The diner echoed with the chatter of the evening rush as Aiden slid into the booth next to Mac. His body immediately relaxed when the brunette pressed against him, one hand cradling his coffee, the other wrapping around her shoulders. It had been five months since he had fired Aiden, four since started speaking to each other again and two and a half since they became lovers.

The fact that it was pouring didn't stop the heat from overwhelming her body, her long curls tied up into a mess at the base of her neck, sweat beading at her temples as she finished off her bottle of beer. How many she had already finished she couldn't really be certain of, what she could be certain of was that it had been enough to lull that ache in her chest that she refused to acknowledge. Four weeks to the day had passed since Mac told her to pack her things and leave, four weeks since she lost the only things that had mattered to her. Those four weeks had passed at a crawl; each day spent drinking to keep herself from crying. Crying was weak and weakness was unacceptable.

She knew it was dangerous for a woman of her beauty to be stumbling through the New York streets at three am, but that hardly seemed to register with her. The rain soaked into her pores, her hair tie was forced from her hair by the angry drops as her clothing clung tightly to each curve of her body. Even drunk and in heels she moved flawlessly through the streets, directionless. Or so she thought, until she found herself in front of Mac's apartment.

Staring at the door she contemplated knocking, waking him in the middle of the night to finally confront him, to tell him what had happened that day. That she never would have planted evidence, she just knew she had to leave her job and she didn't have the heart to quit. She would finally tell Mac that she had forced him to let her go, because being next to him was just too painful. That her heart clamped up in her chest when she saw him laughing with Stella or when he spun his wedding ring on his finger. She wondered if she was drunk enough to tell him that he was the reason she took the job to began with, that he was the reason a girl like her would rather spend time in a lab with human entrails and fecal matter then in a club dancing with a model/actor/waiter. Before she could decide to turn and make her way back to her apartment her gracefulness faltered and her body fell flat against Mac's door.

She tried to pick herself up but her body felt so heavy, the last thing she remembered was the sight of Mac in a pair of boxers and a white t shirt, gun in hand, pulling the door open, she mumbled something and it was then her eyelids slammed shut and the alcohol overtook her body.

She leaned her head against Mac's, her temple pressed against his as he sipped at his coffee, his fingers intertwining around her curls. His voice was soft and smooth in stark contrast to the crass New Yorkers bustling around them, "How did the job search go today?"

Laughing softly her thin fingers closed around a discarded sugar packet as she spoke, "My last boss was a real ball breaka but I'm hopin' that things'll work out."

His laugher was quiet as he nodded, "I'm sure you'll get the reference you deserve." He stared out the window and watched the bustling pedestrians; he didn't look at her very often. It was almost as if he feared his belated wife was watching them.

"I'm sure I will." She said wistfully, reaching for his left hand as it falls away from his now empty coffee mug. Her feminine fingers slide between his. Her perfectly manicured fingertips traced his wedding band; she could feel his body tensing under her touch. Looking up at his face she couldn't catch his eyes because they were locked onto her fingers. She hesitated slightly before she spoke, "Mac … it's okay … I don't mind."

He cleared his throat and shifted against her. It was obvious that the subject was uncomfortable for him; he never wanted to speak of Claire, especially not in a crowded diner with a young woman he was finding himself falling for. Or was it that he had fallen years ago but he just refused to admit it to himself… Either way he shifted again, almost nervously, "Aiden, I don't want to talk…"

But he couldn't finish his thought because she had cut him off, "Ya neva wanta talk about her, and that's fine, I'm not pressin' the issue." She raised his hand to her lips, kissing it softly, "Just know that I'm not goin' anywhere Mac."

He leaned down and pressed his lips to her temple, his arm tightening around her shoulders, whispering softly, "That's what she said too."

A groan filled the room as her eyelids fluttered open, trying to sit up she realized the groan was her own.

As her sensitive eyes adjusted to the invading light as she looked around the unfamiliar surroundings, when her eyes landed on Mac the groan became louder realizing where she was and what she had done. He was sitting in sweatpants and a NYPD sweatshirt opposite her. His body filled the armchair in an unimposing way, almost as if he were some sort of modern-day guardian angel. The condition of his eyes told her that he had been sitting there for the better part of the evening watching over.

