Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read, alert, favorite, and review my work. It's so hard to believe that I posted my first fic five years ago today, and now here I am at number 100. I couldn't have done it without y'all, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
This is dedicated to all my friends, old and new, with special thanks to lily moonlight for looking over this.
Finally, the conversation between Mac and Stella that was brought up in the 'Lucy Goosey' series. I felt it needed its own story. Enjoy!
A silent tension remained between them as they left the Messers' building. Nevertheless, Mac walked Stella to her car and kissed her cheek, their customary parting gesture, making sure she was safely inside before heading off in the direction of his own vehicle. Stella sighed heavily and watched him walk away, then turned the key in the ignition and pulled out into the New York City traffic, thankful that Lindsay had asked for her help with the decorations for Lucy's party and that Mac had offered to pick up Lucy's cake. It wasn't the most environmentally friendly, both of them driving, but at least the trip home would allow her to clear her mind.
A knot settled in the pit of her stomach as she mentally played out variations of the upcoming conversation. The drive that was supposed to calm her down had done nothing but make her even more uptight and apprehensive. She turned on the radio, hoping to find a song that would serve as a distraction, but after scanning through the stations three times, she found nothing to lift her spirits.
"Damn it!" Stella exclaimed, the heel of her hand connecting with the steering wheel. How was it that in a city with that many radio stations she couldn't find a decent song when she needed it?
Frustrated, she finger-punched the radio power button, the music dying instantly, her anxiety level rising. She muttered a few more obscenities and gripped the steering wheel tighter.
She was really not looking forward to getting home.
She couldn't avoid it forever though and eventually found herself searching for a parking space near their building. Finally finding one, she pulled in and killed the engine, taking one last moment to gather her thoughts. This wasn't common practice for her. In the past, every time she'd had a problem, she'd dealt with it and moved on. This time was different. She gasped as the realization hit her--it was different because her decision affected more than just her. She slumped against the seat, wishing she had more time to process the last-minute epiphany, but time was up, and in all fairness, her husband deserved answers.
When Stella entered the lobby of their apartment building, she wasn't surprised to find Mac waiting for her; she'd taken her time getting home. He tried a tentative smile, and though she attempted one in return, she couldn't say for certain whether the action was successful.
Mac, having pushed the elevator button upon seeing her come in, waited for her to pass in front of him into the empty elevator. He stepped in as she pressed the button for their floor, and they stood side by side as the doors slid closed. Silently, they ascended to their floor, Stella watching the numbers on the digital counter as it kept track of each floor they passed, Mac watching her.
They reached their floor, and Mac followed Stella from the elevator. Keys in hand, she quickly unlocked the door to their apartment and discarded her things on the small table nearby while he secured the locks. Her back still to Mac, she steeled herself, trying to control the emotions raging inside.
"Stella…" his voice was soft as he trailed his fingers down her arm and clasped her hand in his.
She didn't know why she expected him to be angry. He hadn't been angry earlier, a bit perturbed that she'd kept something this big from him, but not angry. He'd been understanding and caring when he'd heard her voice her concern to Lindsay, yet in every version she'd imagined on the way home, she'd portrayed him as angry.
"Stella," he tried again, squeezing her hand reassuringly.
"I really am sorry," she whispered, her voice cracking with emotion. "I should have told you. But that doesn't change how I feel, Mac."
Mac knew this wasn't going to be easy. Still, this had to be dealt with. "We need to at least talk about this, Stella."
He sensed her distress and felt slightly at fault for her current state. "Come on, let's sit down," he urged, leading her toward the couch.
She went willingly and sat facing him, one leg tucked under the other, their hands never breaking contact.
He sat patiently, waiting for her to talk, knowing she would when she was ready.
Eventually, she sighed and glanced up at him, his eyes already locked on her, studying her. "Mac…" she began, "I love you, and that's never going to change. Ever," she told him, a quick half-smile touching her lips. "I just don't know if I'm suited to be a mother."
