Author: lily moonlight

Disclaimer: I don't own CSI: NY

Hello! It's been a while, I'm sorry. I haven't forgotten about 'Old West', in fact, the next chapter is ready and will be posted in the next couple of days :) Thank you so much for the reviews for the last chapter of that. Replies and extra scene on their way to anyone I haven't sent them to yet. My apologies for the delay. It's been a rather hectic few months but things are settled down now and lots of writing is going on :)

This is dedicated to Ballettmaus. It's one of my more unusual romantic stories :P with many thanks to DNAisUnique for giving me the prompt for the story. This is the second of our challenge fics, and we are posting stories at the same time :) Please enjoy and check her wonderful story out, too!

In This Moment

The cafe was quiet, the afternoon drowsy; a moment caught in stillness. Only a few people flecked the interior visible through the plate glass. Lit by the filtered sunlight, they had become a mingling of colours daubed amongst the bright chrome of the tables and chairs. Outside in the garish daylight, the heat made the shade of the parasols a relief; something which had been in Mac's mind when he chose their seats.

They occupied a small table on the sidewalk, close to the window of the cafe - a position where they could observe others without being observed too intrusively themselves. So they sat, enjoying the rare moments away from the lab, warm in the honeydew coloured light and sweetness of the summer air.

A thoughtful silence had fallen between them and Mac took the opportunity to observe his partner. She sat with legs crossed, one over the other, one foot tapping against the pedestal of the table. With her gaze distant, her eyes stared at a point somewhere across the street. In turn, he studied her profile, the light defining and outlining it in fine-line gold. A portrait, superlative; the picture he would be content to delight his eyes in, to feast his senses on for as long as possible; for all the moments there were. At the thought, he smiled to himself, wondering when such sentiments had become commonplace.

Maybe since the realisation that life could end, and begin, in a moment.

Stella moved and he blinked, memorising the image. The mug of coffee he had bought for her she picked up in both hands, slender fingers curling round it. She raised it slowly, lips pursing as she blew on the hot liquid, still with her eyes fixed elsewhere. A sinuous twist of steam rose from the mug, bulging and billowing as her breath hit it, dissipating into the warm air.

Mac sat back, his head a little on one side, his body slightly turned and his elbow propped on the arm of the chair, the metal arm of it cool through the thin material of his shirt. His legs straight out in front of him, feet flat on the floor. Relaxed.

Oblivious of passing moments, he felt his lips curve into a small, slow smile as he continued to regard the woman opposite him. His gaze absorbed her, lingering over every facet, touching every feature he loved. Against the watercolour-wash background, the merged faces of the crowd, she glowed in exceptional hues.

The breeze teased a few of her curls loose, lifting them and laying them across her face. Impatiently, she brushed them away, catching them on her fingertips. He watched as her forehead creased into a frown. Without conscious thought, he leaned across the table and drew the offending locks of hair out of her eyes. She smiled her thanks a little absently and he remained where he was; both forearms resting now on the tabletop.

"Something on your mind?" he asked at last, knowing there was; knowing she needed a prompt.

A smile appeared on her face for an instant, replaced by a pensive look as she set her mug carefully on its saucer and wove her fingers together.

"I'm fine..."

"That wasn't what I asked," he said gently. "There's been something on your mind since this morning." He paused, considering, before adding, "Since before this morning."

Again, the momentary smile and her mug clinked on its saucer as she rotated it, staring down at the contents before her gaze rose to meet his. Her answer was half-embarrassed, half exasperated. "Danny's been eyeing us."

Picking up the teaspoon from the saucer, she stirred the contents of her mug, silent again after her statement.

Mac was nonplussed. It was not the answer he had been expecting and his eyebrows rose in response. "Eyeing us? Care to elaborate, Stella?"

She sighed and the spoon, removed from the mug, clattered into the saucer. He recognised the frown of faint aggravation on her face. "Yes, eyeing us, as in looking suspiciously at us and grinning when he thinks neither of us are looking." She narrowed her eyes at him, even though there was the tiniest curl of amusement in her lips. "And in your case he thinks right. But not in mine."

