Note: It's been AGES since I've posted anything, but I'm resolving to post much more this year. This is a sequel to 'Starry Night', written for my friend Advazzz
Star Light, Star Bright
Despite the peaceful stillness surrounding him, Mac was becoming increasingly restless. But with Stella lying partly across his chest he was wary of moving and disturbing her sleep. As it was only three days after Stella had given birth, Mac wanted her to have as much sleep as possible. She had fallen asleep quickly, but apart from a brief closing of his eyes and a wandering of his thoughts for a few minutes, he had not slept at all – there was simply too much to think about.
Really though, all his thoughts were centred on the baby sleeping in the crib at the side of their bed; the tiny new being who had created such a huge change in their lives. Carefully lifting himself up, still mindful of Stella, Mac craned his neck to look at their daughter. It made no difference that he and Stella had spent hours just looking at her earlier; he would never tire of studying her delicate features, tiny hands and feet and downy dark wisps of hair. She was beautiful. Perfectly beautiful.
Holly had already stolen his heart. The moment he had first seen her, in the delivery room, gripping Stella's hand, he had fallen helplessly in love. They both had. He had cut the cord and it was only when Stella had reached up to his face to wipe his cheek that he realised there were tears escaping from his eyes, same as they were from hers. At that moment, they had clutched each other's hands, adrift in a turbulence of emotions. They had a daughter. A daughter… The word still thrilled through him. He said it over and over to himself in his head, a mantra that was beginning to conquer the fear he had that somehow this was not real.
Even in the warm June night, the first night home for both his wife and their new-born daughter, he could still feel the memory of burning-cold fear from that evening six months ago. The accident that had almost claimed Stella's life and their then unknown baby's life had seared itself into his memory. Mac sighed, catching sight of the faint scar on Stella's temple. But a grin began to twitch on his lips as a slight snore came from her.
Unable to stay lying in bed any longer, he eased himself out from under her. She mumbled something unintelligible, rolled over and buried her face in the pillow. Mac waited until he was sure she was asleep and then got out of bed in practised silence. While Stella had been pregnant and sleeping lightly, he had perfected the art of getting up and moving around their apartment with such stealth that she had never woken. It was a skill he prided himself on, and had only very occasionally used to sneak up on an errant employee or two. There had been one, and only one, occasion when he had tried creeping up on Stella herself. He had learned the painful way to never try it again.
Wincing to himself at the recollection, Mac padded round the bed to the foot of Holly's crib. There was enough moonlight filtering through the blind to show her features softly in shadow. Holly lay on her back, her arms at the side of her head, covered with the quilt her grandmother had made for her. At the foot of the crib, flopping over, sat the stuffed toy cat that Stella had made for her. The grin spread over Mac's face again at the sight of the plush creature and he rearranged it with care, knowing how proud of it Stella was. Then his eyes were drawn again to Holly. An involuntary smile curved his lips. How could he not smile at the sight of her, so deep asleep, so safe and content?
With the very tip of his finger, Mac stroked the softness of her cheek, listened to her breathing and fell in love a little more. And felt the whirlwind of that love a little more.
Becoming a father had involved so many emotions he was totally unprepared for. It had already exploded so many of his presuppositions, leaving him unable to classify in any way how he felt. All his life, certainly all his adult life, he had found security in compartmentalising his feelings. And after Claire's death, he had made even surer that no errant emotions could break through and stray by sealing them up behind protective layers. His and Stella's relationship over the years had changed some of that, gradually peeling away those layers, breaking through the compartments. Finally, now, becoming a father, the last layers had been stripped away and everything had jumbled together. The timing of her arrival had only added to the turmoil – almost a week late, and in the middle of a politically-sensitive case Mac had been required to testify in court for.
It was only thanks to an understanding District Attorney that he had been able to get to the hospital in time for Holly's birth. Mac sighed, gazing down at Holly as she slept peacefully, oblivious to everything, and wished momentarily for a little of her carefree existence. There was no doubt at all in his mind that the tumult in his and Stella's lives and emotions would not be subsiding for some time…
An arm sliding round his waist interrupted his thoughts.
'Hey,' Stella murmured, resting her head on his shoulder. He kissed the crown of her head.
'I thought you were sleeping,' he said quietly.
'I heard your thoughts.' She raised her head to look at him, a small smile on her lips.
'You did?' He raised his eyebrows.
'I always do,' she replied simply.
Their gazes turned to their sleeping daughter. There was no need for Mac to give Stella any more explanation.
'Not a care in the world,' Stella sighed as she touched Holly's head with her fingertip.
Mac gave a wry smile, which Stella caught. 'And you're wishing you could feel the same,' she said.
'Something like that.' He watched Holly as she pursed her mouth and wrinkled her forehead. 'I got a feeling a tiny tornado has entered our lives.'
Stella was about to reply but a yawn from Holly stopped her. Entranced, they both watched as she flexed her fingers, kicking her legs up.
