I'd written the timeline and a few scenes to this back in 2009 - I know, way to procrastinate! It's now all written and lasts about four chapters with an epilogue. Four long chapters, sorry about that. Chaptering it proved more difficult than I was anticipating….

Hope you enjoy! Thanks for reading x

There was a definite chill to the air, enough for the windows in the Avalanche to be firmly shut and a thin, cloudy layer of condensation to coat the glass.

As Mac pulled to a stop outside 1 Police Plaza, he tweaked with the heating dials some more, noticing from a quick glance across the street that Stella was on her way down the steps towards him. Her eyes were firmly routed to her cell phone, he noted with a smirk, no doubt checking through the latest lab results Adam had just text them both.

He moved his hand to the radio dials, turning the volume up as the news actually praised the FBI on a drug sting of some description. He half-listened as he read through the lab results again, realising after a while that Stella hadn't made it to the car and glancing over to where he'd last seen her. She was now stood on the sidewalk, deep in conversation with a young woman. Mid-thirties, he instantly assessed. She was heavily pregnant with a deep purple coat straining over her large bump.

The woman's hands were firmly grasped within Stella's and whatever their topic of conversation was, it seemed deeply upsetting for the both of them.

Tears were tripping the younger woman's face, but Stella rarely let her emotions show in public, Mac only able to tell by the way her mouth was in a tight pout with her teeth chewing on the inside of her lips.

He watched as Stella reached into her pocket and pulled out a business card, scribbling something on the back before handing it over and hugging her tightly. Stella watched the other woman walk away for a beat before wiping at her cheek and collecting herself, crossing the road to Mac.

He watched her circle the front of the SUV and climb into the passenger seat. She mumbled an apology as her elbow rested on the door, her fingers covering her mouth while her eyes focussed - unseeing- out the window.

"Everything okay?

She sighed, her thumb grazing across her cheek, dislodging a falling tear. "Yeah. Well… I just found out an old friend died."

He laid a hand on her knee, "I'm sorry. Were you close?"

"A long time ago."

He swallowed. It wasn't often he saw Stella like this - obvious emotion about a non-work event. She was most definitely the heart of the team, but usually she was showing anger at perps, sympathy at victims, empathy at survivors. He rarely saw her so emotionally open and tearful, and very seldom about a personal friend.

"You want me to drive you home?" he asked, his husky voice silken and hushed.

"No, no, I'm fine. I'll be fine. Thank you," she smiled softly, her fingers resting on his.

He gave her an unconvinced look.

"I'll be fine," she repeated, a tear escaping and negating her sentiment.

With a look, he told her he didn't believe her but would acquiesce to her wishes.

He started the engine, returning his hand to the wheel and turned into the traffic.

Stella's gaze returned to the window, her mind obviously years into her past.


The scene had been a straight-forward bag-and-tag in an apartment, but Stella was going through the motions. Not that she was sloppy or unprofessional in her work, far from it, but her mind was not on the job.

He occasionally saw her swipe at her cheek with the sleeve of her coat and he was shocked to return from the adjoining room to have seen her stilled over an evidence number cone, camera hovering as she stared. She was pale, her skin suddenly looking sallow and chalky, not it's usual healthy olive glow.

He made a noise - 'accidentally' dropping his orange ALS goggles - to bring her out of her reverie without letting her know he was watching her. She suddenly sprang to life, snapping a few photographs before dropping the evidence into a baggie.

"All done?" he asked, closing up his aluminium kit box.

"All done," she stood up, clipping the camera back into it's bag. "Got some partials from the TV remote and a couple of smudges by the window. Not much else probative, though."

She still had her back to him, trying to subtly wipe at her face. He closed the front door, blocking the uniform cop standing guard at the door, and crossed the room to her as her shoulders suddenly sagged and started shaking.

"Stella," he swiped a hand over her back. She spun on her heel and crushed herself into his body as a sob racked through her.

He held her tightly as his fingers splayed across her back, gently soothing her as her face hid into his neck.

"Stella, who was it? Who was it who died?"

Her face moved on his shoulder, her hair tickling his cheek. "My husband."


"He was my husband," she managed to say before her sobs started again.