Disclaimer I own very little, especially not CSI NY
Author Lily Moonlight
Notes A fluffy story for suallenparker, with many thanks for the story she wrote for me. No tragedy, no angst, no peril… Well, maybe a teeny bit, but you'll hardly notice it, honest. And there's lots of fluff.
Thanks to Forest Angel for help; to osarisanhur, iluvcsi4ever, Juliette, cmaddict and fractured-fairytale06 for reading snippets of this; and to webdlfan for making me laugh with comments about fluff and stuffing XD
Thank you very, very much to everyone who nominated and voted for me in the fan fic awards, I was thrilled to win the categories I did! 'Old West' will be updated soon.
Her curls glinted in the sunlight as she walked to the window. Pushing it open, she lifted a saucer of milk out and placed it on the fire escape. He watched as a fat fluffy kitten immediately rushed to greet her, and smiled to himself at the pleasure lighting up her face as she stroked the little creature...
A smile flickered across Mac's face at the image of Stella he kept treasured in his memory, along with many others. And as he trudged up the stairs to her apartment, he allowed himself to enjoy it again. Recently, he had witnessed her making a new friend of a kitten who had moved into the apartment above with his guardians. As Stella had discovered, its greatest delight lay in wobbling down the fire escape at every opportunity and into her living room. Not that she discouraged it. Far from it. A smirk curled Mac's lips as he remembered her cuddling the little creature as it squirmed in her arms, having just been rescued from mountaineering up her curtains. The fact that its claws had torn shreds in the material was not mentioned as it was soothed from its traumatic ordeal with a fresh saucer of milk and tidbits of ham.
The kitten had enjoyed unrivalled luxury and hospitality, quickly figuring out that a trip down the fire escape would bring rewards. Stella spared no expense in buying gourmet treats for him, and Mac observed with affectionate amusement. After pointing out that the kitten did not belong to her, and the excessive number of meals it was getting was contributing to it waddling rather than walking, she had given him such a scathing response about how its owners were obviously not feeding it properly because why else would it be coming to her for food, that he had said no more. Instead, he contented himself with looking pointedly at the barrel-like belly of the kitten, and then at the saucer she was heaping with finely-chopped pieces of chicken. When her eyebrows raised, and the knife in her hand pointed his way, challenging him to make any further comments, he threw up his hands in resignation, and stayed silent.
But the situation did not last. For two weeks the little creature made daily visits, and then one evening, he failed to turn up, throwing Stella into a state of worry. Mac had been unable to remain silent, and offered her reassuring words about cats and their habits of roaming and general lack of commitment. His words failed to reassure her though, and the wistful look as she fiddled with the empty saucer sitting on her kitchen counter had tugged at his heart. Seeing her peering out of the window at the vacant fire escape and hearing her sigh one too many times, after three days had passed without the kitten's appearance, Mac had been able to take it no longer. Discreet enquiries revealed that the kitten and his owners had relocated to upstate New York and a house with a garden. A garden was certainly a benefit for an adventurous kitten, although Mac had a feeling he would have been happy in an apartment in Manhattan which provided easy access to Stella's comfortable living room, and free food and drink.
He offered that opinion when he broke the news gently to her, along with words of comfort and coffee at her favourite café. A weak smile and a kiss on the cheek was his reward; after which he chastised himself for enjoying it, given the circumstances that had provoked it. As much as he enjoyed the moments when Stella's lips pressed against his cheek, and her hand was warm on his skin, he would prefer it to be for happier reasons.
Which was the reason for the cake box he now carried.
Nearly two months had passed since the kitten last visited Stella. No more fur-clad guests with paws and claws had since appeared on the fire escape, and the saucer and cans of cat food had been put to the back of her kitchen cupboard. A guest of a different kind was on his way to her apartment this evening, however, because Mac, despite his lack of feline features, had been invited to dinner. And unlike the kitten, he was not coming empty handed. As he paused for breath on the turn of the stairs, having discovered the elevator was out of order, he looked ruefully at the box tucked under his arm before continuing.
