Merry Christmas. This is the second of my two Christmas stories involving the CSI NY team. I never intended to write it, but here we are. Mac and Stella are just so lovable. Anyway. Any out of character actions will be blamed on Christmas magic. Hope you like it.
Disclaimer: I do not own Stella or any of the team. I do own Holly (sort of...she may remind you of someone)
Spoilers: Very slight ones for the 34th floor.
Six months. It had been six months since Stella had last seen the people who mattered most to her in the world. A lot could happen in six months. A little sadly she looked out the window of the plane. Below her the dark was penetrated only by little pricks of light that came from cities and towns filled with people preparing for Christmas, which was tomorrow.
Stella shook her head. She had meant to fly up to New York three days ago, but they had gotten a case, and she had been forced to stay until it was finished. Not that she would have left in the middle of it had she been allowed to. Her duty was first and foremost to her job. After all what else did she have now?
New York had been the only home she had ever known. She had grown up there. She had gone to school there. She had never lived anywhere but there…until six months ago. That was when she had gotten a call for the New Orleans Crime Lab. They need someone to work at the Crime Lab, and she had the experience. She had agreed.
Yes the pay was slightly better. Yes she got to help people in one of the most devastated cities in the country. Yes she found the new experiences interesting and exciting. Still, loyalty should have counted for something in her decision. Her friends at the New York Crime Lab were the only family she had ever known.
They all thought of themselves as a dysfunctional, slightly crazy, family. Sid was the weird but lovable uncle. Danny, Lindsey, Don, Hawkes, and Adam were the children. Stella paused in consideration of the analogy. She could not claim credit for it. Aiden had explained it to her years ago. Actually it was amazing how much Stella learned from Aiden after she got fired. So Jess and Aiden should be on the list of children too even though they were not longer physically at the lab. Then again she was not physically at the lab anymore either and she and Mac had, according to Aiden, always been called the parents. She sighed.
"What is it dear?" a motherly voice asked from beside her. Stella nearly jumped out of her seat in surprise.
"Oh," she said regaining her composure, "It's a long story."
"It always is dear," the old woman said kindly, "but we have a long flight."
Stella was watched the woman for a long moment. She had an almost regal manner about her, but her appearance was quiet simple. Her long white hair had been twisted into a bun on the top of her head and tied with a red ribbon. The ribbon matched not only the woman's lipstick, which was a deep shade of red, but also her dress, which looked as though it was make of red silk and trimmed with white lace. The only accessory of any kind was a pair of slightly bent gold glasses, which rested about halfway down the woman's nose.
"Alright," Stella decided finally. She could use someone to talk to, "I'm Stella."
"I'm Holly," the woman replied, and Stella could see the warmth and joy dancing in the woman's eyes, "Now what about this long story?"
"I don't know where to start," Stella admitted.
"Does it involve a man?" Holly asked.
"Yes," Stella replied slightly impressed, "How did you know that?"
"When you get to be my age," Holly said with a small smile, "you simply know some things. Now what is this man like?"
A warm smile spread across Stella's face. She could not help herself. "He is wonderful," she explained, "he is the sweetest man you will ever meet. He knows what I am thinking without me having to say it. He always has my back. He helps me whenever I need it and especially when I don't think I need it. When things fall apart he is the one who piece things back together for me. He's my best friend and—" Stella stop in mid-sentence because it had taken her years to admit the last part to herself. She was not sure she could say it out loud.
"And you've fallen in love with him," Holly finished for her.
"Is it that obvious?" Stella asked biting her lip slightly.
"I'm afraid it is my dear," Holly said patting the younger woman on the hand, "But do continue with your story. When did you first meet him?"
"Nearly twenty years ago when he and his wife move to New York," Stella said thinking back, "We were partnered together at the Crime Lab." Realizing she had dropped a relevant piece of information, Stella added, "We are both detectives."
"And very good ones I'm sure," Holly said quietly. Stella smiled at that.
"Over the years I grew really close to both him and his wife Claire," she smiled again, "I don't think I've ever met two nicer people, and they made a wonderful couple. She was his whole world. Then she was killed when the Towers fell in 2001."
"Oh dear," Holly said sympathetically.
"When Claire died so did a large part of Mac's heart," Stella continued with a shake of her head, "he drew away from everyone who was close to him and devoted himself to work. He wouldn't talk to anyone unless it had to do with a case. He couldn't sleep. He only ate when I forced him to. It took him months to get back to anything close to normal, but he was still colder than before."
"When did you fall in love with him?" Holly asked even though she already knew the answer.
"I don't know," Stella told her, "I think it just happened over time. There was no one moment."
"Did you ever tell him you loved him?" Holly asked again knowing the answer.
"No," she replied quietly.
"Well what happened that made you decide to leave New York?" Holly asked her.
Stella paused for a moment wondering how Holly knew about that but decided she should not question it. "I told him I had been offered a job in New Orleans," she explained, "and that I was seriously thinking about taking it. He told me I should do what was best for me. I asked him to give a reason to stay."
"Did he give you one?" Holly questioned.
"No," Stella replied, "So I gave him my two weeks notice and told New Orleans I'd take the job."
"Did he try to stop you?" Holly asked almost whishing she did not know the answer.
"No," Stella said with a shake of her head, "Two decades of friendship, and he didn't make a move to stop me."
"He regrets it," Holly told her after a moment's consideration, "I think that of all the things he has done in his life that is one of the ones that haunts him at night."
