A/N: This is my first Stingers story, so reviews would be very much appreciated. The title is from the song of the same name by Matraca Berg. I Hope you enjoy.

Set/Spoilers: Set during episode 3x06: No Way Out, mild Mac-related spoilers for the start of season 3.

Pair: Mac&Church

Disclaimer: I don't own, don't sue.

Back When We Were Beautiful

Pete is scared. Peter Church, undercover cop and general hard arse is scared. This in itself is bad enough, but it's worsened by the fact that Mac is scared. Ellen Mackenzie is the one who keeps them all together; but now that she's falling apart the job falls to him, and he's not sure he's capable. He's going to give it his best, though. Mac deserves that. He owes her that.

She has every right to be scared, of course; she's potentially infected with HIV, and even a woman as brave and strong as she is has every right to be scared –only scared, though; she doesn't let herself get anywhere beyond scared. But Christ, he'd be shitting himself, and he's their resident tough guy.

He's grateful, though, that of all the people in her life, of all the people she could trust enough to fall apart on, it's him she chooses. It's a little bit of her he still gets to privately claim that no one else does.

Earlier that night she'd burst into tears at her dinner table (after some tactical prodding from him), and he'd held her until her tears had subsided – no, that was a lie; he kept holding her long after that. In fact, right now he's still holding her, and he doesn't intend to stop any time soon.

They're in bed – in her bed for once, rather than a bed in a cheap hotel room; fully clothed - another rarity. She hadn't wanted to be left alone after sobbing into her rigatoni, and the truth of the matter is that he wouldn't have left her alone tonight, even if she'd pulled her gun on him. He's sick of letting her go through this alone. He never should've.

Right now he's pretty sure she's asleep, and he should be too, but he can't stop thinking.

She's curled against his chest, and after her saying she misses him before she started to cry he finds this a difficult thing to cope with, because he misses her, too. He's not sure he's ever stopped missing her. It's been hard, having to be around each other after breaking up, but they've learnt to cope, learnt to be friends again, maybe they've almost learnt how to be something more without spontaneously combusting into disaster. He pulls her more tightly into his chest, edging closer to her until his chin is by the base of her neck.

"Elle?" He whispers the private pet name used more to see if she's asleep than to say something specific to her.

"Mhm." She nods, twisting her face towards him and having their cheeks accidentally brush, the corners of their lips come a little too close to meeting.

"Can't sleep?" He queries, breath breaking over her flesh and making it worryingly tempting for her to fall into an old habit she thought she'd kicked – it's called Peteaholism and it's a little too much for her to deal with right now.

"No, I can." She states, contradicting him. "...I don't really want to."

"Ellie," he breathes the rarely heard term of endearment chidingly: 'you need rest' implied in his tone.

"I just want to remember this. What it feels like. What it used to feel like." She whispers, her words so soft that he wouldn't have heard her had he been even an inch further away.

"Okay." He softly agrees to her terms and conditions, burying his face in the curve of her shoulder.

Even if he can't fix this, can't promise she'll be okay, can't turn back the clock and make this nightmare just a dream, comforting her he can manage.

He reaches further across her, searching out her hand and tangling his fingers with hers when he finds them. This he can do for her; and – ridiculous as it may be, when he's holding her like this, he feels a little less afraid, and he hopes she does, too.