A/N: Okay, this is something new for me as I've never written a sequel before so hope you all like it. As usual with me, you can expect angsty moments as well as comfort. But this time as it's a sequel, and the bases have already been made, it will allow more fluffy Smacked moments, that might even go as far as hot. Lol. So hope you enjoyed.

This story hasn't been beta-ed, so all mistakes are mine.

Summary: Sequel to Journey of the Broken Hearts. Mac and Stella start to take things toward a common future while a deadly killer piles up body in NYC. But as the CSI close in on him, his anger starts to shift toward our team. Whole team whump in a deadly game between the killer and the team...Smacked, DL and the whole team.

Disclaimer: I don't own anything, besides the characters I created for this story. CSI NY belongs to CBS and Jerry Bruckeimer.


He was warm and wrapped in a soft cloud of care and love and he didn't want to move. He opened an eye and peered into the darkness around him. Wherever he was it was the best place he had ever been until this day. Sighing in content, Mac shifted against the warm body his back was propped up and felt a pair of soft arms gently pulling him back, keeping him close and warm. He smiled lightly and closed his eyes. He was already going back to sleep as something buzzed somewhere and realizing it was probably his phone, he stirred with a soft grunt. His hand automatically reached to stop the small vibrations and wake up the body pressed against him. Still tired and aching a bit from his restless week, his hand shaved the table in the dark, in search of the trouble maker. After probing the cold table, he finally grasped the small intruder of their peaceful dream. He squeezed it with energy to shut it up, and cracked an eye open. The small noise died instantly. 3:20 AM glowed on the little screen. He dropped the phone back on the table and his head fell back on the couch with a small sigh. Without realizing it, he found himself nestling back into the warm embrace that had instinctively wrapped her arms around him the moment he had moved away. He, too, didn't want to move. It felt too good to be here, with her.

The couch beneath him growled a bit as he rubbed at the fabric and turned around to face the sleeping face of Stella. A small smile grazed his lips the moment the city lights lighted her beautiful face for his pleasure. He could see her lips slowly parting and closing under her warm breath that now tickled his face. He realized that it was the second time he hadn't woken up in sweat as he was used to lately. He closed his eyes, wanting more than ever to remain with her as long as possible, and his head nestled in the crook of her shoulders. A small sigh of content escaped his lips when her arms pulled him even closer. With delight, he remembered this fabulous weekend when he had revealed his feelings and had the surprise to see her feel the same way. It was a magical moment in the forest when she had said that she loved him too. His heart now at ease, he contemplated her peaceful features, deeply asleep. It felt good to be there and loved by the woman lingering his dreams. Of course, both were still dressed and he would have enjoyed discovering more of his partner's skin, but they had both decided to take it slow at first. So, no rush. They would have the whole life to be together.

His eyes half open, he smiled as her warm breath tickled his neck with more intensity and he had to take a slow breath to extinguish the warm desire he could feel soaring inside him. His head shifted slightly to gaze at her. A smile grazed his lips, his eyes lost on her soft relaxed features. For the first time since Claire had passed away, he wasn't feeling alone and empty in the morning, nor eager to get back in his office to have a chance of seeing her. No, this time he had the chance of waking up to her. No other woman had done that to him and he was always amazed to see how Stella could catch up with his thoughts in a single glance. Gently, his hand reached for her golden hair. Mindful not to wake her up, he gazed at her lovingly. His smile widened as her curls danced gently between his fingers and he could see her face softly cracking a smile as she could feel his gentle gesture. Even in sleep, they could reach each other, he realized with pleasure.

After a few minutes and with deep regrets, he slowly stirred and evaded her warm embrace. Gently, he rolled from the couch and Stella emitted a soft sigh, uttering his name as her arms closed around the empty, cold space he had just created. He crouched before her as he grabbed his phone and slipped it in his pocket. His lips tight in remorse, he wanted more than ever to stay with her, but duty called, and he had an early shift today. Careful, not wake her up, he tenderly brushed back the small curls dangling over her forehead and deposited a warm kiss. She stirred a little but her eyes remained closed. His smile widened at the beautiful view she was allowing him to see. He was happy, and he knew that nothing today would take him down as long as she would be in his mind. Gently, he pulled the blanket up, and tugged her in before he tiptoed through the darkness and to the bathroom.

He mentally thanked the small lights of the street peering through the wide window that gave him enough light to retrieve his way without barging into her furniture. After closing the door of the bathroom, he rapidly slipped into a pair of dark navy jeans and stared at the mirror reflecting his pale tired face. Dark bags were still deepening his face under his eyes, and he realized that his inner battle that had led him to his confession, had taken a lot more than just few hours of sleep from him. He sighed and sprinkled some fresh water other his face, before he dried it off with a towel. He would take a long shower as soon as he would be back at his apartment. This way he wouldn't make too much noise in case Stella had a light sleep. Gathering his clothes, he stuffed them in his bag and then an idea popped in his mind. Retrieving a pen and a notepad he always had in his bag, he wrote something on it before he turned off the light and exited the bathroom with his bag. Her apartment was still deeply silent and he was glad he hadn't disturbed her sleep. Glancing back to her sleeping form surrounded by dark shadows and nestled on the couch, he quickly left a note on the island and grabbed his bag before heading for the door. He sighed heavily. It was hard to leave her like that. Especially without a word. He hoped she would forgive him not to wake her up, but she needed her sleep and really, she seemed so at peace that he had not the heart to disturb her.

