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. All others are mine, and if you want to play with them, you have to ask me first. 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.

Spoilers: through "Formalities". Many thanks to Cincoflex! This is for Mery, who knows why.


There were times when he just wanted to kick something.

They were rare, true; mostly they came in the middle of frustrating, absorbing cases that refused to break. Usually he repressed the urge, though sometimes it leaked out when he would snap at someone--or, once in a while, do something completely unprofessional, like toss coffepots around.

He hadn't done that in ages. In fact, he hadn't been so frustrated since the last terrifying case he'd had, the one that had burned his brain to the bone. The trouble was, this time it wasn't a case.

It was as though all the impossibilities of the last few years were coming home to roost on the doorstep of his mind. There was something he wanted, that he'd wanted for a long time; for ages he hadn't known how to even begin to go about getting it. And now that he thought he knew how, now that he was finally able to risk this, he wasn't sure it was possible any longer.

The Sara he'd called to Las Vegas--cheerful, eager, shining--was long gone. The Sara she'd become--withdrawn, troubled, tense--was gone too. Even the glimpse he'd seen of her that heartbreaking morning, vulnerable and lost, had vanished. In their place was a cool, level-voiced mystery who treated him as a casual acquaintance, who seemed to bear little relation to the woman who'd wept silently in his office, who'd brushed chalk from his face, who'd looked him in the eye and asked him out.

He wanted her back. He wanted his friend back, he wanted the flirting back--heck, he even, guiltily, wished for another chance when her defenses were down. Something. Anything that might give him an opportunity.

You should just ask her point-blank. Grissom shrugged into his jacket and shut off his office lights with a quick, irritated jerk. And, of course, she'll laugh in your face. Not that you don't deserve it.

The door clicked shut behind him as he walked away from it. Across the way, through the glass walls of the DNA lab, he could see her coming from the locker room, half a lap behind him. He put his head down and kept going, unwilling to chance meeting her eyes across that space. Coward.

Dawn was edging up the sky when he exited the building, but the parking lot was still a mix of shadows and sodium glare. His car was parked at the edge of the lot, and as he neared it he knew without looking that Sara had come out too. They were both late getting off, as usual; day shift had arrived for the most part, grumbling about the dark of winter, and the lot was full of vehicles but empty of people.

Grissom got into his car, but held back from starting the engine just yet. Instead, he tilted his rearview mirror, just enough to watch Sara cross the lot. He always loved the way she stalked along, as though daring life to get in her way.

Tires screeched, and something black and red blocked his view of her. Grissom turned in his seat to look, and realized that a van had pulled in between Sara and his car. He heard a shriek, a door slamming, and--the van raced away.

Leaving the lot empty again.

It took him two seconds to figure it out. Grissom grabbed for his phone, but in his frantic haste he fumbled it, and heard it clatter down under his seat. If he'd had time, he would have sworn at it; there was only one way to reach it now, and that meant getting out of the car and reaching back in. He could do that, and call for help. Or he could go after her.

The engine roared to life.


Having captured its quarry, the van didn't seem to be making any special effort to get away. It slipped into the morning traffic like any other commuter, moving fast but not so fast as to be noticeable.

The steering wheel grew slippery in Grissom's grip as he struggled to keep up. It seemed like all the cars he encountered were conspiring against him; each time he got close, someone would cut him off, or the van would change lanes, and he would fall behind again. But at least I haven't lost it.

Except, then, he did. It whipped into a left-turn lane and slid through on the yellow, and Grissom would have run the light if he could have, but he was blocked in by more law-abiding drivers. This time he did swear as the van disappeared down the cross-street.

He reached down for his phone as he waited, hoping faintly that he would be able to snag it, but he knew his own car, and was fairly certain that it was sitting squarely beneath his rear, unreachable from a sitting position. There was nothing he could do--he was familiar with the light, and it wasn't going to be long enough for him to get out and grab the phone and get back in. So he waited, feeling sweat forming on his temples, feeling his pulse climbing--fear and fury, a potent combination. Hang on, Sara. I'll find you.

I will.

Finally, finally, the light changed. Grissom tailgated the car ahead of him through the turn, wishing for the thousandth time this morning that he was driving the county's SUV with the dashboard police light he never used, and then peeled around the car and sped down the street. It was fairly wide, lined with motels and stores, and he slowed as soon as he got past the point where he'd last glimpsed the van, scanning the lots on either side. His panic was yammering at him, telling him how ridiculous this was--the van could be anywhere by now. Not anywhere, he replied silently, trying to master his fear. It can't have gotten far. If I don't see it by the end of the next block, I'll stop and call 911.

He was almost ready to do that when he saw it, parked back away from the road in the middle of a clutter of shops and restaurants--but on the other side. He inhaled, hope fierce in the face of the doubt that whispered that maybe it was just a similar vehicle, and pulled in towards the median so he could cut across traffic. He had to wait for a break in the stream of cars, and as he did, he saw the van's side door slide open. Two figures--one short, one tall and husky--stepped out, pulling a third figure with them. Sara's slender silhouette was unmistakable, and Grissom recognized the slash of white across her head at once. A blindfold.

He clenched his jaw as the two others gripped her wrists and towed her towards one of the buildings. Gone was her grace, as she took hesitant steps through her personal darkness.

The hell with this. Grissom glanced up the road, decided that there was just enough space, and floored it. He left a trail of screeches and honks in his wake, but no crunching noises, and skidded into the lot without looking behind him.

He stopped near the van. The three had vanished into the building, which was a restaurant but appeared to be closed. Tearing off his seatbelt, Grissom threw open his door, not stopping to fumble for his phone. No time--they could be doing anything to her in there.

He blessed Brass silently for scolding him into carrying his gun more often. He'd left it on this morning because he'd meant to make a stop on the way home, and he never left it in the car unattended. Now he pulled it from the holster as he jogged towards the restaurant, trying to make as little noise as possible.

The back door was propped open a little, and he widened it and slipped inside, into a dim hallway that smelled of cooking. There were voices ahead, distorted by echoes; he crept up to the corner and peered around it.

Sara was there, still blindfolded, still between the two figures who gripped her wrists. "C'mon, guys, what is this?" Sara was asking, her voice casual, but he could hear a tremor in it. Something was wrong there, but he couldn't stop to think what. He readjusted his hold on his gun and took a breath, preparing to step around the corner.

And then the corridor filled with light, and voices.

See Chapter 2