A/N: Once upon a time some authors I'll lovingly refer to as "the wenches" and myself decided to try our hands out at a round-robin. Looking back, our intentions make one hell of a good looking steeping stone in the way to hell. What follows is my "contribution" to that lost cause.

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It had been three weeks since the lab had been blown up, and ten days since Mac had taken off to London with Peyton. Ten days in which Flack couldn't remember having seen her smile. Oh, he had seen the corners of her lips curl up here and there, but the sentiment never reached her eyes, and it bothered him.

Late that Friday evening, having spent the last four hours doing paperwork, he was feeling restless and bored and completely ill-at-ease and he couldn't quite put his finger on what, exactly, was bothering him. He had reasons to believe it had to do with HER, the way things were between them… or rather, weren't.

It had started pretty much like a school boy's crush on a young teacher, at least, if felt that way. He had been quite eager to meet her, and very much in awe after doing so. Stella Bonasera´s cleavage was legendary in the locker room, and a horny rookie's mind took the descriptions done by his fellow brothers in blue and ran away with them. Who was this Greek goddess that had everyone infatuated by her looks (okay, with her tits) and everyone in fear of her tongue?

The first time he was called on assignment to work with her he had received whistles and congratulations from the rest of the cops. He was starting to work towards a detective spot in homicide, and he was pretty much being treated like a mascot/slave, and he supposed it went with the territory. When news came out that "Baby Blues" was going to work his first case solo with Bonasera, the comments flew around the desks. From "you lucky bastard" to "make sure you crouch when she does" and "put that damn height of yours to good work" not to mention a couple of "be sure your slacks are roomy"; all of them walked with him all the way to the crime scene.

He didn't know what to expect. All he knew about them CSIs was that Mac Taylor ran a tight handed ship and that a certain Staten Island up-to-no-good misfit had managed to weasel his way in. He liked Messer just fine, they had gone to the Academy together, and the bastard had a mean hand when it came to playing ball, a mean throat when it came to drinking and a mean attitude when it came to coming down hard on the bad guys. If Flack had to call any of them loonies "friend", he'd pick up Messer from that line up.

A heartfelt "sonofabitch" greeted him upon arrival. He looked towards the cursing voice and, as if in some cheesy romantic comedy, everyone seemed to move from his line of sight at the same time, leaving him a perfect view of a likewise perfect cleavage. But that wasn't what had gotten to him. The mass of curls had shot up, and a pair of piercing eyes had stared him right down to his very soul, searing him. Her bitchy "Whatcha waiting for?" had sealed the deal for good.

Don Flack Jr. was in lust.

Days had turned into weeks, those weeks into months and the months had melded into years, as one case followed another and then another and then another one more. And each new case he learned something new about her, information he kept stashed in a secret vault inside his heart, unwilling to share with anyone else. He and he alone knew what mood she was in, when she was feeling lucky and when she was feeling down in the dumps… just from noticing what color her eyes were. He knew when she was angry and when she was lying just by the way she held her hands around her. He became so good at it; in fact, that he could even tell when she had gotten laid just by the way she wore her hair.

Those days, her shiny, I'm-over-the-moon mood contrasted deeply with his foul one. The giddier she was, the moodier he became, and he didn't need a shrink or a female friend to point out the obvious: whenever Stella hummed remembering the previous night, his eyes turned a deep shade of green. It didn't take long for him to realize that his wanting for her was deeper than a mere sexual infatuation, and he began spending less time plotting how to get her in his bed and more time figuring out how to get her in his life.

Don Flack Jr. was in love.

So far, he had managed to keep his feelings to himself. There had been times where he had found his resolve to weaken: the case with the psycho fiancée, where he had jokingly proposed and she had happily said "I do" had made his whole insides melt. When he had gathered her in his arms as he picked her up from the hospital after Frankie had attacked her, he swore he would protect her and never allow anyone else hurt her; and for a second, for a very brief second, he almost surrendered to the temptation of brushing his lips against hers. But he resisted. Again.