It was the first time in years that he had cursed an early morning for work. He would have never left that soon otherwise. His lips tight in remorse, his hand closed on the handle of the door and he exited her apartment, hoping that soon they would have to leave each other as few as possible. Waiting in silence in front of the elevator, he could already feel the need to feel her close and press against him. That cold sickening feeling of loneliness creeping up his chest and nestling into his heart. He let out a long sigh. He was used to this loneliness, all his life had been that way since Claire had died, but today it ached to feel it again. Now that he had found Stella, it was tearing him apart to leave her and not say goodbye properly. He sighed again. But she needed sleep and even if he had wanted to see her eyes open on him, he didn't want to wake her up for his own selfishness. So today he would have to live with the image of her sleeping quietly, until she would come to the lab and her sparkling emeralds could light his day. He knew that this day was going to be hard as long as she would be far from him. But her shift only started around noon and it seemed already too far away from now. More than eight hours to wait to see her, his mind shot in despair, and that was only if he was in his office by the time she would arrive. His heart squeezed in his chest. Hopefully, he would keep his mind busy enough not to ache too much of her absence. He clenched his jaw and stepped into the small cabin, praying noon would arrive soon.

xxx

As Mac climbed off his bike, the first thing that struck him was the warm humidity lingering into the night and slowly snaking up under his leather jacket and black t-shirt. His helmet off, he let it dangled loosely on the handle of his Harley as he brushed his hair back, and walked rapidly toward the police cars parked at the crossroad. He showed his badge to an officer blocking his way and spotted Flack coming toward him. The officer nodded and he kept walking toward his friend.

"What ya got?" he asked as he bent under the yellow tape and stepped toward Flack, his lips tight at the scene few yards from them.

"Morning to you too," Don answered bitterly, before he plastered a small smile on his face. He knew Mac was the kind of guy going straight to the point and sometimes he was just forgetting about the social use, so Don was used to remind him sometimes about it. He smiled inwardly, though it had happened a couple of times that Mac did the same for him.

"Sorry," Mac whispered, his tone softening. He was so bitter to have left Stella without a word, that he was already biting off Don's head. Good job, Mac.

He gave a quick glance at the crime scene as his sight went back to Don, dressed with a brown suit over a black t-shirt. Since Jess's death, his friend had dropped the formal full suit to wear more jeans and t-shirt than before, and honestly he didn't mind as long as it helped him to cope with the pain of losing someone so close to him. He cringed, remembering that lately he had been very close to lose Stella as well, which explained all his nightmares. He sighed and looked at Don. The young cop was holding his notepad, his face half bathed by the city lights of an early morning, the city still plunged into a dark night. Sun wouldn't be high before a few hours at least. Mac shivered a little under his leather jacket as the moist atmosphere of Madison Square Park before him kept crawling and sticking to his skin. Five minutes after he had left Stella's apartment, his phone had gone off for a DOA on 23rd and Broadway. Without time to change, he had decided to head directly to the crime scene.

Flack gave him a mischievous grin as he had seen him get off his bike. Mac riding a bike, gee this is a scoop!

"Don?" repeated Mac as his friend was smiling like a kid. Mac plastered a neutral face, knowing his friend was going to tease him about his unusual means of locomotion. He rolled his eyes to the dark sky over him, ready to face the sarcasm he felt coming. And as expected, it came quickly.

"You came on this?" teased his friend as he pointed at the Harley parked next to a small coffee shop.

Mac didn't need to see what Flack was pointing at to know what he meant. "Yeah, so..." In truth, he had hoped nobody but Stella would know about his bike. But when duty had called he had no choice but to come quickly. And somehow he had the sickening feeling that he was going to regret it.

"Didn't know you got that kind of blood in your veins, Mac," the young cop quipped, his grin to his ears. That was new.

"Well there's a lot of thing people doesn't know about me, Don," Mac answered a bit too harshly, his eyes focusing on the victim sprawled on the grass.

Flack widened his eyes. Did Mac Taylor just tell him to get lost? Huh. This subject had to be a bit hard on him. "Huh, sorry, didn't mean to invade your privacy."

Mac pursed his lips in a small pout. "No it's me. I'm sorry, Don. Shouldn't have snapped." He sighed. He missed so much Stella that he couldn't stop snapping and being angry. This day was going to be too long, he sighed inwardly.

"Huh, tough night?"

"No, more the contrary and..." he stopped, realizing he had spoken aloud. He frowned as he glanced at Don who was smiling broadly, obviously happy for this small confidence from his friend. Mac sighed. Okay, focus Mac, you'll see her soon enough. "So what happened?" he said, back all business.

Flack watched his friend's frustrated shoulders sagged a little and then decided he should better leave the matter for another time. Obviously something was bothering Mac and knowing his friend he wasn't going to spill it out right here, in the middle of a bunch of cops.

"Marlyn Delaney, 32, worked for the DA since last year. She was found by that guy over there, an hour ago." He pointed at a man wearing a pair of green shorts and yellow sweater. The guy was holding a dog on a leash while he was talking to an officer. Mac glanced at the witness and then his sight went back to Don. "Mister Woerth, here, usually let his dog out every mornin' before goin' to work. Except this mornin', he stumbled on her. Said he almost puked at the blood he saw."

Mac quirked his brows and look down to find the blood the guy had seen. Then, he spotted a thin red line leaking from the vic's nose. That blood. Perplexed, he looked back at Don.

His friend raised his brows toward him. "Yeah, don't ask."

Mac nodded. So their witness couldn't sustain the vision of few drops of blood, which, if it was true could scrap him off their suspects' list. He looked back at the victim, and crouched, observing how the corpse had been set. From his new position, he could see that blood had escaped from her ears too, clear signs of poisoning or disease. He clenched his jaw as he imagined Marlyn Delaney last moments. He could see her stumbling in the street in her night clothes, looking for help but finding none as the place was empty at this hour. Then unable to stand on her feet, she had fallen on the grass, and in a last attempt probably to call for help, she had rolled on her side. Now she lay on her back, her eyes wide open as her head had sagged on the side, and blood was dripping from her nose on her ashen face. His lips tight, he cocked his head noticing her right hand firmly closed.

"Hey Mac," called Danny from behind. "How ya came so fast?" asked his young CSI.

