This began as a three paragraph little thing that came to me during my morning commute. It grew and it grew and it grew...

Hugest of thanks to Tricki for the beta xxx


The first time it happened, they were both shocked. It was the wine, and the brandy. They had settled onto the couch for the movie (It's a Wonderful Life), full from the meal and happy for the company.

He had his arm across the back of the couch, her hair tickling across his skin as she looked to him for his reaction to scenes. She shivered at one point and he pulled her into him. She had her head on his shoulder, his hand was drawing shapes on her skin, the Christmas lights were twinkling around the tree. Before they really realised it, they were kissing. He had looked down to her to see if she'd fallen asleep as she had looked up to check he was comfortable.

It just happened.

Then they just happened to shift in the seats to be able to kiss more freely and comfortably. If she hadn't moaned against his mouth, he would have probably been able to stop himself.

It was awkward after. Both blamed it on the alcohol, apologised, hoped more than anything in the world that it wouldn't affect their friendship.

The second time, a year later, was much like the first. Wine, good meal, brandy, movie (It's a Wonderful Life), kiss, clothes. It was less awkward after, though. They joked it was becoming a habit, that it wasn't why they had decided to share the holidays again.

If the first and second time had been good, the third was GREAT. Though neither would admit it - to themselves nor each other - they had hoped it may happen again. There was less alcohol, more intention. More desire, more tease, more fight. He had slept over that night; nothing more happened, but the fact he had been there in the morning was possibly more intimate than any of their actions.

The fourth time was only a few months after. He knocked on her door, checking how she was after a horrific case. The DA's office had fought them on evidence, and mistakes in the labs meant things were thrown out, including a conviction on a child rapist. As hard as she had tried, she couldn't help but get emotionally invested in that one.

He had only gone to console her, convey what the prosecution lawyer had told him after she'd stormed out - they could retry; They would retry and they would nail the bastard.

She had kissed him. She pressed him against the wall and peeled the jacket from his arms. He stopped her, took her face in his hands and saw the hurt, the exhaustion, the desire and kissed her back.

The fifth time was his birthday. She had gone to his place with two slices of carrot cake from Massimo's and a first edition of a book he once told her he loved. The fifth time led to the sixth and the seventh as she spent the night.

He took her on a date after that. A meal at Massimo's, with carrot cake for dessert. They didn't go for round eight that night; they took a cab to her place and he kissed her goodnight. He wanted to go in, she wanted him to go in, but they were going to do this right.

They were going to go out again the next night but a case exploded, keeping them way past their reservations (they knew booking a table would jinx it). They ordered take out and had ten minutes in his office, sat on the couch with boxes of Chinese and a topic of conversation that was anything but work.

They didn't tell anyone. They agreed they wouldn't lie about it but also that they wouldn't broadcast it. Neither liked the attention and neither wanted the Chief's opinion on their relationship.

They spoke once of its ease. How they fell into a relationship with little issue. It was almost like they had been in it forever, just without the perks of a kiss good morning or sex before bed. Or good morning sex and a kiss before bed. They still went to each other over anyone else if they had a problem; if anything, they went to each other a little quicker, didn't bottle it up until it exploded. They still fought like cat and dog when they had a major disagreement, and they still made sure to make up before leaving work.

It was easy. It was nice. It was exactly what they wanted and needed and it wasn't too long before they said the words. It wasn't as romantic as he'd hoped - in the Avalanche en route to a scene - but he just wanted to get it out there.

She smiled, her eyes instantly sparkling as she said it back. They both laughed at the wave of relief and the swell of happiness and pride. She leant over and kissed him when they stopped at lights, thankful for the blacked-out privacy windows.

They took bets on who would figure it out first. She thought Lindsay (female intuition), he thought Flack (he was very protective over her). They both agreed Danny would be last.

It turned out to be Sid Hammerback. He had been watching them over the top of his glasses for the duration of his relaying of autopsy results. They had noticed the inquisitive look on his face but hadn't associated with them at all. They just thought it was Sid being Sid.

He handed over the recovered Trace and announced Friday was Lasagne night.

They didn't quite know what to say to that.