"Since when?" It was difficult to keep the smile out of his voice.

"Since two days ago..." Her mouth turned down, "After the incident in the interrogation room."

Mac had an inkling of where this was leading, but responded in a level voice. "Danny has big eyes and a big imagination."

"And a big mouth to go along with them." The almost snapped answer surprised him, and he leaned back in his chair.

"He's seen us hug before," he said, his eyes never leaving her, his hand sliding over hers.

Stella snorted. "Yes, hug; he's seen us hug before, Mac. What he's never seen before is me come flying through the doors of the interrogation room, demanding to know you're all right and then almost smothering you when I find out you are, before I finish up almost collapsing in a state of near hysterics. There's a whole world of difference between that and a hug!" She shook her head, annoyance with herself clear in her face. "Talk about an overreaction..." her last words trailed off into a mumble.

Although the emotions below his surface had begun to bubble, he gazed steadily at her, the pad of his thumb caressing the back of her hand. "I think after what happened a display of affection was allowable."

Stella's eyes darted away from his while the fingers of her other hand picked up the teaspoon and dropped it again. "To say the least," she muttered. Turning back to him, her gaze, frank and with worry remaining in it, met his. "Mac, that guy practically shaved a path through your scalp; how he ever got through with that kind of blade concealed..." Again she shook her head, her eyes dropping to the mug while she swirled the dregs of the liquid in it fiercely, slopping them over the side before she crashed it back onto the saucer with a sharp sigh. "A few millimetres closer and you wouldn't be sitting here now," she continued, her gaze intensifying. "And after witnessing that, the very least I needed was to hug you, to reassure myself you were still alive and breathing!"

Her pupils had dilated while she spoke and her hand had clenched round the teaspoon. When she stopped, breathing a little quickly, she pulled away from him, dragged her other hand through her hair, glancing round at the other tables.

Mac swept his gaze round the scene and back at Stella, cupping his hand over hers again, stilling the restless movement as her fingers began to drum on the table. No one watched them. Only the sunlight brushed its questing fingers over them, casting a dappling of diamonds across the skin on Stella's arm, reflected from the dainty pattern of sequins on her shirt.

"You okay?" He asked it softly. That she wasn't, immediately, was plain. The question was to determine that she would be. They both knew that.

A sheepish look appeared in her face. "Yeah, I'm okay. I'm sorry... I'm overreacting, I know, I just... you know how it is..." Her voice faded and he was perturbed to see a glitter in her eyes. "I'm sorry, it was stupid of me," she mumbled, ducking her head and swiping at her eyes as she gave a watery laugh. "Stupid hormones. Stupid..."

"It's not stupid," Mac said gently. "You're not stupid. I'm sorry you had to witness what you did. It shouldn't have happened."

Managing a laugh, she sniffed and dabbed her eyes and nose with the crumpled napkin he handed to her. "It wasn't your fault, it was the fault of that idiot kid you were interrogating and whoever didn't do a thorough search on him." A sigh, wobbling a little, breathed out of her as she stared down at the table and traced the concentric circles on the top; her fingers spiralling slowly over the patterns.

There was silence between them; patient, understanding, anticipating.

Mac's gaze dallied again over Stella while his mind slipped back to the moments of heart-thudding adrenaline when the suspect he had been interrogating had launched himself across the table, unsheathing a blade from inside his waistband.

The man had tackled him to the ground, landing on him and crushing the breath out of him while the hand holding the blade had lunged at his head, grazing his hair and slicing a section of skin on his scalp before a couple of uniformed officers had crashed through the door and hauled the guy off him.

Gingerly, Mac now touched the line beneath his hair, the crust of healing damage still tender and painful, but beguiling his fingertips as he explored it.

"Stop picking at it," Stella chided him, pulling at his sleeve, a smile nevertheless on her face.

He let himself smile and allowed her to pull his arm down and pat the back of his hand.

"Just making sure my head hasn't fallen off," he grinned, dispelling the fear he remembered at the flow of blood. A fear worsened by the knowledge that it might so easily have been her blood flowing.