Had it been anyone else their first words would have mostly likely been those of anger, maybe disbelief. After all this was the first contact they had since Aiden had left the lab. But it wasn't anyone else, this was Mac Taylor, his words were sophisticatedly simple, "Gave me quite a scare last night."

She licked her parched lips as she sat up, noting the blanket that was curled around her waist and her boots that were sitting near the foot of the couch,. "I'm so sorry Mac, I had a little too much to drink and I musta lost my way." She laughed nervously, aware of how desperate she must seem to her ex-boss. Before he can speak she continues. "Would it be too much to ask ya to use the bathroom then I'll be outta here, I really can't believe I bothered ya, I'm embarrassed by my actions, I just need to clean myself up then I'll be outta your hair."

Once again Mac was the cool and collected one, nodding towards the bathroom. He stayed silent, only moving once the bathroom door was shut to fold her blanket and return to his chair.

As soon as the door shut behind her she relieved herself then washed her face. Wiping away the remnants of yesterday's make up she cursed at herself softly, "So fuckin' stupid Aiden … so stupid." She ran her fingers through her hair, rinsed her mouth with mouthwash and smoothed her clothes, giving herself a once over before returning to the living room.

Smiling awkwardly she sits on the edge of the couch, pulling her boots on, mumbling, "Again, I'm really sorry about this, it won't happen again, I was out with some friends and I guess I got turned around." The words 'turned around' couldn't begin to explain how she had ended up at his apartment but she hoped it would be enough to sate any questions.

In a gesture that surprised even him he reached over to squeeze one of her hands gently, speaking in that calming voice that soothed every frayed nerve in her body. "Don't apologize Aiden, I've been meaning to call you for sometime now. We've been busy at the lab but that's no excuse for my actions. I should have checked to see if you made it back on your feet."

Her eyes darted up to his, clearing her throat she allowed herself a small but genuine smile, "That's good of ya to say Mac but I'm fine. Things just got a little outta control last night, ya know?"

She had never seen a smile so sad as he stared into her eyes, "I've been concerned about you, Aiden. I haven't received any calls for references; have you found a new job?"

"Yeah, there's this pizzeria down the street from my place, it's not much but it pays the bills. Barely." She laughed, a little easier this time, shrugging. "It'll do for now."

In the first show of real emotions since she had woken up he frowned at her, "Aiden, you're far too intelligent for that kind of work. You just get caught up in your emotions, that doesn't mean you have to waste your talents."

'Emotions' she thought, 'if he only knew the half of it.' She looked away from him, hating the way he kept repeating her name. If there was anything she didn't need at that moment, it was Mac consistently saying her name, and him trying to have sympathy for her. She hadn't done anything to earn it so she shook her head, "No Mac, it's fine, I'm doing fine." Quickly adding, "But thanks, the offer is appreciated." She bit her lower lip, trying to find an excuse to leave, needing to escape the tension that was quickly filling the room, "I'd offer to take ya to breakfast as a thank you but ya look pretty tired."

He shook his head, "I'm always up this early, there's a diner around the block." It was obvious he sensed the tension as well as joked uncharacteristically as he rose from his seat, "There's only been one shooting there." He referred to the shooting he was present for, when Amy, his favorite waitress, had nearly lost her life.

"Only one shooting? In New York City?" She grinned as she shook her head, thankful for something to lighten the mood, "I don't believe it."

After another refill Mac and Aiden were lulled into a comfortable silence, she loved being pressed against his body, feeling his chest rise and fall with each breath. Her fingers toyed with the end of his tie and where she usually found humor, she found comfort, something so familiar, something so Mac. She watched the silk slip from her fingers as his body tightened against hers. Looking up at his face she spoke softly, "What is it, Mac?" Sitting up, her eyes landed on Stella, Danny and Flack as they walked through the door, laughing at something. Aiden was sure it was something Danny had said and that thought had made her heart ached. She would have given almost anything to have that back. Almost.

She pulled out of Mac's grasp knowing he prided himself on keeping his private life private but to her surprise his hand guided her shoulder back down against his. He spoke calmly, "It's okay Aiden." With those three words she felt all that was wrong in the world slowly slip away. She nodded and relaxed against him. Those were the three words she wanted to hear above any other. She needed that reassurance, especially from him.

