Thank you so much to everyone who has reviewed/alerted/favourited this. I was surprised by the response that this got. I thought that the Mella fandom was dead so it's nice to know that there are still fans out there. I would also like to thank everyone who has messaged me on tumblr asking when I am going to update. It's always nice to get messages like that and they do encourage me to write.
Now this chapter is set during ep 311. If you haven't seen it, you should because a) this chapter will probably make more sense if you do and b) it's an amazing episode. I have rewritten a few scenes from that episode but I have only included details that are important to this story.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this chapter and I will try to get chapter 3 posted soon.
Disclaimer: I don't own Rush or any of the dialogue that I borrowed for this chapter.
You gave more – Michael Sandrelli
Stella woke up slightly disorientated. Then suddenly the events if the previous day came flooding back to her. She found that she wasn't as scared as she had been the previous day, indubitably due to Michael's comforting presence. As Michael entered her mind, she knew that it was time to tell him. She was ready. She could do this. She rolled over onto her back and was surprised when her arm hit the mattress. Opening her eyes and glancing over to her left, Stella discovered that Michael was no longer in bed.
Standing up, she made her way over to where her clothes lay strewn across the floor. She dressed and walked out to the kitchen, expecting to find Michael there. His stomach often got the better of him and it wouldn't be the first time that she had woken up to find him in the kitchen. Upon entering the kitchen it became apparent that Michael wasn't there. The house was empty aside from Stella herself. She glanced around, looking to see if Michael had left a note, yet there was nothing. It was like he had never been there. He had left without a trace.
Stella couldn't help the sense of abandonment that she felt. She had been ready to tell him, excited even. He had mentioned his desire to have children on a few occasions and she was sure this news would have made him happy, but now she wasn't so sure. She found her doubts about Michael's commitment resurfacing. He had been there for her when she needed him and she was grateful for that, but there was a part of her that still wanted him there. She knew it was selfish, but deep down she still needed him. On the surface she was alright, but her need for him ran much deeper than that.
Knowing that moping around here wasn't going to help, Stella began to get ready for the day. She made her way to the bathroom, glancing at the shower as she passed, remembering the feeling of Michael's hands in her hair, the feel of his warm chest pressed up against her, his hands gliding over her skin. Stella mentally shook herself, trying to stop herself from thinking about the memories of the previous night, yet Michael kept invading her thoughts.
After finishing in the bathroom, she walked back into the bedroom to get changed and was once again assaulted with the memory of Michael, his hands on her, his lips against hers, tongues dancing, hands roaming, flesh against flesh as their bodies moved together. Stella pulled herself out of her reverie; it wouldn't do her any good to dwell in the past. Yet despite her vow to banish all thoughts of the night that was, she found herself reminiscing about the way he held her as she walked into the lounge. She knew that she had to stop this, it wasn't helping at all. Right then she needed to get herself to work. She could dwell on Michael later.
As Stella drove to work she found herself becoming more and more frustrated with Michael. Waking up to find that he had gone hurt her, it hurt more than she cared to admit. It was like he regretted the previous night and wanted to escape, as if not seeing her would mean that it hadn't happened. She had a feeling that she knew why he had disappeared without a trace, but this reason was one that she didn't want to think about. It would only lead to jealously, not that she would ever admit to being jealous. She suspected that his absence had something to do with Audrey.
Soon Stella arrived at work where her first stop was the locker room. Upon entering the room, she discovered her runaway best friend who was just finishing getting changed. It was clear that he hadn't arrived much earlier than she had. She raised her hands up in a questioning gesture, waiting for him to explain his sudden departure to her. She wanted an excuse and it was going to have to be a good one.
It appeared that he didn't have a good excuse, judging but his lack of a response, and so a very exasperated Stella made her way over to her locker. Michael followed her, coming to stand by his locker which was conveniently situated right next to hers.
"I didn't want to wake you," Michael said in a hushed tone.
"What?" Stella interrupted, disbelief evident in her voice as she turned to look in her locker, avoiding his gaze.
"That's why I slipped out," he continued, his concern showing. "You looked serene."
Stella couldn't believe that after all the time he had had this was the best excuse he could come up with. It was just insulting that he couldn't just come out and say that he had left because he had suddenly remembered that he had a girlfriend. Just in case the situation wasn't already awkward enough, the girlfriend in question decided to appear at that moment, greeting them with a cheerful "hey".
"Hey," Michael replied. He sounded way too over friendly and incredibly suspicious. For someone who seemed determined to keep the events of the previous night a secret, he wasn't doing a very good job of it. From the way he was acting it was almost like he wanted her to guess that something was up.
"Hi, Stella," Audrey said, sounding much too nice. Her voice was sickly sweet. It made Stella sick to her stomach and that wasn't morning sickness talking, it was Audrey sickness.
