"Mm." Stella stirred, but did not wake.
She blinked and peered around blearily. "Mac?" she croaked.
"You awake?" Mac was standing in the darkness of Stella's bedroom, shifting his feet uncomfortably with his head bowed.
"I am now." She sat up and the chilly night air bit her shoulders, so she tugged the comforter up around them.
"What're you doing here?" Stella blinked the last vestiges of sleep from her eyes and noticed the Mac had thrown his heavy wool coat on over his sweats. His feet were jammed into a pair of leather shoes - the kind he wore to work with his suits.
"I... You said earlier that if I needed you, I should come over." He knelt beside her - she could see his eyes glittering red in the light from her alarm clock.
"What happened?" Her hand went unthinkingly to his shoulder and he shuddered upon contact. "Mac, what happened?"
There was a long pause with Mac only shuddering under her hand. Then - "I can't sleep. I can't close my eyes. I can't think - I see things in the dark... Nam and fire and the Towers... Stella, I can't..." He choked on his own words, then, and Stella heard a dry sob.
She helped him into bed, sliding his coat off his shoulders and slipping his shoes - untied - off his feet. His wrapped around her in a stranglehold and all Stella could think about was how he had managed to get a taxi to her apartment at that time of night. She forced herself to relax as he held her even more tightly - she could be his teddy bear for a night.
"Stella, why does it happen?" he whispered into her hair. "Why can't we stop it?"
"I don't know, Mac," she said. "I really don't."
But he was asleep and Stella didn't know if he had heard. His breathing was even and he snored a little, but he didn't lose his grip on her. Somehow, though she was supposed to be comforting Mac, it felt more like he was comforting her. And so she slept, too.
When her alarm buzzed at 7:00, Mac was gone. She thought he had only left a croissant and a pot of coffee, with a short note that read:
She didn't know that when Mac had woken an hour before, he had dropped a kiss on her forehead absently. Then, in a natural progression, he had gently kissed her mouth. It would have ended there had Stella not whispered, "Mac" in such a soft voice. He deepened the kiss until he was dizzy from lack of air and his hands were stroking her hair and her waist.
Mac had come to himself almost as soon as he began, so Stella had not woken up. She had just lain there with a little smile that was so not-Stella. He couldn't think anymore when he was looking at her because he was so damn dizzy and that kiss had just been right. Before he had left, he had checked her alarm - he had enough time to run to the corner and buy her a croissant. So he did and when he got back, she still wasn't awake. He brewed coffee and put the croissant on the table and wrote "Thanks" on a little slip of paper because he didn't know what else to say. Then he left. It was 6:45 or so and he needed to go back to his own apartment for a shower and a change of clothes.
So when Stella woke up, she thought it might have been a dream until she saw the note and smelled the coffee. The sun was too bright to allow for thinking, however, and she put the whole mess out of her mind.
Author's Note: I may write a follow-up to this, maybe not. My muse's ideas are few and far between, I'm afraid. I also do not currently have a beta, so if anyone wants to volunteer, that would be terrific! Thanks! Please R&R.