He said Martha would love to have two extra people to feed, particularly as she'd be waiting for those two to get it together for years.

Lindsay and Flack had figured it out at the same time. Broken, half-sentences shared when they caught a quick goodbye kiss in the garages one night. Sid had let their guards down a little so, really, it was only a matter of time before everyone found out.

They had been dating six months when they decided to invite people for a drink at Sullivan's, just to get it out of the way. Flack joked he was giving up his badge and going back to detective school. Lindsay couldn't stop laughing at Danny's face. He was more than happy for them, but... It was kinda like seeing your Mom and Dad kiss. He was happy they were happy though. Sheldon slapped Danny's back, and berated Sid for not giving them - him, especially - a heads-up.

Having everyone know didn't change a great deal; they didn't suddenly start making out in his office (though she wouldn't have minded). It did mean they could be more honest about why they left together some nights, what they were doing at the weekend and, eventually, why she had a ring on her finger.

It was Christmas; technically their four year anniversary even though they had only been dating seven months. There was wine, a good meal and brandy. More kisses than previous years, and they actually made it through the film this time. She sat up to grab the remote and as she settled back into his side, he had the small, light blue box in his hand.

She cried, he cried, Lindsay even cried when she told her. The simple, silver band with diamond and emerald stones still amazed her. It was murder when putting on the latex gloves but she was certainly not complaining.

They didn't rush to a wedding. It wasn't very important for them. When they did eventually do it, it was a quiet affair. Simple, elegant, heartfelt. Just the people nearest and dearest to them, with a meal in a restaurant and drinks afterwards. Lucy was a flower girl, Lindsay the bridesmaid and Flack the best man.

They honeymooned in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Just a week but they were okay with that. He surprised her with the tickets a week before the wedding, having disappointed her for weeks that they couldn't BOTH have time off, when really he just wanted it to be a surprise.

They fought. Oh had they fought.

How could they have a successful marriage if they couldn't be together outside of work?

She knew what dating a co-worker would entail.

Yes, she did. But she had thought their careers might finally have been the mistress to their lives for once, but obviously she had been wrong.

She had stormed out. The glass door did not provide the satisfying slam with her exit that she wanted.

He watched her retreating figure and smirked. If she had asked him who he had been speaking to on the phone instead of jumping headfirst into an argument, he would have told her the travel agent. He would have said the tickets were ready to pick up and he'd chosen Buenos Aires because she'd forgone her trip three years ago to save Adam's job and he liked the idea of a tango. Of sorts.

Instead, he had paper-clipped them to a manila file of an open case and stalked into her office when almost everyone had gone home. He had placed the file in front of her and announced there had been a development. She didn't look at him; kept her eyes down and her jaw tight.

Her mouth fell open when she saw them, shaking fingers reaching out to touch their names (there married names). She circled that desk quicker than she had in fifteen years and kissed him with everything she had.

She had called him a bastard. He had laughed that it was fun to see her so mad. She called him a bastard again, kissing him with no concern for where they were. She bent over her desk, turned off her computer and took her coat from the chair. She had encircled her arm with his and they walked out the labs as they had a million times before; before they were dating, before they were engaged and before they were unknowingly pregnant.

Unfortunately, they only knew she was pregnant when the doctor told her she was miscarrying.

They adopted, though; the next year. A boy and girl – siblings – from Queens who had a very happy childhood and provided them with grandchildren they would watch while their parents went to work. He would tell them stories about distant lands in which he fought for peace, she would teach them how to make mini-rockets out of baking soda and cola.

She died first. They had had thirty years of marriage, forty-five of friendship. Two children, five grandchildren; not to mention their god-children and honorary grandchildren.

He got through the funeral. Somehow.

A week later, when their son went to pick him up for their traditional Sunday family meal, he found him in his chair. A book was open on his chest, an Irish coffee had gone cold on the side-table.

People weren't surprised when they were told. Those that had known him after Claire's death knew that he wouldn't have been able to survive that again. Not her. They had become too in sync - too inseparable - to be able to be on their own again. It was peculiar, but their family was almost happy.

They were together again.

Always.

In my darkest moment, when all seems lost, you are at my side.

I appreciate you too, Stella. [3.05]