"Hey," Stella replied shortly. She knew that she couldn't have sounded any more unfriendly if she had tried, but she wasn't going to pretend to be overjoyed by Audrey's presence. The woman had brought a whole new air of awkwardness to the room and Stella was sure that she wasn't the only one that could feel it.
"Sorry I missed the pub last night. I was wrecked yesterday," Audrey said. Stella just wished that she could disappear or that Audrey would leave, either would work.
"I didn't have a late one either," Michael lied as he pulled on his vest. "Just a quick, a quick beer here with Stel and then Christian and then, uh, straight home for Mum's classic carbonara."
Stella turned to look at Michael, meeting his eyes. She couldn't believe that he could just stand here and blatantly lie. It surprised her how easy it was for him to say these things. She was starting to have more doubts about telling him about this baby. Knowing that she couldn't stand to be in the room with these two for a second longer, Stella hastily made her way out of the room without a word. She needed to escape.
It wasn't until later that morning that Michael and Stella were alone again. The morning hadn't improved for Stella. Kerry had been keen to keep her back at base, insisting that she not over exert herself in her 'condition'. Stella had refused of course and so she had been sent off with Michael and Shannon. It was now time for their morning coffee break and Shannon had gone off to get the coffee, leaving Michael and Stella alone in the car. As it always did with them, the awkwardness had significantly faded, but there was still tension in the air. Stella was still painfully aware that she had something very important to tell him and this morning's drama hadn't made it any easier.
"She knows," Michael complained from the back of the car. "She knows."
"Michael, come on," Stella replied as she glanced at the car room. He was being paranoid. There was no way that Audrey knew. Truth be told Stella didn't really care if Audrey knew, she had never really liked the woman. Sure she wanted Michael to be happy, but she had never actually thought that he would go through with asking Audrey out. She had seen straight through his ploy to try and make her jealous when he said he was going to ask Audrey out. Sure she had encouraged him, but she hadn't believed that he would go through with it. She called his bluff and it had backfired on her. She was never going to stop him from asking Audrey out; to do that she would have had to have come up with a pretty good reason why he shouldn't, a reason that involved feelings that she hadn't quite come to terms with, complicated feelings that she didn't completely understand.
"You don't know Audrey like I do, Stel. She's..." he continued.
"Perky," Stella supplied, the disdain in her voice quite obvious. She found herself glad that she didn't know Audrey like Michael did.
"Yeah," Michael replied, realising that Stella was right. The way she said the word 'perky' made it sound like it wasn't a particularly good quality to have. As much as he didn't want to admit it, he found himself feeling the same way.
Michael and Stella found themselves alone once again later that day as they were searching a house. Shannon was downstairs, leaving Michael and Stella to search the bedroom. It was like the universe was determined to throw them together as many times as possible that day.
"So, last night," Michael began, once again approaching the subject. He had been thinking about it all morning and felt that they needed to talk about it.
"What about it?" Stella asked. She wasn't too keen on his chosen topic of conversation. She wasn't in the mood for more excuses.
"Well you tell me," Michael replied, turning the conversation back to her.
"Well you were there," Stella countered. If he wanted to talk then he would have to be the one doing the talking.
"And I'll be there tonight if you want me to be Stel," he responded seriously. There was such devotion in his words. Stella couldn't help but soften, sighing as she did so.
"I mean it," he continued as he gazed at her. His attention was fixed solely on her as he waited for some sort of indication that she wanted him too.
"I know you do," Stella replied, wishing that things were simpler. She didn't doubt his sincerity for a moment, but it was all just so complicated, there were so many things that needed to be said.
"So?" Michael prompted as a smile appeared on his face. He was taking her response as a positive one.
"Do you really think that this is the right time and place to be talking about this?" she asked, trying to avoid his questioning.
"Yeah, I actually think it's a pretty appropriate place to be talking about it," responded Michael as he grinned at her. He had never been too good with timing and choosing the right moment when it came to their conversations.
"Okay, well you're sick, so..." Stella argued, trailing off at the end.
"I'm sick?" Michael questioned. They were back to their usual banter.
"Yeah," she responded, glad that she had managed to avoid his questioning for the time being. But Michael hadn't given up, he would get the answers he was looking for, he was certain of that.
Michael managed to corner her again later at the hospital. He was sneaky this time, drawing her in with one of his pointless facts.
"Did you know that, uh, castration helps to prevent male pattern baldness," he informed her as they stood by the reception desk, just out of earshot of Shannon.
"He still has his balls," Stella retorted with a smile, glad that they could talk about something other than the previous night.
"I know that," he responded. "I'm just saying when Audrey cuts my balls off, there is an upside." Stella laughed awkwardly, turning away from him, trying to avoid the questions that she knew would follow.