Perhaps the most painful memory of all was after he almost got killed in that explosion. Stella took turns with everyone else in the lab to keep him company on their days off, and Flack had gotten a first-hand imagery of what it'd be like the two of them living together and the knowledge tortured him. Hell, she had even spent a night on his bed, by his side! The worst had been one day when, after showering, Flack had come into his room with a towel around his waist. Towel he had dropped to the floor as he got his underwear, just as Stella, obviously too engrossed on the file she was carrying, walked into the room. It all happened so fast, that it had taken him a second or two to drop his hands to cover himself up, thus granting Stella with a second or two full frontal nudity show. She had blushed, and she had apologized, and she had left the room.

But she had never averted her gaze.

And, twisted as it seemed, it had given Flack a tiny glimmer of hope. If she'd liked what she'd seen; and he had reason to believe that she had, as he was a man who took care of himself, then there was hope. So what if he had to do it all backwards, first win over her body and then win over her heart? Flack was certain that he would eventually win all of her over once he had taken that first step. All he needed was a chance; that was all he asked for. The rest… the rest he'd work hard to achieve.

Thus, he had waited. He felt that little by little he was winning her trust. She used to shy away from physical contact, and now she allowed his hand on her lower back to guide her in a crowd. Playful touches, secret smiles, shared looks… a friendly kiss on the cheek every now and then that lingered a tad more than necessary. More phone calls as friends and less as colleagues…

Which brought him back to today, tonight. He wasn't happy with the way she had thrown herself into work after the whole Irish mob coup. It wasn't healthy, and she was headed towards a burnout if she kept on going like that, and she knew it and yet kept at it. He'd tried telling her to go easy, to slow down, but she had dismissed him with a shrug of the shoulders and a half smile that was meant to be self-explanatory but left more questions than answers in its wake.

Looking at the clock, Flack realized it was past eight o'clock already and found himself wondering what to do with himself on a slow Friday night. Messer had been released form the hospital earlier that week, but he had the feeling Lindsay was nursing him back to health and then some, and Flack could be accused of many things, but being a third wheel on purpose was not one of them. He didn't fancy a drink on his own, he certainly didn't feel like staying home alone blinking in front of a screen, and he wasn't up to a night about town by himself. He sighed. Maybe a little time on the court would help him get rid of the feelings of uneasiness, or at the very least, tire him enough to go home and fall asleep before Saturday arrived.

Closing up shop for the weekend, he went upstairs to the locker room to change into something more movement friendly. He hated wearing a suit, in all its restrictive nature, some days. Others, he took pride in being almost a GQ poster child. Today he couldn't care less. He just wanted… out.

He bumped into Sheldon Hawkes on the way out. He respected the man (after all, the good doctor was a fucking genius) but he wouldn't consider him a close friend. What Doc had in book knowledge, he had in street savvy and they didn't always mesh well together, so they've come to a non-spoken agreement of not trying to step on the other's turf. Hawkes had also changed into a more casual outfit, to unwind as well, and Flack marveled for a moment how different they were even when it came to exercising. Doc was all for running but was not fond of playing with others, whereas Flack couldn't understand the concept of running unless it was after some round object, namely a ball or a puck, and was also of the idea that one of the joys of practicing sports was the camaraderie with your fellow team members.

They had walked together to the elevator, and had both surprised and been surprised by the presence of Adam and the new lab girl, Kendall inside of it. The nervous air about them led Flack to believe they had been in the middle of… something… when the elevator doors opened unexpectedly, and a tiny part of him envied them that giddy feeling. He had been almost too lost in his own private world to hear Hawkes ask them if everyone was gone for the night, but he paid attention when both lab tech had looked at each other, wondering if they should tell or not. And he was definitively investing every one of his senses when Adam had mumbled a "she's still up there".

He didn't need a doctorate degree to know who "she" was, but he avoided comment. Doc had shaken his head and mentioned something about her "working to damn hard" and he avoided commenting on that, as well. His mind was made even before the elevator doors pinged open again. When silently questioned as to why he was staying on the car instead of getting out, he quickly came up with a forgotten wallet to justify his going back up.

And back up he went, except he didn't stop at his floor, or at the lockers floor. He went straight to the 35th floor.