Those words and his body next to hers were more of a comfort than anything else had ever been. Her life had been a series of disappointments and heartache. Her childhood had been tumultuous, her love life a joke. Sometimes it seemed the only things she had going for her were her good looks and her intelligence, the former strongly overshadowing the latter. When she was with Mac she never felt like just a pretty face. She felt like a peer, someone worth listening to, worth taking seriously.

The laughter quickly faded into confusion as the three laid eyes on Aiden nestled in Mac's arm, but in true Mac style he played it cool and nodded to the bench opposite of them, "Would you guys like to join us?"

Aiden smiled up at Danny, he above anyone else, bar Mac, that she had cared for. It seemed that case by case they grew closer, she didn't have many friends, women felt threatened by her don't back down nature and the men, well they cared more about her physical assets than making friend. But not Danny, he was different, she thought maybe, under different circumstances they could have had something.

Flack was the first to slide into the booth, as much an outsider as a team member he wasn't fazed by the sight of his two friends cuddled so close, either that, or he just didn't care. Following him Stella sat at the edge of the booth, looking obviously uncomfortable, her eyes seeking answers in Mac's face. Danny just grabbed a chair, spun it around and sat backwards against the outer edge, giving Aiden an aloof smile, "It's good to see ya, Burn."

Sliding her hand across the table she rustled his hair, grinning infectiously at him, "You too Messa."

The waitress brought a round of coffee and it was Danny who first asked what everyone was thinking, nodding to the couple he tactfully asked, "So how long have you too been…"

Aiden couldn't help but smile widely and shrugged, "A coupla of months."

"Way to go, Mac!" Flack laughed with approval. Both he and Danny were oblivious to the tension between Mac and Stella. Aiden was tempted to pull her knife from her hip and cut a hole right through it.

As if Stella could hear Aiden's thoughts she stood up abruptly looking over at Mac, "Can I talk to you outside?"

The laughter stopped as Aiden stood up to let Mac slide from the bench, Stella reached over Danny to give Aiden's elbow a reassuring squeeze, "It was good to see you again, Aiden. Really."

"Thanks, Stella, you too." Aiden smiled warmly at her but was just met with a foreign expression on her face, something between concern and jealousy. She sat back down and watched as Mac and Stella exited the building, unable to ignore the dread that washed over her.

There was a feeling in her gut, like she had swallowed cement chips, the first time she went back to Mac's apartment with intentions. It wasn't as if she was planning on seducing him, it was almost the opposite. Mac had this way of looking at her, especially when she laughed; he looked at her like she was the only person in room, as if nothing else mattered outside their conversation. The way he looked at her, she could only explain it as impure.

It had only been two weeks after to her showing up at his door. The weather was changing and they both had coats wound tightly around their bodies as they walked out of the restaurant. He stopped under a street light and cocked his head to the side, he watched as the first snowfall of the season fell around her face. The stark contrast of the ghost white flakes against her dark hair was too much and a smile slowly crossed his lips. She laughed nervously, not because the look was unwanted but because she wasn't used to being looked at in that way, "C'mon Mac, if ya keep lookin' at me like that you're gonna havta do somethin' about it." She had meant it to come off lighthearted but Mac sensed something more desperate in her voice. It was as if his mind had shut off. The rational thinking that he relied so heavily on at the office seemed to have stayed at the office as he leaned in and pressed his lips to hers. Her eyes went wide at first as her heart threatened to pound straight out of her chest but they quickly slipped shut. One of her chilled hands went to the back of his neck. The touch was gentle but her intentions weren't so self –assured. She was terrified that he'd come to his senses and pull away, leaving her dejected in frigid night air.

But he didn't pull away. In fact one of his hands found its way to her waist as the kiss ended and he pressed his forehead against hers. Too frightened to open her eyes she just remained still hoping to prolong the moment as long as possible, not even his soft voice could jar her from her blissful state. "I've wanted to do that since the first moment I laid eyes on you." She knew her lips had betrayed her cool exterior and had slipped into a drunken smile. Her trembling fingers reached up to touch her lips as if she could still feel him, opening her eyes slowly she stared into his.

