He had watched her for days, not that he would let her know, she would hate him for it. He had watched her think deeply when she thought no one could see. He had heard her mumble to herself when she thought no one could hear. He had cared for her when she thought that no one could. It was like she thought that he couldn't do something as simple as remember a date. She had distanced herself so far from him, in the past year, that she thought that he could not possibly still care for her. She just couldn't comprehend that the date had been imprinted on the inside of his skull exactly 365 days ago.

He couldn't blame her though, he had been the exact same after Claire had died. Locking himself away, burying himself in work, starving himself of both sleep and food. The first year is always the hardest. It's the healing stage that hurts. It's full of all the firsts. The first birthday without them, the first thanksgiving without them, the first Christmas without them. The list could be endless. The fresh memory of them haunts you for that first year. The cup they used to drink coffee from becomes the only thing tethering you to them... Tethering you to life. He had been guilty of it himself, it had taken him years to finally let down the beach ball that Claire had blown up. He couldn't have done it without Stella. He needed her as much as she needed him, if not more. It becomes less painful after the first year which causes the guilt to kick in. You feel like you've forgotten them. They start to fade.

He couldn't help but feel bad for her though. She had been fed lies by the one person she thought she could trust. The job of nursing her back to Stella had fallen to Mac. The only person for the job.

had been demolished sometime around last year, leaving an ugly scar on the outskirts of the city. But Stella appreciated the gesture nonetheless. It had been the first place that Mac had taken her that day with a reassuring 'the best place to start is the beginning'. They'd stayed for a couple of hours, just talking, reliving all of a younger Stella's antics. How she once switched out the salt for the sugar and how she had been disciplined severely for it. She told him about the countless times she had run away, only to return once she ran out of money and food. She explained how quickly she had 'escaped' once she had turned eighteen.

The next stop had been the academy. They'd stayed to watch the soon-to-be police officers do their drills until it was dark. They laughed ruefully at their respective time spend when they were the rookies. Mac watched the female detective closely, watching for any tale-tale signs that he was getting through. If he could, he would craw inside her head and beat away the bad thoughts troubling her with his bare hands.

The last place they'd stopped was what Stella had branded 'the best Greek restaurant' in town. At moments during the meal he could feel her eyes on him, as if she was trying to figure out what his plan was. It was around the end of the meal that Mac found his hand being covered by hers.

"I know what you're doing. Thank you." she gave his hand a small squeeze.

"I have no idea what you are talking about detective Bonasera, can't a friend treat another friend to a nice day out?" he asked, feigning innocence.

A small genuine smile appeared on Stella's lips for the first time all day. "Detective Taylor, innocence does not work on you." a small chuckle followed this sentence. He knew that she still wasn't a hundred percent happy, but he had made her smile on the worst day of her year and that was enough. Mission accomplished.

Dedication: For the man from whom half my DNA is from. Can't believe it's been 15 years. I miss you each day.

I know its a bit rough. The disadvantage of using an iPod to type I'm afraid. Thanks for taking the time to read.