Author's Note: General explanation about me and my writing as well as my disclaimer can be found in my profile. This is not the first story I wrote and it won't be the last. But it's my first CSI: NY release - I'm nervous... so please be nice to my first baby when you review ;-) Hope you enjoy reading as much as I did enjoy writing this!

Chapter 1

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With her eyes closed, she rummaged for her cell phone on the nightstand. "Bonasera..." she mumbled peeved. "Mac..." She sighed silently and forced her left eye to open slightly to be able to peer at the display of her alarm clock. 2:45 am.

Damn it... Does this man ever sleep?

"Stella?!" the voice on the other end asked for the second time, now in a more requesting, impatient tone. She snapped back to reality.

"I'm with you!" she hurried to reply.

"Male victim found unconscious at Bedford Hotel, 118 East 40th Street, possible kidnapping, need you here asap!"

Goodbye sweet dreams…

She quickly calculated the time that it would take her to get there. The hotel was located between Park and Lexington Avenue, not too far from her place. She didn't need much time to get ready – shower, hair, clothes – usually she had everything prepared so that she was done within moments if necessary. And right now, she knew once again why.

"I'll be there in 20 minutes!" she quickly replied and hung up.

'I'm sorry to wake you in the middle of the night, I know you're not even on call... – Ah, never mind... - Oh, and good morning Stella... – Yeah, good morning to you, too, Mac...' she grumbled to herself while she crept out of bed and headed towards the bathroom.

Ten minutes later, she was ready to leave.

When she arrived at the hotel, Mac was waiting for her in the lobby. "Sorry that I had to wake you up so early, but you live closest and the others are not..."

"Never mind." She wasn't exactly a morning person, waking up without alarm clock early in the morning would never happen to her, but if she had to get up early, she was awake and responsive within short time. And besides, being with him made it a little less annoying that she had to get out that early.

"You look a little..." Mac hesitated, slightly amused by her look. The outfit was classy as usual, but her eyes proved that she didn't have much sleep and her curls apparently didn't want to cooperate in the middle of the night. Instead of wearing her hair open, she now had it tied up in some sort of creative, chaotic knot with the one or other strain sticking out into all directions. Cute somehow... Stella noticed his investigative look on her appearance.

"Well, you kinda caught me in the middle of something…," she muttered sheepishly.

He blushed slightly. "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't know that... I mean, I didn't want to..." Why was he so shocked by her announcement? This couldn't be so unexpected...

"Sleep, Mac! I was sleeping." Mac's look slightly relaxed.

"Just me and Arkadios."

His eyes widened again. Stella chuckled, it hadn't been her first intention to put him through such a roller coaster of emotions, but now she started to have fun with it.

"That would be Greek - it means 'of Arcadia'," she started explaining. Mac gave her a puzzled look. "Arcadia was derived from the word 'arktos', meaning 'bear'," she continued, but still just got a confused look in return. Finally she rolled her eyes with a sigh. Hopeless...

"He's a teddy bear – so just relax, okay?" She shook her head with a smile, this was just too funny.

"Teddy bear???"

"Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional," Stella commented on his disbelieving look.

Mac still couldn't get his thoughts straight, even in the middle of the night, just dragged out of sleep, she was still able to confuse him like nobody else.

"Okay, what've we got here?" Stella pulled him out of his thoughts.

On the way up to the hotel room, he briefly filled her in with what he knew so far. A male Afro-American, age around 30, had been found unconscious in a room that he had rented for just this one night. It was a single room and according to the hotel manager and the doorman, the young man arrived alone and nobody asked for his room number. Still there seemed to be evidence for the presence of a second person. He hadn't been through the room yet, so far he had just taken some pictures of the victim before the paramedics took him to the hospital and briefly talked to the hotel employees while waiting for her.

"Any indication that the vic was a PI or something?" Mac asked over to Stella who was looking under the bed with her flashlight on the left side. "Hum?" she looked up and saw him holding up a pair of handcuffs when her look got caught by something at her side of the bed. She started giggling.

"Um, I don't wanna embarrass you... But I don't think those are for occupational purposes," she said while holding up a long scarf, tied to the corner of the headboard on her side.

Mac's eyes slightly widened in surprise, then he looked down between the nightstand and bed on his side. "Oh..." He held up another scarf. Stella pressed her lips together to avoid a laughter and nodded. "You know what this means?" she gave him a questioning look.

"He wasn't alone..." Mac confirmed.

Stella put both scarves on the bed, still tied to the headboard and took photos of them as well as from the rest of the room. Mac noticed her pensive look when she did her work.

"It's supposed to increase physical tension if you are exposed to someone's mercy like that, it's supposed to bring pleasure without being able to take an active part," he suddenly started explaining.

Stella looked at him in surprise, nearly dropping her camera.

"Well, the way the scarves are attached isn't exactly the best one..." she managed to say when she found her words again. "But how would YOU know about this?" she curiously asked.

"Oh, I just read about that in some magazine when I did some research on sexual practices and experiments..." he mumbled slightly embarrassed.

Stella's mouth dropped open even more than before.

"Research about... Mac Taylor! I'm surprised..."

"It was for a case! And it was a scientific paper about the functions of the human brain in extraordinary situations," he defended himself. "And by the way, did you just tell me THIS way of fixing the scarves would not be the best one? Care to explain how you would know about that?" he teased with a challenging look.

Stella returned his look, briefly reflecting whether to move on or to back out.

"It's more fun when you fix them in the middle instead of at both sides, so that the hands would be tied above your head. May 1992, educational weekend trip to Washington..." she replied openly.

"I take it you didn't get to see much of what you intended to...?" Mac chuckled. "Not quite, but it certainly was some sort of educational..." she grinned back.

"Back to the crime scene?" "Sure..." he mumbled. "Hey! YOU started this..." she exclaimed. "Yeah, but you went into details," he returned.

"I'm gonna bag the scarves, good chance that we find some epithelia on them," Stella announced while Mac was dusting the nightstand and the bed for fingerprints. "Right," he confirmed. "And it won't be his, he didn't have any abrasions at his wrists when they found him... We should also take the sheets and test them for foreign DNA at the lab."

Stella nodded, took out an evidence bag and carefully folded the scarves to put them in it. While she was standing at the sideboard next to the door, at the side of the room opposite the headboard of the bed, she suddenly noticed something. She put the paper bag with the scarves in her kit and kneeled down.

"Find something?" Mac asked. Instead of a reply, she reached for her kit and took out a swab and a little white plastic test box. Then she picked up something she saw on the carpet in the corner behind the sideboard, swabbed the sample into the little box and added some liquid.

"Positive for cocaine," she confirmed after a few seconds.

"I'll stop by at the hospital to check on our vic, meet you back at the lab," Mac said when they returned to their cars.

"Sure, I'll start working on the sheets and send samples over to DNA," Stella replied and got into her car. The clock at the display read 5:00 am. She yawned.

Gotta go home – it's time to get up...