A/N: Beta-ed again by LibraryLady61. I couldn't have done it without you.
Summary: None of them realized the silent movement behind them and when they did it was too late.
Spoilers: Come on, you know them probably better than I do.
Grissom had given out the assignment slips. Catherine gave him an evil glare before she left. He needed to talk to Ecklie about the re-organisation back into swing shift but as for now he was still in charge of the whole crew.
Catherine and Warrick were working in the field on a new case what seemed to be a serial Casino heist. Silently they had driven to the crime scene and processed the evidence shoulder to shoulder. From time to time they exchanged certain looks. Her heart went out to him each time she lost herself in the green pools of his eyes. She always found his eyes were the most attractive part of him. Well, that was of course before she had learned about the rest of him. She knew that the age difference as well as their different life styles would probably make their relationship temporary but as long as it would last, she would be enjoying all of it, all she could get of him.
Warrick read the promise in her eyes. He knew well what this meant and was very much looking forward to end of shift. She was, exciting, experienced, gracious and beautiful. He loved watching her as she moved. She never just walked she kind of danced. He adored her; he even thought he could love her. But it would take some time to find out what they both would want and need. Meanwhile he would seize the moments they would spend together. Time would tell.
They just decided to give it a try and made the necessary move. Grissom mused in his office thinking about Catherine and Warrick. He would never understand how they could do it and go on with their lives. But Catherine was a survivor anyway. If life got in the way, she would always find a way to beat it. She was a stand-up. A strong woman. And Warrick, it's not that he was an innocent guy. He has had several affairs with co-workers in the lab. Sometimes he got dumped, sometimes is was the other way round, but it never got in the way of work and he had never to be reprimanded for it.
Nick seemed more decent with his affairs of the heart. He never dated women from the lab. But Grissom watched him leaving together with that blonde profiler from PD, Sam. Nicky actually looked very happy when she waited for him.
Greg actually his kept flirting with every female in the lab. And he had that thing that even shy girls fell for him. He was very open minded to all kinds of beauty on the inside as well as on the outside, he could appreciate and adore the wild flower as well as the wallflower. But there was nothing seriously going on, which Gil was aware of. Except that crush on Sara. That couldn't go unnoticed not even for Grissom. And to his embarrassment he actually felt jealous about Greg, a boy almost half his age. A boy he outranked in every aspect, except when it came to years of age. Grissom sighed. I've been going around in circles for nearly six years now. What am I supposed to do? Is it too late for me? If I would dare to open my dungeon of a heart to Sara, let her in, would she welcome me or send me to hell for what I have done to her? If I continue keeping her on arm's length, she may decide one day to move on.
He even suspected Jim Brass to try a hit on Sara. Why would Jim do that? Gil asked himself. How can he even dare? But also he was well aware that these two people socialized in their private time. Why did I use this clinical verb for friendship? He frowned. They had a special connection based on trust and heart and perhaps even love. Will I be sidelined by someone who is even older than me? But he remembered Sara once saying that age, either younger or older, wouldn't matter to her when she was in love. Was that a hint to Greg, to Jim or to me even? Damn! How am I supposed to understand these messages?
The ring of his telephone interrupted his musing; he picked up and answered it. While listening to the phone he grabbed his jacket and car keys. He was more than concerned about the message he got. One officer and a CSI down, one person dead and another life in serious condition. "Sara." He whispered his heart was breaking in his chest.
Robert Stelter felt every bone in his broken body. He could barely move. He noticed that he was lying in the desert sand, his legs terribly twisted, blood everywhere. His vision was blurry. He feared that pain would make him unconscious again. Something hard was torturing his back. With a careful movement he pulled away that thing and bit his tongue to hinder himself from crying out loud. He heard muffled noises in the background, shouting and police cars arriving at high speed. The flashes made him want to vomit. In his good hand he held a gun. All he had to do is pull the trigger to make an end to it all. But he wanted to make sure to take some of the lives around him with. Slowly he targeted the blurry vision of a dark silhouette. His head was spinning, he had to rest. Without giving it a second thought he pulled the trigger several times. From the corner of his eyes he noticed two people crying out surprised and in pain, falling to the ground. Two bullets hit the back of a person, the other was a through and through in the leg and another grazed the head. Robert smiled. That's all he needed to know from the officer's shouting who arrived at the scenes. Then several shots hit him himself and everything went black.
