Disclaimer I own very little, especially not CSI NY.

Author Lily Moonlight

Notes A oneshot, written back in July 2008, on a long train journey. I heard a few lines of dialogue in my head (if that doesn't sound too weird...) and this was the result. Various people have read this and given their very valuable opinion on it, thank you to all of them, it's much appreciated. I'd really like to know what you think of this, please review and let me know; reviews always replied to. Some very mild swearing within.

Dedicated to Dragonflys Girl ( 'Sunrise' on its way!) and chrysalis escapist

The Trouble With Heroes

Me, him, and the suspect; and a gang of NYPD's finest close behind. Hell for leather along 52nd street until a blind alleyway stops all of us. Suspect's back to the wall, cornered, never a good move. Fight or flight.

He chooses fight.

It happens in a flash: I see the suspect's face, and his finger, and what his finger is pressed against, and I pull in all the air around me in one breath. Because if it's going to be the last breath I ever take, I want to make it a good one. And then there's the sound. The sound I've heard before too many times; from me, from him, and from the people we end up chasing. Because they always run, and we always chase. Flack's not the only one who gets the runners. They run, we chase. It's what the game's always about.

Except it's never a game. That sound confirms it's never a game. The sound as cordite touches spark and the solid, crafted and deadly little piece of lead and copper follows its laws of aerodynamics, ballistics and trajectory and leaves the chamber and the barrel. Forced out by the inevitable kinetic energy of friction and heat, it rushes towards me faster than I can breathe and I realise I'm not even going to complete my last breath.

Even though I seem to have time for a million thoughts to shoot through my synapses in milliseconds. So I curse whoever was responsible for cutting this particular bullet. And I imagine what my gravestone will look like, which I'll never get to choose, and who will be standing by it at my funeral, and who will wear black and who will cry… but I don't want him to cry. Mac. I know that. I don't even want him to be there, because I don't want to be there either.

And still that little projectile with my epitaph on is flying towards me. And I blame the sonofabitch who's firing it; I blame the creep who sold it on the streets for however many dollars more than I'll never earn again; and hell, I blame myself for standing there unable to move, realising a split-second too late that he had a gun hidden inside his goddamn coat.

It's almost reached me and still my mind won't shut the hell up and make my body do what it needs to do, even as my mouth is opening and my breath is disappearing and I know, I know that I have no time left to move or think. Time's almost up. So long life, nice knowing you, wish we'd had more time together.

But he's realised this too. Him. The man standing next to me whose shout has broken into my thoughts. Mac. I realise this as something solid and heavy and unmistakably my partner comes crashing into me, and his head knocks me under my chin, his shoulder pushes the breath that almost didn't make it back out of my chest and his arms throw me down onto the cold sidewalk.

So here lies Stella Bonasera…

On her back looking up; not at angels on white clouds with harps and music, but at a fire escape and a grey sky. Damn. Couldn't even get the afterlife right. Then I realise there's someone lying across my legs and that somehow I'm not dead.

How the hell did that happen?

But before I can even start to think consciously again, I've repeated the motion of finger, trigger and laws of physics. And someone else, the sonofabitch in the coat who, if I have anything to with it, has just fired his last bullet, falls to the ground.

So I get up. But he doesn't. Mac doesn't. He's lying there. On the floor at my feet. And that's not right: he should be standing next to me as he was a few seconds ago. It's all wrong. Badly wrong. There's blood too. Too much of it. But it's his, not mine. None of it's mine. I wouldn't have been surprised to see mine there. After all, it had been aimed at me, not him.

My own weapon drops and I almost follow it. Stunned. Thoughts start ringing and rewinding. What happened? What the hell happened? Even though I know. In a shock of clarity, I know exactly what's happened. That bullet hit another target. The wrong target. And it's him, not me, lying on the floor.

And suddenly we're surrounded. Someone's shouting. And Mac still doesn't get up. And there's still blood coming from him. Wrong. It doesn't belong on the ground. He doesn't belong there. He belongs at my side, so I make that right and drop down beside him and make sure he knows I'm there. At his side.

