She wasn't dead, of course she wanted it. The husband, the two-point-four kids, the white picket fence. Puppies, piano lessons, holidays by the lake; Everything that the American dream told her that she was successful and happy.
But, she wasn't stupid. She knew she was nearing the time to tick the next age bracket in a government form, she knew the percentages of divorce and domestic violence. She knew any marriage would be a mistress to her career.
Tonight, she wasn't looking for the husband or the happily-ever-after, she was looking for a night - just one- where she wasn't Detective Stella Bonasera, CSI, NYPD, SWF.
So, she sat at the bar of one of the city's hotels, her fingers curled around the glass tumbler, her eyes watching the single ice cube melt into the auburn whisky.
Her mind danced through her life - a sort of mental State of the Union address.
She wondered when it happened that her friends were colleagues; when all the numbers in her phone book were from the labs or PD or the DA's office. She wondered where Emily, Ana and Beth were, when they had stopped calling. She tried to remember the last time she'd been out - she was still up to date on where the best clubs were because they were the ones they got called out to most. She'd only ever seen them through flashlight or the light of day though.
She wondered when she last flirted with a stranger. With someone that wasn't a friend or just part of a playful mid-shift banter to keep them both going. Or even a suspect as a means to confession. She knew exactly when she had last had sex, and the fact that her last orgasm was two months before even that.
She sipped the whisky, revelling in the burn as it seared a path down her throat. The warmth in her belly igniting the confidence she didn't feel. Her fingers were tapping against the glass, the quiet clinks in time with the bar's soft jazz music (that was never quite to her taste).
When she looked up, her eyes no longer glazed with memories and regrets and wonderings, she noticed just how busy the bar had become. She must have been well tuned into the music because suddenly there was a din of drink orders, conversations and too loud laughing from out of town business men trying to impress the city folk.
She straightened her back, fluffed out her hair, ran a finger over her lips.
She looked around. The shiny suits, the gelled hair, the smarmy self satisfied grins. Really? She was really subjecting herself to this? She spent all day, every day working her ass off in the places these people only watched on TV from shiny Hollywood backlots.
She worked tirelessly towards a sense of justice that was rarely achieved. She should be sleeping, recuperating, dreaming of happier times so she could get up and face the horrifying reality again tomorrow. She should not be chasing some meaningless little fling. She should not still feel the need for the reassurance that she was still beautiful, desirable, fuckable.
One guy caught her eye. He was staring at her, midnight blue eyes boring into her with such intensity it made her feel uncomfortable not beautiful. She tried to give him the benefit of the doubt - maybe that was just his way. Maybe he was trying for dark and smouldering and she was only picking up twisted and serial killer thanks to her job. But, then she noticed the tan line on his finger, the nearly healed fight-bite across his knuckles, the familiar bulge under his jacket when he stood up.
No, this wasn't her. She knew too much, saw too much, didn't need to add to the statistics anymore than she already had with her romantic history.
She sighed, her shoulders dropping as she drained her glass, the burn barely noticeable anymore. One hand snaked out for her clutch as she placed the tumbler back down a little harder than she had intended.
She looked up at the barman, her body twisted to hop off the stool, an eager couple ready to bounce on the vacancy. "Oh no-,"
"-courtesy of that guy over there."
Shit. The barman had disappeared to tend to the three-deep customers with barely a hand flick over to whoever the guy was. She looked for the intense guy, ready to smile, whisper thanks but gesture to her watch and leave quickly. But he was gone, shit. Was he making his way over to her? She scanned the thirty-plus guys opposite her, hands in the air as they barked drink orders in any accent recognisable.
As one of the thirty collected his drinks and squeezed into the crowd, a flash of familiarity caught her eye.
He kept her gaze for a beat before sliding himself into the throng and disappearing. She sighed. As thankful as she was that it was Mac and not the other guy, and as confused as she was as to why he was in a hotel bar on a Thursday night, she had already resigned herself to grabbing a bottle of something from the store and continuing her one woman pity party in her darkened apartment. As much as she longed for the company, she wasn't really in the mood for hashing out her life's fears and failures to listening ears.
He'd fought his way through the crowd and was sliding himself into a non-existent gap at her side, garnering an impolite look from the guy being pushed out of the way. The girl he was being pushed into didn't seem to mind.
Stella's eye line dropped as her fingers curled around the new tumbler. She was never sorry for his company; they could read each other in ways that meant dialogue was rarely needed. But she didn't want him reading her now. She didn't want him reading her sadness or desperation; Didn't want to see his recognition or pity.
She was surprised when she felt him shifting a curl from her cheek. But she was more surprised by her body's reaction. Her eyes closed as she leant into his touch, her skin tingling at the contact. When she sighed -moaned? She couldn't tell over the noise- she snapped her head away.
What the hell was that? How many whiskies had she had? Just blame it on the drink, she told herself, just apologise and try not to blush too much. Then get home.
She swallowed down a suddenly dry throat and looked up to him. How did she begin to explain that? How could she possibly apologise enough for her reaction? Humiliation began to colour her cheeks as she locked eyes with him.
But any sound she was trying to make was lost in her throat as she saw the look in his eyes. The emerald depths dark and unblinking, travelling from her own to her cheek, her jaw line, with his finger following suit. He gently traced over her skin, his actions confident and unfamiliar.
Her stomach fluttered, her skin warmed more than any alcohol had that night. Somewhere, deep in her psyche, a little voice was screaming that this was Mac Taylor. But the way he looked at her, she would have sworn that black was blue and that it was a completely different person. She didn't know the person before her, had never been privy to this side of him.
She attempted to speak again, but he flicked his head towards the door and she was nodding before she even realised she'd moved.
He downed the remainder of his beer as she swallowed the whisky in as few gulps as she could manage. She slid off the stool and followed him out, grabbing onto his arm as they meandered through the crowd.
Mac was already on the sidewalk, hand in the air hailing a cab, when the icy air whipped her hair and seemingly sobered her up in an instant.
What was she doing? Had she really just picked up/been picked up by Mac Taylor?
She didn't care how her body reacted to his touch, this was Mac. Her friend for fifteen years. He who had seen her at her worst and saved her from worse still. He who she would be reporting to come the morn.
She wasn't blind, of course she'd noticed his handsome features, impressive body and beautiful soul, but was she really willing to jeopardise everything? Even with her body still buzzing with the anticipation and excitement it felt from the bar, still with every intention of having sex with the man till sunrise.
His name carried on her shaky intake of breath.
He turned to her, his arm dropping as he crossed back over and stared into her eyes with the exact same intensity as earlier.
He laid his hands on her shoulders and breathed, the warm air dancing over her skin as her eyes closed in attempt to focus her mind. She couldn't look at his eyes, they confused her, dragged her away from the sensible logic her head tried to convey to the rest of her body.
But his hands slid up her neck, his fingers threading into her hair while his thumbs stroked gently over the cheeks, daring her eyes to open. He smirked at her stubborn refusal as he lightly tilted her head so her lips could meet his.
He was featherlight, wanting her to realise how much she wanted his kiss and to seek him out.
She didn't, not at first. The stubborn steel grip she had on her nerves winning until he stepped forward, aligning his body with hers.
Then her lips finally crushed against his, her hands moving to his waist and bunching his jacket in her fists, a definite moan escaping her throat.
She stepped off the tiptoes she didn't realise she was standing on when they parted, her eyes still closed, her body still crushed to his and every nerve ending tingling.
His hands slid down her arms and entwined her fingers in his between them. She nodded, her bottom lip caught between her teeth.
And suddenly they were in the street, Mac's hand in the air and hailing the first cab he could see as he hugged her tight to his side.