She tried to speak but her voice refused to cooperate. After two futile attempts at normal speech she just nodded and whispered, "Me too, Mac." She ran her hand down his coat sleeve to his hand, curling her fingers in his hand. Watching the way her fingers contoured to his was a sight that she'd never get sick of. When she felt she could speak she looked up at him timidly and spoke in an uncharacteristically insecure tone, "Can I come back to your place for a bit? I just … wanna be near ya right now."

His finger found the bottom of her jaw and lifted her eyes to meet his, "You're always welcome in my home, Aiden." There is was again, those eyes and the way he said her name like it was something to be revered.

That night he forgot that he didn't believe in angels because his mind couldn't comprehend that Aiden could be anything less. He took her hand as they walked back to his apartment, unable to keep his eyes off of her.

Not even when they walked past Ground Zero.

Stella just stood outside the diner for a minute watching as Mac crossed his arms over his chest, shifting from one foot to the other as if he were cold. He wasn't one to make confrontations unless they were absolutely necessary, which he did not think this was.

But she did, "Mac, how could you not tell me? After all we've been through you let me find out like that?" Stella motioned through the glass window towards Aiden with pain etched into every line on her face.

He swallowed thickly. This wasn't a position he was used to being in, "It's complicated Stella, besides, you know I don't like talking about my personal life at work."

She shoved him gently out of sheer frustration. She didn't know how he could possibly be so dense, "We've known each other for eleven years and you didn't think I'd like to know that you've been seeing someone we both used to work for. C'mon Mac, think about it. Don't you think this compromises your standing with the lab? This puts all of us, and the work we've done, in jeopardy. If you're sleeping with someone who tampered with evidence what will people think…"

But that was all she got out before Mac interrupted, grabbing each of her arms carefully below each elbow he stared into her eyes, trying to calm her down, "First of all, Stella, Aiden never tampered with anything, I would never do anything to compromise the lab. You should know that. This is exactly why I didn't want to bring my relationship with Aiden into work. Because people make assumptions based on half truths and it makes a difficult situation even more so."

"You just don't get it Mac. This is less about the lab and more to do about us." Mac sighed softly as he looked into Stella's eyes and he could see her anger melting away to a look of hurt that crushed Mac. "I thought we were friends Mac. All I've wanted since Claire passed was for you to be happy, to see your face light up again. I saw that when I walked into the diner, I see the way you look at her and I love that you're happy. I just wish you had told me, not let me walk in on you two like that. I thought our friendship meant more."

Mac wrapped his arms around Stella, her thick curls brushes against her face as she spoke into her hair, "I was thoughtless. I just, I thought if I talked about it, I'd jinx it. She's the best thing to happen to me since Claire, since I found a friend like you." He pulled back and smiled at Stella, "Your approval means a lot to be Stella. If I hadn't had you I don't know how I would have made it through that September."

She smiled as she nodded, pulling away to push her hair out of her face, "Like I said, I just want you to be happy Mac. That's all that matters. After everything you've been through you really deserve it."

And he believed her words, not stopping to wonder if it was because they were true. Or because they were what he wanted to hear.

With Claire the lights were off. The blankets were pulled around their nude bodies as moans were silenced into whimpers. It was almost as if the act caused her shame. He stared into her eyes and tried to communicate his devotion to her but she just squeezed them shut and bit her lower lip. It was always that way, with him on top of her, grunting softly as he rocked against her whispering his admiration, he always thought if they had just had a little more time … maybe things could have been different.

When they entered his apartment that evening, under the pretense of just being near each other, somewhere in the pit of his stomach he knew. She shrugged out of her coat and watches as he did the same, before she could think about it her hands reached out and slide down his chest to unbutton his sports jacket, nimble fingers sliding open his tie. With trusting eyes she looked up at him, the tie falling to the ground as she leaned in and pressed her lips to his. Her frozen hands cupped his jaw then slid her arms around his neck, pressing her body desperately close to his.

When she failed to feel his arms around her body she pulled away slowly, looking away bashfully, her attempt to apologize was stifled by his lips against hers. Then it was more than his lips, it was his tongue, his hands, his body against hers.

