Some 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. The rest belong to me, 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: General fifth season through "Spark of Life."
This is in response to a private challenge. The story was to include a number of given phrases as well as an appearance by David, and to be G/S.
Sara watched in awe, suppressing the urge to drift over to the nearest door and put herself behind it for protection. Before her was something she considered as rare and stunning as a glimpse of a California condor.
David in a rage.
He was storming around the locker room, pacing, his hands twitching as he aborted his gestures, and while Sara knew he realized she was there, he was so far gone in fury that her presence simply didn't matter. It was like a typhoon, she thought - something completely natural and yet so out of the order of things that one felt fascinated.
And a little bit afraid.
She bit the inside of her cheek, hesitating, then finally drifted towards her locker, sitting down on the bench in front of it and watching David out of the corner of her eye. She opened the locker door and began fiddling with the contents, pulling out a brush and running it through her hair, and hoping that David would calm down eventually rather than put his fist through something. Her patience paid off. After a while he slowed, his mutters trailing off, and at last he stopped moving entirely, shoulders slumping. He sighed deeply and ran his hands through his hair, which had little effect.
Sara looked him in the eye for the first time since she'd come in - straight in the eye, since he wasn't wearing his glasses. "Want to talk about it?" she asked carefully.
He sighed again, blinking, and she more than half expected the crimson of rage fading from his cheeks to flood back with embarrassment, but instead he shrugged, and sat carefully at the end of her bench, automatically whisking his lab coat out of the way.
"Have you ever been betrayed?" he asked without preamble, and Sara snorted, a little surprised by his tack.
"Oh yeah. Who hasn't?" She cocked her head and regarded him. "Is that what this is about?"
"In...indirectly," David stammered, apparently suddenly aware of just who he was talking to. "It's not me."
Sara laid her brush down on the bench and raised her brows, inviting him to continue.
He looked down, tangling his hands together. "You know how something hurts worse when it happens to someone you love, than when it happens to you?"
"Who is it?" she coaxed softly.
"'Natha. My little sister." His strong fingers twisted into a knot. "She was supposed to get married next week."
Uh-oh. Sara's stomach sank at the implication of was, but she just waited.
"She caught her fiancé in bed with her maid of honor last night," David went on softly. "It's a very good thing for him that she didn't tell anyone until today, because if I know my dad, he has half of Nellis Air Force Base out looking for the bastard."
His tone was calm and chilly, and Sara shivered. David was such a gentle soul that she tended to forget his family's tradition of service to the arts of war; but in his voice now she could hear the echoes of generations of implacable warriors. "So you think he's skipped town?"
David snorted and looked up, his gaze briefly amused. "If he's smart, he's left the country." His head dropped again and he went on, sounding almost reflective. "She had it all planned out, her dream wedding...bridesmaids in pink, Dad and me in tuxes, even the music - they were going to dance to "My Heart Will Go On" or something awful like that..."
"How old is she?" Sara asked, curious. She knew some women who held onto such dreams for longer, but this sounded like the fantasy of a fairly young woman.
"Twenty-three," David said, his face softening a little. "My little sister. I really want to kill him, you know," he added matter-of-factly. "I mean, I trusted him. I helped him shop for an engagement ring, even."
"I don't blame you," Sara replied firmly. "Geez, David, if he were within arm's reach I'd kill him myself." David started to smile, and she pointed a stern finger at him. "No jokes about how I'd never get caught!"
That made him laugh a little, and Sara relaxed somewhat, relieved to see his elemental fury subside. For a moment she went wistful. She didn't need protecting - never had - and she doubted that 'Natha did either, if she had her brother's brains and heart. But it would be nice to know that someone wanted to.
"So...you're a woman..." David said, his shyness returning. "What should I do?"
It was on the tip of her tongue to retort that she'd never been engaged, how should she know, but she bit the words back. "Oreos," she said with confidence. "A whole bag of them. That works for me. And just be sympathetic, David - give her a shoulder to cry on, and don't let her convince herself that it's her fault her fiancé is a jerk."
He nodded, and pulled his glasses from his coat pocket, veiling himself behind them again. "She's my best friend," he said quietly. "I know it sounds weird, but she is. I have to be there for her."