A sigh, which might have been a groan escaped him, as he stumped up the final flight of stairs. With only a few more steps to go, Mac paused again, one hand resting on the banisters, and grimaced. Setting down the bags he was also carrying, he took the cake box in both hands and regarded it, his mind turning over the possible scenarios its giving might produce. The best possible one being Stella's lips on his cheek and… Mac shook his head at himself, and as if in response to his thoughts, the box also shook.
"This is all your fault, you know." He growled, and the box trembled and squeaked. "Complain all you want, there's no going back now."
It stilled and tucking it under his arm once more, Mac picked up his bags and traipsed up the last few stairs to the landing, adding one final comment, "Of course if you were lighter, this would be easier."
A short walk along the landing, and he was in front of Stella's door. The box was still and silent in his arms now. He turned his ear to the door and listened for a moment, hearing an equal lack of sound and movement from her apartment. He knocked and waited, and received no response. A louder knock, and a call of Stella's name also met with silence. A frown crossed his face, and balancing the box in the crook of his arm, he fished in his pocket for his keys.
Then he hesitated, the keys dangling from his fingers. Letting himself into Stella's apartment was an option he did not take lightly; she trusted him implicitly, the ownership of a set of keys confirmed that, but it was a trust he did not want to abuse. The last thing he wanted was to invade her privacy. On the other hand, if something had happened…
It was a matter of moments to pull out his cell and call her. The sound of hers ringing in response travelled through the front door. No answer. A grim look set in his face, and he snapped the phone closed, and turned the key in the lock. He was taking no chances with her safety.
As the door swung open, he rapped his knuckles against the wood, "Stella?"
No one answered, so he closed the door softly behind him and crossed the hallway with a light tread, his hand to his gun. Tensed for anything untoward. Ignoring the scrabbling sound that was coming from the cake box, Mac crept into the living room, stopped, and took in the scene.
Sunlight was streaming through a gap in the closed curtains, sparkling through a tumble of curls hanging over the arm of the couch, and pooling on the floor. His heart slowed in relief, his hand relaxed away from his piece, and he smiled.
She was safe.
Crossing the room, he put the bags on the floor and set the box gently down on the coffee table, next to an open packet of moon pies. Then he perched himself next to the woman curled up asleep. For a few moments he sat perfectly still, content to watch the steady rise and fall of Stella's breathing. Hesitantly, his hand moved to brush a stray curl off her forehead, and it hovered over her face. He withdrew it slowly, not wanting to lose the sensation of her on his fingertips, but as her eyelashes fluttered he stilled and held his breath. She frowned, and shifted slightly but did not wake and as her face relaxed again, Mac let himself do the same. He leaned back carefully against her legs, laid his arm along the back of the couch and breathed in contentment.
His eyes closed, and he was beginning to drift into a doze, before he felt how cool the apartment was and shivered suddenly. Stella was wearing a light blouse, and his eyebrows drew together at the chill he felt as he touched her arm. Seeing a blanket over the back of the couch, he tugged it off and arranged it over her, before pushing himself to his feet and picking up the bags. The box was safe on the coffee table, and Stella showed no sign of waking yet. There was enough time to execute his plans.
Giving her a lingering look as he left the room, Mac moved into the kitchen and began his tasks. He unpacked the smaller bag he had brought swiftly and methodically, laying out the contents on the counter. Then he busied himself emptying the second bag, setting down some of the items it contained on the kitchen floor and putting others away in a cupboard. His third task was to open a cupboard above his head and take out plate and bowls. As quiet as he attempted to be however, the crockery seemed to insist on rattling as he set it down. Trying to grab a side plate before it fell, another plate struck a bowl with a ringing clatter, and shortly afterwards, he heard movement from the living room.
"Stell, it's only me." He called through, not wanting to alarm her, "Hope you don't mind me letting myself in. Got no answer from you, so I used my key."
Her voice came back to him sleepily, and Mac walked through to the living room to find her sitting up and rubbing her eyes, the blanket sliding off her knees.