"If that's true," Stella said, no longer bothering to question how Holly knew these things about a person she had never met, "Why didn't he say anything?"
"The same reason you didn't say anything," Holly replied with a slight twinkle in her eyes, "Neither one of you wanted to risk the friendship you both cherished so much. You kept waiting for the other to make the first move, while never daring to believe that you both felt the same way. Love is a funny thing."
"That's one adjective for it," Stella remarked a little bitterly, and Holly laughed.
Suddenly the pilot's voice came over the intercom. "We will be starting our decent into the New York area in about five minutes so if you could please return all seat backs and tray table to their upright and locked positions. Our flight crew will be doing a final check of the cabin. We should be on the ground in about twenty minutes, which will be about eleven o'clock local time."
"That flight went quickly," Stella remarked to her companion.
"That it did," Holly agreed, "Do you have someone picking you up from the airport?"
"Yes," Stella replied happily, "My team is coming to meet me."
"Including your partner?" Holly asked the twinkle back in her eye.
"Including my partner," Stella confirmed.
"Tell him how you feel," Holly said quietly.
"I can't," Stella replied almost automatically.
"You can," Holly corrected her, "and you should."
"But what if-" Stella started in protest.
"Darling," Holly said taking Stella's hands in both of hers, "Christmas is a magical time of year. You'll be amazed what will happen if you only let it." Stella opened her mouth to argue, but thought better of it and simply nodded. "Very good," Holly said with a smile, "very good."
The two lapsed into silence, and, much sooner than either would have believed possible, the plane landed on the runway of LaGuardia Airport. As the plane taxied to the gate, Stella gathered up her things and prepared to exit the plane. Luckily she and Holly were near the front so they got off quickly. Together they walked towards baggage claim, but just before they reached the reception area Holly stopped.
"It was nice to meet you Stella," the old woman said.
"Nice to meet you too," Stella replied.
"I hope you have a very merry Christmas," Holly told her.
Stella opened her mouth to reply, but before she could she heard someone shout her name, and turned to see a group of very familiar faces waving at her. She turned back to say a final good-bye to Holly, but the old woman had vanished. Stella glanced around quickly, but saw no sign of her friend so instead she turned back to her team.
They were all there, she noticed as she nearly ran across the room to meet them. Danny, Lindsey, Don, Hawkes, Adam, Sid, and Mac were all waving and smiling at her. As she reached them, she let her bags drop to the floor and laughed as she was nearly knocked over by the force of the hugs.
"I've missed you guys too," Stella told them laughing as she finally got a chance to breathe.
"How have you been?" Lindsey asked.
"Is it nice in New Orleans?" Adam asked.
"Did you bring us presents?" Danny asked, quickly ducking as Lindsey aimed a blow at his head.
"You guys," Mac said speaking for the first time, "Give Stella a chance to catch her breath."
Lindsey looked for Stella to Mac and suddenly got a glint in her eye. "Come on," she told the boys, "Let's go get Stella's luggage." She grabbed Danny and Adam by the hands and led them away. Don and Hawkes paused only long enough to grab Stella's carry-on luggage off the floor before following the other three. Sid shook his head and turned to Stella.
"What does you're suitcase look like?" he asked her with a smile, and she laughed.
"It's green with white flowers on it," she told him.
"I think I will go tell them that," Sid commented before following the others towards the baggage carousel. That left Stella and Mac standing by themselves.
"How have you been?" Mac asked after a moment.
"I've been alright," she replied honestly, "What about you?"
"Things have been okay," he told her, "but I've missed you. We all have."
For several long moments they just watched each other, and took joy from the other's presence. Finally Stella drew up her courage and took a deep breath.
"I have something to tell you," she told him slowly.
"Okay," he replied looking at her, "I have something to tell you too."
"You can go first," she offered.
"No," he told her with a slight shake of the head, "You first."
"Alright," she said pausing a moment to figure out how to phrase her statement. Finally she decided that there was no perfect way to say it so it was best to just say what she meant, "I love you."
There was a small pause. "I love you, too," Mac told her with a small smile.
"I mean-" she started, but he interrupted her.
"I know what you mean," he said softly, "and I love you. I've loved you for years. I just never had the courage to tell you."
There was a pause where Stella just looked at Mac and shook her head. "God we're idiots," she told him almost laughing.
"Yes we are," Mac agreed laughing along with her. After a moment, Stella stopped laughing and looked at Mac.
"Come here," she told him quietly, and he moved closer to her. For a moment, they just stared into each other's eyes. Then without warning or planning, Stella closed the distance between the two of them and kissed him. Mac responded by placing his arms around her and deepening the kiss. After a few moments the broke apart more for need of air than because either one of them wanted it to ever end.
Suddenly Stella heard bells ringing all around her and looked up. The airport's intercom system was playing bells throughout the airport. After a moment the bells stopped and a voice came on.
"It's midnight," the voice announced, "Midnight on Christmas morning. I hope you all have a very merry Christmas."
Stella looked back at Mac and smiled. "Merry Christmas," she whispered in his ear as she kissed him on the check then hugged him tightly.
"Merry Christmas, Stella," he replied wrapping his arms around her.
Stella smiled to herself as she rested her head on Mac's shoulder. Holly was right.
Magical things do happen on Christmas if you only let them.
I think I may like this one even better than the first. Please tell me what you think. Have a Merry Christmas.