Title: Too Close a Call

Summary: After a tough case and a close call with death there is only one person that Mac needs. SMACKED One-Shot. Based on & some spoilers from eppy 7.04 Sangre por Sangre

Disclaimer: If you don't know by now you need to read my other stories! Lol

A/N: GS and Edward J Olmos – yeah hard to pass that combo up. Thankfully no Mac/Jo flirting nonsense but seriously should have our Stella back. Well hope this can remedy that a bit with this and hope you all like it. Also this one is a bit more angsty than the last few so hope that's also okay. Special thanks to csi-ncis :D

Note: Words in italics surrounded by double quotes taken from the eppy


"Old habits die hard…it all ends here, tonight."

Those words spoken by Luther Devarro haunt made Mac even now as he closes his eyes and leans his head back on the small uncomfortable pillow that graces the top of the cramped airplane seat. He hears the glass shattering from the explosion, the bullet shattering the air before it pierces his skin, and as the brothers Devarro close in on him, the sound of his brain yelling at him that this case could be the last and he'll never see Stella again.

He feels the burns on the back of his shoulders as they rub against the tight t-shirt and sweater fabric from the explosion and then glances down at his injured arm, the sweater hiding the bandage that wraps the wound just below his elbow and grimaces; small but painful reminders of something that if he had gone the other way he might be on his way to a resting place six feet under, not on his way to see a woman that means more to him than life itself.

'Where were you shot Mac?'

'Just below the elbow. Stella I'm fine.'

He had to admit that this case was only the beginning of what he feared was the tip of the iceberg for burgeoning gang violence but he had to get away; his mind and heart both cemented inside his soul the need to get out of the city and head to a place where he could just unwind without worrying that the next sound of gunshots was hurled in his direction.

'Sounds like you need a break Mac.'

'Aren't too busy?'

'Am never too busy to see you Mac,' she had assured him in truth. 'Please come tonight. You need the break and the weekend is tomorrow. I know if you stay there you'll only stress. Please come and let me at least offer some comfort. Please?'

'I'm on my way.'

So even now as he sits in the airplane waiting anxiously as they make their final approach into Louis Armstrong Airport he knows that he's made the right decision; the only decision after a few very trying days. The team had wanted to get together and just have dinner or share a few drinks and be happy that the outcome to this turf war was better than the last.

But he knew inside that he didn't want the veiled comfort the team was offering, he wanted to hold Stella and just allow himself to let go in the safety and loving security her nearness afforded him. He missed that on a daily basis; she was the one constant in his life and he was determined to ensure that she knew that when he was hurting or just needed someone to be alone with, even to just share a cup of coffee with, she was the one. The only one. In his heart he loves her; more than anything. Could he ever tell her?

The pilot makes the announcement that they are now making their final approach. As per his travelling history, Mac feels his fingers gripping the handles at his side, drawing an inquiring glance from a small child across the aisle but not caring as he's only concentrating on telling himself the plane will land smoothly and he'll soon be with Stella. That's all that matters to him now.

As always, the plane lands without a noticeable glitch and soon he's in line waiting to file off the local commuter jet, his carry-on clutched firmly in his sweaty palm. As soon as he's off the airplane, heading for the front door, he's greeted by a warm blast of muggy night air and immediately his nerves start to settle. This routine, while at first was strained, was now a welcome pattern.

But this time as he exited the airport, intending to take a cab as always, his lips curl when he the crowds part and he is rewarded with a smile that still makes his knees go weak.

"Can I take you for a ride handsome?" Stella's voice warmly welcomes as she hurries up to him, loving the feeling of his strong arms as they wrap around her body, holding her close. She kisses his cheekand then moves to his lips pressing her mouth to his for a few heated seconds but when she feels his body slightly tense she pulls back in concern. "Flight that rough?"

"Case was worse," he sighs as he picks up his suitcase and they head for her car.

"When I got your call I was worried Mac," she confesses in truth as they stow his luggage into the truck and then finally get inside, sealing out the noisy crowds and the very world around them outside. "Are you hungry?"

"Wouldn't mind something light," he mentions, looking straight ahead. Her hand rests on his thigh, prompting him to look at her with a weak expression.

"Want to talk first?"

"Can we eat and talk?"

"Can we?" She counters, wanting his approval as it's his very mental sanity that will be on the line when he starts to relate his latest mentally and physically taxing case.

"We can try."

"Okay," she gives him a nod before she pulls away, her mind already having the perfect place for them to just eat, relax and unwind. But after a few minutes of silence she turns and notices Mac's fingers tightly clutching the handle, a small look of discomfort on his face and his brow furrowed.

"What aren't you telling me besides the case details that we are soon going to discuss?" She asks in concern.