'I don't know about a tornado, but I do know those little legs have a lot of power in them,' Stella remarked. 'I'm positive I'm still bruised inside.' As if she had heard herself being talked about, Holly opened her eyes. 'Hey, baby girl,' Stella crooned, bending down and stroking the baby's cheek. Holly yawned again and kicked even more, dislodging and toppling the plush cat. Grinning, Mac adjusted it again, only for Holly to kick it over once more.
Mac gave a low chuckle and opened his mouth to say something about it, until Stella sent him a glare. 'I said nothing,' he protested.
'You were about to.' She jabbed a finger at him. 'For a girl who never took the slightest interest in sewing class at school, I did a great job of stitching that cat,' she said, picking the toy up herself. 'Any more comment about its colour, or about its eyes or its whiskers and there'll be trouble.'
Mac smirked. 'What more could I possibly have to say about how purple it is and how big its button eyes are and how long and droopy its ribbon whiskers are…?'
Stella turned her head away from him with magnificent dignity, causing Mac to chuckle all the more. Ignoring him, Stella leaned over the crib and picked up Holly who was puckering her face up and kicking her legs even more.
'Don't you listen to daddy,' Stella told their daughter, ''Cause your mommy is super-good at making toys for you, yes she is. And maybe she's going to make you even more. She might, yes she might…'
A wail burst from the tiny girl, her face scrunching up and turning puce as she cried and kicked, waving her little fists.
'You know, she doesn't seem too excited about that, Stella…' Mac risked the remark, and received a scorching glare from his wife.
'I'd like to see you do better,' she shot back and he chuckled.
'Seeing as I haven't picked up a needle since I was a cadet sewing my shirt buttons back on, I think I'll pass.'
Stella sniffed and focused her attention on Holly; bouncing her gently in her arms, cooing to her as she paced round the room. Still smiling, Mac adjusted the pillows on the bed, guessing a feed was due when the baby would not be pacified by the movement or soothing tones from her mother.
Minutes later, there was peace again while Holly sucked away contentedly, nuzzling into Stella's chest. Mac sat beside them, his arm round Stella's shoulders as he gazed in contentment at her and their daughter. As Holly's eyes began to flicker and her hand drooped, Stella turned with a soft smile to Mac.
Understanding passed between them and their lips met in a gentle kiss. Their gazes held even when their lips parted, Mac running the backs of his fingers down Stella's neck.
A snuffle from Holly drew their attention. Her eyelashes fluttered on her cheeks before she yawned again, on the brink of sleep.
'I think someone's had enough for the time being,' Stella said easing the baby into a more comfortable position.
'I'll take her,' Mac held out his arms and Stella carefully passed him their sleeping daughter so she could readjust her camisole. Nestled in his arms, Mac delighted in the powdery scent and the warm softness of their little girl. When her face wrinkled up, sensing some discomfort, he settled her on his shoulder, her head in the crook of his neck, the fuzziness of her hair tickling his skin.
Getting up from the bed, he carried Holly over to the window, all the while rubbing her back and uttering lulling sounds to her. She hiccupped a few times, sighed, made some little neshing sounds and drifted into sleep.
Stella joined him at the window, raising the blind so they could see the city skyline in its night raiment. Warm against him, radiance in her eyes, Stella looked out.
'When I start worrying about what's out there in the big wide world, I keep reminding myself that also means there are all these wonderful things out there in the world, and so many beautiful experiences for our baby girl to have,' she said, turning to study him.
'There are.' Mac gave her a small smile, looking quickly at her before turning his gaze back to the window. 'But you know, what I hope for most of all is that she's happy and safe.' He paused, feeling an unfamiliar self-consciousness. 'And I want to be the best parent I can be to her, and do everything I can to help her find all the great things there are out there.'
'Me too,' Stella whispered, cupping his face with his hand, 'me too.'
Mac pressed his cheek to her palm, closing his eyes. Stella wrapped her arms round him, close to him, so the three of them, their little family, were enfolded together in trinity.
Breathing deeply, Mac held on to Stella, thankful again that she was here with him. He glanced up, out of the window, and a streak of light caught his eye.
'Stella.' He drew her closer to the window, just in time for them both to see the shooting star leave a trail of gold across the night sky. Stella beamed, her eyes luminous and he felt the same joy lighted in him.
Neither had to tell the other what they had wished, or even that they had wished. Mac watched the final trace of light fade into the night sky. As he did, the memory of the wish he'd made all those months ago on Christmas Eve, on the golden star that had been his gift to Stella, rose in his consciousness. But it was different now. At last, he could feel the shadows left from Stella's accident and aftermath begin to shrink.
'Your mom and dad love you, baby girl,' he whispered, brushing a kiss on the top of Holly's head. 'All the way to the stars and back.'
Accompanied by Stella, Mac trod softly to the crib and laid Holly down. She didn't stir, not even when Mac drew the quilt up over her and - with a quick smirk at Stella - placed the toy cat by her side. With the blind still open and the glow of the stars and city shining on them, they stood watching over their own most precious wish come true.
Thank you for reading! Reviews, as always, very welcome and always responded to. Thank you to Ballettmaus for her help with this and thank you to Little Miss Lou for the cute icon! Lily x