It had been a long day, in a week of long days. But, finally, eventually and thankfully the case was closed and Mac and Stella could breathe again, and maybe even see the insides of their apartments for longer than a quick shower and change of clothes.

They had decided on going for a meal before succumbing to the exhaustion that threatened - a proper meal. Something with vegetables and actual nutrition and wasn't named after its size.

So there they sat, in a rounded booth against the back wall with a proper meal, a beer and fatigue quickly setting in. Both parties could have quite happily sunk back into the overstuffed seats and allowed the dimmed lights and soft music to take them away to a long-overdue sleep.

Stella had taken to watching the clientele slowly filtering in as the people of New York began their Friday night. "Do you ever wish you could just go back?"

"Back where?" Mac asked, wiping his mouth on his napkin.

"To before the job. Before all the cynicism and auto-analysing gets you."

He followed her eye line to a young couple at the bar. She was early twenties with light hair and dark eyes, a knock-off Chanel draped over a taut and toned figure. He was older -early thirties- dark hair, dark suit.

"I saw him come in," she gestured with her bottle of beer, "so did she the instant the door closed behind him."


"So..." she looked to Mac, somewhat surprised he couldn't see what she saw. "Okay, it's what, 6pm? He's obviously come straight from work. He has chalk on the bottom of his jacket at the back. Either he's a teacher – but he wouldn't dress like that for the grades that use chalk – or he has young kids at home who hugged him goodbye this morning. His Blackberry is flashing green, meaning he has a message. Probably his wife asking when he's home for dinner. So why is he in a bar, in the city, talking to a twenty-something co-ed?"

She turned back to him, her face flashing angry and just a bit of defeat.

He smiled, "You missed the picture of the two kids in his wallet when he bought the co-ed a drink."

A smirk tipped at her lips, "You're just as cynical as me."

"Probably more so," he smiled, biting on a baton of red pepper he had left on his plate. "Perils of the job."

"You think you're more cynical? Than the woman with not one, but two homicidal exes?"

"Terrorists killed my wife."

"You can't keep playing that card to get outta things!" she laughed at the smirk creeping across his features. "Do you think, because we can read people so easily, we're still easy to read? Or do we hide it more?"

"I'm way too tired for that conversation..."

"No, go on! Pretend we don't have a history and read me. Go on, I'm curious."

He sighed, taking a large swig of his beer. "You're wearing a suit-"

"-Oh hands up in defeat, you're good," Stella laughed, the grin broadening even more when Mac ignored her completely and pressed on.

"-so you're a professional. Judging by the suit – and the shoes – somewhat decently paid. You carry everything on your left side, telling me you need to keep the right side free. With how your hand flew there when the barman dropped the cellar hatch before, I'd hazard you're used to carrying a gun there, telling me-who-doesn't-know-you that you're a cop. You hold yourself very proud, bordering on defiantly, but you smile easily and genuinely, so the defiance is just an act.

"You enjoy your food, so I'd say you had European influence in your life, and by your skin tone I'd say Greek. The way your sign your capital 'E's, almost like Cyrillic, back that up.

"You broke your little finger at some point and it healed funny. You don't always realise you do it, but you play with it when you're thinking. Like now. There's no ring on your finger, so unmarried. Your eyes tell me you're wary about male attention in that sense, been hurt badly before, but I'd say you're open to love, if the right person came along.

"You don't have children – your figure and shoes tell me that much. Few single Moms on a cop salary could afford those. I think you let few people truly in, but the ones you do are treated like family and I...I think because of your romantic history and how few men have met your standards, and what you know of the world, you-you doubt how beautiful you actually are and I think you deserve someone who will remind you of that every day...But I could be wrong."

Her eyes were sparkling as he quickly took another gulp of beer, the bubbles popping down his throat as he wished she'd just say something.

"Mac Taylor, if you hadn't been my best friend for fifteen years, you'd be getting lucky tonight."

He laughed, "If I wasn't so bone-tired, I'd maybe take you up on that." He pulled his wallet out of his pocket and threw a few bills on the table. "Come on, let's go before you want to read me..."

She laughed as they slid out of the booth. His hand naturally fell to the small of her back as they left the restaurant, side-stepping a wayward and tired child who was being dragged into the building by his Mom who had a smaller child on her hip, a Blackberry in her hand and a very angry look on her face...