I started a new job a few months ago and was assaulted by form after form asking for next of kin/incase of emergency info. The good thing that came from the hand strain and soon becoming sick of writing down my parents' contact details... was this.

One hand clung to the mattress, the other lay over her abdomen and she sobbed. Her entire body shook from the silent cries, the intensity of which surprised even her.

She didn't make a sound, except when clawing in a shaky breath, her body almost doubling over as another sob racked through her. Even in the dim moonlight and single lamp light, she could see the slow creep of blood from her latest war wound seep through its dressing to the light blue material of her dress shirt.

It was warm under her palm, the red staining her skin. She needed to change it, tend to the stitches, but all she could do was cry.

Too close.

Too fucking close.

She had discharged herself from the hospital not two hours ago, promising - lying - that someone was at home to watch over her. It wasn't wise to be alone with a concussion, never mind the sixteen stitches securing together the laceration to her gut.

Of course she was alone. She was more alone than ever, in a city still strange to her eyes and ears.

She'd bonded, sure; there were a few colleagues who rushed to the emergency room when they heard she had been got – but they had their lives and families and plans. She didn't know – or want to know just yet – them well enough to impose. Not that she would.

It had been a few hours since she'd spoken to Mac, thanks to that foolish and overeager intern checking her file for next of kin records. He sounded alarmed on the phone and she apologised for the screw-up. She explained she was fine, just a little bump to the head and superficial cut; said she'd had worse wounds from the Monday morning queue in a Manhattan Starbucks.

He had smiled – she could tell – and said he'd call again later.

She had said he didn't need to but he insisted he would. But that was a few hours ago now so she assumed he'd forgotten or been called away. That he'd been in his office, jacket off and shirt sleeves rolled up as he railed at some inept lawyer the DA's office who couldn't read a DNA report.

She missed that sight. She missed that office, probably more than she missed her own. She missed that red couch with the stain on the cushion from when Mac had split his coffee, startled by a mini-explosion in Adam's lab that sent the tech to the hospital and then on home rest with a perforated ear drum and singed eyebrows.

She missed the skyline view from the couch, when she and Mac had forgotten to go home again and sat with anything out of the vending machines that might appease the emptiness in their stomachs, but not fill them with too much sugar so that they might be able to sleep once they eventually got to their apartments.

She missed coming in of a morning and seeing Danny and Lindsey talking in her shared office, the topic usually what time the babysitter had to leave, where they could take Lucy out of the city at the weekend, what they had in for dinner. Simple, inane, domesticated chatter that showed love and commitment and happiness.

She missed Flack's blue eyes and Adam's dancing when he thought no one was looking (through four glass walls); she missed their three-way conversations with Hawkes about any possible sporting event that occurred within the last twenty-four hours and then scattering when Mac came anywhere close.

She missed everyone and everything and it hurt.

She liked New Orleans, may one day even love it, but when she was tired or down she was always reminded more than ever that it just wasn't New York.

She rasped another breath but didn't cry this time. The mental torture of all she missed seemingly over and she was left to her dark apartment.

She wiped at her face and looked to the small white bag on the bed next to her containing her painkillers and dressings.

It was beginning to hurt again, not just the knife slice or the bump to the head, but the bruised ribs and swollen knuckles from where she gave as good as she got.

She twisted herself around, mild discomfort evident on her face as she grimaced at the aches and pains that would follow for the next few weeks.

She had just ripped into the bag, splaying out the sides, when the knock sounded from her door. Her brow furrowed in confusion as she attempted to see through the wooden panes from across the room.

Bringing herself to her feet, she padded over with a hand subconsciously falling over her wound. Bracing one hand on the door as she looked through the peep-hole, she could have cried all over again.

"You don't look fine to me," Mac said, his mouth in a tight line as she opened the door.

Breath escaped her as he stepped forward, his shirt creased and crumpled beneath the dark suit jacket. She practically crushed into him, reaching to hug him but realising the hard way that her right side didn't appreciate the effort.

