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. Thanks yet again to Penn O'Hara, my faithful editor!
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Spoilers: through third season.
Warrick looked down at the blonde beauty in his arms. It was late, she should be sleeping...but a nightmare had shattered her rest.
Lindsey shifted and sighed. At nine, she was growing independent, and normally would consider herself too big for lap-sitting, but when she'd woken sobbing, Warrick had scooped her up and sat down on her bed. She hadn't protested, only put her arms around him and her head against his chest.
He sighed in turn and cradled her a little closer. "Sure you don't want to lie down for a while?"
"No." Her voice was muffled against his shirt. "I wanna wait until Mommy gets home."
One corner of Warrick's mouth twitched up in sympathy, though he doubted she would stay awake that long.
The room was dim, lit only by the nightlight. He ran a big hand over her hair and settled himself more comfortably against the headboard.
"I wish she'd come home," Lindsey's quiet voice said beneath his chin.
"I know, sweetie," he replied. "But your momma doesn't get a lot of time off. She deserves a chance to go out once in a while." And when she'd asked him to babysit, he hadn't hesitated to give up an evening off. He liked Lindsey; she was a good kid, and they had fun together.
"Do you want to tell me about the dream?" he asked after a while.
Lindsey was silent so long that he thought she wasn't going to answer, but finally her head moved a little against him. "I dreamed about the car," she said.
Warrick knew which car. "And your dad?"
"Uh-huh. I couldn't get out."
He hadn't been there, but he understood Catherine's pure fury at the realization that her ex's latest paramour had left her child to drown in a wrecked car and her ex to bleed to death.
"But your momma got you out."
"She wasn't there in the dream." He could feel a faint tremor running through her, and bit his tongue.
Hoping to distract her, he scoured his mind for something to say. "Want me to tell you a story?" he asked at last.
After a moment, blonde hair tickled his neck as she nodded again.
He was still drawing a blank. "What kind of story?"
"Umm...one with magic."
He grinned a little; Lindsey seemed younger tonight, as though her fright had stripped a couple of years from her age. "Magic, huh?"
"Yep. And a pony."
"Okay." He thought for a moment. The traditional fairy tales he vaguely remembered just didn't seem to apply--he couldn't remember any with ponies, except for one about a horse getting its head cut off, and he didn't think that would go over well. "Let's see." He closed his eyes for a moment.
"Once upon a time...once upon a time there was a...a wizard." His mind supplied him with images of long-bearded men in pointy hats. "He was the best wizard around at his kind of magic. People came to him from all over to get him to help with their problems." The images coalesced into one, the beard got shorter, the hat vanished, and all of a sudden he knew where the story was going.
"What kind of magic?"
Warrick felt his lips turning up in a sly smile. "He did magic with bugs."
The giggle that followed his words warmed him. "Uncle Gil!"
"You got it," he replied. "You want to tell the story?"
"No," she said firmly. "You tell it."
"Okay." He shifted her into a more comfortable position and continued, letting his imagination have a little fun.
"The wizard had silver hair and a blue vest with big stars on it, and he knew everything there was to know about bugs and magic." And Grissom would be the first to deny he knew everything about any topic, Warrick thought with amusement, but Grissom wasn't there to spoil his fun. "He didn't just do bug magic, though, he did other kinds too. He helped people find out things. And he had other wizards to help him."
"Mommy," said the soft voice.
"Yeah." He paused for a moment, Catherine smiling at him from memory. "One of them was his best friend. She was beautiful, and smart, and she wasn't afraid of anything. She did magic with...with patterns." He went on hastily before Lindsey could ask what kind of patterns. "And she had a gorgeous daughter who was just as smart as she was."
Another giggle rewarded him. "What's my magic?"
"Don't know yet," he said mock-seriously. "You have to go to college first."
"The wizard had two other wizards to help him...no, three," Warrick went on. "One didn't have much of a talent for magic, but he tried really hard to make up for it." Nick would bust my ass for that. He chuckled silently, and gave his friend his due. "And because he worked so hard, he was just as good as the others. One of them was a wizard who figured out what things were made of. He liked really loud music." He paused for a moment, thinking.