When Jim realized in the corner of his eyes a gun pointed at them it was already too late. The only thing he could do was to catch the bullets with Ellie's and Sara's names on them. He pushed Sara away and she let out a surprised cry, and then protected Ellie with his body. Ellie wasn't hit by another gunshot, but Sara was. She was down on the ground, her face half covered with dust from the fall. Then he fell down hit from the impact of the bullets.
In his blurry vision he saw police officers shouting, running around, trying to give first aid to them. For him it looked like chaos burst out around him. He wanted to say something to make them stop, make them silent. Jim Brass begged to faint but he was still conscious. The pain was excruciating. He had difficulties in breathing, his chest felt heavy and he had the taste of blood in his mouth. His attempts to come up to his feet or even sit were futile. He coughed and tried to turn around to Ellie and Sara. Hell, this pain. He was not sure how long he could bear it. In slow motion he slid over the ground to Sara to hold her hand. On pressing it he got a response. Thank God, she is still alive; he thought when finally he passed out.
When Grissom, Greg and Nick arrived at the scene Gil felt something he haven't felt for a while. Anger, rage, hate even. Gritting his teeth he tried to prevent emotional involvement but this time it hit even him very close home. Sara. Jim.
Nick had tears in his eyes when he watched the EMTs working on Sara. He ran over to ask for her status. It calmed him down a bit that her condition seemed to get stabilized, as she was ready for transport.
Some others still worked on Ellie and they were not sure if she would make it. She seemed to have fallen into a coma.
Greg stood paralysed when he spotted Sara, lying on a gurney. Biting his lip, he looked beseechingly at Gil. He just couldn't deal with it now. "Grissom, I…." He swallowed hard, turned around, vomiting. "Sorry." He apologized, embarrassed.
"Greg," Grissom put a hand on his shoulder. "It's ok, you don't have to process. I can understand that. Have Nick drive you back. I'm going to process the scene by myself." He called for Nick and instructed him to go back with Greg.
"Shall I ask for backup by dayshift?" Nick asked, his face looking blank and petrified, but Grissom simply shook his head.
"NO! I'm going to do this. Somebody has to and I don't want any evidence to be spoiled by incompetent dumb-asses." Gil grabbed his kit and went over to the Porsche. Knowing well that he just couldn't deal with the situation, he didn't even take a second glance at Sara, Ellie or Brass, locked his concerns in the back of his mind and started processing the scene.
Nick stood dumbfounded at the cold-blooded reaction of his superior and mentor. He shook his head in anger and cursed to himself. Taking a deep breath Nick shouted "Gil!" for the first time using Grissom's Christian name. Surprised he turned around and looked at Stokes.
"There is no such thing as a crime scene to investigate. The perp is already dead, we just need a clean up, case closed." Nick said.
Not understanding what Nick was trying to tell him he shrugged. "Someone's gotta process."
"Let a people person speak, Grissom." Nick hold him back by grabbing his shoulder and Grissom straightened. "The scene doesn't need you. Go with Sara. She might need you more than the evidence. I'm going to call for backup and let dayshift proceed with it."
"I simply can't. Why can't just you or Greg go with Sara?" Grissom raised an arm in defensive gesture.
"Gris, we all know why, don't we?" said Nick and earned a glare from Gil.
Frowning he sighed instead "Ok, um, right, I'm going. Thanks, Nick."
Greg and Nick took the Denali back while Grissom entered the ambulance truck and sat besides Sara to hold her hand. For Ellie a helicopter was ordered to get her in a.s.a.p. for surgery.
On the other gurney was Jim Brass. There was an awful lot of blood on his shirt and his chest was bandaged. He looked pale. In a spontaneous gesture Gil grabbed his hand to check if he had a pulse and got startled when Brass suddenly opened his eyes.