"Just thinking back. When I was standing in that cramped alley talking to Luther, the look on his face, the hard tone in his voice. Those streets are his; his people, his kind, and there is nothing really that we can do about it. I know this one is over but there will be others."

"You did something with this case Mac," she tries to gently remind him.

"We just pissed them off," he retorts as he looks at her with a weak expression. "Sorry."

"What for? You told me on the phone about the showdown, the explosion, the chase. Yes you pissed them off; and rightfully so. But they did break the law and paid the ultimate price in the end with their very lives. Luther took out his brother and you took out Luther, it's over. Why are you sorry?"

"Because I feel like my mood is dragging us both down."

"Trust me I can remedy that," she replies as she turns down a familiar street.

Mac looks at the passing buildings and then at Stella. "Thought we were going to get something to eat?"

"We are."

"But…"

"But what Mac?"

"I wanted to give you a bit of a break," Mac confesses with a gentle sigh.

"You agreed to go out to make me feel better," she states softly as she stops the car and rests her hand atop his, forcing his eyes to look back and lock with hers. "Making me feel better starts with making you feel better. I see the small winces you are trying to hold back."

"I'm okay, just a bit sore from the blast," he offers in haste.

"And your elbow?"

"Wrapped and fine. I promise."

"And we are going to eat here."

"I could never argue with you," he resigns with a small smile.

"You actually wanted to try?" She counters as she leans in closer, her lips brushing his cheek on the way to his ear. "We take care of each other Mac. Just because we are separated by a few miles that hasn't changed and never will."

"Thank you," he utters in a soft whisper.

"Thank me inside," she retorts as they finally get out of her car and head for the front door of her apartment. "I know you never like to eat a big meal after your flight but I was able to get a few things prepared that I'm sure you'll like."

"In truth you could offer me water and I'd accept," Mac admits as they get into the elevator.

The silence starts to grow again and Stella knows inside that there is something more eating away at Mac about this case than he is letting on. He had faced formidable foes in the past; ones that even threatened his very professional existence but he always was able to push past. If this was just the tip of the iceberg for another growing turf war as Mac was implying her fears now grew to the possibility that he could be killed in the line of duty and she'd be a million miles away; unable to help or be there to be effective in any way.

They finally get into Stella's modest apartment, Mac heading for the bedroom with his suitcase as he always does and then slowly wandering back into the kitchen to find Stella standing beside the balcony door and looking outside into the warm night air.

He comes and stands beside her, his fingers automatically curling around her hand and holding it firmly in his, adding immediate warmth. He lets out a heavy sigh, prompting her to turn to him, wrap her arms around his waist and pull him into her grasp.

Her hands rubbing his back, the friction from his sweater on his chaffed skin brings a small unseen wince to his lips, but his brain screaming at him to not utter another word about his petty pains.

"Really missed you on this one," he whispers as his lips brush her ear, his body gently sagging into hers. He cups her face before his lips warmly graze hers once more.

"Doesn't seem right me not being there to watch your back," she admits in sorrow as she pulls back. "Keep thinking what if…" she starts only to choke back her misery, prompting him to pull back slightly and look at her remorse.

"Me too," he agrees with a small swallow of his own. They linger locked together for a few more seconds before they finally break apart and head for the kitchen. Both head back to the table with two plates of small amounts of food and sit down to a light meal and some wine to relax.

"Did you want to hear the rest of the details?"

"Can it wait until after? I just want you to try to relax and unwind a little."

"I can try."

"Do or do not…there is not try," she teases and he looks up at her with an amused smile.

"As you wish master Yoda," Mac smirks in return.

"Remember when you took me to see that at the IMAX?"

"Still don't get who all the bad guys and good guys are," Mac groans playfully as he leans back in his chair, his mind relaxing for a little as she had wanted. Thankfully for the better part of the next hour, they were able to unwind, talk about things that were non stressful and just enjoy some peaceful time together.

However, as their modest meal draws to a close, Stella can see that Mac's mind is still in turmoil and that he needs to unload about his latest case.

"Okay Mac, dinner is over, now we can get back to the stressful stuff. Wanna talk about it?"

"Even the start of the case wasn't routine…" Mac leans back in his chair and starts to recall details about his latest case.

"When Don and I first saw our victim, Panthro Torres we both knew that a war was coming," Mac starts into some of the details of the case.

"A lot can change in one day…take him down before the streets do or there is gonna be war."

"Who was the mastermind behind it Mac?"

Mac looks at her and then back down at his hands, takes a deep breath and then answers.

"Luther Devarro."

"I remember you..."

"Put him away fifteen years ago. I know."

"Luther Devarro – I helped put him away fifteen years ago…dangerous when both those qualities are embodied in one person."

"And let me guess you probably just waltzed up to his usual dining location and asked for a one on one?"

"They even asked me to remove my piece," Mac recounts.

"Hand over your piece – house rules."

