Title: Try

Author: Banana Tooth

Rating: K

Spoilers: Episode 5-8, My Name Is Mac Taylor

Disclaimer: I am in no way connected with CBS, the CSI Franchise, or its writers, producers, or directors.

He tries.

His conscience is clear on that, at least. He truly does try. It's just that he knows within minutes that, once again, it's no use.

He wonders on his way home whether he's done his duty by now. Wonders when it's okay to just stop. He honestly doesn't know which is worse: being alone, or having to try.

It should have worked this time; it would have on paper, anyway. Gillian is smart, attractive, straightforward, and, he discovers, has a dry, unexpected sense of humor. They have plenty to talk about. She likes him. He even likes her. And still he gets that sinking feeling, all too familiar now. They say goodnight, and that's that.

He's too restless for the cab and finally he stops it and walks the rest of the way, watching his surroundings closely as always. He's watching for something to occupy his mind, because all the old thoughts are pushing forward and he doesn't want to go through them all over again. He almost wishes he'd come across a body.

He doesn't. With some sort of twisted disappointment, he observes nothing but peaceful, law-abiding citizens. He takes the stairs in his building to keep from having to stand still, and comes out into his hallway and stops, just for a second, in surprise. He can feel the grin spreading over his face.

She turns to smile at him as he approaches, and she's breathtakingly beautiful. He regards her from under raised brows. "You could have used your key, you know."

She grins. "I didn't want to startle you. You might come in with your gun drawn."

He grins too as he unlocks the door and holds it for her, because she's probably right. "Been here long?"

"Just a minute."

He hangs up their coats and turns back to her, and sees that she's still wearing the same clothes. "Are you just coming from the lab?"

"Yeah. I was with Adam."

"Working?" She shouldn't still be working. She's worse than he is.

"No. He was looking up all of our names. To see how many of us there are."


"Well…there are more of you than anyone else."

He laughs. "Good to know."

Her eyes sparkle at him, under her long dark lashes, and suddenly he thinks maybe he's standing too close to her, but he can't help it—he's drawn to her as if by force because just out of the blue she's here, and beautiful, and lighting up the room.

She's close enough that she has to look up a little to see him, with her chin tilted upward. He thinks about running his thumb across her chin, and following it with his lips…

And realizes that he's just standing there, too close, staring at her chin. He blinks. He remembers what he was going to tell her.

"Be careful with Adam, Stella." She lifts an eyebrow, questioning, and he explains, "He has a crush on you."

"Yeah," she says gently.

"All the guys do, you know." That surprises her, he can tell—did she really not know that? He'd thought it was pretty obvious. "But Adam's the one to worry about."

She quirks her eyebrow at him. "All the guys?"

What—is she flirting with him? He just looks at her until they both laugh. She brushes her fingertips along his cheek and says, "You're sweet, Mac. Of course I'll be careful."

His pulse quickens as it always does when she touches him and his skin tingles as if her fingers have left a mark. But this time it was definitely her—she stepped up to him. They're close enough now that their toes are touching, and she doesn't move away. He swallows, and realizes she's speaking again.

"So…did you go out? I thought you'd beat me here," she's saying.

There's no use not telling her. "I was having coffee. With the new deputy inspector."

"Really?" She seems surprised, and interested. "How did it go?"

He shrugs. "The same as always." He shouldn't have said that—now he'll have to explain himself. Sure enough, he sees her questioning look.

"What do you mean? Do you see her often?"

"No. I just met her."

"That's what I thought."

There's still a question in her voice, but he doesn't want to get into that. It dawns on him that he still doesn't know why she's here—he's just been silently accepting his good fortune. He's about to ask her about it when his hand brushes hers.

It's an accident, but hers doesn't move, and without even pausing to think he takes both her hands in his. Her hands are warm and her fingers close around his without hesitation and she smiles at him.

He feels like he's underwater. He can hear his own pulse and it's entirely too fast and he's not sure he's thinking clearly. "Mac, are you all right?" he hears her say, and it almost sounds like she's far away, except their noses are nearly bumping together.

"Yeah…" He turns his head a little, but now his nose almost brushes her temple and her hair tickles his forehead. His face hovers just a hair's breadth from her skin and he tries to keep it there, tries to breathe.

"Tell me what happened. On your date."

"It wasn't a date," he says a little too quickly.

