Disclaimer: I don't own anything from the CSI franchise and no copyright infringement is intended.

Author's Note: This is a one shot born from the first chapter of my other fic Entailed Disadvantage. You don't really need to read that as I have included the small scene in the beginning here. Not beta'd as usual. All mistakes are my own.

Earlier at a crime scene:

"What do we have this time," Peyton asked Lindsay, as she snapped on a fresh pair of gloves, the tight British accent didn't cover the raw emotions. This serial had been plaguing the New York force and was taking a toll on all involved.

"Young man, looks like a double amputee pretty good shape". Lindsay's voice rattled off the facts.

"Bet he put up a fight," came the reply, trying to be light, but she looked at the body Peyton sucked in a breath. Lindsay looked at her curiously. "The LA Chief Medical Examiner is a double amputee, he always has stories at the conventions."


Just Be

It was her damn accent Peyton decided as she dropped her bag by the bottom of her bed. The accent that every American thought hid emotion like a mask. She needed a hot shower and some good tea. It had been a hell of a shift. It had been ages she had been on pick up duty and it had been odd to see Sheldon in the autopsy room.

She stepped into the hot spray of the shower and sighed as her muscles relaxed. And then there was the serial…Peyton knew what it was to be different a Brit in the sea of America that was New York, a woman in a profession of men, even dating the Head CSI put her apart. But she was strong; she had learned to handle it. And no one on the team had hated her when they had found out about her and Mac. Medical School may have been an uphill battle as well as the fight to become a medical examiner but it was nothing she hadn't expected.

And no one had killed her for being different. She turned off the water stepped out of the shower and wrapped her self in a towel. It was a hate crime and that was something hard to swallow. In the back of her mind she could always understand the crimes of passion, accident or even the personal hatred. You weren't human if you didn't understand them in some way.

She moved out of her bedroom dressed in comfortable slacks and a long sleeved tee putting her wet hair up with a clip and set her kettle on for tea.

But these were hate crimes because of something the victims couldn't control, choices that they did not make, choices that fate, or a higher power made for them. And they paid with their lives. And this man, Peyton though as he water whistled, this one did I for his country, in an unpopular war that would leave him with more than just two missing legs for baggage. If he was anything like the other American soldiers she knew he didn't mind because this was his country, and Mac had told her that just like he couldn't understand the real difference good British tea made, she would never understand the nuances of American Patriotism.

It was just another way she was different She watched the water slowly turn brown and then carried her mug to the couch. She tucked her legs under her and sipped the hot liquid savoring the flavors and trying to relax. She thought briefly of Al Robbins the LA Coroner and at how highly he was respected and how many great stories he had. She smiled realizing that if they didn't already know each other she really needed to introduce him to Sid. She had a feeling they would get along well.

The knock on her door was soft but she knew it was him as she put down her mug and rose to answer it. She had left him trying to track down the vic's military records.

"Hi," the word was soft his smile gentle as she stepped back to let him in managing to give him a smile of her own.

"I just made tea the water should still be hot, do you want some?"

He took of his jacket and set it on the back of her couch and began to unbutton the cuffs on his shirt. His tie she noticed must have come off on the car. "May be I'll get some later." He settled on the couch slipping off his shoes and turned to where she had resumed her seat. "How are you holding up?"

"I'm not going to break Mac," It came out a little sharper than she had intended it was the accent again so easy to hide behind.

He moved closer and put an arm around her shoulders "I know he said gently, but every one is allowed to have a case that gets to them."

"Even you," she asked evenly.

"Even me," He chuckled slightly and she could feel the slight vibrations where her head rested on his chest.

They were silent a few moments lost in their own thoughts and comfortable in their touch. Idly she ran a finger over his chest where she knew roughly the scar would be. "Do you ever regret Beirut?"

He studied the top of her head and placed a gentle kiss there considering his answer carefully. "That it had to happen? Yes war is horrible and should never had been conceived. That it was me? No, because I would have given anything for my men, even my life. I'd do the same for any of my CSI's now."

"You would do it for any civilian too," she observed quietly.

He smiled slightly though she could not see it. "Because it is my job, and duty yes just as I would for my country. But my men, the team, they're my family—it's a different type of sacrifice."

They lapsed into a comfortable silence and it was a few moments before Mac spoke again, "He was like that too you know," Peyton looked up at him, "Corporal White," he was referring to the vic now, "He did the same thing, I talked withhis commanding officer over the phone. Confirmed that he had no living relatives and that most of his friends were military too."

"Sounds lonely," she murmured and she felt Mac nod as his chin touched the top of her head.

"The city will bury him with honors," Mac continued and then hesitated, "Some one has to be present to accept the folded flag." That he would keep it in his office as a reminder at least until the case was closed was unspoken knowledge between them.

For a moment Peyton listened to the steady beating of his heart, "Always the officer Mac,"

"Old habits die hard," he admitted.

"That probably just means they shouldn't doe at all," she said sagely.

"Sure," his voice said he was humoring her as he kissed her head again.

"Hate crimes make the least sense of all," she stated fighting a yawn but snuggling into him none the less.

"I know," he said simply realizing that they were at the heart of the issue.

When she didn't say anything more he began to hum the bars of an old Blues song his mother used to sing to him. Part way through the second stanza he felt her completely relax in sleep. He would carry her to bed in a little while but for know he just enjoyed the chance to hold her and to be not a captain or a detective.

For the moment he was just Mac.