Nil here with Chapter 5 at last! Sorry for the delays, and I hope you enjoy and will review!

Mac paced, back and forth, back and forth. He fingered the letter where it rested in his pocket, folded neatly. He had to do something, find some way to warn Stella that she was in danger. But how?

There must really be something out there against him if this was really happening. Mac shook his head, he shouldn't think like that but he couldn't help it. His captor was right. He'd done terrible things in the past and he had to own up to them, but this? This was just madness.

Sinking to the floor Mac rubbed his hand through his hair, careful to avoid the cut from the blow he took earlier. In one horrible moment he thought his heart burst with sadness as he thought of Claire. He touched his left hand hesitantly, half expecting to feel his gold band there but it wasn't. Instead there was a small silver band around his pinky finger and his thoughts ran to an entirely different direction.

He had only been with Stella a week when she gave him the ring, saying that even if they didn't work out long term, to keep it as a promise that she would always be there for him, no matter what. He'd smiled, not quite sure what he'd done to deserve her, but determined to hold onto her forever.

When Claire died he didn't know how he would move on, but Stella had been there to forcefully drag him out of the office and out of his own mind. He had spent all his time either buried in paperwork or brooding. Stella had kicked him out of his office and camped on his couch until she was satisfied that he had slept enough to be rested.

Mac grinned at his thoughts. She was so stubborn and so smart. She'd be fine. She'd get him and they would go on with their lives.

"Getting comfortable Mac? Don't bother, it won't be too long until Stella's here and then you two can die together."

"What are you doing this, Reed?" Mac asked heavily. He hadn't even heard the slit in the door open.

"Why am I doing this? Why am I doing this?" Reeds voice shook as he tried to keep from shouting. "My mother is dead because of you."


"No, you listen. I hired someone to do some digging around the time she died. You two were supposed to go on vacation that week. You should have been at a cabin in Vermont! And you canceled at the last minute! She wouldn't have been in the towers if it weren't for you!"

"I was trying to catch a killer, Reed! Two days before 9/11 three car bombs went off near times square! I spent every moment of my time trying to track down and lock up the person who did it! And you know what? I never caught them. It was all a set up to distract the force so no one would see it coming when the planes hit the towers."

"You should have left it alone. Just once in your life, you should have left it alone."

The cover slammed on the hole in the door and Mac leaned his head back against the wall with a groan.

This was all something that had occurred to him years before. He'd always blamed himself for Claire's death, one way or another. But it was Stella who had made him see that it wasn't his fault. Mac smiled. It all came back to Stella, it always had.

Once more Mac reached into his pocket, his fingers closing around the Gold and Ruby ring that rested there and brought it out into the light as thoughts flickered through his head.

-Eight Months Ago-

"Hey Stella, you want to grab some food somewhere?"

"Sure Mac," Stella nodded, locking her computer and donning her coat quickly. She linked her arm with his as the walked out of the building happily chatting.

"So Mac, is this what's you'd call a date?" Stella teased a couple hours later over desert at a pretty fancy restaurant.

Mac smiled and nodded. "Yeah actually, I could."

Stella couldn't stop the grin that spread on her face. "That's a pretty unorthodox was of asking me on a date."

"Have we ever done things normally?"

-Six Months Ago-

"Mac!" Stella shouted over the noise of gunfire.

"I'm fine!" he yelled back.

Their perp seemed to think he could fight his way through about fifty NYPD officers and was shooting and screaming like a mad man. Stella rolled her eyes at the idiocy and simply waited until the man ran out of bullets, before heading forward to tackle him to the ground. She sat on him while Flack cuffed him then dragged him away.

"Stella, you ok?" Mac asked as he walked up to her. She was grinning from ear to ear.

"Fine Mac, but if you ever try and do something that stupid again, I'll kill you."

Mac blinked. "I'm not allowed to shove you out of the way of oncoming bullets?"

"Nope, it's not allowed."

Mac watched in astonishment as she walked off happily to process the scene and couldn't wrap his mind around it. He'd asked her later when they lay in bed together trying to get a few hours sleep and she'd shrugged it off, saying her life wasn't anymore important than his. He hadn't protested in an obvious way at the time.

-Four Months Ago-

Stella grinned as she found yet another dozen roses on her desk on Monday morning.

"Secret admirer?" Hawkes asked as he handed her a case file.

"Not so secret to me," she smirked.

A few hours later she walked into Mac's office holding one of the roses. "This is about my comment that my life isn't any more important than yours, isn't it?" she asked.

Mac just smiled and nodded. Stella couldn't help the giddy feeling that overcame her and she spent the rest of the day smiling.

-One Month Ago-

"I love you, Stella," Mac whispered as he admired the greek goddess lying in his arms. He didn't have the courage to say it out loud and they both knew it. Stella had already told him that she loved him and his heart had soared when he heard the words.

It was that night as he watched her sleep that he vowed to say it to her soon and that he truly wanted to be with her forever.

-End Flashback-

Mac sighed as he brushed some dust off the ring and slipped it back into his pocket with her letter. He only hoped he would survive this to have the chance to ask her.