A little early Christmas gift for Lily Moonlight! Hope you enjoy x
They had never really spoken about children. Not avoided the topic, per se, but never dwelled nor lingered nor overtly addressed the situation.
Stella knew that if there was a child from a case stuck in the labs or PD until a guardian came, Mac was who she would go to. Not that the others weren't capable, but Mac had an air of authority around him. For a child to be in their care, they would be either already be - or be on the verge of being - screwed up. Mac had a way of telling them, often without a word, that he understood their pain but he wasn't going to take any acting out.
She saw that side of him often. She would take a minute or two to watch as he dazzled them with a simple science trick, able to draw a smile and remove the kid from whatever hell they had just escaped from.
As good as Stella was with any age, Mac knew to call on her when an infant came in. Even though Lindsay had had Lucy by that point, it was still Stella he would call. Maybe it was the delight he felt in seeing her light up when she had made the baby giggle; or how she would rock them in her arms around her office, taking a swig of coffee en route past her desk and quickly resume stroking their temples to soothe them to sleep. There was a natural instinct that he liked to see.
It was just a fact. One of those unspoken truths – they didn't have children of their own. Despite their ages, their experiences, their past relationships; for whatever reason, it hadn't happened. She wasn't exactly going to bring up his dead ex-wife, and he didn't want to remind her of her dating history.
But then Matthew happened.
They were both hurtling towards the end of a particularly rough week when they got the call about the death of a homeless couple who frequented the community below the bridge in the Park. A patrol car had been sent out but discovered more than just the two bodies – they found a young baby swathed by a mountain of rags, blankets and coats.
The patrol cop was barely out of the academy and had left the child screaming in the bundles in case he 'broke him' when lifting him. After a cursory glance beneath the layers of materials, Stella pulled the child into her arms. She gave the officer a look as she passed, shushing the infant and bouncing him as they were ushered into the back of the delayed ambulance.
Mac had met her at the hospital, leaving Danny and Adam to sift through the area for any details; it was pretty safe to say – pre-thorough investigation - that the couple had frozen to death in the December weather. The temperatures had dropped well below zero the last few nights and the morgue had more than a few homeless New Yorkers already in situ.
"How is he?" Mac asked, finding Stella in the Maternity Wing corridor. She had her arms crossed around her chest as she looked into the nursery.
"Hungry and a little dehydrated, a bit of diaper rash but otherwise perfect." She gestured to the third incubator on the left, where the child was sleeping soundly beneath a blue blanket with a blue hat upon his head and an IV in his arm. "He had 'Matthew' written on his ankle in pen."
"Matthew Peate. Born November 17th to Alexander Peate and Carrie Knowles."
"Hypothermia and malnutrition."
Stella nodded, expecting as much. "Any next of kin?"
"Adam's looking into it, but it doesn't look like it. DCFS will be called when he's well enough to be discharged."
Stella didn't go home that night; she slept in a plastic chair in the family room and wasn't entirely sure why. It didn't seem right to leave Matthew when his parents had all but sacrificed themselves for him. They had ensured he had been warm, bundling him up in anything they could find and leaving them with just a fire to warn off the chill. With minimal fire wood, it hadn't lasted the night and neither had they.
Mac had brought her a coffee the next morning, sliding up next to her and taking her hand in his. "Missed you last night," he told her. They were two years into an inevitable relationship, eighteen months into co-habitation and two months away from a quiet elopement.
"I couldn't leave him."
"I know." He sipped his coffee, "I spoke to the nurse's station on the way in; they think he can be discharged this afternoon."
She didn't say anything, just dug her nail into the polystyrene cup.
He let go of her hand and leant away from her as he dug into the pocket of coat, pulling out a business card and offering it to her.
Jude McThomas. Attorney at Family Law.
"If it's something you want to do, I will support you."
She kissed him and tucked further into his side.
Matthew was living with them that same night - it was cheaper for him to go with Stella and Mac than go into the system where there were hardly any beds anyway. A month after the elopement, Matthew Peter Taylor was officially theirs; their son.
Stella took maternity leave and Mac reduced his hours; it had been an intention of his for quite a while, especially since being at home with Stella – quiet nights of home-cooked meals, glasses of wine and old movies curled up on the couch – was much more appealing than long days in the labs.
Matthew was perfect; he developed well, was intelligent, cheeky and so affectionate. He loved dinosaurs and pancakes and knew about his 'other Mom and Dad'. Mac and Stella had framed a sketch artist's impression of Matthew's biological parents, and had written up as much information as they were able to find about them. It hung in his bedroom, next to a photograph of Mac, Stella and Matthew at the Natural History Museum as a family. They answered any questions he raised and though they didn't lie to him, they made the information age-appropriate.
He knew Alexander and Carrie loved him oh-so-much that they gave him all the blankets they could find in the entire city to keep him warm, and now they look down on him as the brightest stars in the sky.
Stella took teaching work when Matthew got to school age; Mac became a freelance consultant, occasionally travelling the country and bringing home a magnet in the shape of that state for Matthew's collection and a book all about it.
He and Stella laughed once - after they tucked Matthew the right way up in his bed, put his book on the nightstand and turned off the torch – about how much their lives had changed. How, at one time, they would have baulked at anyone who said they would have this life; happily married, young son and an easy, enjoyable life.
They settled next to each other in bed, the faint snores of their son in the next room, and thanked those bright stars for new lives.