Set post- The Thing About Heroes. Mac/Stella friendship. I'm pretty sure I've written at least one other fic centered around this episode, but it's been a long time…so I wrote another one. Enjoy.

Spoilers: The Thing About Heroes (4x10)

Disclaimer: Sadly the characters are not mine…of course nobody seems to be using them at the moment…

With a final flourish of his pen Mac signed the last page of his report and closed the folder. Putting it to the side of his desk, he made a mental note to give it to Sinclair first thing in the morning. Not that the chief would let him forget about it… He wondered whether there would be fallout from this the way there had been from the Clay Dobson case. Either way, it was a problem for tomorrow. Today had been long enough.

The clock on the wall told him it was nearly midnight. He sighed. Standing up, he grabbed his coat off the back of the chair and made his way to the door. He turned his office light off and was heading for the elevator when another light caught his eye. Stella.

He made his way back down the hallway to her office, realizing for the first time that this case had been personal for her too. In dragging up Mac's past, Andy had made himself a part of Stella's life. Now for the second time in two years, Stella's relationship with a man had ended with bullets. Mac grimaced and the thought. For a moment he stood in the doorway of her office watching her as she consulted the file on her desk, then he knocked gently on the doorframe, alerting her to his presence.

She looked up and gave him a tired smile. "Hey Mac. Didn't realize anyone else was still here."

He returned her smile. "Me either. I was just finishing up my report. Figured Sinclair would want it first thing."

"I just finished mine," she said, nodding her agreement.

They looked at each other, neither sure what to say. So much had happened in the past few days. Finally Mac spoke.

"Look I know it's late," he said, "but I was thinking I might grab a drink at O'Connor's before heading home. Interested?"

"That sounds great," she agreed.

Together the pair made their way across the street to the little hole-in-the-wall pub that had become one of their favorite places over the years and took their favorite table in the back corner. The middle age man behind the counter brought them each a drink without needing to ask what they wanted. They exchanged nods, and he returned to the bar. For several minutes they sipped in silence.

"Do you want to talk about it?" Stella asked finally.

"Do you?"

Her lips twitched slightly, under other circumstances she might have smiled. "No," she replied. Then she hesitated. "Yes." She shook her head. "I'm sorry Mac."

"For what?" he asked both confused and concerned. Her voice didn't have its usual fierce edge to it, and he didn't like that.

"Drew used me. He used me to get close to you and close to the team. I knew in my gut something was off about him, but I didn't figure it out until…it was almost too late."

"But it wasn't too late," Mac told her, reaching out and putting his hand on hers, "And Andy would have found a way to get to me one way or the other. You couldn't have prevented that. He wanted revenge. I'm just sorry he dragged you into the middle of it."

She squeezed his hand. "Some guy sets up an elaborate plan to try and kill you, good luck keeping me out of the middle of it." Their eyes met and he could see a hint of her usual twinkle in her brown eyes, but he could also see a shimmer of the pain she was trying to convince him wasn't there.

Mac hated the fact that Andy had dragged her into his revenge plan. If he wanted to punish Mac for the sins of the past…well…if Mac was honest with himself, there was a part of him that didn't blame Andy. Mac had been haunted by the events of that night for years; even now sometimes it still haunted him. But Stella wasn't a part of that, in Andy's eyes she was just the means to an end, collateral damage…

"Look Mac," Stella said quietly, almost as if she could sense his thoughts, "you don't have to worry about me. I hate that I played a role in his plan, but I never fully trusted him, not really. I knew something was off; I'm just frustrated that it took me so long to figure it out. This isn't…" Her voice trialed off, but they both knew how the sentence ended. 'This isn't Frankie.'

Mac squeezed her hand. "You're my best friend," he told her quietly, "I'm always going to worry about you."

"Thank you." His concern, his words, his friendship meant the world to her, and she knew from long experience that none of them were things he gave away freely.

The conversation lapsed and for a time they sipped their drinks in silence, but neither made any move to separate their hands. Tonight they both needed the human contact.

"How are you doing?" Stella asked, having studied Mac in silence for several minutes.

He thought about it for a moment. "I'm glad it's over." It was never easy when cases got personal, and this one had drawn on for months. As painful as the resolution had been—reliving memories he had long ago tried to bury—he was glad that they had finally reached the end and that he no longer had to go to bed every night wondering whether there would be a phone call waking him up at 3:33 AM.

"Me too," Stella agreed. She had known Mac long enough to understand the words he was thinking but not saying.

There was a pause. "I never asked for that press coverage," he said. He knew that Stella already knew this but he had to say it to someone because it had been bothering him since his conversation with Andy down in that subway station.

"I know," she told him.

"You, me, Sheldon, we were all just doing our job."

She nodded.

"I didn't ask to be a hero."

Stella shook her head slightly as she smiled at him. "A hero isn't something you ask to be or something someone else can make you. It's something you are, something you make of yourself. And you, Mac Taylor, are a hero."

Mac didn't say anything. He was thinking of Will.

"You can't save them all Mac. No one can," she continued, "But you save a lot of them. And I saw you down there in the subway. You shot Drew in the arm. You had the kill shot, and you didn't take it. It's moments like that make you a hero."

He gave her a soft smile. Sometimes he wondered what he would do without Stella in his life, without her steadfast belief in him, without her strength, without her compassion. He didn't know. He was pretty sure never wanted to find out. "Thank you," he told her.

"Of course," she replied returning his smile, "that's what best friends are for."

It had been a long day for both of them, a long couple of months actually. But they had gotten through it the way they got through everything: together. There was an unspoken understanding in the air, no matter what came next, no matter what cases, no matter what criminals, as long as they stuck together and had each other's backs, things would be okay.

Mac wasn't sure how he felt about heroes, but hero or no, he was glad he had his best friend to watch his back.

Thanks for reading.