A.N.: Okay, I came up with this while watching "Open and Shut" last night. It's just a quick thing and my first (well, second) but first solo adventure into CSI: NY fiction. So yeah, please don't kill me.

Disclaimer: I own nothing, though I wish I did. Then Flack and Danny could be all mine MWHAHAHAHAHA!

Stella sat in her office boring holes into the table. On one side sat the unfinished paperwork for the Thomason case. On the other, the frile from her own. She hadn't known why (or at least she told herself she didn't), but she had felt a compulsion to take it out. Now that it was out, though, she couldn't work up the courage to open it. A small part, bigger then she would admit, felt fear at what she would find.

Suddenly, a wrap on her door caught her attention. Looking up, she saw Mac in the doorway.

"Hey, Stella," he said.

"Oh, hey, Mac," she replied, pulling herself out of her daze, "Do you need something?"

"No, I was just leaving," he explained, "Thought I'd stop by and congratulate you on solving the case."

"Congratulate?" Stella said, snorting, "If anyone deserves congratulations it's Lindsey, which reminds me..."

She began to stand up when Mac stepped into the room and said simply, "Stella."


"Stella, listen to me, you did your part, the same as Lindsey," said Mac, a look of seriousness in his tone and face, "You're the one who went back to the apartment and found the evidence. Lindsey didn't do that."

"But my assumption on how things happened was off," replied Stella. She paused, ducking back a stray strand of hair, "I didn't follow the evidence, or even my own advice."

"You mean with Lindsey?"

Stella nodded. Tiredly, she fell into her chair and leaned her head against her hand. Mac walked over, taking a seat in front of her desk. His eyes strayed to the file on her right. Her file.

"I was so ready to believe her," said Stella, "I mean really believe her. To the point of ignoring the evidence when it was right there in front of my face.

"You were having a predictable reaction to the situation," said Mac, "Your only human, Stella."

"That doesn't give me a right to ignore what's there."

"But you didn't," argued Mac.

"No," agreed Stella, "I didn't eventually."

"Look, Stella," said Mac, waiting until she looked at him, "We talked about this before. And you were right. There was no way for you not to be emotionally connected to this case."

Stella shot him a quizical look.

"If anyone's to blame," he continued, "It's me for letting you have it."

"Mac," she began to protest, but he held up a hand to stop her.

"Just let me finish," he said, "My point is, you still managed to pull yourself from that connection, go back, and find all the evidence. You're a great CSI, Stella, and the strongest woman I've ever met."

Stella smiled. It was hard not to appreciate the honest earnest and concern in his voice and expression. Still, the words exchanged in the interrogation room haunted her.

"You know, I read somewhere that you shot your boyfriend. Three times in the chest, point blank."
"That was self defense."
"Oh yeah?"
"I was a victim, you are a cold blood murderer."

Sure, she had put up a brave front for Grace, but it was only a front. Deep down, the implecation of the woman's words hit her hard.

"Mac," she said finally, "Do you think I'm a capable of murder?"

It was Mac's turn to shoot a quizical look.

"I think all human beings are capable of..."

"No, no," she stopped him, "I mean, did you think...when you found me and...?"

"No," said Mac firmly.

Stella nodded, pulling her face in a look of tense concentration as she pushed back the memories.

"And you shouldn't think so either?" said Mac, glancing noticeably at the file. Stella followed his gaze, and sighed.

"It's just," she replied, "It's what Grace said. How I got away with shooting Frankie. She made it sound like we had so much in common. I told her she was a cold-blooded murderer, but I couldn't help pulling out my file to see if there might have been something you missed.

"Do you think you murdered Frankie?" asked Mac.

"No!" exclaimed Stella, "I've always felt confident that it was self-defense."

"Then keep thinking like that. Stella, there's one big difference between you and Grace. You had no other choice. It was shoor or death. Grace had a whole list of choices and she shose the coward's way out. Understand?"

"Intellectually," replied Stella, "Yeah, I do. But still..."

A lapse of silence filled the conversation.

"Well," Mac said, standing, "Just know I'll always be there to remind you."

"Is that a promise?" asked Stella, suprised.

"One you can count on," said Mac, smiling.

Stella smiled too.

"Okay," she said, "Well, I better get back to work."

"Alright," said Mac, "I'll leave you to it. Just remember, my office is only a few doors down in you need to talk."

"I know," said Stella.

Mac turned, and began to leave.

"Oh, and, Mac," she called, catching his attention, "Thanks."

"Your welcome," he replied and left.

Stella looked back at the files on her desk. Picking up her own, she put it away. Opening up the other, she got to work.