"And one of them could examine a place and find out who had been there and what they had done." He let his voice go droll. "And he was very handsome and very cool, and he had green eyes."
More giggles. "That's you!"
"You're so right." He hugged her briefly, and sobered. "Now, the wizards all worked together to solve people's problems, but they had their own problems too." He briefly considered making the story entirely fictional, but there was something compelling about the truth, cloaked as it was in fantasy. "One of the wizards did a bad thing."
"Which one?" Lindsey asked.
Warrick hesitated. "The one with green eyes," he said at last. "He left someone alone, and she...she got hurt." He deliberately avoided the topic of death. "So the lead wizard called on one of his old apprentices to come and help him, and she came a long way."
The cruel sharpness of that whole mess had softened a little with time, as memory blurred and he worked to try to redeem the mistakes he'd made. Nothing would bring Holly back, but at least he'd done his best to make himself worthy of Grissom's trust in him.
"Was she pretty?"
Warrick blinked, drawn back to his story. "No," he said truthfully. "She wasn't exactly pretty. But the energy in her...it made her beautiful." He stumbled over trying to explain Sara's aura to a nine-year-old. Time had leached away the bitterness between them as well; Warrick wasn't as close to her as Nick was, but they were a good team when they needed to be, and he knew he could trust her.
"The new wizard was very, very good. She was an old friend of the lead wizard, and when she finished what she came to do, he asked her to stay, so she did." He let out a long breath. "It took a while for the other wizards to trust her; they were kinda jealous. But the lead wizard didn't notice." It was true, he realized as he spoke the words. Grissom simply hadn't noticed. But then, Grissom hadn't noticed a lot of things, it seemed.
"But after a while they all worked together, helping people and having fun." It had been fun, a lot of the time. There was always something new to learn, and the team had pulled together after that rocky start, living up to its reputation for solve rates.
"Then what happened?" Warrick looked down, realizing that he'd trailed off.
"Um..." Caught in his own story, he struggled to simplify the next two years. "Well, the lead wizard...he cast a spell, by accident. He didn't mean it to happen. But the girl wizard got caught in the spell." Or maybe she was already caught by the time she arrived, he thought. "She was smart, but she didn't have the magic to break the spell, even though she tried." His eyes narrowed at the memory of that two-timing paramedic Sara had been dating. Sara wasn't Warrick's best friend in the world, but something in him still wanted to mess Hank's face up for that.
"Why didn't she ask the wizard for help?" Lindsey's voice was getting sleepy.
"Because he was caught in it too," Warrick replied. Grissom might or might not be in love with Sara--Warrick didn't know--but something about him just couldn't let her go. It was obvious to the rest of them. Unfortunately for both Grissom and Sara, though, he apparently couldn't let her close either.
"The spell started to affect the other wizards," he went on softly. "They didn't know what to do, and it made it harder to do their work." When did this story get so sad?
"Couldn't they work together to break it?"
"It has to be broken from the inside," Warrick said. It's true. Broken or...or transformed.
His imagination ran dry. He'd come to the present, and didn't know where to take the story. Happy ending or sad one? Or would things just go on the way they were, uncomfortable and tense?
But as he searched for a way to continue, he realized that the weight in his arms had gone limp with sleep. He sat up carefully and laid her down, tucking the covers in around her and returning to the living room and the soft-voiced TV.
When Catherine returned, Warrick followed her into Lindsey's room; it was tradition that he say goodbye before leaving, no matter how late it was. Lindsey woke a little at her mother's kiss, blinking sleepily at the two of them. "G'night, Mommy."
"Good night, sweetheart," Catherine said, stroking Lindsey's hair out of her face.
"I'm taking off, Linds," Warrick added. "I'll see you again soon."
"G'night, 'Rick," Lindsey mumbled. Warrick had almost reached the hallway when she spoke his name again, and he turned.
"You forgot the pony."