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; the first and last lines were given, and the word limit is 1,000.

Spoilers: none


"Would you please stop doing that?" Albert muttered, and limped to a chair, fishing in his pocket. He'd long since learned to keep the proper tools to hand.

Setting aside his crutch, he sat down and pulled up his pants leg, rotating his leg expertly until his shoe's sole faced the ceiling. One thing about being in medicine--it was easy to keep abreast of the latest developments in prosthetics. Unfortunately, while the science of replacement limbs had come a long way, it was far from exact.

It could be much worse. Whenever he was tempted to grumble, Al considered the alternatives. Sore shoulders and a slow pace were nothing when compared to the poor fit and crude simplicity of earlier artificial limbs, and if that weren't enough to give him perspective, he'd remember to be thankful that he lived where the best was readily available--and that he could afford it. Well, mostly. The county's HMO did cover some of the costs.

The pen-sized screwdriver was perfect for the adjustments his prostheses periodically required. Al switched on the light over the morgue counter next to him and probed at his leg's interior workings. The right one's getting more frequent than "periodical," though. Maybe it was time for an upgrade.

He hated that. It meant time off, because a fitting took most of a day, and screwing with his sleep schedule, and while David was more than capable of holding down the fort for a day or two, Al just didn't like being away. He claimed that it was compensation for not being able to go out into the field much, but in truth he had to admit--to himself if no one else--that he just didn't like ceding control of his morgue.

He snorted, and twisted his ankle. Gil's dry voice spoke from memory, reminding him that everyone was something of a competition junkie, even if their competition wasn't in the realm of money or sports. The man has amazing insight--when he bothers to use it.

The doors to the hallway swung open. Al glanced up, expecting David, but instead someone much more slender strode in, and Al felt a smile form unbidden. He liked Sara a great deal; she had an admirable drive, and a heart worth nurturing. His physician's glance took her in, the usual thoughts surfacing; still too thin, but not as stressed; her eyes are brighter, she must be getting some sleep; then the physician yielded to the Y chromosome, and he appreciated with the detachment of the happily married man her grace--and her low-rise jeans. "Ah, my favorite CSI."

Sara halted, one brow going up at the qualifier, and then gave him that bright grin and pulled a leafless carrot from her lab coat pocket. She lifted it to her face, and the grin went wicked. "What's up, Doc?"

He'd heard the joke a thousand times, but the combination of the prop and a joke from the usually laser-focused Sara surprised a laugh out of him. "Did you bring that just for me?"

"Nah, it's my lunch." She put the carrot away and gave him a humorous look. "I thought Catherine was your favorite."

"No, I just tell her that so she'll save me a cupcake when she bakes 'em for Lindsey's class." He smiled at Sara's snicker. "You here for the X-rays on your body?"

"I'm not in a hurry," she said, eyeing his repair job with mild scientific curiosity.

"That'll be the day," he retorted, and snapped his leg back down. "I can finish this later."

Al stood, thrusting his arm into his crutch cuff with the fluidity of long practice, and limped over to the light box display. "Okay. We have fractures of the lumbar vertebrae here and here," he explained, pointing. "And a hairline fracture at the base of the skull. I also found a break in the left ulna, but with the lack of bruising I'd have to say it occurred post-mortem, probably during transport of the body."

Sara nodded, intent on the films. "Yeah, this one was quick and dirty. Anything else unusual?"

Al shrugged. "Nothing so far. I sent the usual samples to Tox, but they're backed up, so it'll be a while." He switched off the light.

"Isn't it always," Sara grumbled. "Thanks, Doc."

"Sure thing." She was already heading for the door, restless energy in a lab coat and work boots, and he had to admire the stamina of youth. "If you see Gil, tell him he still owes me lunch."

"Gotcha," she said over her shoulder, and vanished through the doors. Al shook his head and went back to his chair, turning his leg up once more. I can remember when I had that much enthusiasm...barely.

This time his repairs went uninterrupted. Memories of other times surfaced as he pulled his pants leg back down--when his energy had been near-limitless, when he had stood straight on two good legs and could keep up with the family dog. But the bitterness was long since leached away. He'd always felt that there was no point in dwelling on the loss of something he couldn't regain...and if he started to get maudlin, his wife would snap him out of it without hesitation.

The image of her brought a smile to his face, as it always did. His loss had never mattered to her. As she'd pointed out, she'd married a man, not a pair of limbs. "The sum is greater than the parts," she'd reminded him, her voice a bit tart but laced with love.

"As long as you're the one doing the addition," he'd answered, and earned himself a kiss that took his mind off his legs entirely, at least for the moment.

Al came out of memory. I suppose I should schedule an appointment, he thought resignedly. Might as well get the overhaul out of the way. Pushing to his artificial feet, he took a few experimental steps, and his smile returned as his repair held. "That's better."