Many apologies to my beloved Aussie BFF Tricki, who I seem to continue to assault with angsty angstiness with no complaint (to me, at least!). So much care xxx

As Tricki mentioned, I seem to have a thing for putting Mac and Stella through the ringer when it comes to babies. Sorry, all! Happy impending holidays! xx

Her eyes finally fluttered open, though the want to sleep continued to pull heavily on her senses. Against her better instincts, she fought to stay awake, especially when she saw the blue sky outside the window - how long had she been asleep?

Her sleep-laden sight watched the fluttering of leaves on the very top of the tree, enjoying their dance as the wind blew them in every direction. She lingered on the plight of a small bird on a power line, burying its head and fighting against the apparently strong breeze. When it had passed, it fluffed out its feathers and gave itself a shake, standing proud as it waited for the next onslaught to come.

The sweetness of denial washed over her and she smiled, her mind taking its time before reminding her of everything; the last two years, the last three months, the events of last night...

"I think Mommy's finally awake," a hushed voice announced, startling her from her reverie. She turned to see Flack on the chair, her eyes wide and tearful as she watched him smile down at her newborn daughter. "She's usually much more punctual than this," he cooed.

She couldn't speak, she couldn't move, she couldn't process everything quick enough.

"Well, unless she's supposed to be at a meeting with the chief, then she's suddenly stuck in traffic or processing vital evidence..."

She licked her lips.

He looked at her, a deep breath escaping him as he thanked any and every deity that anybody anywhere believed in. He'd certainly begged them all a few hours earlier.

"Don..." she whispered, watching as his lips twisted into a playful, wistful smile. He looked relaxed, happy, amazed, exhausted; everything a new father would.

"She's perfect, Stel. Ten little fingers, ten little toes. Loads of dark hair and some damn good lungs on her."

"Don... Does she look like him?"

His eyes flicked back to the little bundle of pink and white in the crook of his arm. She hadn't been out of his sight since she was born, her face was already burned into his mind and his heart, but he looked. "He's in there," he nodded.

She swallowed, a tear falling from her eye as she chewed on a lip. Hefting herself onto her elbows, she dragged herself up the bed so she was sat against the pillows. Everywhere below the waist was still a bit numb.

Don stood up, folded the blanket around the little girl's cherubim face and crossed the short distance. "Kid, meet your Mom." He transferred her into Stella's arms, sorry for the loss of warmth.

He watched her face, the sting of tears getting to even him. Her chin crumpled, shook as her heart swelled and broke at the same time. She stroked a finger down her tiny nose, over her silken cheek, across her flexing fingers. She wanted to say something to her, something heartfelt and profound, about how much her father would have adored her, doted on her, loved them both more than words could possibly ever wish to convey.

But the thought of Mac just broke her into sobs. Paralysing, heartbreaking, shuddering sobs.

Don shuffled himself onto the bed next to her and pulled her into him, holding onto her as a tear fell down his own cheek. Life was fucking unfair sometimes.