Her left arm encircled him and pulled him in tight, familiarity flooding over her senses as his solid frame clung onto her. An airport spritz of cologne tingled at her nose as she turned into his neck, still not quite believing he was there, in her apartment, in New Orleans.

He pulled away, a timid but heartfelt smile on his lips before gently moving her hand from her stomach.

"That needs changing."

"Missed you too," she laughed, tears sparkling in her eyes. She probably looked like hell, she realised, but he'd never looked better.

He pulled her back in for a quick hug, "It's good to see you."

"You didn't need to come."

"I called the hospital," he said, closing the door behind himself. "They said you discharged yourself."

"I was just taking up a bed," she crossed back over the room, lighting lamps as she passed. "I know how to change a dressing." Standing by the bed, she bent slightly and spread out the medical supplies.

"I'm more impressed you know how to call 911 at 3am when your concussion has rendered you unconscious…"

She flashed him a smirk, her hair falling over her shoulder as she turned to him.

"May I?" He gestured to the array of sterilised packets.

Her smirk fell away. She looked skeptical, not that he couldn't do the task and definitely not that he'd hurt her, but at the thought of him seeing her wound, her injury, yet another one. She bit her lip but nodded, straightening up and turning to him.

Tossing his jacket over the couch, he stepped closer and gently took her hand from the stained area of her shirt. She inhaled, his fingers curling under the hem and pulling up the material to reveal the bloodied dressing. He noted the bruising to her ribs also, the colouring just visible below where he had her hold her shirt.

It was a nasty slice, no doubt about it. His jaw set, his teeth pressing together as he imagined what she must have gone through – alone – and the bastard who did it to her.

"Dare I ask about the other guy?"

Her stomach tightened as she gave a chuckle, quickly followed by a hiss as he began to peel away the tape. "Louisiana State Pen."

He looked at her, the smallest of smirks on his lips as he waited for her to finish.

"...Hospital wing..."

The smirk grew into a grin, his head shaking just a slight.

"Just rip it, Mac," she breathed. His careful and tender work, though appreciated, was just delaying the inevitable.

She grabbed into his shoulder, her nails leaving crescent shapes as he did as told, tearing the bloodied dressing away from her skin. It revealed a neat little line of stitches surrounded by oozed and dried blood, a frame of sticky adhesive around the purpled skin. "You okay?"

She inhaled and exhaled a controlled breath, "Mmhmm."

He rolled up his sleeves and sat down on the bed, turning her to him. "What happened?"

She sucked in a breath, focusing away from the pain coursing through her. "Battered wife 'went to visit her Mom'," she began, curling her fingers into air speech marks. "She washed up at the shore two days later. I…I got a bit overeager with the husband."

She kept her attention on the wall behind him as he nodded, "We've all been there."

"It's my fault I got hurt. I should have made sure we checked him out, searched him. He had a box-cutter down his boot…"

"Did you have people with you?"

"What do you mean?"

"Did you interview him alone? With no other officers or colleagues around you?"


"Well, the blame isn't totally on you then."

"I pushed the interview. I confronted him. I pushed him too far. I-"

"-wasn't alone."

She gave a humourless snort.

He stopped his actions and looked up at her. "Is that what you think? That you're alone?"

"No, I just…" Her attention wavered from the wall to his eyes staring up at her, concern creasing his brow and colouring his blue eyes. "Sometimes."

He smoothed down the final strip of tape and pulled down her shirt.

"It's not that I don't have a good team. They are very dedicated and able scientists and lovely people but…"

"They're not Flack, Danny, Lindsey, Hawkes-"

"Or you."

He sighed.

She sank slowly to the bed next to him. "The transition is just taking a little longer than I anticipated, I guess."

"It's only been a few months."

"I know. I know that."

"Do you regret moving down here?"

She was staring out the window. "Sometimes. But I made the right decision. I know that."

He took her hand. His warm, thick fingers covering hers. "What can I do?"

Her eyes fell to their hands, a sparkle of tears blurring her gaze as she added her other hand over his. "You're doing it, Mac." She smiled at him, "I can't believe you're here."

He gave a shrug, "It's what partner's do."