"Mac came on his motorbike," quipped Don with a big teasing smile and pointing at the Harley parked behind the yellow tape.

Danny whistled with a grin. "No way we got biker Mac and we didn't know that," replied Danny, amused.

"I need your kit, Danny," Mac said, acting as if he hadn't heard his friends picking up on him.

With a smiling glance at Don, Danny stepped beside Mac and opened his kit. "What ya need?"

Mac turned to him with a frown, not because of his young CSI teasing him, but because something was off with this vic. He grabbed a pair of gloves and slipped quickly his hands inside. Taking two steps near the right side of the corpse, he crouched again and lifted her right, closed hand. As she wasn't in rigor, he rapidly opened her hand expecting to find maybe a piece of the killer that she would have grabbed from him. But her hand was empty. He frowned as his stare focused on her palm and fingers, and he finally noticed small crimson spots.

"That's where the poison entered," he said after a moment as he showed her palm to Danny to notice the small cuts on her skin. "It's already dry." He thought a moment, biting his lower lip. "Must have happened some time ago."

Don's brows rose. "You mean the poison didn't kill her right away?"

"No, our crime scene just extended, she died here, but was murdered somewhere else." He stood up, and looked around. His eagle stare peering at the four way around him. Then, he turned toward the entrance of the park, deserted at this hour. There was small chance that they could find an eye witness to recount her finale hours. He walked back to Danny's kit. "Danny you're on traces," he said as he grabbed a camera and began to take shots of the vic.

His fingers pressed on the small button of the camera as they started to work on their vic. The bright flash caught the last memory of their victim in a small thunder. His lips tight, Mac wondered what Stella was doing right now. It was almost five. Was she awake already? Did she have found his note? A small smile played on his lips as he circled the body and took another shot of her legs covered by a sweat, white pants. Her feet were bare and dirty from her struggle to walk outside to desperatly find help. Mac shook his head bitterly, knowing she hadn't. She had probably been alone when she had been poisoned, and somehow he could understand her fear as she had discovered that something was wrong. His heart squeezed in his chest as his thoughts drifted back to Stella, alone in her apartment, maybe wondering why he had left her. He hoped she was okay. Well, there was no reason that she wouldn't be, his mind repeated him. But seeing his vic sprawled lifeless on the grass, he couldn't suppress the urge of seeing Stella to confirm to his heart that she was fine.

For a moment he caressed the idea of calling her, maybe waking her up and be the first voice she could hear this morning. But then, he dropped the idea. It was too early and he was scared for nothing. It wasn't because they were almost together that now he should start to call her at anytime, or she would probably freak out at his behavior. He swallowed his small anxiety, wondering why he was suddenly so afraid for Stella. He had known her for more than ten years now, and with none of his ex girlfriend he had felt that protective. He sighed knowing that none had ever been a match to Stella. Maybe why he was so afraid now. But things would be alright, right? He shook his head trying to focus on his vic. He had thought that too with Claire, and then, life had taught him that nothing was certain. He let out a small sigh, promising to himself that he wouldn't lose any moment he could be with her.

Behind him, the first sunrays pierced between the towers, sending a new breeze to caress his neck. His eyes still focus on his crime scene, the warm caress of the wind softly comforted him, reminding him of their amazing weekend. Soon he would see her again, and soon he would be reassured that she was okay. He knew it was irrational to think otherwise, but his gut was twitching inside him in need of a proof. Biting his lower lip, he remembered that he had promised her that he would be there for her. Pushing his irrational fear aside as her smiling face printed before his eyes, he took a deep breath. And with her beautiful face in mind, he was back on his task, his duty to find the killer of Marlyn Delaney becoming his first priority.

xxx

A warmth gently bathed her face, caressing her cheek and lazily stirred her in her sleep. A small smile grazed her lips as her thoughts reminded her where she was and with who. Expecting to see her weekend companion gently caressing her face, Stella opened her eyes with content and genuine expectations. But her joy was short lived as she realized the warmth wasn't from his palm over her cheek, but from the sun, rising through the window and bathing her couch. She pouted in regrets, looking around to see where Mac had gone. The place was silent and her stomach churned at the possibility her mind offered. He's gone, she realized in fear. Oh no, not again, she moaned inwardly. She frowned and her hands rubbed her face in misery. Then, she remembered he had said something the night before about him being on early calls. So he had probably gone for work. He hadn't left her voluntarily, she reassured herself. No, the last time he had left her, he had his reasons, and he was trying to protect both of them, wrongly assuming she didn't love him. But that wrong assumption had been cleared up, and that's why he had finally agreed to stay at her place last night. She grinned inwardly, remembering his intense look at the door when he had hugged her and promised that he would always be there for her, that he loved her. She closed her eyes for a second, her mind mulling over his tender words. I love you.

Opening her eyes, she glanced at her watch and realized she had slept in: 9AM. God, she must have been pretty tired. Though last night they hadn't done anything special. After their trip, she had invited him; they had eaten a bit before the TV; talked part of the evening; and she had marveled at her partner slowly falling asleep in her arms. He had fought to remain awake though. But her soothing voice and her soft caresses brushing his hair had had the better of him. Soon her eyes had been able to caress his face while his eyes had shut, finally yielding to a deserved sleep. She sighed in content. She could remember his warm body pressed against her while they had laid on the couch. He had seemed so weary, that it had broken her heart to witness his fight to remain awake, saying he didn't want to lose a minute to gaze at her.