"That's not gonna happen."

Stella looks at him with a heavy frown, her fingers slowly moving across the table to intertwine with hers.

"And how did it end?" Stella dares to ask. "I mean the first meeting?"

"Friendly warning," Mac offers with a small smirk.

"Oh that I give you my word."

"Let's hope you keep your word, because if you don't, this fair man will lock you again and you won't get out."

"Friendly," she echoes in concern. "And then Flack was shot at."

"He knew the risks of bringing Hazel Ortega in and he wasn't the intended target."

"Stop trying to minimize it Mac," Stella sighs. "I'm almost afraid to ask the rest. The explosion? You being shot?"

"I have been through worse," Mac mentions.

"I know," Stella replies as she offers him a weak frown. "Guess your meeting with Luther earlier wasn't as friendly as you might have wanted."

"I gave Luther the early warning," Mac pauses once again.

"Trusted you once, if you're lying I'll be back with everything I have…"

"He chose to ignore it in the end. I told him to come to me..."

"Killing people won't solve it…fighting the same fight? Come to me? Taken them down together?"

"It wasn't about doing the right thing Mac. That's his life and that's all Luther Devarro knows how to do. That's why he was taking out the head members, you even admitted it."

"Handshake used to mean something…"

"As much reason as you…I didn't give that order. Have it on good authority someone in my crew did."

"It wasn't going to last forever. They had only so much to carry them through before Devarro was back to his old ways and took them out before it was his turn. It's over now Stella. Luther is dead, it's over, over for good."

"This war is over. And the next time an explosion goes off? Where will you be?" She asks with a small hint of anger as she quickly pushes herself away from the table, Mac quickly following. Mac catches up with her and stops her in her tracks.

"I can't change it Stella, and you know that."

"Damn it Mac tell me you were at least a little bit worried when you were down there in that damn dungeon surrounded by two murderers on either side of you; both of who could have ended your life in mere seconds!"

"Of course I was worried," Mac tells her in truth. "I was losing blood, weak from exhaustion, heart racing and wondering where the hell my backup was. But I was focused on the job and Luther did save my life."

"That doesn't excuse what he or any of them did or were about to do."

"It's over Stella."

"At what cost?"

"A few bumps and scrapes. That's it. It was close but not that close."

"It was close enough. Can't lose you Mac," she whispers as she holds him close.

"You won't I promise."

"I'll finish the dishes if you just want to go and relax," she tells him as they slowly break apart.

"Stella wait," Mac pulls her back.

"There is nothing you can say right now that will take away the anxiety inside. Being so far away from you and hearing all this second hand is...its just hard to take at times," she tells him in truth.

"I didn't have to tell you."

"I had to know Mac. But right now, I just need to clean up and then hold you in my arms for the rest of the night so I know you are here and I haven't lost you. Please let me do that."

"Deal. I'll wash up a bit more and meet you in the living room."

"Deal," she agrees.

Mac gives her a nod and then heads for the bathroom. But it only takes her a few minutes of hearing his soft grunts before she heads for the bathroom and carefully pushes the door open. She catches sight of his facial reflection, as he slowly bends his arm, wincing at the pain in his elbow and offering a wince in the process.

"Kinda wondered why you wore long sleeves. So much for just being shot in the elbow," she mentions in remorse as she walks into the bathroom and up to him. "Can I see what else you are grimacing at?"

"Just hurts when I lean on them."

"You got burned a bit right?"

"Nothing major."

"Take your shirt off Mac," she instructs in a loving tone.

"Stella, I'm okay really."

"Stop playing the macho man Mac, it's me and I'm going to help you even if I have to do it at gunpoint. Now strip," she adds at the end, hoping to lighten the mood a little. Mac slowly takes his sweater off and looks at her with a small frown.

"Damn it Mac your elbow is bleeding again. Who wrapped this? You right? I thought you went to…"

"I did. I just needed it to get me through security and off the plane without incident," Mac groans as he offers her his arm with the damaged wrappings.

Stella just shakes her head and then turns to leave.

"Where are you going?" Mac asks in haste.

"To get a saw so that I can amputate your arm. Then you'll have no troubles at all," she turns back to him with a smirk. "Hold on."

Stella reaches into the first drawer of her bathroom vanity cabinet and then pulls out a small medicine kit, eyeing Mac with a wary glance.

"Stella…"

"Hmm would you protest as much if I were to wear a nurses uniform?"

"I uh…what?" He stammers and finally the tension in the room is cut with a soft giggle. Stella carefully unwraps the damp bandage around his arm and then looks at him once again but doesn't offer a word. Her fingers tenderly work on his damaged skin, drawing a small gasp as she uses some cool disinfectant to treat the darkened patch of flesh.