"Okay," she says. "Tell me what happened."

She's speaking softly and her words are warm at his throat and he can barely even remember seeing Gillian. "Nothing happened," he says, not trying to be evasive, it's just the truth.

"What did you mean, the same as always?"

He sighs, and thinks maybe he'll tell her. Maybe she'll understand. "I'm tired of trying, Stella."

"Oh," she whispers, and she moves almost imperceptibly, so that his lips touch her cheekbone.

It startles him, with a sort of quick pang in his chest, but she doesn't move. He thinks she must be able to hear his heart, it's pounding so loudly. Finally he says, against her skin: "It just seems like…it should come without trying."

"Well," she murmurs, "sometimes it does."

Well, he knew that. He holds perfectly still, afraid to move, listening to her breathe.

"So…I was thinking about what you said," she says. She moves again, so that her skin grazes his lips until they're close to her ear, as if she wants him to… He doesn't feel like analyzing it. He kisses her there, and trails his mouth to the corner of her jaw.

"What I said about what?" he breathes.

"About making the most of our time together."

"Yeah," he says, and his lips brush along the underside of her jaw, along the sweet curve of her throat, and she tips her head back, her body pressing warm against his. "We don't really do that, do we?"

"No, we don't," she says. "But we could."

He straightens slowly, letting his nose trail along her throat, up the side of her face, until he's standing straight and he can see her. She's looking up at him with her eyes shining and her lips parted and…there really can't be any mistake.

"Stella…" He feels like his heart is choking him. "You sure?"

"I'm sure."

"I never thought you…"

"I know," she says, her grin forming.

"We could have…"

"Make the most of your time," she says, "and stop talking."

He kisses her. It's their first kiss and he's careful, savoring her, leaning down slowly and meeting her bottom lip with just the lightest touch. It makes her breath catch and her fingers tighten quickly around his. When he kisses her upper lip she makes a pleading little sound and arches up toward him, but he's not going to rush. He sets kisses at the corners of her mouth and all across her lower lip and then takes it gently between his, tugging lightly, until he's pulled away. He wants to see her.

Her eyes are closed and she's radiantly beautiful and he never thought he could make her look that way. She opens her eyes, looking concerned, when he doesn't move. "It's okay," she whispers, as if he could have any doubts…

He kisses her hard, clasping her hands, keeping her drawn up tight against him until she tugs her hands loose and slides her arms around his neck and his arms go all the way around her. She's warm and eager in his arms, urging him on, and he responds so fiercely he bends her backwards. He's worried then about hurting her, and sees the sofa out of the corner of his eye.

He manages to maneuver her there and lowers her down onto the cushions. She grabs fistfuls of his shirt and breathes hard, almost panting, her mouth open against his. Impatiently he kisses her again, leaning her back against the arm of the couch, grateful for the support, and keeps going until she can't breathe.

He slides off the edge of the couch to kneel on the floor, resting his hand flat on her stomach, and looks down at her. She's still gripping the front of his shirt and her curls are tumbled around her. She opens her eyes again and smiles at him.

"Better?" he asks, his voice coming out gravelly.

"Much," she says, and he lowers his head slowly. She turns to meet his mouth again, but instead he nudges her chin up with his cheek and slowly, leisurely lowers his parted lips to her neck.

She clutches convulsively at him and he feels her body arching under his hand. He grazes the tip of his tongue against the spot and her fingers dig into his arm and she cries out, arching more, trembling, until she goes limp.

He just rests there a moment, leaning his forehead against her, and then he lowers himself to sit on the floor with his back against the couch. After a while he feels her turn onto her side and her hand comes to rest on the back of his neck, kneading it gently.

"You never did say why you came by," he says, finally.

She slides her fingers into his hair. "Well…I was looking for Mac Taylor."

He feels the laughter stealing over him, and loves her. "How will you know if you've found the right one?"

"Oh, I expect I'll know," she murmurs next to his ear. He turns his head, cranes his neck, and kisses her softly. She reaches down to rest her palm against his chest, her thumb against the pulse in his neck. "So…was this the same as always?"

He grins. "I'd say it was a little better."

"I told you—sometimes it does come without trying."

He leans his head back and she's warm and welcoming right behind him. "With you, I have to try not to."

"Well," she says against his hair, "not anymore."