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.

This is in response to an improv challenge at the Unbound forums; again, the first and last lines were givens.

Spoilers: first season, particularly the first two episodes, and the first episode of season two. This takes place during "Burked".


"You're dating a balloon?"

Warrick shot Greg an exasperated look. "How many times am I gonna have to go through this today? I'm printing a balloon." He raised his brows, humor suddenly surfacing. "My dates are a whole lot cuter."

Greg snickered. "I didn't know you could print a balloon."

"Yeah, well, not everybody can," Warrick returned with a touch of smugness. He'd boasted to Brass earlier, but it was very close to truth--he was good, that was all there was to it. "Watch and learn, my man."

Greg, apparently lacking pressing tasks in the DNA lab, moved from the door to the counter, settling in to observe the CSI's fingerprinting skills.

"Where'd you hear about me 'dating' a balloon?" Warrick manipulated a brush with delicate care.

"Nick. He said he got it from Brass, but I don't know."

Warrick growled under his breath. "Brass...where's he get off anyway?"

Greg gave him a curious look. "You really don't like him, do you?"

Warrick snorted. "Is it that obvious?" he asked sarcastically.

Greg shrugged, fiddling with the cap for the powder jar before Warrick smacked his hand away. "How come?"

"He's an ass."

The DNA tech gave him a long look. "He's not that bad."

Warrick laid down the balloon and picked up another one. "You don't have to work with him."

Greg was silent for a while, watching. "I've heard stuff," he said at last.

"What, about Brass and me?" Warrick glanced up long enough to see Greg's nod. "Yeah, well..." He hesitated, thinking, then decided he might as well go on. "You never met Holly Gribbs, did you?"

Greg leaned his elbows on the counter and shook his head. "Didn't run into her on her first night. After that--" He cut off the sentence as Warrick winced.

"Yeah." The taller man dipped his brush in the powder. "He busted my ass for that, and to give him his due, he was right. But there was already a lot of bad blood between us by then."

The balloon turned slowly in his fingers as he inspected the surface. "Brass used to pull rank for fun. I don't know how Grissom put up with him, to tell you the truth." He sighed, remembering. "He refused to get me a warrant once, just 'cause he felt like it. Like the case didn't matter."

Greg gave a soft whistle. "What happened?"

"I went over his head. Man, he lost it after that, we both did." Warrick laughed softly, a humorless sound. "That's how I ended up shadowing Holly, you know. He was pissed, so I got to babysit."

Greg cocked his head, watching Warrick's hands as the CSI continued printing. He seemed lost in thought, and Greg didn't want to interrupt, but when Warrick remained silent, he ventured an observation. "They get along pretty good now."

Warrick shrugged. "I don't know. He's a cop, not a scientist. Sometimes I think he does better working with cops." He set down the brush. "He still gets on my case, asking if I can do my job. Like I don't know it inside out."

Greg started playing with the jar lid again, rolling it back and forth from one hand to the other. "Maybe he's just trying to talk to you."

"What for?"

Greg had no answer.

The two men sat in silence until Warrick finished his printing. "Gotta get these to Mandy," he said.

"Yeah, I should get back to the lab," Greg said. "See you around, man."

Warrick collected his prints and took them to the fingerprint tech, slipping back into the routine of the night. At one point he went hunting for Brass, unsuccessfully; a few hours later Brass found him, and they left to interview a drug dealer. The man's information was interesting, and Warrick was still concentrating on that as they headed back to Brass' car.

"You know, 'Rick, I think we might have something here," the detective said as they walked.

Warrick merely grunted, unwilling to be drawn into the conversation.

They picked their way along a trash-strewn sidewalk. "You mad at me?" Brass asked at last.

"Should I be?" Warrick returned brusquely.

Brass shrugged. "I dunno. You're just really quiet."

"Got a lot on my mind." Warrick glanced at Brass out of the corner of his eye, wondering suddenly just what the man's life was like. Warrick knew he was divorced, but not much else. Was that what had turned him so sour? And was Greg right...was he changing?

"Want to talk about it?"

Warrick screwed up his face, taken aback. "No." The older man was watching him, not where he was going. "Watch out for that--"

Brass shook his head as he tripped over the debris.