I wanted to do a Valentine's Day story, but I could not use Don and Jamie because Season 9 did that so perfectly…and I still love these two so much. Also I am entirely ignoring Christine so just disregard that entire subplot in relation to this story…Other than that enjoy!

Disclaimer: Not mine

Spoilers: Grounds for Deception

February 14th

NEW YORK

"S that stands for Stella the woman in your life, who sometimes you adore and sometimes she drives you crazy."

Mac shook himself. He did not know what had made him think of those words lost for so many years in the recesses of his memory, but as he thought back to that conversation he could hear Stella's voice in his head as clear as it had been that day. He looked at the picture that he kept on his desk. He knew it by heart after looking at it for so many years, but it was still one of his favorites. Stella was looking slightly to the left of the camera laughing at some long forgotten joke. It had been taken at the annual Christmas party nearly a decade ago.

Mentally Mac did a double take. Had it really been that long? It did not seem like it, but he realized it had been. What had happened in those years? There had been a time when he had truly believed that he could not live without Stella there beside him, but the years performed there constant march forward, and it had now been years since he had seen her.

He thought back to the last time he had seen her:

"You're moving?" Mac asked her looking bewildered, "to New Orleans?"

"Yes," she said, not quite meeting his eyes.

"Why?" he asked.

"Because they need me down there," she said, "and you guys don't anymore."

"I need you," Mac said, wondering if this had been a long time coming, and he just had not seen it.

"No you don't," she said shaking her head, almost a little sadly, "and I need to stop pretending you do."

Mac looked at her open mouthed. He had never expected this, not from Stella. He would not have been surprised if one of the others, maybe Danny or Lindsey or Adam, had told him they got a better job offer and were leaving, but he had never expected to hear it from Stella.

He understood now that was his problem: he had taken her presence for granted. Of course hindsight was always twenty/twenty and rarely useful. It was really only she left that he realized how much he missed having her in his life, but he had never gone to visit her nor had she come back to New York.

He supposed that would seem strange to other people, but for him it all came down to the fact that he could not face the horrible mistake he had made in letting her go, not even in the attempt to make it right. In the plainest words possible: he was a coward and a foolish one at that.

He'd thought that in time he would stop missing her, that the ache he felt in his chest would dull with time. There too he had been wrong. He still missed her as much as the day she had left if not more. He still loved her.

Mac stopped dead. It had taken him years to admit that to himself, but now that he had, it seemed ridiculous that it had taken him that long. Stella had been right all those years ago: S stood for Stella THE woman in his life.

Without another moments hesitation, Mac closed his laptop, grabbed hit coat, and swept out of the office.

NEW ORLEANS

Stella stared at the television set without really seeing it. She had half a mind to call Lindsey, but then she remembered that Danny had probably concocted some romantic evening for the two of them. She suspected that all of her New Orleans friends that she might consider calling, though she was not nearly as close to them as her New York friends, would have similar engagements.

Idly she picked up her phone and began scrolling though her numbers trying to think of someone she could call. Almost reflexively her thumb stopped halfway though the Ts: Taylor. She considered it for a brief moment but decided against it. She had burned that bridge when she left New York or that bridge was already burning and was the reason she had left New York. She was not entirely sure that she knew which or if it mattered.

Shaking her head she stood up and wandered into the kitchen to pour herself a glass of wine, still pondering. She wondered what would happen if she called. Would he even answer? She supposed that he would, but only because they were old friends. She did not really believe that it had ever been anything more to him, but for it here it had been more, much more, and there in lay the problem.

She had held out hope for years, and there had been moments when she though he might feel the same about her, but he had never spoken up. He had never said a word. She thought that he might, especially after everything that had happened in Greece, but even then he had given no suggestion that he felt anything more than friendship for her.

Finally she had forced herself to walk away because she was tired of loving someone who would never love her back. Of course what she had not counted on was that time and distance would make no difference: she still loved him.

She finished the glass of wine in her hand and looked at her phone again. She had never actually said anything out loud. She had hinted, but she wondered now if he had ever noticed. The alcohol gave her that little jot of courage she needed. She was going to settle it. If she told him flat out he would have to say something, and even if her assumptions were right, at least she would finally know the truth without a shadow of a doubt.

Before her courage could fail her, Stella clicked the name on her phone, and it dialed that familiar number. He answered on the second ring.

"Stella?" an all too familiar voice answered.

"I know you probably don't feel the same," she told him, without a hello, "but I never said it out loud so I thought I'd take the chance cause I thought moving away would change the way I feel, but it didn't. So I'm saying it now: I love you."

It was a jumbled mess of words, quite unlike she had imagined it would be, but she could not take it back now. All she could do was wait for his response.

"Mac?" she asked after a full minute of silence. Her voice was timid; her courage had failed her.

From the living room she heard a knock on the door, but she ignored it, still waiting on Mac's reply. It did not come, and the person at the door knocked again, more loudly this time. Tears filled her eyes as she realized no answer was coming. She had not thought it would hurt this much, not after all this time, but it was in that moment that she realized how much she had been banking on that tiny shred of hope.

The person at the door knocked again, and Stella walked into her living room and wrenched open the door. "What do you—" she started to ask, but the final word died in her thought.

"Stella," he said looking at her.

"Mac," she whispered back not daring to believe her eyes, "Why are you here?"

"Because I was a fool," he said, "I should have never let you go. Maybe I don't need you to get though each day, but I want you by my side or else getting though each day, well it doesn't seem too matter very much."

She looked at him, completely stunned, but she needed to hear it. She needed to hear him say the words. "Say it," she said.

"I love you," he said looking her straight in the eyes, "I love you, and I don't want to lose you."

She stood there staring at him for another moment, and then seemingly instantaneously they were hugging, and she was crying. Mac reached down and wiped her tears away. She looked at him. "Is this real?" she asked.

"This is more real than anything else has been in a very long time," he replied, holding her close to him and hoping that he would never have to let her go again.

So yeah…I think I like it. How about you? Leave a review on the way out.

Mac and Stella Forever!

Happy Valentine's Day!