Title: Professional Detour
Chapter 1 - The Eleventh Hour

Summary: How will Stella's decision to move to New Orleans affect her and Mac? And is it forever? Is this the end? Or just a slight detour?

Disclaimer: Well if you don't know I don't own them by now, you need to read more of my stories! Lol

A/N: Okay so with the much relieving news that they aren't going to kill our beloved Stella, just shipping her off to New Orleans, we can work with that. As soon as I heard the news the muse was on the keyboard and I was unable to stop her! eeks! Hope this isn't too emotional and that you like it a little. Thank you again. Oh and I know two postings in one day - sorry guys don't kill me! lol

'Stella Bonasera, we are pleased to confirm your offer of CSI Supervisor for...'

My heart still skips a beat when I read those words on the official letterhead in my hands, my fingers slightly trembling and my head racing with a million thoughts, questions, situations and of course excited and nervous anticipation. I want to shout, cry, laugh and curse all at the same time.

This is an amazing opportunity; one that where I'll be used a lot more than I am here, but one where I'll be alone and away from the people I love and care about the most; my friends and family here at the lab. This move will affect and change all that. It will change everything; it will change my life no matter what.

However, as I look up from my desk and see my beloved partner slowly walk past, offer me a warm smile, his handsome face relaxing as we lock eyes, I know that my heart is about to skip a few more beats before this day is over. Mac is the one I care about the most; the man I love more than anything and the one person who will be affected the hardest by this opportunity.

I had heard about the opening in New Orleans from a friend, telling me about this amazing opportunity in a city that was still struggling to rebuild and a team that needed a solid role model and some determined inspiration from a seasoned field Detective. Me.

What do I tell Mac if I do get it?

I remember that was the first question I had asked myself as soon as I hit the apply button. But a few weeks passed and I heard nothing, so I had told myself that I didn't get it and basically pushed the thought out of my head. Then I got the call.

"Stella, this is Greg Fields from New Orleans. Do you have a minute?"

And everything changed in an instant. That was last night. The letter arrived this morning to confirm what I was told and my world came to a complete halt.

The moments that followed that call was just a blur. I got the job! I got Mac's job! But...

As my brain finally pondered the actual seriousness of the situation and where I would be going, I finally realized what I had done. I am leaving. New York. For good? Is this possible? Can I do this? To Mac? To me?

That moment, the moment I had gotten the news, I went from the highest high to the lowest low. This was the kind of opportunity I had been waiting for; something to really challenge and inspire me, to give me a new found sense of accomplishment and to show the world around me that I rose from the ashes and look at me now.

But that means leaving Mac. Can I just up and leave him?

And as I watch him finally pass by I realize that this could be the last time I could see him. Ever? No, that's not possible; I'd never leave Mac for good. He could come down on the weekends, holidays, days off? It might give him a chance to use up all those myriads of holiday's that he's so fond of stock piling until Armageddon comes.

I lean back in my chair and realize as I look at my slightly trembling fingers that my anxiety hasn't lessened since I heard the news last night; not being able to eat or sleep. This isn't an easy decision and has just raised more questions than answers.

I had spent the night pacing, trying to psyche myself up as to what I would be telling Mac but somehow nothing sufficed. All I kept seeing was him either giving me a tight lipped 'Congratulations' and sending me on my way or offering me a crushed expression and I would be sunk. Knowing Mac he'll take the honorable way out and that could be worse. Killing me with silence? Or worse? A false bravado when I know inside he's hurting just as much as me?

However, inside I know I have a bigger battle than just a professional advancement to contend with. In my heart I know I love Mac, I always have and I know I always will. And that knowledge is tearing me up inside, eating way at my very soul. I want to be with him and was hoping that we would be working toward something more permanent. Would we get that now?

"I love you Mac," I whisper in a tone only I can hear.

I try to push myself away from my desk, wanting to tell him right now but I can't; something holds me back, forcing me to sit in place and continue to ponder in contemplative misery what I am actually doing. I have always wanted to be part of something that really mattered; a cause or a group that I could immerse myself in and at the end of the day, just pat myself on the back and tell myself I just did one hell of a job. To shine and allow my strengths to help others to do the same; to pull people up from the bottom and allow them to stand on top like I am now.

But I always had Mac at my side when I did that and he's not coming with me. Sure I'll call and tell him all that I am doing or am a part of or have accomplished, but it won't be the same. I won't see his face every day; hear his words or know that I can just knock on his door when life is trying to suck me under. Will I still be able to make it? Is all lost? Can I do this without him at my side on a regular basis?