"Who else?" He smiled, "How are you?"
She scrunched her face up for a moment, stretched her arms above her head and yawned before answering him, "Good… good. Better after a sleep." A drowsy smile crossed her face, "You should try it sometime."
"I might." His smile widened, delighted to see hers. He had missed it the last few days; after it had disappeared from her face and the faces of all his team under the pressure of a high profile case. Over now, finally, but the aftershocks were only just hitting them; Danny was barely keeping control of his temper; Lindsay was withdrawn and snapping, and even Hawkes had been short with everyone.
What worried Mac most though was Stella's drop in mood; all the energy seemed to have drained from her, and he had found her in her office earlier in the day, blank eyed and listless, staring at a heap of reports, and clearly not seeing a single thing in front of her. Quietly insistent, he suggested she take a little time for herself, and let the files that covered her desk wait. He had folded his arms at her half-hearted protests, and leaned himself against the door, until she sat back in her chair and glared at him. The invitation to dinner followed, with her explanation being that if she was going home, then so was he. So he had agreed, gladly, and warmed inside at the touch on his arm she left him with as she headed towards the elevator. Another memory he placed carefully away to bring out and enjoy at his leisure.
He wondered, momentarily, what memories Stella kept hold of him, before he turned his attention back to her.
"I brought a few things with me." He explained, seeing her eyes turn to the box on the coffee table, and swivel back to him with a question clear in them.
"Is that cake?" She grinned, "If so, go fetch a knife and we'll skip main course for dessert. I woke up hungry! Believe it or not, moon pies are not a nutritious and filling meal."
Her grin as she gestured at the packet of chocolate cookies on the table transferred to Mac's face, and he scooped up the box, "Sorry to disappoint you, but despite appearances, this does not contain cake."
"That's plain cruel!" Her disappointment was comical, and he could not suppress a chuckle.
"That's not to say I didn't bring cake however, so don't get mad just yet. There may even be chocolate…"
The blanket was tossed aside, and Stella swung her legs to the floor.
"You have chocolate? Mac! Why didn't you say so?"
He stopped her haste with a hand to her arm, "Because before we have any more discussion about cake, cookies or candy, I have something to give you."
"You do?" Her eyes gleamed, and as she pushed a strand of hair behind her ear, the sun glowed in her face, and Mac let his fingers drift down her arm.
She followed the movement, and smiled, "Well show me already, don't keep a girl in suspense! What is in the cake box?"
A sudden fit of anxiety swept over Mac at the sight of her eager face. Was this really the right thing to give her? Was it even practical? The last thing he wanted was for her to feel pressured into accepting an unwanted gift. He cleared his throat, feeling it suddenly dry, but before he could speak, she gasped and her hand flew to her mouth.
"Mac! I promised you dinner, and there's nothing prepared!"
Relieved at the delay in giving her the contents of the box, Mac grinned at her, "Doesn't matter, I came prepared."
She folded her arms and her eyebrows lowered, "You expected I'd renege on my promise of dinner?"
"Not at all." He answered hastily, "I didn't want you to go to any trouble, so I brought a few things myself. Which we can prepare together." He added with a sudden flare of inspiration, sparked by the image of himself and Stella, side by side in the kitchen, chopping vegetables together; his hand wrapping round hers, moving in a little closer to her side; and then her hand brushing his, her lips moving closer to his cheek…
"You okay, Mac?" Stella was regarding him curiously, and he tightened his hold on the cake box in a blush of confusion, which succeeded in distracting her, "You going to let me know what's in there, if it isn't cake? Is it something I can eat?"
"It's most definitely not cake. Definitely not edible either."
She cocked her head on one side, "Interesting. So, hand it over. Let me investigate."
Still he hesitated, holding the box just out of reach as her hand stretched towards him, "Before I do, I need to tell you that if you aren't happy with this, then you have to say so. It was an impulse."