Of course, she couldn't deny it had taken them both sometime to realize that their feelings were mutual and that taking a step forward wouldn't jeopardize their friendship. But since they had taken that step, Mac had just acted so natural around her, with this sense of belonging that she had craved for so long; that it had amazed her, how his admission, and her acknowledgement had made them run for it. She grinned, even though they had decided to take it slow. Then, she let out a small sigh of regrets. Slow meant that her need for him, to feel his skin pressed against her with nothing else between them but their love, would take sometime. But honestly, she didn't mind that too much, though she had been the one asking for that slow pace after all. At least they had talked and now they could build something together. She smiled again, wondering what he was doing. She knew he was already working and engrossed in his work, but was he thinking of her as she was? A mischievous smile played on her lips, maybe she should send him a text to tell him what a great night it had been. She shook her head. No, she couldn't. They weren't kids, she couldn't send him a message like that, or he would think that she was crazy. Which was true, she was crazy about him, her mind added with joy and her face lighted with a broad smile.

Taking a deep breath, she pushed the blanket aside, noticing that the way the blanket had been pulled to her shoulders, he must have tugged her in. She closed her eyes a second, imagining his warm fingers caressing her face while he had pulled the blanket up. She felt suddenly well and at peace as she had never felt before. She sighed. She missed him. She glanced at her watch again and cursed the fact she had not to come to work before noon today. Of course, they had been used in the past to their long time without each other, but since this weekend and spending every seconds with each other, her body was aching not to feel him beside her. She was addicted to him so much that it hurt not to see him or hear his warm voice saying her name. Pouting, she stood up and went to the kitchen. She needed coffee. At least getting ready for work would get her close to the time she would see him.

Passing rapidly the island, she didn't notice the note right away and started to make coffee. Ten minutes later, a steaming cup in hand and her hair in a pony tail ready for the shower, her eyes caught sight of the white paper left on the island. Her brows creased, wondering what it was. She didn't remember it before. She took the paper and read the note. Her face instantly lighted at Mac's words.

Thanks for this amazing night and weekend.

I'm in your kitchen and I miss you already.

Mac

Amazing night. Her lips tight, she remembered the previous night when she had found him drenched in sweat in a middle of a nightmare. She sighed, the image of blood smearing his white dressing and sheets. It was at that moment that she had realized how deep his nightmares were taking him and draining him of his strength. His condition had been due to more than just one restless night. No, he was restless since the past week, and as a usual bad sleeper, his nightmares had had more consequences of his health than anybody. Although he was tough, his body was also hurting himself while the night as his old stitches had reopened several times. She could remember how afraid for him she had been. Even her touch on his burning body had hurt him as he had woken up, his gaze unfocused and uttering her name in a tormented voice. Her mind replayed slowly when he had finally acknowledged her bent over him, the thick veil of fear leaving his eyes the minute he had recognized her. It had hurt her to see him like this, but it's only few hours later after he had admitted he loved her and that he was afraid of losing her that the pieces of the puzzle had taken all their senses. His nightmares were about her. He was dreaming of losing her, and last night for the first time in weeks, he hadn't dreamed this way. She smiled remembering how she had waited patiently that he loses his battle with sleep to close her eyes herself. It was late when he had finally closed his eyes, but that way, she was sure he had at least slept a couple of hours.

So yes, last night had been amazing and not only because he had slept without nightmare, but because they had been together, knowing they loved each other. She grinned inwardly. Yes, it had been an amazing night for her too. Her eyes glanced at the sun peering through the window with delight. As well as a great amazing weekend. She had discovered a lot of things about Mac. Things he had never really talked about, like his childhood with his dad, but mostly what he assumed he was inside. But as time would pass she would make sure to erase slowly his wrong assumptions about himself and what he thought he had to become in order to meet her standards. He was already all she wanted. She smiled, his warm face appearing in her mind. She wanted him just like he was, he didn't need to change. In fact she didn't need him to change. He was perfect already, though she might not tell him this way, she mused.

Miss you already, his second words echoed in her mind. Her mischievous smile came back on her lips as she grabbed her cell phone. If he was leaving her notes, then it wouldn't be polite from her not to answer back, she thought with a grin. Quickly, she typed her answer and happy about her action, walked to her bathroom to take a long, warm shower where she already knew her mind would play with the image of Mac, half dressed only for her pleasure.

xxx

Mac sighed, rubbing his eyes tiredly as his drained body slumped further back in his chair. Even though he had slept a bit last night, and mostly because of Stella, he was still tired by his weary weeks, and his restless nights. As Danny and he, had finished with their crime scene, they had come back to the lab to find Sinclair waiting for him and pacing nervously his office. The Chief of the Detectives had wanted the last report on the case of last week, which happened to be not ready, since he had taken a day off plus the whole weekend. The case was politically hot and of course Sinclair wanted the report ASAP. He had worked the rest of the morning on it and had sent a lab tech to bring it to the Chief. Now tired and still in his casual clothes as he hadn't had the time to take a shower and changed, he wanted more than anything else to have a few minutes break to close his eyes and stopped the rumbling headache hammering in his head.

He let out a heavy sigh of frustration and let his tired body sank back further in his chair. He closed his eyes a second hoping to get that well deserved break, but then his phone went off and he cursed his current situation. With a pout, he grabbed his phone hoping it wasn't Sinclair getting on his back again. But his face immediately lighted at the caller ID: Stella. He pressed on the button to check her message, feeling already better.

Miss you too

See you shortly

City Girl

He grinned at the reference of their weekend, and finally sighed in content. His heart slowed down its pace and he realized it was because of her. Stella. Her name played over his lips with delight like a sweet addictive nectar. He pondered a minute if he should send her an answer, but then Danny stepped into his office and his mind went back to work. Break's over, his mind whispered in misery, as his back ached too from his previous encounter with a branch this weekend.

"Yes, Danny," he said, waving at Danny to enter, and hiding a small wince.

Danny stepped inside Mac's office, his face serious and a file in hand. "I've got the first results from tox. It's poison. You were right." He handed the file to Mac who leaned forward to his desk.