He went straight to her.

He had all this argument already scripted in his mind: the words he'd use, the tone in which he'd deliver them, the possible answers she'd give them and his own response to those answers. He knew he needed to control the scene from the moment he steeped into her office and confronted her, otherwise she'd slip through his fingers like fine sand and he'd be on his way down, alone, before he even knew what had happened. He knew SHE knew him that well.

But all his preparation amounted to a huge pile of nothing once he saw her. Curled into a corner, curled into herself, Stella Bonasera was allowing herself a moment of self pity and self doubt, indulging in good cry, displaying a vulnerability he hadn't seen before, not even when she had survived Frankie, not even when she had faced the possibility of AIDS. Right there in front of his eyes was Stella Bonasera in the raw, and he wanted nothing more in life than to console her.

And so he did.

Cradling her into his arms, he held her to his chest, murmuring sweet nothings of comfort while a hand combed trough her hair. For a moment, he felt her body stiffen and he thought she was going to push him away, but it only lasted a second, and she gave in to him, allowing herself to be comforted by his solid presence, by his soft words. For a moment she allowed herself to feel alive again. Damn, she would allow herself to feel, even if it killed her. And feeling she was, for now she was aware of the man than was holding her, of the way his hands seemed to burn her skin, the way his lips, tenderly caressing her forehead and her eyelids, were searing her, branding her and she knew it was dangerous to do this, that it had been foolish to let her guard down, that she was too close, so close to surrendering to a need she had ignored for too long…

And all it took was a moment. The moment his lips found her skin she knew there was no turning back. Her yearning had been unleashed and her yearning would not be denied. She'd almost wished it hadn't been Flack, but a perfect stranger, who'd gotten to her, but beggars could not be choosers. Besides, what was one more emotional mess to clean up, after all she'd been dealing in the past 12 days? Feeling guilty for what she was about to do, she tried to pull away one last time, tried to get away from the repercussions it'd surely have. But Flack, who couldn't have possibly known what was going on in her mind, pulled her back closer to him, thus sealing both their fates.

Flack hadn't really planned on kissing her. He was basically reacting to her, more than anything, and it just seemed like the right thing to do at the moment, that tender kiss on her forehead. And she was crying and he wanted to stop that crying, so wasn't it logical that he'd kiss her eyelids next? Going from drying her eyes to trying to dry her cheeks seemed only natural, as well. What he hadn't expected was her face moving underneath his at lighting speed, and next thing he knew he was tasting her mouth and he was in heaven.

Perhaps it was the fact that he suddenly had what he had been yearning for. Perhaps it was the way Stella's tongue snaked in and out of his mouth, making him loose all traces of rationality. Perhaps it was the way her body was moving against his. Or perhaps he was tired of doing the right thing. Whatever it was, and against his better judgment, he allowed Stella to do with him as she pleased, and by the time he wanted to get things back in control it had been too late. Next thing he knew, a half-dressed Stella was writhing on top of him, he was hard as hell, and it would have taken all the Irish mobsters in the whole world storming in to stop him from sliding up inside of her.

There was no finesse and no tenderness in their union. It was more about taking than giving, each one of needing something entirely different form the other, and not stopping to ask for it. She needed to have control over something, to feel she was human and not just a robot going through the motions. He needed to have his passion for her sated, his love for her demonstrated.

When it was over, they separated without a single word. Stella straightened her clothes, looked at him still sitting on the floor, and with the briefest of nods grabbed the files on her desk and walked out. She knew she'd gotten herself a safe, highly satisfactory, fuck buddy and that was all she'd ever need from him inside the bedroom. The friendship and trust would be kept on the outside, banned entrance for ever. He waited until she was gone to get up and redress himself before walking out. He knew for sure that he loved her, and that he'd give her anything she asked of him, no matter on which category she demanded it.

He also knew that sooner or later, he'd make her see things his way.

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A/N: Not my usual romantic Flack, I know, but angst is good (to misquote Michael Douglas). Since I'm not sure I could talk the rest of my fellow authors to cough up the rest of the story, I'm declaring this done. So there!