"Always knew that you had a thing for me, Gil." Jim said in a croaked voice and grimaced in pain when coughing. But there was still life and humour in his eyes.
"Guess I do, Jim. Glad that you are still with us, my friend." Grissom looked at him seriously and patted the hand of his friend. The ambulance slowly left the scene and Grissom had to buckle up not to land flat on his butt.
"Ellie? Sara?" Jim asked.
"Both unconscious. But they will be fine, Jim. Don't worry." But Gil couldn't hide his concern.
A single tear left Jim's eye. Gil swallowed and just slightly squeezed his friend's hand to let him know that he felt with him. But Brass had already lost consciousness again.
Grissom gently brushed Sara's cheek. Her head was bandaged where the graze hit her. Fortunately the wound was superficial. It was the leg wound that concerned him more. She lost a lot of blood because the bullet hit the femoral artery. "Sara." He whispered, and all of his heart went out to her. But even with her being unconscious the words he always longed to say got stuck on his tongue, glued to his inner turmoil. Maybe it was in fact too late for him.
Several days later…
Ellie's life was on the line when she came in for surgery but the doctors did a miracle job. She would make it. She had severe internal bleeding, her spleen was ruptured, several broken bones, a concussion and a graze on the head where Stelter missed her while losing control over the vehicle. When she awoke it was Jim Brass already sitting by her side. He caught the bullets but he was lucky, one got deflected by his ribs and missed his heart. The surgeons pulled another one out of his shoulder. But otherwise he was ok, he was the tenacious guy.
When not sitting with Ellie he was visiting Sara. She was healing but the leg wound was infected and she needed to stay another couple of days for observation.
"Hey, Jim. Grissom just left. You missed him." Sara said. She wondered why the detective was already on his feet again although he had caught two bullets with his body. He crossed the room in slow motion. Furrowing her brow he saw that he was still in pain and his facial skin looked grey and he was sweating slightly.
"What did he say?" Jim wanted to know.
"Not much. Meaning the usual stuff. The FBI took over the case, made a big show out of it that they solved the Mystery Man case. Atwater was bathing in media, and Ecklie jumped on the same train. So very much fucking business as usual. Besides he mentioned the case backlog. Wants to have me back soon, in the lab, of course." She said with a cynical undertone.
"That's not, what I anticipated." Brass mused. "What I wanted to know is, if he had talked to you. Said something important, I mean your life was on the line. I rather would have expected some of the, you know, the I miss you, I want you, maybe I love you stuff. It is so obvious that it hurts. Hell, both of you seem to have the talent to blow up about every opportunity to clear up things for you."
"Brass! Stop it. Wouldn't that be too far-fetched? We're talking Grissom here." Sara said angry. "It's not that I wasn't trying." She shrugged.
"Don't tell me you made a hit on Gil, and he turned you down?" Brass scoffed.
"Yeah, several times actually." She nodded. "I can proudly tell, that I'm pretty much used to it." Sara sighed.
"How stupid can one be? I know a couple of guys who would jump for joy and then on your bones if you would let them. And the one you want doesn't get it. You both really have a fucked-up non-relationship going on, Sar."
"Let's just not go there, Brass. I said stop it. Please?" Sara raised her hands in a futile gesture. "How's Ellie today?" She said beseechingly in desperately need to change the topic.
"She was awake. We talked." Jim said simply. Sara kept looking at him, anticipating more. "She's fine. Everything will be as it was. Except she hates me even more and now she has a pretty good reason for it." With sad eyes he met her gaze.
"So sorry, Jim. I thought you might be able to fix things." Her brown eyes dark and watered, her heart filled with sympathy for him.
"No, Sara. I screwed things up long time ago." His pale and weathered face frowning in sadness. "Her mother will pick her up in a few days to bring her home. But she's safe now. That's all I need to know."
"Come on over, man. Sit." She patted on the side of her bed. Jim did as asked for and plunged heavily on the hospital bed. "Careful. Still on the hurting side here." Sara gave a groan. She took his hand and so they sat for a while in silence. She knew he had deep emotional wounds from the encounter with Ellie, but his mental healing would begin with the physical healing of Ellie and maybe one day his daughter would figure out what a wonderful man and father he was. A father who was ready to protect his child with his life. Time would tell. That's what Sara said and that's what she meant.