If he was happy for being right, Mac didn't show it as he pressed Danny to continue with a small nod. The young CSI continued, although with the day light now, he could see the dark bags under his boss' eyes and his tired posture, his body supported by his desk. For a minute, Danny wondered when was the last time Mac had slept. But then, seeing he was staring at him, Danny focused on the file before his boss.

"It's thallium sulfate. It's a slow poison, used..." but Danny couldn't finish as Mac cut him off.

"To kill rats," said Mac, biting his lower lip.

Danny shook his head, not surprised Mac already knew about it. His boss had a personal knowledge about almost everything. And over the years, Danny had come to accept it as something normal from his friend. "Ya, doesn't kill right away if ingested at a small dosage, but it slows down the heart and break internal tissue creating bleeding, pulmonary embolism and after a few hours or days, death." He pouted with disgust. "Really a nasty thing."

Mac nodded. Killing this way couldn't be for the thrill of the kill or the killer would have chosen another tool doing the job more quickly. But he couldn't exclude the killer watching from afar to enjoy a slow death. From what Flack had gathered, Marlyn Delaney had the time to leave her apartment, walk to the park at 2:30am, and realize in fear that she was probably dying. Pulmonary embolism. He clenched his teeth. It explained why she hadn't used the phone from her apartment as the security camera of the near by street had picked her up coming out of her apartment, already stumbling.

He looked at Danny thinking. "We have to find the first crime scene and where someone could get a hold of thallium sulfate."

Danny nodded. "Sheldon is already checking the sellers. Considering the form of thallium that was found in her blood, it was concentrated in high dosage. Only, few companies can use it with authorization. Mostly companies that work for eradicating rodents."

"Good, let's go to her apartment and checked if she was poisoned there." Mac stood up and grabbed his leather jacket but stopped when Danny gave him a frown.

"Huh, don't ya wanna change before? I mean, Mac, I know it's not my business, but uh...you look tired, I can always go there with Flack and..." started Danny, his gaze taking more of his disheveled boss as he stood by his side.

Mac chuckled lightly as he patted Danny's shoulder and led him out of his office. "It's only clothes Danny, besides I'm fine. Thanks for your concern. Let's go." On this word he headed toward the elevator and Danny had to rush behind him to keep up to his quick pace.

xxx

When Stella arrived ten minutes before her shift, she expected to see Mac working in his office. But as she rounded the corner, her heart squeezed in deception seeing that it was empty. Few minutes later, she had run into Adam in the corridor and had quickly learned that Mac was working on a case since this morning, and had gone to his vic's apartment to extend his searches, Danny in tow.

"Yeah," wondered Adam aloud in the corridor when he had stopped her to show her a file on his screen. "I wonder what he did this weekend for not having the time to change his clothes." The young lab tech chuckled. "Last time, it was after he was back from London. Doesn't happen a lot to see Mac so casual." He grinned as he glanced at Stella mischievously and taking a confidence tone. "Yep, you should have seen Mac exiting the elevator with his dark jeans and leather jacket. Wouldn't have thought he could dress like the rest of us," quipped Adam, without realizing that he was speaking to Stella, his superior and Mac's second in command.

She frowned, wondering why people tended to put so much stereotype on everyone without trying to know them better first, and especially on her partner.

"Probably got a real busy weekend seeing his face," continued the lab tech still amused about gossiping on his boss. "Though with his clothes he couldn't have gone far for work?" thought Adam aloud.

"What face?" she asked wondering what he was talking about as her arms slowly crossed over her small black jacket. She had opted today for a long, dark pants and high heels, covered with her long sleeve, green V neck top that she knew Mac loved. She smiled inwardly, she had noticed how his eyes had remained stuck on her forms each time she had worn it, and today she wanted to be on her better game.

"I don't know. The boss seemed tired as usual, though I caught him smiling when he was alone in his office. Weird right? Mac? Smiling alone?" Adam raised his brows as if it was the most unnatural thing on earth.

He looked up at Stella who was broadly smiling her face turned toward Mac's office, imagining him sitting in his chair and receiving her text.

Then, she looked back at Adam who was still staring at her in the middle of the corridor, a kid's grin plastered on his face. Her eyes settled on him with a small glare, clearly meaning that he shouldn't have added his last words about Mac on her presence.

Adam frowned, realizing his mistake at talking like that about Mac to Stella. After all, everybody knew how close friends they were. Suddenly he felt really out of place, and he stammered. "I...I have worked to do." He finished lamely. Quickly, he stepped aside and went to hide in one of a lab room, hoping Stella wasn't going to repeat it to Mac.

With a small grin, Stella headed for her office, knowing that Adam had got her message and he wasn't about to gossip on anyone for the day at least. As she was about to sit behind her desk, she was caught by Lindsay, entering with a quick pace. The young detective smiled broadly at her.

"Hey, Stella. How was your weekend?" she asked, her brows rose in a silent question as she could see that her friend had obviously spent a great weekend; her eyes gleaming in content as she had never seen her. Lindsay's smile widened, knowing that a man had to be behind that smile. But who?

Stella ignored her friend's silent question and replied with one of her own. "Fine, Linds. What ya got, kiddo?"

Lindsay smirked, seeing how Stella had dodged her silent question, and her smile had quickly disappeared. Lindsay frowned. It meant her weekend had been really interesting. But either good or bad, Mac's second in command didn't let it being seen by the younger CSI. But something was telling her, that it had to be good, as a small smile returned in Stella's eyes although her friend was trying to hide it. Lindsay smiled, knowing she would bring her question about who, later. Now was time for work.

"Caucasian male, forties, died in Queens. Locals are waiting for us," she quickly listed.