Rebuilding in the aftermath of Katrina; a young team needs a solid leader; volunteer opportunities with the BP oil spill; and of course fun events like Mardi Gras. The list went on as I listened to Greg Fields trying to sell me on this amazing career opportunity.

"So Stella, what do you say?" Greg has asked with a hint of eager enthusiasm in his voice.

I think I managed to ask for a day to think it over; my brain still trying to comprehend all that I was about to embark on and undertake alone. I would be alone in this, but then I have always been alone. But would I really? I mean it's not like I am moving to another country, only another state. Airfare between the states is cheap and I know...

And it went on, the back and forth as I pondered this grave decision. It was something that I didn't just rush into lightly and even now told Greg I would need a day to think but was very tempted; he hung up with hope and I hung up with wonder.

I look back up at my office door, thinking the day has already passed by when in reality it has only been a few minutes; my world still turning on a different axis than everyone else. I am currently existing on a different axis from everyone else. Can anyone sense it?

The chance to run my own team, own lab, own city is something that is beyond a career dream; it's exciting and scary. I have been to New Orleans a few times and before Katrina loved it and even after, it never lost it's mystique for me. I had at one time thought about whisking Mac away for a weekend to Mardi Gras, now he'll have no excuse except work to come and visit.

Wait? Have I decided? Is that a yes? Sounds like it. Am I doing the right thing?

"Oh Stella," I sigh to myself as I glance over at a picture of me and Mac that was taken at last year's New Years Eve party. It was just before midnight and his lips were on my cheek; the kiss that followed, in that moment, cemented in my mind just how much he means to me and I hope by his actions what I mean to him.

What would this do for him? Of course he would have to replace me. But with who? Can I just accept another person working at his side on a daily basis when I can't? And what if it's another woman? She better be married or gay! What if she's not? Will he forget me? Okay maybe this isn't the right thing to do.

But I know Mac will tell me that professional duty comes before sentimental responsibility. And he would be right. This is an amazing opportunity for me to grow and shine at the same time. To help others and myself. To make a difference and be at the forefront of something that I get to grow and make and call my own. This would be mine.

"It's a great opportunity," I lament with a hint of sorrow in my voice.

And so it goes, my mind and heart both waging two intense battles inside my very being; back and forth...back and forth...my stomach tight, my frame tense and my ears pounding. If I didn't care so much about Mac or have already invested so much of myself into the more than ten years we have been together side by side this wouldn't be so hard. I love him; and this is tearing me apart. But it's not the end, right?

"I love you Mac," I utter again, needing myself to hear it because I know when I tell him I'm leaving, my life will be forever changed. For the better? How will this change Mac? So far I have only thought of myself and how all this will affect me? But I know this will affect him. Mac might try to come off as being so closed off and private, but he's emotional and passionate and cares deeply...about me?

Does he love me? He hasn't said those exact words as of yet but maybe this will force something from him? Or it could force him to retreat back into his shell? Am I doing the right thing? Have I thought also what kind of hole this will leave for him?

But if I am practical I realize that this is something that I have wanted to do for awhile; lead my own team and as long as I work with Mac and Mac doesn't take a higher promotion, I might never get the opportunity to expand. Still New Jersey would have been closer as I know Mac will never want Sinclair's job and that would be his natural progression; Chief of Detectives.

How about for a year? I mean I can try it out and then if I don't like it I can always come back right? Should I have that written into my contract? Or could it just be a given? Would Mac take me back? Would Greg just let me leave? Could I just ask Mac to get rid of someone just because I couldn't make it or didn't like it? Ask Greg to replace me because I didn't want it any longer?

How about I try for a few months first and see how I like it? Ask Mac to hold my position until I am sure? But that is selfish also. I can't just expect him to do that. Course it could be a promotion for Danny or even Sheldon? Lindsay perhaps? They would understand, wouldn't they?

AHHHHHHHHHHH! I offer an inward scream and just shake my head; the battle refusing to subside. My heart tugging one way and my brain pulling the other.

I lean back in my chair once more and realize that this is going to be a lot harder than I thought. Mac always said that I sometimes over analyze things too much; he and I being so alike in that regard. But I can't help it; this is a major decision, I have to over analyze it! It's not like I have been asked to just help for a few weeks and then come back, this is a permanent offer; away from the city that love more than anything.

