Most of the characters and situations in this story belong to Alliance Atlantis, CBS, Anthony Zuicker and other entities, and I do not have permission to borrow them. No infringement is intended in any way, and this story is not for profit. Any errors are mine, all mine, no you can't have any.

Feedback is most appreciated, feel free to post; if you want a personal response you can e-mail me. Thank you, Penn O'Hara, for saving me from the attack of the really big words! *grin*

Spoilers: none as far as I know, but then I haven't seen all the episodes yet. This takes place during the first season.


Nick muttered under his breath and slammed the SUV's hood back into place. "Sorry, Gris," he said, straightening and running a hand through his hair. "I can't see what's wrong with it. I think it needs a garage."

Grissom, hands in his jacket pockets, studied the vehicle for a moment, then shrugged. "Oh, well," he said dryly, and freed one hand to find his cell phone and punch the speed dial.

Sara pushed away from the passenger door to wipe a smear of grease from Nick's cheek. "You were only under there three minutes," she teased. "How did you get dirty so fast?"

Nick gave her his trademark grin. "It's all in the technique." He crouched down to his kit and fished out a paper towel to clean his hands. As he straightened, Grissom snapped his phone shut.

"We have an hour to kill," he announced. "The lab's a little backed up, and they can't send out another vehicle until then."

Sara hissed impatiently. "We finished with the scene, Grissom, what do we do for an hour?"

Nick chuckled. "I don't know about you," he said, heading back towards the arcade they had just processed. "But I'm going to play Double Dragon."

Grissom and Sara exchanged glances. Grissom shrugged, smiled halfway, and followed him. After a moment's hesitation, Sara did too.

When they entered, Nick was already fishing bills out of his wallet for the change machine. "Sweet," he said happily. "No line." Scooping up a handful of quarters, he raised his brows at Sara. "I challenge you."

She gave him a haughty look that melted into a grin. "Not a chance."

"'Fraid of losing?"

"Dream on." Sara slid her hand into her pocket and came out with some coins. "I'm going to play this one."

Nick watched her incredulously as she walked towards a longer machine. "Pinball? You're going to play pinball?"

"Video games are nothing but little flashing lights, Nick," she said in superior tone. "Pinball is physics."

"This is a game requiring lightning reflexes," Nick asserted, patting the console.

"So is pinball," Grissom said, surprising both of them. "And unlike your programmed game, Nicky, pinball has an element of randomness, of surprise. With a video game, the same move will produce the same results, every time."

Sara smirked. "Exactly." She dropped a quarter into the slot and leaned into the machine as it began strobing lights and ringing bells.

Nick snorted and began his own game. Grissom watched him for a moment, then drifted over to Sara. Her gaze was frowning and intent as she watched the ball; her strong fingers were poised over the flipper buttons. One jerk of her wrist, and the ball was smacked sharply back up the slope to hit a target dead center.

For several minutes the arcade echoed with the beeps and buzzes of the two games. Nick cursed and whooped as he played, but Grissom noted that Sara played silently; her lips would twitch from time to time, but she made no sound. She would, however, cant her body as though the angle of her shoulders could affect the vector of the ball.

She was good, Grissom realized; she seemed to know where the ball was headed two ricochets before it got there, and she possessed the expert's ability to send the sphere where she wanted it to go, taking out targets with precision. She shifted her weight from leg to leg, head cocking then jerking forward as she sent the ball careening on its way.

Nick had stuffed two more quarters into his electronic booth before Sara let a short oath escape her lips; her third ball had shot straight down the center and precisely between the bottom flippers.

"You've got an impressive score, though," Grissom pointed out with amusement.

Sara shot him a wry look and shook out her wrists. "I am so out of practice. It's been a long time."

"Don't tell me. High school?"

Sara grinned at him. "College, actually. I didn't just hustle pool, you know. Pinball was what I did when my brain fried during exam week."

"Ah, stress relief." Grissom returned her smile, eyes twinkling. "Maybe I should have one of these installed at the lab, if it'll keep you from overworking."

She snorted. "Not a chance."

She put her hand back in her pocket, but Grissom raised his brows. "My turn."

Sara's mouth dropped open as he slipped past her and pushed a quarter into the slot. "You play pinball?"

"I do." He launched the ball with a snap of his wrist. "Remember, Sara, when I was growing up, video games were not an option."

Sara rolled her eyes, and settled back to watch. Like her, Grissom had adopted a leaning stance, gaze intent; unlike her, he was motionless. Only his eyes and his fingers moved as the ball bounced and sped through the maze. Slowly, one corner of his mouth tucked in, but Sara noticed that he scarcely even blinked.

And the points mounted up.

Nick finally ran out of quarters and came over to join Sara. "High score," he boasted, but then let out a low hoot of appreciation. Sara just shook her head.

For long minutes, they watched Grissom. Slight tremors ran up his forearms when his fingers pressed the buttons, his eyes followed the ball, but other than that he was still, making his way through his second ball, then third, then--thanks to his score--his fourth. And when the last sphere spun out of control and away, it was because the right flipper had stuck.

Grissom's eyes narrowed, and then his lips curved upward and he straightened. With deliberate precision, he entered his initials at the top of the scoreboard, then shoved his hands into his jacket pockets again and strolled away.

The two CSIs exchanged glances. Nick shrugged; Sara sighed, and reached for another quarter.