Title: Trouble

Author: Rachel

Category: CSI: NY

Pairing: Mac/Stella

Disclaimer: Please. Me? Own anything? Hardly. It all belongs to Anthony Zuiker. I'm just playing.

Distribution: Ask please

Rating: PG

Spoilers: Post - Consequences

Notes: Fruitbat00 and Tastylilgifty for the betas.

Summary: I've been saved...by a woman

Feedback: Is loved and much appreciated :)

Oh, trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble
Feels like every time I get back on my feet
she come around and knock me down again
Oh, worry, worry, worry, worry
Sometimes I swear it feels like this worry is my only friend

He couldn't go to Peyton, not with this, not with Claire and the son she'd given up, the only son she had ever had... would ever have. Not with the wish that Reed was his. Because Peyton wasn't there the day the towers fell when he saw his life he knew it crumble before his eyes, she wasn't the one who grabbed his hand to keep him from running through the wreckage. She would ask questions, questions he couldn't answer. It wasn't fair to her because he couldn't open up, couldn't explain... any of this to her, he wasn't sure he'd ever be able to. Yet, as his offences of the day went, Peyton was fairly low on the list, and that added another stab of guilt hit his gut.

Because days like this always ended with Stella. Like that clear, dark morning seven years ago , or yesterday, when she called him to a bar to tell him that someone was following her. These were the kinds of days that were too strange or painful or upsetting to burden anyone else with, days when home can't be home anymore because it's too filled with ghosts.

He would always love Claire, he knew that, took comfort in it, but sometime during the last year

he thought that maybe the time had come for him to try to move on. Right now, though, he felt as fucked up and broken as he had the first time he went home and realized that she would never be there again. The pain spread from his chest to his fingertips and for the first time in a year, he felt guilty for not wearing his ring. It was all too raw and real, like losing her all over again, that's why he was on the other side of town, walking in the rain toward the only person he could be around when he felt this way.

He rang the bell, the door opens immediately. She's been waiting for him, he realized, just like she used to. Her expression is a mixture of deep concern and mild reproach because he's been walking in the rain again. She steps back to let him in the door and closes it behind him. Looking around, he realizes that he hasn't been in her apartment since Frankie's death. It's thoroughly cleaned and the rugs are new, but he can still see the blood spatter on the walls, the overturned furniture, Frankie's dead body lying in the middle of the floor, and Stella, face down in a corner. He remembers how close he came to losing her.

Her hands come up and push the soaked raincoat off his shoulders, and he's shocked back to the present where she is alive and well, full of heart, loyalty and fierceness. Stella Bonasera, the strongest woman he has ever met. He lets her take his coat and she hands him a towel that's been waiting by the door.

She doesn't ask him questions, because she knows that there aren't any answers. She watches him, as he wanders around her apartment and finally settles on the edge of her bed. He had barely taken a moment to be surprised that someone was looking for his wife, let alone that someone thought she was Claire, before he locked his emotions up and tried to act as if he wasn't as shaken as he was. But knowing Mac for as long as she had, she knew the signs; the extra pause after he said Claire's name, his hands slipping into his pockets just long enough to stop the trembling, and the way he wouldn't look at her when he told her to go back to the station because he knew she could see right through him.

She grabbed two glasses and a bottle of whiskey off the side table and handed him a full one, which he took with seemingly little regard for her presence.

He hears glass clinking as it's set on the floor, and feels the bed dip with Stella's weight, though he can't find it in himself to look up from the whiskey glass in his hand. He swirls the liquid as he thinks about Flack; He was hurt and angry, because he never wanted to put his friend in that position and yet he was forced to. Flack was hurt and angry, because it was one of his guys, guys he worked with and fought by everyday. It was a dishonor to the work they did everyday. How the hell were they supposed to get the scum off the streets if the same guys were just putting it back out there? But, almost more than that, he had to hurt a friend, and that made him as angry about it as anything else did.

And then Reed, his only connection to Claire, wanted nothing to do with him. He had thought about contacting him since her death, but never quite felt he had the right; Reed wasn't his son, he wasn't even really Claire's anymore and for all he knew, the kid didn't even know he was adopted. But he had never imagined sitting in a coffee shop with him, he never knew how much he'd look like her, he never thought he'd look into those eyes again. And he could never, in his worst nightmare, have known how hard it was going to be.

There was so much he could have told Reed, so much that he wanted to tell him about Claire. There wasn't a thing about her that he didn't remember; her smile of triumph, her laughter when she ran, the freckle behind her right ear, the way her wedding ring felt against his skin when they held hands. But looking into his eyes, into her eyes, he froze. He couldn't do her justice; he failed her.

He feels Stella's fingers against his palm as she grips his hand. He almost laughs, he had one opportunity to let Reed know how amazing and wonderful Claire had been, and he's fallen apart on the job. And now Stella is holding his hand like he deserves the comfort. A sad, derisive laugh bubbles up from his chest and becomes a sob before it leaves him. Stella tightens her fingers around his, and he raises the glass to his lips and knocks back the whole shot at once.

But it doesn't help like he hopes it will, the whiskey burns down into his chest, but it neither eases the ache or rids him of the lump in his throat and now his eyes burn with tears that don't have a damn thing to do with the alcohol. He looks down at the empty glasses as his vision blurs, and... one...two tears fall, landing on his wrist. He squeezes Stella's hand as his shoulders begin to shake and his control slowly slips until finally, he just falls apart.

His glass makes a dull thud as it hits the carpet, and she wraps herself around him. She whispers to him, although he can't make out the words. He knows none of them are, 'I understand,' because no one could. Or 'sorry' –although she is, probably more than anyone else,

Because she's the one who let him drink when he needed to and stopped him when he didn't, she made him sleep when he wasn't tired, and eat when he wasn't hungry, she stole his paperwork to keep his desk from overflowing. She's the one who reminded him that it was okay to take off his ring, but never forced him to, who loosened his ties until he finally gave in and stopped wearing them altogether.

Her chin rests on his shoulder, fingers still laced with his and he feels her tears seep through his shirt. "Mac," she whispers, when he's started to calm down and although he hasn't moved at all, she knows she has his attention. "It's okay, that you're not okay."

He doesn't argue, he doesn't have the energy. He lets out a shaky breath even as the tears still fall freely, "I'm just... tired," he admits, for the first time... in a really long time. So she shifts around on the bed as he toes off his shoes and lies back. Her head rests on his chest and her hand slips back into his as she curls herself around him, protecting him. His free hand tangles in her hair and he feels the first signs of relief as he stares up at her ceiling.

She knows how to do this, how to hold him while he falls apart, and he knew she would. He could go to her, with pain that left him gasping, with Claire and the son he wished was his, with his failure. Because she was there the day the Towers fell when he saw the life he knew it crumble before his eyes. Because she was the one who grabbed his hand to keep him from running through the wreckage, she was the one who held on and wouldn't let him drown in his guilt and grief. She was the one who pulled back him back from the depth. He didn't have to explain this to her, because she already knew.

Slowly, as he held her, the hurt began to slip away. And there is nothing left but the scent of her hair as he breaths her in while she plays with his buttons, and the feeling her palm against his.

I've been saved...
by a woman
she won't let me go
She won't let me go now - Trouble by Ray LaMontagne