Stella nodded. "Okay, let's go then." Quickly she left her purse in her office and glanced at Mac's empty office when she exited her door. She pouted, hoping they would have time to see each other today. She needed to see him, and the more he was far from her, the more the burn extended and hurt in her chest. She wanted to see him and feel his warm breath teasing her cheek. Her lips tight, she followed Lindsay to the lift. Soon, her mind repeated to comfort her. Soon.

xxx

Mac pushed the door open, his right hand on his glock in case of any surprise inside. Silence greeted them as he and Danny stepped in a small condo bathed by the warm sunrays of an early afternoon. Scanning the main room, Mac headed to his left, keeping an eye on Danny's back as the young CSI headed to the right. After a minute, Danny came back with a shake of his head, and Mac entered the door on the left. The place was neat and didn't look as if someone was using the kitchen to eat at all.

"Clear," he shouted, telling Danny that he could start to process the other room safely.

He slipped his hands in a pair of white gloves. Their vic was probably an adept of the stakeout, seeing the clean place. And to confirm his assumptions, he found bottles of water in her fridge and nothing else. Hard worker, his mind whispered. His lips tight, he realized his fridge just looked the same, but with Stella in his life now, he should probably start to buy some real food if he wanted to invite her over. He frowned and closed the fridge. He shook his head. He would do that as soon as he would be back to his place, though right now he wasn't excited about going back there alone. Biting his lower lip, he focused his attention on the kitchen floor, and smirked. Even the floor was perfectly neat and clean. That woman had to be pretty paranoid about virus or she wasn't spending a lot of time in her condo, he deduced.

He turned and with the sunrays bathing the kitchen floor, he noticed two small dots near the island, which considering the clean place was unusual. He crouched near the dots and pointed his beam on it, his penlight rising to his right ear. The dots looked a lot like blood drops to him. Setting his kit near him, he took a swab of the substance and using a small spray, he quickly saw the cotton turned purple. He had his answer then: blood. His beam followed the dots as he found another one almost two feet away, then another one near a small bin before the trail stopped. Careful in his moves, Mac crouched and slowly lifted the top of the bin. Inside the blue, plastic bin spiked out the butt end of fresh, cut flowers. Roses to be more precise, as the red petals appeared in the bottom. He bit his lower lip as his mind replayed the scene. Marlyn receiving these flowers and obviously not happy about them she had stashed them into the trash, little she knew that it could be what was going to kill her. Mac sighed, but his theory remained to be proven by the evidence and for that they would have to match the thorns with her cut and find her blood on the deadly flowers. He shoved his light inside the bin, trying to find if a card had been added to it. But obviously, none that he could see. Closing the trash, he sealed it with an evidence tape and bagged it, adding a warning to handle with care just in case his theory was true and the flowers had been the killing tool.

"Found something?" asked Danny from the threshold as he stared at Mac's back. His boss was crouched before a bin and he could only see him moving when his jacket was shifting slowly. He smiled lightly. For Mac to wear casual clothes on a workday he had to be called when he wasn't at his place, otherwise he would have had the time to change. So where was he this weekend? Wondered Danny. And the more interesting question was, what was he doing?

Turning to Danny, Mac frowned and his light pointed at the trash now bagged. "May have found our possible murder weapon."

Danny looked at Mac, his face back to serious. "And what is it?"

"Flowers, rose to be exact." Pointed out Mac as his chin showed the trail of blood drops.

Danny looked down and raised his brows with a smirk. "I knew it was dangerous to offer flowers to a girl," he quipped with a light smirk. "Never gonna happen with me," he stated with a smug face.

Mac gave him an amused grin at the poor excuse Danny had found for not being a flower buyer. "It's the intention that counts Danny, not the flowers."

With a frown, Danny looked at Mac as if he had just told him that ET had landed at the lab. His lips tight in bewilderment, Danny stared at Mac, slowly remembering it was the same man who had advised him to take the plunge with Lindsay the day he would feel ready. So, yeah, after all it wasn't surprising that Mac had told him that. Though it wasn't everyday either that his friend was talking about feelings this way. Then he grinned mischievously. "Had to be a very good weekend," he replied with a smile, knowing that this way he would know if he was right according to Mac's reaction.

Mac sighed, wondering why his friends had to be so thick when it comes to his personal life. The fact he didn't show what was inside of him because he had no occasion for it, didn't mean he was crippled in this domain. How did they think he had known and dated Claire? By accident? He sighed and ignoring Danny's question, he preferred to look at the kitchen one more time. It was better that he ignored this kind of comment, after all, if his friends wanted to think like that there was no reason he would try to change their mind. No, the important thing was that he had an amazing weekend with Stella and that he had finally revealed his feelings without breaking their friendship. A small smile tugged at the corner of his lips. And she hadn't said no to his confession. His smile widened.

"You okay, Mac?" Danny's voice came from behind as he took a step aside and stared at Mac. Surely, his boss was behaving oddly since this morning. Dodging his questions and even if he still looked his usual tired, he seemed happier. Danny grinned as he noticed Mac's small smile. Then, if Mac was happy it had to be a good thing, and sooner or later he would know what was making him so happy. Yeah, he would team up with Flack to know more.

"Let's have her apartment sealed and analyze those flowers," said Mac as he hadn't noticed Danny's quiet stare. Mac stood up. "If it's our murder weapon, then we won't have to send a team to pack half her apartment," Mac said as he glanced at a grinning Danny. He frowned. The smile on his friend's face meant he was up to something, and considering his late reference to his weekend, it meant he was probably going to hear about it for sometime. He sighed inwardly, realizing that Danny as well as Don wasn't going to drop the subject and would try to know more about his weekend. Whatever. As long as they don't know a thing about Stella and I, things should be fine, his mind reassured him.

Danny nodded and helped Mac to pick up their package as both got their kits in hands and headed to Mac's truck.

xxx

Stella stepped under the yellow tape and entered the small lighted apartment. She pouted in disgust as the stench of death and decay assaulted her nose. Quickly, she put the back of her gloved hand to her mouth trying to hinder the stink to get further inside her lungs. Though she knew it was futile, it was still an old reflex.