"Nice try, Sara. You're a good gal." Jim sighed and pulled his arms around her with a careful yet not pain free gesture.
"Jim." She said in a warning tone. "I'm not. A girl, I mean."
"Did I miss something? Something went wrong in surgery?" He tried a joke and looked at her quizzically. "I mean I appreciate our friendship. You're a good colleague and a good friend, Sara. That's what I wanted to say."
"Come on, don't go soft on me." She quipped and knocked at his forehead. "Hello, is there still a Jim Brass in there, the grumpy man, the tough detective, the hero who catches the bullets? You switched personalities lately? Sounds like you're pulling a Grissom on me. Don't dare. One is enough, Jim." she deadpanned. "Miss the 'good woman' part in your speech. You know that I am a woman, right?"
His dark blue eyes met her brown orbs when he tentatively stroked a strand of hair out of her face and answered seriously. "Sara, I'm pretty well aware of that fact." Jim let his thumb trail along her cheek, followed the contours of her beautiful lips. She leaned in his gesture and closed her eyes pursing her lips expecting him to take another bold step forward.
Jim cleared his throat. "Sara." And she winced as she figured that it was the exact tone Grissom was using when he didn't know what to say. Yet another man I've scared away, great job, Sara. She thought with a sigh.
Yet this man was James Brass and he knew very well how to express himself. The twist was though, that she wouldn't like what he was going to say, she wouldn't like it at all.
"I understand that you are confused, Sara. But we both know that I'm not the one you want." Jim straightened. "I'm not Gil Grissom."
Sara cocked her head caught by surprise. "No newsflash here, I got that part by myself, James Brass." She said acidly. And she looked hurt.
But Jim stopped her getting agitated raising a hand in defence and continued. "Sara, please. Let's just face the fact that I might be some kind of a surrogate to compensate your feelings for another old grumpy guy around."
A sad smile showing on his face. "We are exhausted, physically and mentally. We both certainly need somebody. The question is what we need and who we want and I'm not going to exploit that situation." Jim placed his hand on her shoulders to emphasize his words. "Listen, our lives were in danger. We have been shot, we could have died, Sara. That puts us both on the edge of extraordinary circumstances. Give us a break here. We need to rest and maybe some counselling. What we need is friendship more than everything else to find our way back to normal life. And after a while, if you still…" His voice failed and he ended with a futile gesture, his eyes averting her cold glare.
Sara shook her head in frustration. "Yeah, normal life. Have heard of that. Never been there actually. Why do you guys always think that I cannot act for myself? Think for myself? That you know what I'm feeling? That you have to protect me? Fuck, Brass, A simple 'no' as an answer would have been enough. I can take it. I shovelled a lot of shit lately another pile of it is just a piece of cake for me." Her eyes were watered with tears and she swallowed hard to keep her emotions under control.
"Please Sara, you know that I'm right." Jim growled.
All she did was sitting there frowning at him, with her arms crossed, mimicking a sulking child.
Jim was tired and exhausted and didn't want to argue with her. He had his own hands full dealing with his emotions concerning Ellie and that woman sitting in front of him.
"Now you look like you're a six year old kid, who's going to stick her tongue out at me." Jim said in a sarcastic tone. He closed his eyes and released a big sigh when he got startled upon the unexpected slap in his face.
He looked up, shocked. "Ouch! What was that for?" He rubbed his burning cheek.
Sara still was upset but deadpanned with an evil grin. "Well, that's for not kissing me. I needed an outlet and analysed opportunities. Couldn't punch you, with that gunshot wound in your torso. Couldn't kick you either with you actually sitting on your butt." She shrugged. "So I thought it wouldn't cause too much damage if I used your head instead."
"I admit that I would have rather anticipated that, if I had kissed you, Sara. But glad I could be of service, I guess." Jim Brass said in a low tone caught between anger and amusement. "And that from the woman I put my life on the line for. Hell, what happened to the good ole rule where the heroes get the kiss and the gal? In these days one gets assaulted instead."
