Third Time Around

[MS Set after [4.10 – The Thing About Heroes No matter how bad he was feeling Stella always managed to make him feel better.

Disclaimer: The plot's mine, just borrowing the rest.

A/N:- Even though this episode was practically devoid of scenes of Mac and Stella together I loved the unwavering bond between them this episode and pretty much every episode.

One time's a shame
Two time and it looks like rain
And they say your luck is found
The Third Time Around

Angie Aparo – Third Time Around

Mac sat at his desk and held his badge up to the light. He had never wanted to be a hero – that wasn't why he had joined the Marines or became a CSI and just because he had spent his entire life trying to do the right thing and see justice served didn't make him a hero just like he knew going into shock and being unable to shoot someone in murky circumstances when he was a young boy didn't make him a coward. With all that he had gone through in his line of work what Andy had done to him today – sedating him and keeping him hostage with lasers was relatively tame in comparison and yet for the first time in years he felt unnerved and started to question why he did what he did every day.

There was a quiet tap on the door before it opened and Stella entered his office. "You're still here?" He said fastening his badge back on his belt.

She nodded and walked up to him. "Yeah. The others are just leaving. They wanted me to let you know that they're all heading down to Sullivan's if you want to join them."

"Maybe next time."

"That's what I told them." She said with a smile. "Quite a week eh?"

"Yeah." Mac said with a sigh. "I dropped by the hospital. They say that Andy's going to be fine."

Stella moved some files away and sat down on the edge of his desk. Mac pretty much always looked tired but right now he looked completely drained and weighed down with guilt that even she was unsure as to whether she could bring him out of. "What about you?"

Mac shrugged. "It happened so many years ago but the guilt's never gone away ….."

"You can't blame yourself Mac. You were fourteen …"

"I know and I know we've all got stuff from the past that we carry around with us – that's part of what makes us so good at our job. It's just …." He trailed off and looked away. It still hurt hard just thinking about it.

"Just what?"

"It's just when that past catches up and threatens to destroy everything you have in the present that you have to start to wonder how much of it really is your fault."

"Mac …"

"Stella, you, Lindsay, Hawkes and Flack could all have died in that subway train. It wasn't just a prank, Andy really wanted you to get hurt."

Stella looked at him. She could see him wrestling with his own guilt and it hurt her to see him like that. "But he didn't. We're fine." She said, resting her hand on his and squeezing it lightly.

"That's not the point. He used you all to get to me. You know I love my job it's just sometimes I wonder whether getting justice for hundreds of people is worth it when the people I care about stand to get hurt."

"Mac you can't take responsibility for that." Stella said firmly. "We chose to do this job and we've always known what was involved. Bad stuff is always going to happen so, you know, we need you around to clear it all up because I certainly don't want the paperwork …"

Mac chuckled slightly. No matter how bad he was feeling Stella always managed reach down and pull him back up to the light. He really didn't know what he would do without her and it gave him the chills just remembering what Andy had said. He stood up and walked towards the window. "Stella he went after you. It was all part of his meticulous plan, watching me, planning it all for maximum effect. He wanted to get close to you so he could hurt you both emotionally and physically and if anything had happened to you then I would never forgive myself. I mean I was the one who told you that maybe you should give him a chance …"

She hadn't even remembered that but now she realised why Mac felt even more personally responsible than he should. "Mac I never trusted him from the beginning and if it helps put your mind at ease for the future, let me tell you now that I can count on one hand who I have unquestionable trust in: you, our team and my hairdresser – everyone else you have my permission to interrogate." She said with a laugh, walking up to him.

He forced a smile but then shook his head slightly, he still felt bad.

Stella stood next to him and looked out of the window. No matter how many years she had lived here there was still something breathtaking about the New York skyline at night. She loved looking down at it from here, it was like it was a perfect picture and all the dirt and crime didn't exist…..

"I'm lucky I've got you Stella." Mac said honestly breaking the silence. She gave him a small smile and leant towards him, nudging his arm with hers. He had no idea but every day she came to work and saw him at her side, she felt like the lucky one. He put his arm around her and she rested her head on his shoulder, comfortable in the closeness that only they shared. "And I'm sorry Drew turned out to be who he was."

She shrugged and laughed lightly. "Well let's see, Frankie tried to kill me, Drew tried to kill you, so third time lucky eh?" She paused. "You know maybe it'll be third time lucky for you too." She said with a smile.

Mac gazed at her in the reflection of the glass as he suddenly realised something he should have realised a long time ago. "Yeah maybe." He said softly.