So I've been rewatching CSI:NY and in order to deal with one of the worst storylines I think the shows ever had, I've written a little story. I like Adam. I like Stella. But together? Nah. However, we move on.
Stella Bonasera was suffocating.
It had been 6 weeks since she and Mac ended up in Greece – Stella ran, Mac followed. He came to her rescue more than once during that trip, was kinder to her than she probably deserved after pulling a stunt like that. Anyone else would have had their ass kicked back into uniform had they behaved so recklessly. She knew that.
She knew how lucky she was.
And yet, it didn't feel that way when she was holding the dying Professor P in her arms. It didn't feel like that when she handed her badge over or when she found out George Kolovos had returned to New York to take her life. She didn't feel at all lucky to find out her mother had been killed in 1977 and that nobody had ever told her. No, it especially hurt to know that the man who had assumed the place of her mentor from her early teenage years had in fact been withholding years upon years of knowledge of her mother and had died without even so much as telling Stella her name.
Stella was furious.
Surprisingly, however, Stella was far from bothered about the fact Professor Papakota's brother had attempted to murder her twice during the trip. After Sebastian Diakos' little attempt a couple of months ago, Stella no longer feared death. She was surprised at how much she was desperate for revenge, certainly, but she was no longer afraid.
Two weeks after Professor P's death; Angell had been murdered, and much like every other time life threw her a curveball, she dodged it and carried on. The grief she was feeling at that time had nothing on that which Don was experiencing, but it sure was a lot.
They caught the guys, of course they did. And while Don accepted that a leave of absence was necessary, Mac and Stella continued to build on their newfound connection towards one another. They had always been close, but things had changed since Greece.
Having spent almost every night with one another since they arrived back in New York, Stella had managed to convince herself that they were finally moving forwards. Little dinners here and there, a trip to their favourite bar after work, walks in the park on their days off. Mac would bring her in a coffee in the morning, she'd offer him a lift home in the evening. If not a romantic relationship, she truly believed they were heading towards a complete state of symbiosis.
Once the bar shooting had come and gone, however, Stella would have settled for merely being acquaintances. He was ignoring her, well not just her. Everyone who wasn't Danny or Lindsay was receiving the same treatment and suddenly she felt as though they were back in 2001 when sleep was a foreign concept, substituted for snapping at everyone and anyone who came within a 10-foot radius of him.
So, for a month, she had been dealing with the weight of the world all by herself, and unlike Mac, she couldn't carry it any longer.
The bar she found herself in that night was exactly the sort of bar Mac would have approved of – live jazz music and a wine collection that would have put his own to shame. She was so deep into autopilot she could have wandered into a 7/11 for all she knew at first but managed a smile in spite of herself.
It always came back to Mac.
"I'll take a Jack Daniels and coke," she spoke softly, arriving at the bar. "One of those little cherries and a straw, too."
The bartender gave her an accommodating smile and set about fulfilling her order. Stella wasn't the type to pursue younger men, but she swore on any other night (with enough Jack Daniels in her system) she'd be batting her eyelids over her drink at the guy.
"Would you like me to start a tab for you?" he asked, handing her the drink. She shrugged.
A round of applause was heard in the bar as the music lulled into a brief silence. She watched as the bassist grabbed a sip of his beer and spoke inaudibly to the double bassist, who grinned in response. Stella couldn't remember the last time she had smiled so brightly – possibly when she and Mac visited Lindsay and Danny in hospital. Even during the time which she had been spending with Mac, it had always been tainted by her grief over the professor or Mac's anger over Jess' death and Danny's injury.
Taking a shaky sip of her own drink, she made the impulsive decision to call Mac and try to convince him to join her. God, she missed him. Not the stubborn and self-destructive Mac who had resurfaced over the last few weeks. No, the Mac who followed her to Greece and brought her coffee every morning.
She needed him right now.
Pressing #1 on her speed dial, she held the phone up to her ear and waited for him to pick up. His familiar and fatigued tone followed the second ring.
"Hey, Mac," she started, raising her glass to her lips again. "Are you still in work?"
"What do you think?" he snapped, immediately releasing a sigh.
"Sorry, Stella. You're not my punching bag. What can I do for you?"
Deflated, ever so slightly, she took a steadying breath. She had made a mistake in calling Mac. He was too busy for this right now. Her next question was set to be a giant waste of her time – there was no chance she could convince him to take time away from the lab.
While Stella had moved on to other cases, Mac refused to take time away from the case of the bar shooting. His office was filled with evidence and whiteboards; a constant reminder of those moments of terror when the glass started to shatter from the bar's windows and the feelings of panic when everyone flew to the ground. Photos of past enemies on the whiteboards and witness accounts littering his desk brought Stella back to that day at the bar from a mere glance, she could hardly imagine staring at it all day long.
"Sorry," she replied softly. "I can't seem to concentrate at the moment. I was phoning to ask if you could take an hour away from the case and come meet me. I've come across a little bar you'd love, and I'll be honest, I've had the day from hell and could use a friend."
He sighed once more, "Stella, this isn't personal, but I can't leave now. I promise we'll spend more time together once I've caught these guys. Maybe you could ask Don? I'm sure he could use the company."
Her next comment stuck in her throat; what was the point in arguing? They both knew an hour wouldn't make much of a difference when the case had been open this long; but Mac saw leaving the lab as failure. He'd never as much to Stella, but after working nearly 15 years together they could read one another like a book.
She bit back tears, "No, it's fine. I shouldn't have asked. Don't work too late, Mac."