She just didn't know how she felt about him. Everything had been perfect the night before when he was there for her and then it had all fallen apart in the morning. At first she had thought he regretted the previous night, but his admission that he would be there if she wanted him had confused her. It was always hot and cold with him. She never knew if they were just friends or something more. She supposed that since he had a girlfriend the latter was less likely, but the previous night had confused her. She just didn't know where she stood with him and until she did she wasn't going to be able to tell him about this baby.
"What's wrong?" he asked, sensing that something was up.
"Why should anything be wrong?" she countered. He couldn't know. There was no way that he could know. The only person she had told was Kerry and she had promised not to tell anyone. It was just typical; he always seemed to know when something was wrong with her.
"Well, uh, you know, it seems like you only ever sleep with me when something's wrong. So..." he said, trailing off, hoping that she would provide an explanation or at least tell him that his assumption was wrong. He didn't receive either.
"Don't make this into a bigger deal than it is," she warned him. She didn't need any more complications right then.
"Last night, Stel, was different," he furthered. He was completely serious, his honesty shone through his eyes.
"How?" she questioned, paranoia seeping into her words despite her best efforts to appear casual.
"Wasn't it obvious?" Michael asked. His voice was hushed and it was clear that this was not how he had intended the conversation to go.
"Not to me," Stella answered. He was going to have to spell it out for her. She was going to make him say it this time.
"I'm not..." he began as he looked away, clearly finding it all to be very uncomfortable. His voice was hushed and it was obvious that he was regretting starting this conversation here. He finally managed to compose himself, whispering three words that confused Stella even more.
"You gave more."
Stella was slightly taken aback; she didn't know how to deal with this admission. Michael reached out to place his hand on her arm. He was showing that he was there for her with that simple gesture, yet Stella was still confused. Sure, he was there for her then, but would he be there tomorrow or the next day? There was just too much uncertainty. She wished things were different.
The day seemed to drag on and on for Stella, but it eventually began to wind down. They finally sorted out their case for the day, thanks largely to Michael who told the offender the truth when no one else would. He had gone on about how she deserved the truth and that was all he could give her. Stella couldn't help but notice the parallels between this situation and her own. It was almost like Michael's words were directed at her, telling her to tell the truth.
Then the situation hit even closer to home as Stella found herself left with the job of holding the offender's baby. It was a strange feeling holding the baby boy. Stella knew that it wouldn't be long before she was holding her own child. The thought was quite terrifying, yet strangely nice at the same time. She looked up to see Michael gazing at her, watching as she held the boy close. There was such love and adoration in his eyes, as though the sight before him was the most perfect thing he had ever seen in his life. Stella couldn't help but smile as her eyes met his. It was moments like these when she could forget about how complicated everything was. She had a sudden urge to tell him. This perfect little moment could be what the rest of their life could be like; just Michael, Stella and their baby. Stella let herself imagine a life that was just that. It sounded too good to be true.
Stella felt a lot more unperturbed when she walked into the locker room that afternoon. She was ready to tell him, he deserved to know. She planned to tell him that night. She wasn't going to tell him then at work, there were too many people who could overhear and this was a conversation that she and Michael needed to have alone. It was a conversation that would change his life. She just had to find a way to get him alone.
She walked over to stand next to Michael's locker, pushing the door out of the way so she could see him better. There was a smile on her face. She was a lot happier than the last time she had been in that room.
"Shannon and I are going for a drink," she said cheerfully. "You wanna come?" Her plan was to get him to come out for a drink and then, as was usually the case, they would end up alone and she would be able to tell him.
"Audrey's making me dinner, Stel," he said by way of an excuse, dousing her hopes and ruining her plan. This statement totally contradicted his earlier words.
Stella nodded before turning and walking out of the room, trying not to show him how much his knock back hurt her. There was nothing that she could do to change his mind. She was just about to leave when she realised that she had something important to say.
"Hey, Michael," she said as she walked back into the room. "Thanks."
"For what?" he asked, confused as to what he had done to warrant her gratitude.
"For being there when I need you," she answered honestly before turning to leave again. She could tell that Michael was confused, this wasn't how things usually went, but he needed to know that she was grateful.
"You mean when you need a root, Stel," he retorted, tagging her name on at the end as a snarky afterthought. His words hurt more than she let on. She turned back towards him, ready to tell him everything. He had to know why it was different now and that his words weren't true.
"Michael," she began, her tone a little harsher than she had intended. His eyes were focused on her, searching for any indication of what her response would be. Once again he was hoping that she would tell him he was wrong, yet this was a war of sorts, their tempers were coming into play and they were both beginning to realise exactly how much words could hurt.