Her hands quickly found the buttons on his shirt, unbuttoning them expertly, pushing the fabric over his shoulders, running her hands over his undershirt. She felt her way around his tone chest, breaking the kiss to gasp for air, looking up at him with total adoration. His eyes smiled at her as his fingers danced over her ribs down to the hem of her sweater. Pulling it off slowly, he tossed it to the couch. His hands trembled as he traced the edge of her bra, his fingers exploring her cleavage timidly, "Aiden … I haven't … since Claire passed."

She raised a finger to his lips then pressed a soft kiss to them, taking his hand she walked backwards towards his bedroom. Her eyes never leaving his as she backed into the room, she pulled his undershirt over his head and leaned in to kiss along his collarbone, nipping at it gently her hands pulled worked at his belt. Once his pants were open her fingers dragged slowly over his back then cupped his ass over his boxers, pushing his slacks to the floor. She kneeled in front of him as she kissed a trail down his chest stopping at the waistband of his boxers, pushing him gently against the bed, so he was sitting. She pulled off his shoes as socks and discarded them along with his pants.

She looked up at him with her innocent brown eyes then pressed her face against the fabric separating her from his erection, nuzzling his cock and inhaling the scent of his pre-come. Groaning softly she leaned up to kiss above his bellybutton and then pulled away completely to shed herself of her clothing, leaving on only her black bra and matching panties. Straddling his lap she rolled her hips against his slowly as she kissed him slowly and passionately, letting him taste every inch of her mouth.

Smiling into the kiss she pushed his shoulders gently, whispering, "Lay back." She watched as he wormed up to the pillows, glad that the lights were on so she could watch his lithe body move against the comforter and the trust that shone in his eyes.

She reached behind her body and unfastened her bra, allowing her heavy breasts to be exposed, smiling warmly at him, as to assure it was okay; she reached for his hand and placed them on her body. Her dark curls tumbled over her nude flesh as she bit her supple lip as she moaned loudly, arching into his touch. "Aiden … you're so beautiful…"

Words failed her, not being able to articulate how she felt about him. Instead she kissed him silent and slide her hand down to massage his erection. She broke the kiss to groan openly as he squeezed her breasts when her hand grasped his bare cock, "Fuck Mac."

His eyes shot open, pulling his hands away, terrified he'd hurt her, "I'm so … Aiden, I knew this was a bad idea…"

She shook her head, stoking his cock slowly, kissing along his jaw to his ear, her breath was hot against his ear as she whispered, "Do it again." She felt him relax as one of his large hands roamed her bare back and the other closed around her nipple, his fingers pinching it gently, touches growing more bold with each moan. Her own hand stopped moving against the shaft, instead her thumb massaged the leaking head then she opened her eyes to stare longingly into his as she brought her hand to her mouth, licking off the liquid and moaning. She was so aroused she could feel that she was soaking through her panties so she rocked the wet lace crotch against his cock, knowing the friction would drive him wild. Leaning down, she pressed her bare breasts into his chest and licked the outer shell of his ear, hissing, "You taste so good Mac."

His eyes rolled into the back of his head as he lifted his hips to meet hers. He shifted his weight to push her onto her back but she pulled away from him with a smirk, "Not this time, mister." She lifted her hips to pull off her dirty panties and pushed his boxers the rest of the way off of his body, wrapping one hand around his shaft she lowered herself onto him until he had completely filled her. Her head hung back with her hair trailing down her back like a proud pony, the palms of her hands against his pecks as her calf muscles pushed her body up almost off of his cock then let gravity force her back down around him.

After she got used to the intrusion she looked down at Mac's face and swelled with the look of sheer ecstasy that was etched into his face. Moving slowly, she brought one hand to her breasts, twisting her nipple painfully she pressed down harder against him, moaning so loudly she knew she was going to cause problems for Mac with his neighbors.

Mac was finally able to peel his eyes open, in awe of the stunning sight that was Aiden Burn's chest heaving, pussy clenching, moaning and writhing on top of him. He found her inhibitions to be the most erotic thing about her, the way she owned her pleasure as she rocked against him. Sweat started to form at her temples as her eyes met his, a smile eating away at her face as she reached for his hand and placed it at her waiting pussy moaning, "Touch me."

