With thanks to Lily Moonlight and Trickibee, as always. x

"Mac, would you listen to me?" she called as he stepped off the elevator, already three steps ahead of her.

"He should not be on the street, Stella; you know it, I know it, the damn defense knew it!" He pushed the door with as much vehemence as he could muster.

"Yes, but the defense did their job," she replied, slamming her hand on the office door as it swung on its hinge and catapulted back towards her. He reached back to grab it - not wanting nor meaning for it to shut in her face - but it evaded his grasp.

He sighed, throwing his hands up in defeat. He couldn't do anything right lately.

"Mac..." The anger that had been boiling since they had left the court house had suddenly dissipated.

"I'm sorry," he said, his voice low and eyes cast to the floor as he began unbuttoning his coffee stained shirt. He circled his desk and rucked the article from his trousers, dropping to his seat with a thud. He was tired, so tired.

Her jaw was set as she exhaled, watching him rake a hand through his hair. This case had got to him. She wasn't so sure her usual remedy would be effective this time – the last thing he needed past midnight was a coffee with two sugars and a sympathetic smile. If she hadn't cleared out her bottle of scotch from her desk when the inspectors suddenly showed up a week ago, she would have offered an Irish coffee.

An idea formed. An outlandish, bound-to-fail idea, but it was worth a try.

She swung her purse around to her front and dug her hand into the pocket, pulling out a small tube. She tossed the bag onto the couch and silently crossed the room to stand behind him.

He hadn't noticed her journey, and jumped as her hands pulled on the lapels of the open shirt and peeled it from his arms. "Stel-"

"Hush," she whispered, squeezing out moisturiser from the bottle and warming it between her palms. "Just relax."

She pulled on the neckline to his vest with her thumb and fed her hand down to the newly exposed skin. He squirmed at first, not allowing himself to relax into her ministrations. She pressed her thumbs deeply into the base of his neck, the tendon of muscle, knotted and tight, must have been causing him pain. She squeezed her fingers towards her palms on either side of his shoulders, the moisturiser slicking over his skin.

Her lips tilted into a very proud smile when he gave a groan, his head drooping as he finally gave in.

She continued her efforts, the vibrations of Mac's approval spurring her on. She dipped her thumbs down the column of his spine as far as she could reach, the thick skin molding beneath her touch. She turned her eyes away from the back of his head to the darkened labs surrounding them, only imagining the looks they would be receiving from their intimate encounter should anyone have been in.

The courts had run on, as had their talk with the prosecution team - well, not so much 'talk' once Mac had input into the conversation. An intern in the Assistant District Attorney's office had swung the door open with her hip, her hands laden with a tray of coffees that a misplaced gesticulation of Mac's had sent crashing to the floor and all over him.

Her journey down his spine encountered a particular knot that jerked Mac in his seat, a grimace on his face and strangled groan escaping from his lips. "Sorry," she whispered, edging her fingers away and working back in with slow, deep circles. Mac's head dropped back as the knot dispelled.

He groaned again, a low husky tone that she felt begin deep within his ribcage. It was a relaxed sound, in a tone that she had never heard before from him. She couldn't help the rise of her cheeks as her mouth formed a proud grin. She had finally found the answer.

In a final push upwards, her fingers, thumbs and heels of her hands pressed a deep path back to his neck and she pulled away, rubbing the excess cream into her hands that now ached from the effort.

She sat on the edge of his desk, enjoying the deep-seated sigh of contentment that blew from his mouth. "Better?"

He smiled, "Much. Thank you." He placed his hand on her knee and gave a gentle squeeze.

"Anytime. You can expect more if it'll put that little sparkle in your eyes," she smirked with a gesture.

His cheeks flushed slightly as he bent to retrieve a clean shirt from a bottom drawer. He slipped his arms into the sleeves but was dragged to his feet by a hand circling his arm. "C'mere," she whispered.

She straightened the now-misshapen vest, the collar looser than it had been thanks to her massage. Then she flicked the starched collar of the shirt and smoothed it around his neck, securing a few of the buttons before placing her hand on his cheek. "He'll do it again," she whispered. "And by then our evidence will be stronger, our prosecution team will be better and he'll be behind bars where he belongs."

"We shouldn't have to wait for him to destroy another young life before we can stop him."

"I know that, but... we have to. He won this round, we'll win the next."

"I wish I had your optimism."

She gave a short laugh, "Grab it while you can, it isn't around as often as it was."

His face turned serious - more serious - and his eyes bored into hers. "Don't let this job take that from you, Stella. I mean it."

She was taken aback, only able to offer a nod in response to the intensity of his stare and request.

"I'm sorry, I just..."

She nodded again, blinking and looking down at where her hand still grasped his arm. "I know."

He sighed. A bone-tired exhalation that seemed to negate the earlier contentment. She wanted to envelope him in her arms, hug him tight to her until he felt better about himself or the job, or maybe just until he fell asleep for a week.

As close as they were, as much as their relationship had evolved from a smile over work tables and a nod goodnight at the elevators, they still had certain roles to keep. She was the touchy-feely one who would instigate kisses on the cheek and harmless flirty banter; he was the one who would offer words of wisdom and the occasional hugs after major situations.

It amazed her that he had opened himself up so willingly to her massage, a feat she would take pride in for a long time to come.

He sat next to her on the desk, their eyes cast to the glittering night skyline in front of them. "I feel like we lose more than we win now."

She thought about that, mentally tallied the year's cases. "I think we're still winning more... but that it's a damn hard fight to get there."

A wry smile formed on his lips. "Not sure how many fights I have left in me."

"As many as I have."

His drooped head tilted to her.

"I mean it," she warned, her eyes wide but sparkling with a hint of amusement. "We play out our days here then have a big double leaving party, where we finally tell the Chief to go to hell. Then we move somewhere hot - I'm thinking Barbados or the Bahamas or... Boca? Where we play Bridge all day and balk at inaccurate crime novels all night. It'd be a simple life, boring to some, but compared to this?"

"Me and you, huh?"

"Me and you."

They sat there in a silence for a little while, watching the blinking lights from the tops of the buildings, the headlights from far below. "Stella?"

"Hmm?" Her head fell to his shoulder, her arm still loosely entwined with his.

"I don't know how to play Bridge."

"Me neither," she laughed, watching as his reflection returned her smile.