"Mac," she whispers softly as her eyes water the longer she gazes at the reminder that if the bullet had been a few inches in the wrong direction he might have been taken from her. She finally rewraps the wound with a fresh bandage and then plants a warm kiss on his rough cheek.

"Thank you," Mac offers in gratitude.

"T-shirt next," she continues and he merely shakes his head but meekly complies. "Thank you for not arguing."

"Well I am a faster learner for some things," he quips.

"Ohh tell me the others," she goads and his face breaks into a warm smile.

"Later."

"Not fair."

Mac slowly lifts his t-shirt to reveal a few purpleish marks on his smooth chest, making Stella's expression change to a tender wince in concern.

"I have some stuff for the fabric burns."

"But then I can't lie down," Mac tries to argue.

"Trust me Mac, you'll be fine. Now turn around; let me take care of you now."

Mac slowly turns around as Stella takes the soothing cream and starts to very carefully cover the reddish skin on the back of his forearms before giving the unmarked parts of his back a gentle massage.

"Feels good," Mac whispers as he slowly turns around, his hands resting on her hips. He leans in and presses his lips to hers, delighting in the feeling of the electrical warmth now developing between them. He pulls back a few breathless seconds later and rests his forehead on hers and allows his body to emit a heavy sigh.

"Was too close a call this time," he finally acknowledges as his eyes finally offer a defeated expression.

"I know, was really scared when you first called me," she admits as she leans in a bit closer, her hand slowly moving up his bare chest and resting over his heart. "I can't lose you Mac. I…" she starts and then stops, not sure if it was quite yet the time to confess something that was developing inside her heart.

"I'm sorry I worried you."

"Even with me there, I'm sure you wouldn't have done anything differently."

"Stella, it's how I…"

"Have always done things. I know Mac. Doesn't mean I always have to like them."

"I…I guess we…"

"You what Mac? Talk to me."

"I guess sometimes without you there…at my side…"

"You take more risks?"

"I know it's not what you want to hear."

"You're right, it's not," she utters with a swallow, her stomach tight and eyes watering. Was she now to blame for him nearly getting killed? Offering himself into dangerous situations in the place of others? Thinking that their happy future was over because she was here?

"Damn it," Mac curses as he watches her turn and leave, heading for the living room and leaving him standing in the bathroom, shirt in hand. He hurries after her, catching up to her in the living room and turning her around to face her. "I have tried to…" he starts only to have her lean in and silence him with a firm kiss.

"I know you have tried to change but it's who you are what you have always done. I care too much to turn away for good," she acknowledges with a nod of her head. "I just worry, can you blame me?"

"Never want to cause you pain because of what I do," he sighs as his fingers tenderly whisk away a stray curl at her cheek before he kisses her forehead. "I'm sorry."

"Me too," she replies as her hand drops to his and clutches it firmly. "Come with me."

"What about the cream?"

"We'll have time for that later Mac," she tells him. "Now it's time to rest."

She leads him to her sofa in front of her electric fire place and sits down, gesturing for him to lie down on his stomach, his injured elbow away from anything that could rub on the bandage and cause it to come loose.

"Close your eyes and rest Mac," she lovingly instructs as she starts to massage his dark locks, her fingers trailing down his neck and rubbing the smooth flesh between his tense shoulder blades; his injured elbow still out of harms way. "If you have nightmares I'll be right here with you all night."

"When I close my eyes I still see myself in that basement," Mac's voice admits in a soft whisper. "My fingers clutching that gun so tightly they started to throb almost as much as the shot in my arm. Turning and facing Luther as he raised his gun. Feeling my body involuntarily jerk as the bullet whizzed past and then firing in return and watching his body fall to the ground and then watching him die just as he offers me his last confession."

"Mac…"

"I'm here now Stella," he tells her as he hugs her tightly, not caring about the throbbing in his arm. "I just want to hold you all weekend."

"You can. For as long as you like. I'm not going anywhere. Are you?"

"No."

She carefully lowers herself down to him, plants a few warm kisses on his back, smiling with delight as his lips offer her a loving smile and a contented sigh.

"Close your eyes Mac. Just rest."

She watches his eyes struggling to stay open before they finally close and he was getting the rest he deserved; lovingly held in her care and under her watchful eye.

"Too close a call Mac," she whispers. "I can't lose you - ever."

Mac's ear pick up her tender words, his arms tightening around her and his lips curling; his eyes however never opening. In a matter of minutes, Stella's body was gently spooning up beside his, a blanket now draped over them. It was a close call, but it was also one more opportunity for them to take a step back and realize that while it was a close call, it was also a reason for them to draw closer together; a united future waiting for them to embrace together.

THE END!


A/N: Thanks again for reading and please leave a thought before you go.

PS: For those reading 'Complicated' it was just updated and hope you like it also and thanks! Have a great weekend SMACKIES!