New York is home, it has been since I was left on her streets so many years ago. But I have also been used to being in new places and learning to adapt quickly and this will be no different. I will adapt and I will survive. I have so far. If anything this will make me stronger and certainly a lot braver.

I'll have to get a new home, apartment, somewhere away from the areas still being rebuilt but not too far away from the every day working people; I am one of them after all. I know what it's like to have to try to rebuild after your life has been torn away from you by circumstances beyond your control. I have done it a few times both physically with the fire and then mentally after Frankie. I survived then and I will survive now.

I am a survivor. I know I will be just fine physically and maybe even mentally. But emotionally?

Mac is my rock; my strength; my shield. I need him at my side and even when I don't tell him as often as I should, just to know that he's there when I need him at a moments notice, that I can see his smile or hear his warm voice; I am okay. But that will be gone now, at least on a daily basis. Can I live with that? I love Mac, if I didn't have such strong feelings for him, this wouldn't be the arduous battle it is right now. I love him, have I told him yet? Why am I just waiting for him to do that?

I slowly push my chair away from the desk, my heart starting to race so fast that I get a surge of adrenaline when I try to move and then have to just remain where I am.

Mac I'm leaving you...

But as soon as I verbalize that in m y head, my eyes water and my stomach tightens again.

No not for good...

"I can't do this," I softly lament as I once again close my eyes and try to regain the professional composure that I put on display for the world around me to see.

For just a few months or...well maybe more...but no longer than a year...that's it Mac, I promise...I love you...come with me!

No matter how much I try to sugar coat it, the words still stick in my heart like a two pronged arrow, threatening my very demise if I were to try to abstract it in any way.

Today I will face my emotional death.

"I love you Mac...with all my heart. This isn't for good," I try, giving a nod so that I'll know its the right thing to say.

But will he even believe me? Will he wonder the sudden change? We just had awell sort of a date last week andwill he now think it's him? Will he be angry? Hurt? Confused? Happy?

"Just a year and you can come and visit..." I try again, going over the lines that I will hand him as sort of a peace offering for my departure.

Will it work? What will the next few weeks be as we try to find my replacement? Will it strengthen our resolve to make it work no matter what? To work together on a schedule of holidays, weekends and days off so that we can be together and continue to grow what I hope is festering between us love? Or will it cause us to be strained? Driven further apart? Angry? Tense? Unsure?

"Oh damn it!" I curse as I just shake my head, my eyes wanting to water once more. But as I watch the minutes tick slowly past I know Mac is going to come looking for me and I know I'd never be able to function the rest of the day feeling like this. I have to tell him and I have to tell him now. I'll deal with the fall out later.

"I love you Mac and we will make this work," I finally tell myself in a determined voice as I push myself away from the desk, my heart pounding so fast, I swear I'm just going to have a heart attack in the hall and all this worrying will be moot as I'll be dead!

I take a few steps, my stomach wanting to bring up breakfast, my fists tightly clenched at my sides and my mind racing with a million different 'what if' scenario's as I head for the door. Thankfully the lab is still quiet, as Mac and I were the first in this morning.

I head for his office, quickly trying to choke back tears and the lump that has formed in my throat but telling myself that I will get through this, together Mac and I will face this hurdle together as we have everything else and be stronger for it.

I love you Mac, you have to help me with this.

I reach his office and pause in the doorway, actually afraid for the first time in years to enter. I commit to memory the sight before me; one of many that I'll cherish when I'm gone. He looks up, his handsome face breaking into a warm smile as he puts down his pen; his posture softening as he offers me his undivided attention. Normally that would settle my nerves in an instant, today it has the opposite effect; today it will break my heart. Perhaps shatter it for good.

"Stella?" His head slightly cocks as he notices me for the first time; I mean really notices the state that I am in. "What is it?" He asks in warm concern.

"Mac, I..."

A/N: So did you want a second chapter or just leave here. If a second chapter, do you want to know how Mac will react? The team? Please let me know and I could have some fun with this! And remember this is all just speculation! I have no idea how TPTB will have her leave but hey, it's fan fiction write? You want to nitpick or flame, recess is over and your grade 2 classroom is waiting! the rest thank you!

And yes just the start of many things to come with this story line so hope you are all on board for the long haul and thanks again! Stay tuned SMACKIES the muse is fired up once again! That's good write?

PS: And yes Pandora's was just updated so please also read/review that and keep the muse going. LOVE YOU ALL!