And he smiles then as my hands press onto his chest, and something splashes onto his face. But I'm not crying, I'm not! More shouting; voices around us in a protective circle. Someone's hand on my shoulder. Sirens in the distance. And I'm shouting, not crying. Not crying. Shouting at him. Because Mac Taylor has played the hero once too often and now he's fallen at my feet.

So I keep shouting because there's nothing else I can do. And tears and blood and furious saliva mingle all around him and he can't do anything else but smile. Dammit Mac, don't you smile, don't you dare smile! I know what that smile means and I'm not having it, you hear me, Mac Taylor? Don't you smile like that and let your eyes close. And he smiles and says it's okay, it's okay, Stella. But it isn't, it isn't, it isn't! It's never okay for him to be lying there like that having just done what he's done, and I tell him so.

And I keep on telling him for as long as it takes. All the time I'm sitting beside him in another goddamn ambulance on the way to another goddamn hospital with paramedics working round me, trying to stop my partner bleeding out from a bullet lodged in his ribcage. A bullet I should have taken. Not him. And his eyes are closing again so I grab his hand and tell him; tell him it's not okay to close your eyes on me, Mac! You hear me? It's not okay!

And I keep on telling him. And I can't stop the words ringing in my head, or stop the sound of that finger, trigger, gunshot. Because it's not okay for me to be sitting here in a waiting room surrounded by faces that are sorry; surrounded by my colleagues who keep offering me coffee and sympathy that I don't want. Waiting for someone to come tell me he's okay. That Detective Mac Taylor is safely out of surgery. Because anything other than that is not okay. Never okay. I won't accept that he's given up his life for mine.

Because I can't imagine mine without his.

And they finally let me in to see him, because this is one of those times when I'm not ashamed to use my badge for my own purposes. If they think I'm sitting one moment longer in that waiting room, feeling my heart pound every time someone walks through the door, they're sadly mistaken. So now I'm standing next to his bed, just standing there. And he's lying there with his eyes closed. Any other time, and I'd be happy to see the man who gave the word insomnia a whole new meaning sleeping. But not like this, never like this. And suddenly I'm clutching hold of his hand and I can't let go and the words are spilling out of my mouth, and I'm telling him this isn't okay, Mac. It's not okay for you to die on me. You hear that, Mac? You hear me?

And he hears me.

Finally he hears me. As I knew he would, really I did, even when I didn't. I keep telling myself in the rush of fear and relief and red-hot anger that I knew he'd hear me. So I tell him this, as soon as his eyes crack open again and I'm smiling and not crying at his side. And I tell him never do that again. Never! You hear me? Don't you dare do that to me again! And I'm not letting go of his fingers as I tell him a hero's the last damn thing I need.

That's the trouble with heroes; they're too easy to lose; they don't always live to fight another day, and they don't get to grow old; and honestly, I'd prefer a man I can live and grow old with. I want someone I can keep safe at my side. I want someone I can live and love and make a home with, for the rest of our lives. Our long lives.

Together.

And I'd prefer someone who isn't going to hurl himself in front of a speeding bullet heading my way, because that's not how it works, that's not what I need. I don't need someone to take a bullet for me, or to fight for me, because I can fight for myself. And I tell him I'd prefer plain old Mac Taylor, just him, over a hero any day, because heroes are not my style.

Then he smiles and agrees and raises his hand to stroke my cheek with his fingertips. My cheek that isn't wet with tears, no matter what anyone might say, and finally I can say it's okay. It is okay. I have the man I want at my side. Mac. Because we're alive, both of us, side by side, with a home and a future ahead of us. Together.

And that's all I need.

Having written this a while ago, I'd love to have some thoughts on this. Please review and tell me what you think. 'Old West' is also recently updated, and will be updated again in a few days time, if you fancy reading that. And I have another oneshot written, if anyone would like something a bit more dark and angsty :D Please let me know! Thanks, Lily x