk. It's in piles around the floor, and I step around them carefully in case his system of organization is more complex than I've given him credit for. He offers me his chair with a wave of his hand and I smile, removing my coat and purse to set it aside. I collapse into the chair as he takes a seat on top of his desk, turning on the television so that it blares thousands of people cheering at Times Square.
"I thought about going to this," I mention. "Then the weather started up and I decided that I was better off putting it off until next year."
"Honestly, it didn't even occur to me what day it was until I actually paid attention to the dates I kept signing on those reports," he tells me and I laugh, shaking my head. "It only took six hours. Some detective I am."
"You're very good at your job, Mac," I say, patting his knee, "It's life outside the lab that you need a little catching up on. But don't worry. I have the utmost faith in you."
"Thanks," he says sarcastically and then our eyes go back to the television. I prop my feet up on a box a few feet away and settle in, sighing. I'm perfectly content to spend a snowy night with my partner and best friend, holed up in his office for the foreseeable future. Mac relaxes after a bit, too; he rolls up his shirt sleeves and removes his tie, setting it aside. I watch him from the corner of my eye and it strikes me again just how handsome he really is. He's all blue eyes and sinew. I wonder if he knows it. I highly doubt it; Mac's not the type.
"What are you staring at?" he asks me with mock insult.
"Absolutely nothing," I reply innocently.
"Right," he remarks with a knowing smile and slips off the desk. He heads for the door unexpectedly, without any word as to where he's going. I want to call out and ask, but he holds up a hand to say that he'll explain when he gets back. I shrug my shoulders and go back to the television, deciding that whatever it is it can wait. He comes back a few minutes later, with two aluminum cans and two plastic cups.
"Ginger ale," I observe with a smirk. "Cute."
"You can't really get champagne out of a vending machine," he replies with a smirk of his own. "This will have to do."
"It's perfect," I say, taking a can from him along with our cups. I pour us each half of the can and glance back at the television. "We've got ten minutes until the ball drops. Resolutions?"
"I've never had a New Year's resolution," he admits, taking his cup when I offer it to him.
"Yeah," he says, staring into the pale liquid in the cup, "It just never occurred to me. If Claire had them, she never mentioned them."
"No, I don't think she did," I reply, thinking back to my memories of her. "They weren't really her style."
"What about you?"
"I've had a few over the years," I say honestly. "Most of them didn't pan out."
"I have no idea," I laugh, "Someone must keep to theirs, or it wouldn't be a tradition."
"What do you have in mind this year?"
"I don't know," I say quietly, leaning forward and resting my arms on my thighs. "I haven't really given it too much thought. It's been at least five years since my last."
"I think I've got one for you," he says and I look up to mind a mischievous glint in his eye. Just what is he thinking?
"Okay," I reluctantly reply, "Shoot."
"I think it should be a resolution to take more risks," he says and I let out a bark of laughter. "No, don't get me wrong. I don't mean you should stop calling for backup and go after everyone on your own."
"No, I didn't think you'd let me get away with that."
"I mean that it's time you start reaching out a little more," he instructs and I look at him like he's lost his mind—which he apparently has. "Maybe I don't know what I'm trying to say. Just, it's okay to take a chance on someone. It's okay to give something of yourself every now and then."
I keep staring and he looks down, chagrined. Despite his muddled attempts at explaining himself, I understand what he's trying to say. He's concerned that I'm not happy, and I laugh a bit at the realization that we have the same concerns about each other. I reach out and pat his thigh softly.
"I'll be sure to keep that in mind this year," I assure him and offer a smile. "What about you? Anything lined up for yourself?"
"Yeah, I think so," he says, his eyes still trained on his cup. "I've been thinking about it for years now, but I guess it's about time I do something about it."
"It sounds serious, Mac," I reply. "Care to share? Or is it privileged information?"
"Not at all," he says and exhales loudly. My brow furrows, trying to figure out just what has him so anxious. "I think it's about time I stopped taking things for granted."