She was ready to tell him about the baby, anger fuelling her words. His words had hurt her. She was ready to lash out and tell him, just so that he could understand what she was going through. Then suddenly she couldn't find the words. Deep down she knew that she didn't want to blurt this news out in retaliation. She wanted to tell him properly. She was coming to the realisation that she wasn't ready to tell him and she was pretty sure that he wasn't ready to hear it either.
"You know what, Michael," she continued, chickening out again. "Just forget it." With that she turned to leave for the final time. There was a part of her that wanted him to stop her, to demand that she tell him what was wrong. It was the same part of her that was disappointed when he did nothing of the sort.
Stella left the building with a heavy heart, wiping tears from her eyes, willing herself to be strong. She didn't want him to affect her like this, but the truth was that he did. He was the only one who could evoke these sorts of feelings in her. She experienced her highest highs and her lowest lows thanks to him. It honestly terrified her.
She went straight home. Suddenly she didn't feel like going for a drink with Shannon anymore, it wasn't like she could drink anyway. Shannon would understand. Stella wasn't quite sure what she needed to make herself better, but she had a feeling that it would be something to do with her best friend. That man had a way of making her feel better, but the trouble was he wasn't there. He had Audrey, Stella was just an afterthought.
Michael drove around the streets of Melbourne. He wasn't quite sure where he was going, he was just driving. At that moment there wasn't much that he was sure about. He was conflicted. He wasn't sure whether he should find Audrey and try to explain things to her in the hope that she would take him back or if he should hunt down Stella and find out what had her so upset. He regretted his words to her. It had broken his heart to see her leaving the building, obviously wiping away her tears. He'd had a split second to decide whether to go after her or Audrey. He chose Audrey and couldn't help but feel as though he had made the wrong decision.
He was pretty sure that things were over with Audrey; she was not happy with him and had made that pretty clear. He had probably messed things up with Stella too. It seemed that he was stuffing everything up that day. He found himself faced with the same decision once again: Audrey or Stella.
For the first time in about ten minutes, he paid attention to his surroundings and saw that he had unknowingly turned into Stella's street. It appeared that his subconscious had made his decision for him. The answer was Stella, it was always Stella. As he pulled up outside her house he made a decision; he was going to find out what was wrong with her and do what it took to make everything better. He would do that for her.
Stella couldn't say that she was surprised to find Michael knocking on her door that night, he did have a habit of showing up when she needed him most, but she was surprised to find that he was choosing to come after her several hours after she had left. She suspected that he had been with Audrey. The thought hurt her more than she cared to admit. But that still didn't explain why he was here now, he was supposed to be with Audrey, that's what he told her. The fact that he was there with her gave her hope, though she didn't let her guard down.
"I know that something's wrong," Michael said, breaking the silence. "I know that because I can see it in your eyes. You're trying to hide something from me. Just tell me what it is so I can help you." He was pleading with her. He couldn't help her unless she was willing to cooperate with him.
"You're right, Michael," Stella responded as she took a step forwards and looked up at him. "There's something I have to tell you."
"Then tell me," he answered almost desperately, just wanting to help her.
"I don't think I can," she admitted truthfully. Her eyes met his and he understood. He opened his arms, pulling her into a hug. It was something that they both needed. He was getting as much comfort from this gesture as she was. They always seemed to return to each other for comfort.
Stella hated that she was this weak. She hated that she was this vulnerable. She hated that she needed Michael so much, yet he understood. He needed her just as much as she needed him. As much as he wanted to know what was wrong so that he could help, he was content to just be there for her. He would be there for whatever she needed.
Neither of them were quite sure how long they stood there for wrapped in each other's arms. Time seemed to pass at a different pace when they were together. Eventually Stella pulled back, although Michael didn't release her from his arms.
"I want you to go now," she said softly. There was no anger in her words. It was just a simple statement although Michael detected an almost pitiful hurt in her voice.
"Stel?' he questioned, wondering why she was turning him away.
"If you stay we both know what will happen and I don't want to wake up to find that you're gone again," Stella answered. She was proud of herself for taking this stand. She was getting some of her strength back.
Michael nodded. As much as he wanted to promise to stay, to promise that he would never leave suddenly again, he knew that his record was against him. He was accepting her request even though it pained him deep inside. He leant down to gently press his lips to her forehead before he released her and turned to leave. He would see her the following day. If she wanted him to leave then, as much as it killed him to do it, he would respect her wishes. He had said that he would be there if she wanted him to be and it went the other way too.
The door shut with a click behind Michael and Stella found herself alone again. It had taken a lot of strength to send him away when all she wanted was for him to be back here with her. She allowed herself to slump against the wall as she sank to the floor, bringing her head into her hands. She was being weak and she hated it. Her life had been changed in the space of a day and she was nowhere near coming to terms with it. She just didn't know what to do anymore.