Her eyebrows raised even higher, "You got me something on impulse? Now I'm really intrigued! Come on, Mac, you're keeping me in suspense. I need to see what's inside!"
"You need to?" He teased, keeping the box just out of reach of her fingertips, and enjoying the curiosity and animation sparkling in her eyes. To see that alone, he realised, would be worth filling the cake box with diamonds.
At that thought though, doubt hammered inside his chest again. Made worse by the fact that Stella was now leaning closer to him, her knees touching his, so close he could feel the warmth of her and breathe the scent of her perfume. Squashing the anxiety though, a smile tipped the corners of his mouth, and he conceded his hold on the box. As he passed it into her waiting hands, he let his fingers brush against hers for a moment longer than they needed to.
Stella took it, and her mouth pursed; "This is one heavy item in here…" The box emitted a squeak, that Mac could only conclude was a protest at her judgement, and Stella looked at him in bewilderment, "Noisy too. Huh. Something you want to share with me before I open it?"
Mac shook his head, "Open it first. I can do any explaining after that. And I think it's been in there long enough."
Frowning, she set the box down gingerly on her lap, and eased the lid off. Holding his breath, Mac watched and waited for her reaction; hoping for happiness and a kiss to his cheek, but fearing anger and wrathful words from her lips instead.
As the lid came off and the contents of the box were revealed, there was a stunned silence. Stella stared at him, her mouth slightly open and her eyes wide, making him more nervous than he had been in a long time.
Because he had given her a kitten in a cake box.
The little creature, sensing imminent release from its captivity, was mewing repeatedly and trying to scramble free, its little legs not quite long enough to make it. Trying to find something to do other than face Stella's response, Mac picked it up and cradled it in his palms.
Finally, swallowing hard, she spoke with a quiver in her voice, "Oh, Mac…"
"Tell me honestly what you think." He said in a low voice, "I should have asked you first, but the truth is, I knew how disappointed you were when the other kitten moved, and when I saw a notice in the window of a grocery store - homes needed for a litter of kittens - then I…"
He trailed off, and Stella blinked and closed her mouth so her lips were pressed together. Then she shook her head, set the box down on the floor, and held out her hand.
"I think you ought to let me have a hold." She said softly, and Mac breathed out a sigh of relief. There was no anger, and he allowed himself a glimmer of hope that she might be happy with his gift. He lowered the kitten into her waiting hands and then sat back as she held the little creature up and soothed its fur.
"Oh, you're a beautiful kitty!" She cooed, "Yes you are! Beautiful and soft and cuddly…" Then her expression skewed slightly, "And heavy. Wow. How much have you fed this boy, Mac? He's a hefty little guy!"
"I've fed him nothing!" He protested, "Nothing but a few biscuits anyhow, I picked him up only an hour ago. He is as he came. I'll admit, he's got a belly on him…"
"He's got more than a belly!" Stella exclaimed, her fingers pressing gently into the soft, brown fur of the kitten's middle, "He's fat! There's belly enough for two kittens here… But he's adorable!"
"I know he isn't the most appropriate thing I could have gotten you. And you've every right to get mad at me, because I should have asked you first before giving you something you're going to have make a pretty big commitment to…" Mac ventured.
Transferring the kitten to one hand, Stella touched his cheek with the other and he felt her palm against his skin so gently it stopped his words.
"I could get mad at you, sure, and yes, you took a pretty big chance in turning up with a kitten when all I asked for was your company for dinner, but you know what? It's one of the nicest gestures anyone's ever made to me, and I can't get mad at you for that."
He breathed, and closed his eyes for a moment, and her hand stayed on his face, so he turned his head a fraction to allow his lips to brush against her skin.
"Stell… I don't have much practice in giving gifts, but I wanted to find something right for you."
"It's a lovely, generous gift, and you brought him to the right place; everyone needs a home." She said softly.
"I don't want you to feel you have to keep him because of that." Mac mumbled, "That was unfair of me to say…"
Stella shook her head, still not moving her hand from his face, "It wasn't unfair. You're right, he's a commitment, but after the visits from the other kitten, I'd been considering offering a home to a pet. I get lonely here sometimes, and the company would be good to have, and if I got a cat, it wouldn't miss me too much when I was at work."