"You will be," Sara assured him, patting him on the back as he stood. "You're the best, David. I mean that."
This time he did blush.
Grissom stood just outside the door of the locker room, hand flat on it, one eye watching through the crack. He'd been about ten feet behind Sara when she'd entered the room, and when he'd realized just how upset David was, he'd decided that the better part of valor would be to head off anyone who might come in there. No one but Grissom knew how he admired the young coroner; in David, Grissom saw someone much like himself at a younger age, but possessing a far more open heart than he'd ever managed to achieve.
So he kept his ears open for approaching footsteps, and watched as Sara listened to David, watched as she eased his pain as best she could...and felt his gut twist when she put gentle arms around the coroner.
It meant no more than the bashful kiss David planted on her cheek in return, Grissom knew - in fact, it probably meant less. But he couldn't help mourning the fact that he'd pushed away the chance of even such a casual touch from Sara.
The closest she'd ever come to hugging him was the arm around his shoulders when she'd draped a blanket over him, one cold desert night not long after she'd come to Las Vegas. He'd known then, but hadn't let himself realize, that there was too much between them to be casual.
Then David pulled away, and Grissom faded back from the door, heading for his office.
Two nights later
"Male DB," O'Reilly said, jerking a thumb over his shoulder at the patch of woody scrubland near I-15. "Some bright boy at Highway Patrol spotted too many vultures and decided to check it out."
Grissom nodded, hearing Sara's footsteps approaching behind him. "Are the lights on the way?"
"Already on it," O'Reilly said with satisfaction. "In fact - "
A rising hum and a whump cut off his words, and the scraggly trees were suddenly lit starkly by floodlights.
"Great. Shut them off," Grissom instructed, striding towards the scene.
O'Reilly rolled his eyes behind Grissom's back. "I know, I know, you have to check the scene out first. Geeks."
Sara, following Grissom, threw O'Reilly a cheeky grin. "And if they hadn't been here he would have complained that they were late. Give it up, you can't win."
"What is it they say these days? Bite me?" O'Reilly muttered, and reached for his phone to give the order. A few seconds later the lights went out with a loud click.
The two CSIs blinked rapidly as their vision adjusted, then turned on their handlights, following the narrow path into the trees. Within lay the crumpled body of a dark-haired man, limbs twisted in positions that clearly indicated death. He wore a short-sleeved shirt and dark slacks, but just one shoe.
"Body dump," Sara noted, her light picking up distinct drag marks in the sandy soil. "This has to be the only patch of trees within ten miles."
"I-15 seems to be a favorite place for ditching corpses," Grissom remarked, circling the body. "Thousands of vehicles pass by every day, but very few people actually walk along it. And even if they did, they would probably assume that the smell is from roadkill."
"Well, the Highway Patrol officer was on the ball, then."
The two of them lapsed into the synchronitic silence that had become all too rare lately, smoothly cataloguing the scene without getting in each others' way. They could not touch the body until the coroner pronounced, and the cause of death was not obvious, but Grissom crouched down next to the vacant-eyed man and began selecting beetle samples from the travelers to and from the corpse, while Sara took photos and eventually backtracked the drag trail. Grissom was absorbed in his bugcatching, but realized dully that - as usual - one corner of his brain was monitoring her whereabouts, a habit that had begun the day of the lab explosion over a year before.
Sara reappeared before long, however, her footsteps making an occasional crunch loud enough to be heard over the rise-and-fall of noise from the highway. "Can we turn the lights back on yet, Griss? I can't see enough."
"Wait until the body's moved," Grissom instructed. "Some of these species are nocturnal. I don't want them thinking it's sunrise."
"Gotcha." Sara pointed her flashlight beam in the direction of the approaching familiar rattle. The man towing the gurney, however, wasn't who they were expecting. "Oh, hey, Frank. Where's David?"
The tall man grinned at her. "Not in yet, said he was running late. Some kind of family crisis."
Sara frowned a little. "Yeah, I heard something about that. I hope everything's okay."
Frank parked the gurney at the edge of the clearing and stepped carefully forward. "Yeah, me too. I hate these long-distance calls." His smile kept his words from sounding petty. Skirting around Grissom and his insect paths, Frank bent over the corpse and began the routine of determination and declaration.