"This one's old," quipped Lindsay behind her, her hand too before her mouth. The young CSI knew that this kind of smell could only come after at least two days of decay. And within a confine place like this apartment and in the middle of July, well, the heat had done the rest.

Without answering, Stella looked at the victim sitting on the floor in a middle of a wreck. His back was leaned against a couch and some of the furniture were upside down and tossed to the ground. All over, the ground was covered with broken pieces of wooden splinters and pieces of glass. She frowned, seeing the man's hand clutched at his right leg. She crouched near their vic, and noticed the white ashen face common with heavy, blood loss. Her sight lowered to his thigh and the pool of blood beneath his leg. He looked like he had been stabbed and had lost his blood before he died from it. She frowned noticing that his cell phone rested on a small table few feet from him. As she examined his hands and wrists, she didn't see any kind of restraints, so why he hadn't called for help? Her penlight pointing at the wound, she slowly lifted the torn fabric of the pants and found it stuck to the man's skin. That wasn't common with heavy blood loss. It was as if the blood had the time to coat with the fabric, meaning it hadn't been a quick bleeding. Looking more closely, she could see that the stab had happened too far from his artery. Then, he had plenty of time to call for help, so why not?

Her sight looking at the vic's surrounding, a pair of black shining shoes appeared near the victim as a local detective stopped near the body, his notepad open. Detective Fincher, remembered Stella as she looked up to meet the gaze of a tall man with thin blond hair, messily spread over his head as he was trying hard to look younger than his real age. She smirked at the almost arrogant attitude he conveyed. They had worked on a couple of cases together and she still had a hard time to like him. But this job wasn't about liking people she had to work with after all. Although, after he had asked her out twice and she had gently told him no, she was wondering if it wasn't because of his tries that she couldn't stand him. But now, she had Mac and was happy it had finally happened.

"Chance Parker. Forty-one. Worked as a medical adviser for Pharmaceutical and co. Was found by his landlord when he was alerted by his neighbors of the odor coming from here." He chuckled lightly. "As if smelling the dead cat they hadn't got a clue of what they could find," smirked with contempt the detective.

Stella glared at him, not in the mood for his bad choice of words and lack of respect for the man dead before them.

His sight focus on the vic, Fincher didn't see Stella's glare and continued in his listing. "And with the late heat, he didn't take long before the smell enveloped the whole building and that body rotted like an over cooked chicken."

Stella stood up, her fists tightening at her side. "Stick on the facts, Fincher!" she finally snapped.

"Wow, cool down, Bonasera," he replied with disdain. "The man got to express himself and live for once."

"Well, do it somewhere else than when I'm here!" she scolded him.

He glared at her, not happy to be told off like that in front of the other officers. "Won't be over," he hissed between his teeth, only for Stella to hear.

She glanced at the landlord, ignoring his threat. The small manwho had been the first on the scene, was now talking to a police officer to take his statement. "Did he touch the vic?" she continued, keeping her professional tone.

Fincher nodded unhappily, but now that all eyes were on him, he had to be careful with his next choice of words. "He said he checked for a pulse before calling 911. That's all."

She shook her head. "We'll need reference samples from him."

"Yeah, I know," replied harshly Fincher. "I've already told him to stay longer for you to get them."

With a dark stare, Stella watched as Fincher waited for her next question, his jaw clenched in anger. That man was just like Frankie, she realized, when he couldn't have what he wanted, he turned to anger and that wasn't a good sign. She sighed inwardly, knowing that she might have to watch her back the next couple of days, just in case. Fincher could just jeopardize her case just to get back to her.

"Family?" She asked. It was a typical question, but her heart couldn't stop twisting in pain at the family her vics were always leaving behind. And as a Foster child she knew a lot about abandon. She sighed.

"Divorced. A kid in college at Brooklyn while his ex works as a secretary for the city."

Stella nodded and saw that Lindsay was done with the pictures and was now processing the vic's nails. She sighed and continued scanning the room while Fincher finally left to join the other cops waiting before the yellow line.

"What was tha t about?" asked Lindsay, her eyes darting at Fincher's back.

"Ah, nothing. We just don't get along," Stella dropped with a sigh.

"Yeah, well you mean like fire and ice," quipped Lindsay, refering at the tension that everyone in the room could have felt the moment Stella had asked Fincher to get back on professional track.

Stella's lips tightened. "He's just an ass. Nothing to worry." She said as she crouched back next to the victim and her anger quickly faded as soon as her mind printed Mac's smiling face before her. A small grin grazed her lips, knowing that Fincher wouldn't stand a second facing her tough partner. And even if she didn't want to see him fight or that she was quite capable of taking him down, her mind was happy to imagine Mac kicking the ass of his poor excuse for a man.

"Got to be a hell of a weekend," the young CSI quipped behind her, noticing her returning smile, and surprising Stella as she was deep in her thoughts.

"What? I'm sorry Linds, what did you...?" Stella turned to Lindsay with a small frown.

"Oh C'mon, Stella. You haven't stopped smiling since we left the lab. Apart with mister dumb ass here. So how is he?" enquired Lindsay, a big grin plastered on her face, obviously dying to know more about her friend's personal life.

Stella's eyes widened at the deep insight her friend had of her. "It was good," she answered not wanting to reveal that it was Mac. In fact, none of them had talked about the subject of the team and if they were going to tell them, after all it was their business, no need to post it in the New York Times.

"Good?" Lindsay's arms dropped on her sides in disappointment. "Stella you got to give me more than that. I don't recall seeing you this happy since...since ever." She almost shouted, her voice definitely higher than an octave. "He must be pretty special then?"

Stella chuckled. "He is. But you won't know more about this, Linds."

With a sheepish smile tugged at the corner of her lips, Lindsay continued to shave her light on the ground. She knew, sooner or later she would have a name, but for now she was happy to have the confirmation that she was right, and that her friend was happy. Her curiosity could wait, but just a little.