Before he could reply, she ended the call and drained the glass in front of her. Looking over at her newfound friend she'd found in the bartender, she lifted the glass to indicate she'd like a refill.
She was being unreasonable; she was well aware. But (aside from running away to Greece while she was a suspect in a murder investigation) she had been too reasonable for too long. She had spent weeks trying to hunt down her attacker, figuring out the best way to deal with the men who could seemingly get away with murder. She had dealt with the death of two close friends only two weeks apart, the latter she had dealt with alone, as well as the life-altering injury of another. She had let Mac do whatever it was he needed to do to deal with the events of the past month, and she was incredibly grateful for everything he had done since Greece. But Christ, Mac was the only person in her life who managed to be both the most selfless person she knew and the most selfish simultaneously.
The shrill ringing of her phone brought her out of her thoughts, and she rejected the call almost immediately.
Mac Taylor calling.
The bartender returned with a fresh glass of her whiskey-mixer, as well as a small shot glass. She shot him a quizzical look which was met with a simple shrug.
"Sucks getting blown off," he smiled. "It's on me."
Stella returned his smile and tipped the shot down her throat, wincing at the taste it left behind. She would never ordinarily drink vodka, but with such a crappy day, Stella found it was exactly what she needed.
Bringing her attention back to her phone, she scrolled through her contacts – hoping she might find another drinking buddy on there somewhere. Lindsay and Danny were automatically eliminated, Hawkes always seemed exhausted of late (the last thing he needed was a Stella-Mac drama to add to his troubles), she and Sid weren't really close enough to warrant a late-night invitation to a bar and though she did consider calling Flack, her finger hesitated just a little too long over his name.
Finding another name a little further down, though not as far as Mac, she pondered it for a moment before dialling her phone once more. This caller answered on the fourth ring, voice thick with sleep.
"Hey, Adam," she spoke quietly, cringing at how evident her emotions were just from her tone.
"Are you okay?" he asked, instantly alert.
"Look, I've been blown off by Mac. I feel like shit today, really shit. And I know we both have the early shift tomorrow, but do you fancy a drink? My treat."
If he was surprised by her offer, he didn't let on. In a manner more mature and level-headed than she thought he was capable, he replied, "Of course, Stella. Text me the address and I'll head over soon."
By the time Adam arrived, Stella was at least four drinks deep and come to think of it, she hadn't eaten since breakfast this morning. The bartender was watching her with concern as she felt Adam slide into the stool at her side. Save for swaying a little, she barely acknowledged his newly established presence at the bar.
"Hey, Stella," he said carefully, eyes on the glasses in front of her. All empty, save for those little cherries she loved to get in her drinks. She brought her eyes up to his, tears balancing on the very edge of them. The only sound she was making came from the straw she was stirring around in her empty drink, save for a New York serving of ice to really dilute the drink.
"What's going on?" He asked, bringing his eyes back up to look at her. Just as she finally gave way to her emotions, the bar tender approached. Stella looked away to try and force herself to calm down.
"Hey, man. Can I get you anything?"
"Just a beer," she heard him say, though didn't look at him until he placed a gentle hand on her arm. Her misty eyes connected with his which held only worry.
"It's been a rough 6 weeks," she supplied. "It's been hard to deal with it alone, that's all."
His hand moved down to her own, and with a gentle squeeze he shot her a sad smile.
"Stella, Mac might have been preoccupied these last few weeks. But Mac isn't the only person you have in your life. I know you guys are close, but there's a lab full of people who want to help you," Adam said, before adding, "I want to help you."
"You do?" she asked, voice thick with unshed tears. He nodded.
"I just… uh!" she spoke, throwing her hands up on the air. "I just don't want to think anymore. I just want to shut my brain off."
"Yeah, I get that," Adam agreed, thanking the bar tender with a silent nod as he brought his beer to their section of the bar. Stella watched his every move – sipping the beer, grasping onto the glass. She waited for him to elaborate.
"It's not just Angell or the bar shooting for me. Not that they didn't get me down, of course they did," he explained. "The OCD sometimes… Well, you know what it's like, don't you? Not OCD, but you know?"
She nodded, "I know. The way your brain doesn't let you respond to the bad stuff like a normal human being, the way it infects your thoughts, and you can't tell if what you're feeling is valid or just another example of how you can't even think rationally anymore. Maybe that's not what you're feeling. It's what I'm feeling."
"Have you told anyone this?"
Stella shook her head, "Nah. I was hoping to speak to Mac about it tonight, but he's been too busy. It's fine. Doesn't matter, just me being me."
"Stella," Adam sighed, abandoning all thoughts of drinking his beer. "This isn't you. But you're not being irrational – it's been a shitty year. You can't be this strong forever. Even the Statue of Liberty has her limits."
She released a light chuckle, wiping at her damp eyes, "Nah, she would have crumbled long ago."
He squeezed her hand once more, "C'mon. Let's grab another drink – turns out beer isn't hitting the spot. I'll take whatever you had."
The night Stella ended up in bed with Adam was one filled with emotion and was fuelled by one too many Jack Daniels. It was wonderful and spontaneous, but it was also the night she called Mac first and he wouldn't come. And he knew, though he wouldn't dare say, that his rational and intelligent best friend and partner had slept with none other than Adam Ross.
But Stella Bonasera would not apologise. They would move on.
However, any chance of becoming more than friends with Mac was shot dead the moment she called Adam Ross the night he would not come. And that was something Stella Bonasera would never stop regretting.