"No wallet, no ID; several stab wounds to the back," he reported as he rolled the body onto its side. "Looks like cause of death to me."
Peering over his shoulder, Sara whistled softly. The back of the shirt was practically in ribbons.
"Further proof that this is a secondary scene," Grissom noted from the other side. "There's nowhere near enough blood here."
Frank nodded, brushing up the untucked shirt with a gloved hand. "Lividity indicates he was lying on his back, but even I can see where he was dragged in here."
"Hold on," Sara murmured, her eyes narrowing. Pulling her forceps from her vest, she bent over the corpse and retrieved a hair from the collar. Grissom reached into his own pocket for a bindle, and held it out to her. "Thanks," she said, looking faintly surprised.
"All set?" Frank asked cheerfully, and Grissom cocked his head, looking inquiringly at Sara. She straightened and stepped back.
"All yours. Can we please turn the lights on now, Grissom?"
"Go ahead," he said, already distracted as Frank rolled the corpse expertly into the bag and further six-legged specimens headed for the hills.
Sara headed back towards O'Reilly and the other police, Frank following shortly with the burdened gurney; Grissom snagged a last few insects, then blinked furiously as the lights came back on. The patch of woods was suddenly full of razor-edged shadows - not the best way to find evidence, but it would show up things that their handlights could not find.
He was still kneeling in the dirt when she came back, screwing a lid on a jar. Sara slowed her steps a fraction so she could watch, fascinated as always by the grace of his hands but aware of how rare such stolen pleasures had become. Their relationship...she just didn't know what to make of it any more. It was almost, she thought sometimes, as though they'd burned their friendship to the ground, and Grissom was trying to build something on the ashes.
She just wished she knew what the something was.
Work, however, was an ever-present comfort, a framework in which they could interact without so much confusion. Grissom was tucking the jars away into his kit, and without thinking about it, she stepped up next to him and - as though he were Nick or Catherine - offered him a hand up.
His eyes widened when he looked up and saw her arm extended, and she twitched, caught between the impulse to pull back and the stubborn part of her that didn't want to retreat in front of him. Then her palm was enveloped in the tough warmth of his, and she pulled automatically as he rose.
"Thanks," he said casually, letting her go and bending down for his light. Sara turned away to begin the search anew, trying to figure out the small squeeze he'd given her hand just before releasing it.
The harsh lights uncovered a number of interesting items - a clear drag trail back to the edge of the woods, tire tracks in the sandy soil - but nothing they didn't expect. Eventually Grissom called a halt, and they headed back to the lab.
Doc Robbins was already elbow-deep in another corpse when they arrived in the morgue, but he cheerfully stripped off his gloves at the sight of them and donned another pair. David waved shyly at Sara from the back of the room, and she waved back, smiling at him, though Grissom could see a wrinkle of concern on her brow.
"You're here for the stabbing victim, right?" Robbins asked, limping towards the drawers and pulling one open. "It's a train station around here tonight. Half of swing shift's cases got here late, thanks to traffic." He flipped back the sheet with an expert twist, revealing their young man from the woods. Grissom estimated his age at twenty-five or so.
"Cause of death was probably blood loss," Robbins informed the CSIs. "I haven't had time to open him up and make sure yet, but judging from the positioning of the cuts the killer didn't hit anything immediately fatal." He rolled the corpse onto its shoulder with a grunt. "Three slices close together - " He pointed. " - and two more a little further down. My guess is that the first three were done while the victim was standing, and the others after he'd fallen."
Grissom nodded. "Doesn't look like there was any hesitation there."
Robbins let the cadaver thump back down onto its back. A choking noise made them all look up; David stood a few feet away, hands full of a tray of instruments, eyes wider than they'd ever seen and his face paper-white.
The tray started to slip, and Grissom stepped forward to steady it. David's mouth opened, but no sound came out, and Robbins frowned in concern. "David?"
The young coroner's hands spasmed on the tray's edge, then let go entirely, and Grissom caught it. "Are you all right?"
David made another faint sound, nothing that Grissom could identify as a word, and suddenly bolted from the room. Swift as a stooping hawk, Sara ran after him, leaving the two older men to exchange worried glances.
See Chapter 2