Stella stood on the front porch of her flat, silently staring out into the dark London sky. She had been standing there for a while but she’d lost track of exactly how long. She knew inside the flat would be warm and smell nice, and she knew Dana would be waiting for her in the kitchen with a big loving smile painted across her pale freckled face, but instead she chose to stand there in the cold, shivering and alone.
It had been a long, particularly rough day and she so desperately was craving any sort of relief from the chaos inside her mind. More trouble had been brought down upon her regarding her time in Belfast, her boss was barely speaking to her, her coworkers all whispered behind her back, and it seemed as if everything she did was wrong.
All she could think about the entire day was how badly she wanted to be home, wrapped up in her red headed lover’s arms; yet now there she stood with only a door between them and she couldn’t get her feet to take her inside.
While she desperately wanted her thoughts to stop she didn’t feel worthy of Dana’s comfort; she didn’t believe that’s what she deserved. Of course Dana would embrace her without hesitation, but Stella’s brain was convincing her that it would all be a lie, that she’s just a burden. The last thing she ever wanted to do was burden or cause more pain for Dana. She’d rather take it out on herself than risk it affecting anyone else
The ice cold wind continued to lash at her body, occasionally sneaking underneath the expensive fabric of her coat and chilling her to the bone. Each gust of merciless wind made her want to cave and go inside more and more, but she began to think that perhaps she deserved to be out there- cold and suffering in silence.
She cursed her brain for being so negative and insecure, but she was unable to redirect it.
Finally one last chill broke her and she turned to grab a hold of the door knob, turning it slowly, sighing as she felt warm air spill out from the cracked door. The door closed behind her and a spicy, inviting smell invaded her now runny nose.
She smiled warmly, suddenly forgetting all the terrible thoughts that had just been in her head on the other side of the door. She made her way to the kitchen, and smiled again when she saw her girlfriend standing at the stove wearing a lavender apron, tending to whatever the wonderful smell was coming from.
Dana turned with a startle at the sound of Stella’s keys hitting the counter, but her eyes softened instantly when she saw the blonde woman standing there.
“Stel, hi.” She said, walking over to throw her arms around the woman she loved.
For a moment Stella felt warm, safe and happy. She felt invincible, until the same feelings from before began to creep in. She held Dana tighter, hoping it would make them stop, but to no avail.
Dana could sense something was off and pulled back to look into her lover’s eyes, though the blonde refused to meet her gaze.
“Everything okay?” She asked, stepping back over to the stove.
Stella nodded with a shrug and stumbled over to the fridge, pulling out an unopened bottle of red wine. A drink, she just needed a drink . She took a giant sip after she poured the rich red liquid into a glass, and sighed as she felt the warmth spread throughout her. After another sip or two she felt a bit more level headed, and sauntered her way over to Dana.
“How was your day, love?” She asked, wrapping her arms around the redhead tightly. Dana smiled.
“It wasn’t too bad. Better now that you’re home.”
She turned to place a soft kiss on Stella’s cheek, but the blonde turned and hastily caught her lips with her own. Dana sighed against her mouth, relishing in their kiss for a moment, though the urgency in Stella’s gestures were beginning to put her off.
“Are you sure that you’re okay?” She asked again, taking the blonde’s face into her hands. For the first time since she’d arrived home Stella met Dana’s gaze, and sighed.
“It’s fine, I don’t want to talk about it. I’m handling it.”
Dana knew that wasn’t completely true, but she didn’t want to push Stella to talk before she was ready, so she just nodded.
“Well, dinners ready.” She pointed towards the two plates on the far side of the counter, gesturing for Stella to bring them to her, and the blonde happily obliged. She watched as the redhead filled two plates with whatever pasta creation she had made, and her mouth watered at the smell. She was hungrier than she’d realized.
They were about halfway through their dinner when Dana noticed that she’d been carrying the conversation and Stella still hadn’t said much of anything. She didn’t want to push, but she also couldn’t stand not knowing what was bothering the woman she loved.
She watched in silence as Stella took a bite and then scratched at her inner thigh, almost habitually.
Bite, scratch. Bite, scratch. Bite, scratch.
She pursed her lips, considering whether she should ask again. “Stella… I don’t want to push you… But you clearly aren’t okay tonight. Please, talk to me. I want to help you. Let me be here for you.”