When his fingers rubbed serious circles into her clit she didn't know if she would last much longer. Her body went concave and her hair hung down, the tips brushing ever so softly against his skin. She kissed him frantically as she felt her impending orgasm, biting at his lower lip she pulled away to hiss, "Come inside of me."

He needed no other invitation, as soon as he heard those words a dam in his body broke and he released inside of her. Spurred on by his actions her orgasm was right behind his, her muscles milking his cock for every ounce of fluid inside of him. Her smooth legs hugged his waist as she collapsed against his chest, her body heaving for air as he softened inside of her. Slowly she pulled off of him and he immediately wrapped his arms around her body, unaware that his was trembling. He just kissed her temple and squeezed his eyes shut before they could produce any tears and whispered, "I already do."

She wanted to ask him what he meant but her eyes slipped shut as sleep overcame her body, all she knew was that she had never felt so safe in all her life.

Sweeping the leaves off of the tomb stone was heart wrenching, but not nearly as bad as seeing those letters etched in stone, "Claire Taylor", under read her birthday and preceding that was the date September 11, 2001. Sighing softly Aiden stayed crouched over the grave, almost as if she were afraid of being spotted. She cleared her throat, her voice trembling as she spoke, softly at first but stronger with each word, "I know how much he loved ya, how much he still does. How, if he could have it his way, you'd still be here with him. A part of him died that day. When the plane hit the towers and you were taken from him. You can see it in his eyes. And I guess that's why I'm here. To let you know that he'll be taken care of, that I'm gonna try to repair some of the damage those planes did to his heart. I'll never be able to take your place but I know if you're watchin' over him ya want him to be happy."

Her voice cracked as the tears fell, looking away, shame evident in her features as she spoke, "And I also wanted to apologize, Claire. Because in a way, I'm glad you're dead and I hate feelin' like that. I just … I just love him so much and I know that if you were still alive. If you were still alive I'd still just be watchin' him from across the lab."

Leaning over one last time she made sure the headstone was clean and she outlined each of the letters in her name, tears splashing gently against the granite. "I'll take good care of him, just know that. I won't ever dishonor your memory. I'm grateful to ya for the man he is today. I just … I needed to make my peace with you before I could feel as ease with him." She looked at the marker one last time fore kissing her fingertips and pressing them to the stone, she whispered, "God bless you." as she turned and walked away. Pushing the tears from her face and taking a deep breath she left the cemetery and felt more at peace than she had in weeks.

Her face was pressed into the pillow, still deep in sleep but that didn't stop Mac from kissing her bare shoulder blade and nudging her with his nose, "Aiden."

Grumbling she peeled her eyes open, glaring at him as she attempted to untangle herself from the sheets. After twisting and turning she gave up and pressed her chest back into the mattress, the sheet moving dangerously low on the swell of her back. "WhatchoowantMac?"

Her sleeping habits were the one thing he couldn't get used to, it killed him to leave her side but already that day he'd had his run, ate breakfast and showered and she was still sleeping. Laying next to her in sweats and a t shirt the New York Times crossword puzzle was sprawled across his legs, nibbling at her ear playfully he whispered, "I need a seven letter word for 'Member of a North American Indian people living in northern Baja California speaking Yuman.'"

Without missing a beat she grumbled, "Kiliwa." Letting her eyes shut, she cuddled against his body, "Need me to spell it?"

He grinned and shook his head, kissing the top of hers then quickly writing down the word in the appropriate boxes, admittedly surprised to find that the word fit. She didn't have to open her eyes to feel his amazement, "Don't be so shocked old man."

"I'm not shocked, I'm in awe. There's a difference Aiden." He explained, running a hand through her hair, trying to ease her to a waking state.

Yawning her only reply was a very dry, "Semantics." followed by another yawn. It was then in the, what she considered, early morning hours that the memory came flooding back.

It was the night that had started it all; she remembered collapsing into his door frame and the way her body fell as he jerked the door open. She remembered looking up at his shocked facial expression and the way it immediately morphed into concern. Laying the gun against the ground he cradled her head to make sure she was okay, whispering, "Oh Aiden…"

His voice hung heavy in the air as she sniffled back tears. Her glassy eyes looked up into his and she mumbled very softly, "I just want you to love me."

Right before she passed out she heard the words, "I already do."