"You were thinking of getting a kitten yourself?" Mac opened his eyes fully, and reached out to ruffle the kitten's fur, feeling a purr vibrating through his fingertips.
"I was, and I was going to ask you what you thought about it… But I guess you beat me to the answer."
Giving her a sheepish smile, he continued to rub the top of the kitten's head, aware of her fingers trailing down his cheekbone and jaw line as she moved her hand away. He sighed, missing the contact before it had even left him.
"Cats are long-lived, you know. You really are making a big commitment; you're going to have this little guy around for a long time."
A smile crept onto Stella's lips as she moved the kitten against her shoulder, and held it there with one hand, still stroking it. Mac shifted himself, so he could continue to do the same, and neither minded when their fingertips bumped against each others. There was silence between them as their eyes met and each understood the other's unspoken words.
Stella answered him after a moment, "I'm happy to commit to having him around for a long time." She paused for a beat, but her voice was steady and clear when she spoke again, "Along with the guy who gave him to me."
Her eyes dropped suddenly from Mac's gaze, and then lifted again with a shy smile, "As long as he's willing and happy to make the same commitment to me."
Mac reached for her other hand, caressing the back of it with his thumb, "If that's what you want…"
She nodded and entwined her fingers with his, and his face spread into an elated smile, "Then you have a guy who'd be more than happy, and honoured, to make that commitment to you."
This time it was his hand against her cheek, drawing her to him, and his lips that touched hers tenderly.
When they broke apart finally, Stella sighed in contentment and then laughed, "It's safe to say, this was not what I was expecting when I invited you to dinner. I'm going to have to do it more often."
Mac chuckled, "I won't complain about that."
Looking down at the kitten, her face softened, "Talk quietly, Mac, he's sleeping."
His eyebrow quirked, "We don't have to do any talking at all…"
"I'm going to have to adjust his sleeping arrangements before we do anything else, including eating dinner, which we've neglected to do." Stella looked at him with a sparkle in her eyes as she got to her feet, and he grinned.
"Maybe I should have brought you cake instead. Cakes don't need sleep."
"You told me you had cake as well!" She feigned horror as she walked towards the kitchen and he followed close behind, his grin widening.
"You did, Mac! Don't tell me you misled me."
"I would never mislead you about something so important, Stell."
"So prove it."
"You'll get your cake soon enough…"
As she swatted him, he laughed out loud, and as his arm slipped round her waist, he realised how good it felt to do that.
All the accessories he had bought for the kitten, including a fleece-lined bed, were soon found and delighted in by Stella, and the little creature was made comfortable in the warmest corner of the kitchen whilst his new guardians prepared dinner together. As Mac chopped vegetables, and his arm brushed against Stella's, their eyes caught and held, and he knew with a surge of joy, that there would be many more times like this to come.
After dinner, and large slices of the coffee and chocolate cake he had produced as the last morsel of Stella's patience had disappeared, they sat on the couch together. Stella had her arms round him and her head against his chest, whilst he rested his chin on top of her curls, stroking them gently.
Suddenly, she raised her head and fixed Mac with a thoughtful stare, "We've forgotten something."
He frowned, puzzled, "What?"
"Something important." Pointing at the sleeping kitten, who had accompanied them to the living room, still ensconced in his bed, Stella continued, "He has a home, he has people who love him, but he doesn't have a name. We have to think of one. Any ideas?"
Mac looked at the round, chocolate brown body of the kitten, and then at the packet of moon pies that still sat on the coffee table, and he grinned, "I think so..."
Stella followed his gaze and beamed, "Perfect!"
As her lips joined his, Mac could only agree.
There really wasn't any peril at all… But I hope you liked it anyway! Please review and tell me what you think, thank you, Lily x
PS Fellow Brits, moon pies are similar to wagon wheels, yum! :D