"Well, you could have had it the other way round. So blame yourself, Jim Brass." She chuckled.
He felt a bit light-headed when he realized that her Sidle smile was back, she was beaming at him. Relieved he gave her another hug. "That's my Sara. We gonna stick it out, right?"
"Yeah, we always do, don't we?" She whispered in his ear. "You should have kissed me when you had the opportunity. Chances are that you might never get this chance again."
He whispered back in hers. "You'll never know, honey."
They overheard the knock on the door but Jim pulled back slowly from their embrace when Greg and Nick came in for visit. Unsure how to deal with the fact about finding Sara in Jim's arms they waited reluctantly in the threshold smirking at each other. Their eyes where still locked in a serious gaze.
Nick harrumphed to catch their attention. "Hey Brass, you sure that Grissom is ok with sharing Sara?" he joked.
"Grissom? No wait, I thought she loved me?" Greg started playing along.
"Oh, great, now that will be a rat race." Jim Brass deadpanned. "The whole team is in love with you lucky girl, you just have to pick your Mr Right."
"I have to choose?" Sara quipped. "Can't I have'em all?" She gave them the entire famous Sidle smile.
"You're unbelievable, invincible, insatiable!" Greg hugged her exaggerating and kissed her on her cheek. "Will you pick me first, puleeze? I mean, we simply go on from where we stopped in the morgue, when you have been with your hands in my pants." He asked with some puppy dog eyes and a meaningful grin.
Nick and Jim looked at each other dumbstruck. "Sara? Greg? In the morgue? You perverts!" Nick asked confused with a slight undertone of disgust.
"Anything, as long as we don't have to go to your place again, Greg!" She answered mock horror.
"I would to everything for you Sara love. I'm even going to clean up my apartment." Greg grinned back.
"Oh, well, that must be true love indeed." Jim said sarcastically.
Nick brushed her hair interrupting the flirtatious chat. "Yeah, go on with my Greggo. Sorry gal, I'm taken. You can't have me anymore."
"The blonde? Sam, huh?" Sara guessed and Nicky nodded with a big Texan grin. "Yeah, she's everything."
"Oh, Nicky. I'm glad. Must have been love at first sight, huh?" Sara asked.
"Positive." He answered simply.
"So where's Cath and Warrick?" Sara wanted to know.
"They took off. In a manner of speaking. Cath was smart asking Grissom to take over her shift. He made the unforgivable mistake to say yes before knowing that Warrick would also be gone. He's simply stuck with our entire backlog now. Sulking, playing Grissom alone in the lab." Nick chuckled. "He'll never get it. I mean, that sometimes life just gets in the way, right?"
They all laughed and Sara looked round at Nick and Greg and Jim, indulged in the feeling that it was surrounded by people she appreciated, people she loved, in whatever way. Life wasn't too bad actually with the knowledge of having friends, she was even happy under given circumstances.
She couldn't hide her emotions and seriously gazed at Jim, he would understand her best. He winked at her knowingly, took her hand squeezing it a bit and asked in a warm voice "Still be friends?" referring to the rather serious topic they had before Nick and Greg arrived.
"Best friends it be." Sara answered the pressure of his fingers with her own hand. "So far. Let's see what happens." She mouthed only visible for Jim Brass, teasing him once more.
"Hi, buddies." Warrick entered the room, with Catherine in his arm. "Could somebody please enlighten me here? Have a bit of lab gossip for you. Explain the weird context between morgue, Sara, Greg with his pants lowered and something involving his butt?" Warrick asked in a cool voice, and Catherine tried without success to suppress her chuckles.
All eyes were on Sara. She blushed slightly while pretending to be cool. Beet red Greg beseeched her not to tell, Jim looked puzzled, Nick grinned, Cath giggled and Warrick said, "Don't let Grissom ever get intelligence about that."
Thanks to all who took the time to read my humble attempt to writing. Special thanks to those who actually took some more time to post a review. I really appreciate that. And a big hug goes to Pam, my beta-reader. HUX