The statement was simple, and yet it held so much. I don't react at first because I'm doing my best to figure out just what he means, and it doesn't take me long to realize that the only way I'm going to know for sure is if I ask him.
"That's pretty vague," I say honestly, "Did you mean something in particular?"
"I meant you," he repeats. "We've been together a long time now, Stella. Longer than most people in this field of work."
"It's true," I admit. "It has been a while, hasn't it?"
"I want it to be a lot longer, too," he tells me frankly, "You know I couldn't do this job without you, Stella. I really need to take the time every so often to tell you that."
"Mac, you're incapable of taking advantage of another human being," I tell him, standing from my chair to steal the remote from his hand and turn off the television. "That includes me. Never once have you made me feel unappreciated. Never, since the day we met. I admit, there are days where I occasionally want to smack you to get your attention. I'm only human. But that doesn't mean I feel unappreciated."
"Good," he says quietly, "Good. But that's not exactly what I meant."
"Then what did you mean?"
"You're my partner and my best friend, Stella," he says and reaches to take my hands in his. I immediately tense, suddenly getting the gist of where this is going. "I see you and hear your voice every day, and there's no one I care about more than you. It's been occurring to me recently that maybe that care can evolve into something different. Something… more."
"Oh, my God."
The words fall carelessly from my lips as my eyes meet his. Of course I'd entertained the notion—God only knows how many times I'd thought about it over the years we've known each other—but fantasizing is much different than acknowledging your thoughts and taking them for a test drive. Could we do this? My relationship with Mac is something I've held paramount for so long now I've forgotten what it's like to not have him around. I've spent years fearing the day we wouldn't have each other, for whatever reason. All fears aside, there's no one in the world I love more or for as many reasons as I love Mac Taylor.
"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have brought this up," he says, lowering his head and releasing my hands. "Let's just forget I said anything. If you hurry, you may be able to catch a cab before all the roads ice over."
"No, I know," he says, offering me a sad attempt at a smile, "Mistake. Maybe it's the ginger ale talking."
"You haven't had any yet," I point out.
"Then I have no excuse," he says. "I'll let you get out of here. I can finish up my paperwork."
He moves to slide of the desk and I use my hands to shove him back in place. The sudden motion makes a cup of pens clatter to the floor and he looks up at me with obvious surprise. I would offer an explanation, but I don't have one. All I have is half a cup of ginger ale and a feeling in my gut that's telling me the last thing I want to do is to walk out of this office and pretend this conversation never happened.
Before I can talk myself out of it, I kiss him.
My lips glide over his almost imperceptibly, delighting in the feeling of his breath on my face. I cup his face in my hands, secretly mystified at the sudden warmth coiling low in my stomach. It's not long before he finally realizes what's happening and kisses me back, his attempt at the act far more aggressive than my own. Our embrace quickly becomes heated and desperately passionate, giving some hint as to the times we'd both thought about this late at night—when we were both wondering what the other was doing. He holds me closer than he ever has, and it startles me in that moment just how much I've been missing.
He pulls away suddenly, quickly grazing his lips over mine in passing. His blue eyes are wide and beautiful in the warm light of his office.
"Mac, I want you to listen to me," I interrupt, taking carefully measured breaths just in case my heart manages to beat its way out of my chest completely. "If there was anyone I wanted to take a chance on—any one, single, solitary person—it would be you."
"Then you're just in time," he says, checking his watch. "Happy New Year, Stella."
I laugh and kiss him again, shocked at how the simple act still brings heat to my face. This is new for us, but I know better than to write it off as anything but the deep love of friends who are trying to be something more. For all his worrying, there's nothing Mac could ever do to hurt me. Little does he know that when I took a chance on him, it was years ago and he has yet to fail me. Ever.
"Happy New Year, Mac," I sigh against his lips, feeling them curve into an elated smile.
I know exactly how he feels.