Stella raised her eyes to meet Dana’s. The blonde smirked half heartedly, “How are you so perceptive? Why do you care so much?” Her voice was soft and gentle.
“Because I love you, Stella.”
The two women sat silently for a moment, as Stella struggled over what to say next.
“Can I just tell you an observation I’ve made?” The redhead asked, taking her lover's hand into her own.
Stella nodded, maintaining their eye contact though it took every bit of strength she had to do so.
“I think,” She began, feeling nervous herself all of a sudden, “That you have a hard time accepting help from others. You would rather take it all on yourself than involve anyone else and risk burdening them.”
Stella’s gaze had wandered down to her lap, but Dana continued, “You’re not a burden, Stella. Not even a little. I would rather you come to me any time, any day than feel like you have to do it on your own. Than feel like… like you need to hurt yourself to make sure it all stays on the inside.” Her fingers moved to gently splay on Stella’s thigh, just above the faded marks that she knew were hidden beneath her trousers.
Stella’s eyes shot up and she looked into Dana’s, a million different thoughts invading her head at once.
“You… You know about… About the cutting?” She asked and she felt like all the breath had been knocked out of her lungs. Dana simply nodded in response, wanting to give Stella a chance to decide where to take the conversation from there.
“You’ve seen them?” She asked barely above a whisper.
Dana nodded again, reaching up to lace her fingers in Stella’s long blonde waves. “Of course, Stel. I know your body. I know every inch of you like the back of my hand.”
Stella leaned her head into the hand that was resting in her hair, closing her eyes. “How come you never said anything?”
“Because I didn’t want to push you to talk about something you weren’t ready to talk about. Because I can tell they're old and faded, I am a doctor after all.” She paused, ”Because at the end of the day it doesn’t matter, really. It doesn’t make me love you any less, or think any differently of you.”
Their gaze was locked again, and Stella had tears brimming in her eyes, though she refused to let them spill over.
“Listen to me,” The redhead whispered, “You're still my Stella. That’s all you are. You. And I love you. Nothing about your past or the pain you’re in could ever change that. I just want to be here for you. I don’t want you to feel like you have to take it out on yourself.”
Stella looked down, suddenly overwhelmed by her reality. She put her hands on Dana’s arms to steady herself, though her brain was somewhere else entirely.
Stella would be lying if she said she didn’t still crave the feeling every now and then, particularly on the rough days that left her feeling spent. Though she hadn’t allowed herself to cave in years, the thought was always still there in the back of her mind in one way or another. It was an addiction, like any other.
She felt guilty from the beginning for keeping this part of her life from Dana, but it was something that she had never felt comfortable sharing before. She was worried Dana would think of her as weak if she knew and part of her was still ashamed of it. It was a private part of her life that she was embarrassed at the idea of anyone knowing, but she knew the moment she’d met her, the only person she’d ever trust with something so personal was her red headed partner.
Now, as she sat looking deep into her girlfriend’s icy blue eyes that were filled with nothing but genuine love and understanding, the shame began to melt away.
Stella had been silent for a while, so Dana spoke again. “I love you. All of you. Every piece of you; good, bad, sad, mad, numb, broken, strong. It’s all still you, and it all deserves the same love and nurturing.”
Dana’s words sent Stella over the edge and salty warm tears began to spill down her face. “You are something special Dana Scully, do you know that?” The blonde rested her forehead against the redheads as they smiled at one another.
“So are you, Stel.” She responded, wiping the tears from her lover’s cheek.
“Do you want to tell me what happened today?” Dana asked, still cupping Stella’s face in her hands.
“Ohhhhh, where to start,” Stella sighed, taking another big swig from her glass of wine.
Dana sat and listened intently as Stella told her about all the things that had gone wrong in her day, ultimately leading up to her getting home and hiding out on the porch for a good fifteen minutes.
“See,” Dana said, “I don’t want you to feel like you have to do that. Promise me, you’ll talk to me from now on? Please, let me be there for you.” The blonde nodded, wrapping her girlfriend into a tight embrace.
“Anything you want, Dr. Scully.” She breathed, taking in all she could of her favorite scent. Dana. “Anything for you.”
“Oh, how I love you, Stella Rose Gibson.”
Dana whispered, putting emphasis on her middle name, knowing her use of it would annoy Stella. She smiled gingerly studying each beautiful little freckle on her girlfriend's face, as the blonde simply rolled her eyes.
“Oh, but I love you more, Dana Katherine Scully.”