"Of course you are," he insisted. "You're great with Lucy. Lindsay said so, too," he continued, indicating just how much he'd overheard.
"That's different," she said, shaking her head. "Remember a few weeks ago when I picked her up from school? I didn't know what to do."
"Ice cream, drawing, and dinos and trees? Sounds like you knew exactly what to do," Mac replied.
"Maybe for one afternoon."
Mac sighed and squeezed her hand. "Stell, give yourself a little credit."
Her shoulders shook as a wry chuckle escaped through her lips.
"Hey," he said softly, "the purple iPod was your idea," he reminded her, emphasizing the color as Lucy had all afternoon.
Stella smiled, relaxing just a bit. "She did like it, didn't she?"
"Yeah, she did. See, you're great with her!" he exclaimed.
"But, Mac, those are the fun times. It's not all fun and games, though."
"No, but it's all part of being a parent," Mac insisted. "There's no manual, no script to follow. It's endless on-the-job training."
"And you're not scared by that?"
"Of course I'm scared, but being scared is okay. In fact, I'd be worried if I wasn't scared."
"I don't know," she sighed.
"Look, we're not going to be perfect parents, but the point is that we'll do our best to instill good values and offer unconditional love."
"You've obviously thought a lot about this."
"You have, too, though apparently from the opposite end of the spectrum. Help me understand why you don't want a baby. What's really going on?"
"I'm old," Stella sighed, hating the way those words sounded.
"Honey, you're not old. You're a healthy woman in the prime of your life. Women older than you have babies all the time."
She raised her eyebrow, forehead crinkling.
"No, I didn't say you were old," he replied. "But you've never been bothered by age before. Why now?"
"Other than the fact that we'd be practically Medicare age by the time any child of ours graduated from high school? There are grandparents now who are younger than us."
Mac held back a chuckle. "Sounds like you've already got us with one foot in the grave."
"I'm being serious, Mac," she stated. "It's a legitimate point!"
"You're right. I'm sorry. Isn't age just a number though?"
"Yeah, until it's time for the middle-of-the-night feedings and diaper changes."
"We've been called out to crime scenes in the middle of the night," Mac pointed out.
"That just further proves my point. What would we do then? It's not like our child could go with us."
He nodded, understanding her point, but sensing there was something else bothering her. "So it's not just about the age?"
"Age is part of it, but we work for the NYPD, and you and I are there nearly all the time. How would we take care of a child and still work?"
"Danny and Lindsay have done that for six years," he pointed out and quickly continued. "I know I'm the head of the Crime Lab, and our situation is different, but we could make it work, Stella. I know we could. Even if it means we cut back on hours. There's babysitters," he grinned. "And godparents."
"And the middle-of-the-night crime scenes?" she pressed.
"We'll find a way to make it work."
She stared into his eyes, searching, reading, understanding. She smiled at him--really smiled--loving that her husband had the ability to put her at ease, even when they didn't necessarily agree.
"I saw you gazing at Lucy and Danny earlier," she told him quietly. She continued to watch him, and his features softened at the mere mention of Lucy. "You really want this, don't you?" she asked.
"What I want is for us to be happy and not keep things from each other," he grinned and scooted closer to her. "But, yes, I really want this," he finished.
Her free hand clasped their still-joined ones. "I don't know what to do, Mac, but I need time to process all of this, okay?"
Mac nodded understandingly. "But you're not ruling out having a baby?"
"I'll think about it, but I'm not making any promises."
He leaned in to kiss her, but she stopped him with a hand to his chest. "But since I'm doing all this thinking, I need to know that you'll be happy even if we don't have a baby."
"I love you, and that's never going to change. Ever," he replied with a grin, repeating her words from earlier.
She toyed with the buttons on his shirt, effectively pulling him closer. "I'm glad we talked," she told him honestly, the apprehension from earlier now replaced with understanding and a sense of peace.
"Me, too," he breathed as his lips closed on hers.
As she melted into the kiss, her last thought was that whatever life had in store for them, they would face it. Together.
Thanks for reading!