"Mac," she frowned, mock disapproval in her voice as she tugged at his fingers.

He chuckled, letting the last of his fear melt away in the present, feeling the warmth of her live fingers on top of his. And a picture of past moments sprang to life in his memory. "You know, every time I picked at a scab when I was a kid, Mom would tell me whichever limb it was on would drop off. I stopped believing her when I was about four and still had all my arms and legs in place, despite having a knack for scraping my knees and elbows, and examining the scabs.

Stella's nose wrinkled, but she grinned back at him. "I can imagine it; all that soapbox racing, huh?" She sat back, folding her arms as they shared a memory. Her foot - bare, as he felt through the material of his pants - rubbed gently down his calf.

"You bet," he smirked. "All that adrenaline comes at a cost. Guess it got me used to suffering the occasional cut and bruise that happens in this job..." The cuts and bruises which were part of the job; to which they had toughened their skins and emotions. Most of the time.

The smile on her face faded and her hand returned to his, her fingertips seeking to possess his. "Yesterday shouldn't have happened," she said in a low voice. "It should never have happened."

He held her gaze, another flash of the events of yesterday catching him unawares: the aftermath this time; when he had found himself in Stella's arms, her head almost crushed against his wounded one; enfolded fearfully, lovingly in her embrace. The only thought then in that still, suspended moment of relief had been the thankfulness that it had not been her in that room, that she had not been hurt. Especially not now. Not with the future she held.

With a sigh, Stella broke the spell, the little shake of her head and momentary smile accompanying her understated mutter that maybe she was shaken up more than she realised.

"You weren't the only one a little shaken up," he said, a faint, wry smile on his face.

"I'm sorry," she murmured. "Guess that's the cause of my paranoia about a certain co-worker. That and everything else..."

Mac laughed softly at the expression in her face, deciphering the route of her thoughts back to their discussion about Danny.

"So you think he's suspicious?" He was glad to divert her from the attack on him.

Stella's eyes widened, their spark restored. "Of course he's suspicious, he's a detective, it's his job."

"Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?" he spoke slyly, adjusting his seat a little to shade his face from the brilliance of sun.

"Danny is not innocent," she said emphatically, her mouth curving into a sideways smile.

"And you are of course?" Mac folded his arms, mirroring her position of moments ago.

"I am in most things." Stella's smile became a grin. "Usually."

He felt a grin of his own slip onto his face. "We've got nothing to be guilty about. We're innocent in this instance."

Stella elevated a delicate eyebrow, a glint of amusement in her face. "What about lies of omission? We're keeping information from him."

"Right now that information is on a need to know basis. Danny does not need to know." It had been one of the first concerns they had both had; how the information they were currently withholding from their co-workers would be released; what the implications would be; just how many bets Danny had already taken on the event... Mac chuckled, suddenly. The joy of what was due them overtaking him. Uncaring, now, of whether Danny or anyone else at the lab knew, he knew that some things did not matter. While other things mattered more than anything else in the world.

Clasping Stella's hand, he spoke in conciliating, calming tones to her. "He's going to know soon enough, as is everyone else. Likely far sooner than we planned if he really does suspect something. He'll tell Lindsay, then Don, who'll then tell everyone else. But, regardless of all of that, let's just enjoy the fact that for now, we're the only ones who know. For now it's just the two of us."

Elation broke through into Stella's face, beaming as the sun gilded her skin. "You mean the three of us."

"The three of us," he repeated, savouring the words and all that lay within them. Taking her hand, he raised it as he stood up, kissing the back of it, waiting while she rose from her seat before placing his arm around her. A protective arm: something else that had become commonplace; and yet special, exciting, too. A sign of the future that was already with them.

Side by side, his hand hovering over her stomach, they walked away along the sun-gleamed sidewalk. Danger and the threat of past moments no longer shadowing them. Stella's laugh ringing out finally, joyously as he held her and their baby close; safe and loved, that moment and always.

Thank you for reading! As always, I'd love to know what you think :) Lily x