Seeing that Lindsay had dropped the subject, Stella focused on the splinters on the ground and bagged them. She wondered if Mac was back at the lab, and if he had time to change as Adam had nicely pointed out that he had been pretty busy since this morning. Probably has skipped lunch as well. She frowned, and made a mental note to check for that when she would see him.

xxx

Mac slumped back in his chair with a heavy sigh and glanced at the pile of files that had accumulated on his desk while he was processing his vic's apartment. He sighed heavily and took the first one as he rubbed his forehead, his headache back in full force. Analysis report and conclusions appeared before him, on a case Sheldon was working on. He shook his head, realizing he hadn't got the time to check on his CSI/former ME since this morning. Obviously, his friend had finished his case and his conclusions were thorough and proved the vic had been killed by accident. Though his wife would still have to go on trial for what she had done, but seeing the evidence, everything pointed out it was not her fault. With a file like that, he could bet the DA would drop the case. Case closed, he thought as he signed the file at the bottom and put it on the done box. His lips tight, he took another file and quickly noted he had still three other reports to go through before he checked with Sid about his vic. He sighed heavily, hoping to finish this and being able to see Stella soon.

An hour later, and five more files done, since Adam had brought him another one to sign, he was glad to finally leave his office when a voice from behind caught his attention. A smile tugged at his lips, he watched as Stella exited the lift and her emeralds connected instantly with his eyes. She gave a quick word to Lindsay before she headed toward him. He frowned as he realized where they were and that he was bound by his work and protocol.

Stella sighed leaving the lift and when her eyes met suddenly the green, ocean pools of her partner gazing at her in the middle of the corridor, she had to fight hard the warm feeling starting to redden her cheeks and the urge of wrapping her arms around him. Then, her heart skipped a bit as he approached her, a deep frown creasing his face. And she felt her stomach tightened anxiously.

"You okay, Mac?" she asked wondering if he wasn't regretting this weekend now that they have to deal with their relationship and their job at the same time. He nodded, his lips tight. His hand gently patted her left arm as he led her toward the locker room, his face still bearing a grim look.

"We need to talk," he said gravely as they headed to the room. The door closed behind them and Mac glanced in the room to check if they were alone. Then, his face softened and a mischievous smile appeared on his lips as he stood before Stella.

She could see that indeed he hadn't changed and his face was bearing the dark marks of his restless previous nights. But his eyes, she smiled, no, his eyes were gleaming playfully with more force and confidence than before.

Wondering if he was not making a mistake, Mac took a small step toward Stella, checking her reaction. As she smiled at his move, his right hand softly cupped her cheek. With delight, his thumb gently stroked her skin as he gave her a shy smile filled with apologies.

"Sorry for this morning," he apologized. "Hadn't the heart of waking you up. You were sleeping so peacefully," he confessed, as he bit his lower lip.

"You can always wake me up, Mac. Seeing you is the best dream I could think of." Her soft voice reassured him.

He grinned like a kid at her soothing words. And without a second of hesitation, he stepped closer to her. Gently, tenderly, his lips brushed hers, tasting the sweet feeling of her soft pulping skin under his. And as he felt her arms snaking around his waist, he deepened the kiss with all the intensity he had left in him. He heard her moaned in content and felt his desire growing at her delighted sounds. One arm wrapped around her waist. He took a step forward and he felt her back touching the wall as his hand was stuck between her soft body and the cold wall. His body leaned against hers as his right hand slowly brushed back her curls. His fingers lost in her golden hairs as he deepened the kiss, savoring every seconds of her breath mixed with his. His heart was pumping hard in his chest at the pleasure of having Stella so close to him, and vibrating pressed against him. After a long moment and both needing to breathe, he released his hold on her and saw her eyes gleaming with happiness.

He gave her a loving smile. "I know we said we'll take it slow." He gazed at her, checking if she was okay with his kiss, though seeing her broad smile spread to her ears he assumed she was. "Just needed to remind myself it's real." He took a step back and grinned happily.

Her brows rose, amused by his statement. "Then, you can check for that at anytime, Mac," she quipped, happy to see he had no trouble to be with her at work, even taking the time for them to be alone to really talk. And that was new for her to see him loosening this way. Though she reminded herself that she had never been in the position of being his girlfriend, so maybe he was able to manage both his private life and his job without any of the team to see them.

His smile widened at her words. "Got to go see Sid for my vic and I have to see Dr Shen for...well..." he raked his throat, wondering if he was alright to ask her if he could come by later to her apartment. But before he had to really ask, she spoke first, her emeralds shining like a blazing tiny green sun.

Her hand softly caressed his cheek, and her fingers lingered into his short hair. "You come after at my apartment?" she asked on a warm tone, hoping it was what he was going to say. But remembering the intense kiss he had just given her, she could assume he was going to ask just that. And frankly, she had waited all day to see him. So, her place was definitely a great place to end the day and unwind together.

He smiled and his hand rubbed at the back of his neck, shyly. "As soon as I'm done with Sid and Shen," he quickly replied. He sighed in content and as he stepped beside her to head toward the door, he couldn't resist to touch her one last time. Softly, he caressed her cheek once again, and his eyes mouthed a shy I love you before he left.

Blushing, Stella turned toward the door, realizing that it was all true. She wasn't in one of her dreams anymore. No, they had finally found each other. With that thought in mind, she exited the locker room and headed for her office, she had a case to close before going home tonight, and possibly she would have the time to cook something for them. But whatever happened, she had his promise that tonight again they would be together and that was enough to hold on until tonight.

...TBC


A/N: Well, this story will work as a normal case, although angst, comfort and romance will progressively seep through it. But the main theme will be Mac and Stella developing their new bond.

So hope you liked it, and don't forget to leave me a review and tell me what you thought of this.

Have all a great Sunday.