Nick knocked on Sara's bathroom door quietly, "You okay?"
A few moments later, the retching sounds stopped and her tired voice replied, "Yeah, I'm fine."
"I wouldn't go that far." Nick said with a wry smile, pushing the door open and helping Sara to her feet, "You're running a fever again."
Sara rolled her eyes, sighing tiredly, "And how would you know?"
"I've been sleeping next to you all night," Nick replied, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, "You've been getting warmer and warmer."
Sara, despite how awful she felt, cracked a smile, "Maybe it's you making me hot?"
"I know I'm on fire, but believe me, that's not it. Maybe you're overdoing it, leaving the hospital so soon." Nick replied, his voice dripping with concern, "Maybe we should call the doctor."
Shaking her head, Sara reached for the mouthwash and took a swig of it, spitting it out before replying to his worried statement, "It's got nothing to do with where I'm at. I just wasn't ready for pizza, that's all. Maybe if Emeril Stokes would have whipped up something healthy instead of a heart-attack-in-a-box, I'd be still sleeping."
"Sure, blame it on me. We wouldn't be here right now if you wouldn't have waited so long to see a doctor...or if you bought normal groceries like the rest of the population." Nick shot back, "Let's get you back in bed."
Sara allowed him to lead her to her bed, barely finding the energy to cover herself back up, "I'm so tired Nicky."
"Then get some sleep. I'll be right here, okay? Anything you need, just ask." Nick soothed, stroking her hair gently. He didn't want to tell her, but it worried him to see her so ill, stumbling around as if in a dense fog, her face tired and pale. He knew it was to be expected, she was still slowly recovering, but it was such a strong contrast from the Sara he had always seen before...it was hard to get used to.
Not that he didn't like taking care of her. That was one part he'd miss once she was fully recovered. It was nice to see she needed someone sometimes, and it was even nicer to know that she was willing to take the help from him. It made him feel special to know she trusted him enough to show signs of weakness in front of him. There was no doubt in his mind that if Warrick was in his place, she would have already sent him packing, no matter how weak and tired she was.
It didn't take long before her breathing evened out and she was back asleep, curled into a ball on her side, her back pressed against Nick's side. Stifling a yawn, he wrapped an arm protectively around her, resuming the position they had been in until about 20 minutes earlier, and once sure she was well asleep, he closed his eyes and let himself join her.
Nearly 6 hours later, his cell phone shrilly rang, arousing both of them from their slumber, Sara still cradled in Nick's arms. Nick sleepily pushed the 'talk' button, answering, "Stokes."
"Nick, it's Catherine. Would it be okay if Grissom and I stopped over? We spoke to Greg, Sophia, and Warrick between shifts last night, so now we only really need to touch base with you and Sara."
Nick glanced at Sara, who nodded sleepily, and responded, "No problem, when will you be here?"
"Grissom's just finishing up on his case now, and we're going to head on over together as soon as he's done. 45 minutes, maybe an hour?"
"No problem, we'll be waiting." Nick replied with a yawn, hanging up the phone and groaning, "They'll be here in 45 minutes."
Sara sighed, "I heard. I guess I should go take a shower, you too. Think they'll want coffee? Breakfast?"
"Stop playing hostess," Nick instructed, "Take a quick shower, I don't want you over exerting yourself, and don't go around talking like you actually have enough edible food to make breakfast. I'll fix some coffee and that'll be fine for them. Take it easy, it's not like they're expecting you to be fully recuperated. You're sick, enjoy being able to get away with not being perfect for awhile."
Sara rolled her eyes, tiredly dragging herself out of bed and to her bathroom, a grabbing a fresh towel from the linen closet before entering. She was winded by the time she turned the water on, her chest hurting with every breath she took. By the time she had finished her shower, she was coughing every time she tried to inhale. Glancing at the clock on her bathroom wall, she cursed softly. She was seriously overdue for her medication, it was so unusual for her to sleep so long, she hadn't even thought about taking it when she woke up, since she had taken it right before she fell asleep.
She managed to dress in a pair of navy drawstring pants and a pale yellow tank top, but by the time she had made it back to her bedroom, without even brushing her hair, she was getting lightheaded from coughing and wheezing so much. She had never been so relieved to see Nick, carrying an orange pill bottle as if anticipating what she would need.
"Calm down and try to breathe." Nick said gently, taking the beige breathing treatment machine and plugging it into the wall, tossing her the oxygen mask as he began to assemble the parts like the hospital had shown him, "This will only take a minute to set up."
Sara's face was flushed from coughing, her eyes watering and her hand pressed against her chest, which was radiating with pain. She felt like she was being smothered and stabbed in the chest with a fire poker all at the same time. She inhaled as deeply as she could, which wasn't much, as Nick turned on the machine and sat down behind her, rubbing her arms gently and pulling her to lean against him, hoping the calming gesture would calm her a bit.
It took nearly 15 minutes for her to start breathing normally again, and Nick was alarmed at how fast her pulse was racing, he was able to feel her heartbeat against his hand from the way he was holding her. "You okay now?"
Slowly, her body began to resume normal functioning, and within a few minutes, it was like nothing had happened. She gave him an embarrassed smile, to which he rolled his eyes, "I don't think any less of you for being human, Sara. I'm just worried about you, that's what friends do. I brought your medicine, just let me get you a glass or water or OJ, okay?"
"Water, please." Sara replied with a yawn, already exhausted, although she had slept for over 12 hours the previous night. Suddenly, she was dreading Catherine and Grissom coming over, she didn't feel like doing anything but laying in bed with Nick's arms around her, making her feel warm and safe, as if nothing bad could ever touch her.
The thought crossed her mind before she even realized it was how she had been feeling, and suddenly she was surprised. Since when had Nick made her feel that way? Sure, they had always been friends, good friends, but now she felt there was something more to it. She shook her head, trying to clear out her thoughts, but only succeeded in making the throbbing in her chest migrate to her head. She wasn't in the mood for things to be complicated, she had just gone through all of that with Grissom, she wasn't sure she was ready for her heart to take a "round two" with Nick.
Shortly after, when Grissom and Catherine arrived, Sara had to fight tears as she weakly made her way to the living room. She wanted nothing more than to be laying in bed, covered up to her neck, her eyes closed and her mind left to dreaming. Instead, she was going to have to listen, and pay attention, to a work-related meeting. She silently wondered what she would have to do to get out of this meeting that she suddenly didn't want to attend, and thinking back to what had to transpire for her to get out of work, she decided not to tempt fate with asking the question. Instead, she took a spot next to Nick on the couch, leaning her head against his arm, just because she didn't have the energy to hold it up.
In Catherine and Grissom's defense, they didn't look like they wanted to be there anymore than Sara wanted them to be there. As a matter of fact, Grissom looked like his best friend had just died, and Catherine looked downright angry.
"What's this about?" Nick asked, putting his hand on Sara's knee reassuringly. He could feel her slightly trembling against him, and he could tell she was exhausted. He was worried about her having a relapse and getting worse, it seemed like as soon as she started getting better, she'd start to feel bad again. He really hoped that was part of the process, and that she really was recovering.
Grissom sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose and looking towards Catherine, who stared at Nick and Sara with tightly pressed lips. After a few seconds, Catherine spoke, "Grissom and I had a meeting with Ecklie."
"Oh God." Sara said with wide eyes, coming out of her sleepy haze at the mention of Ecklie. She lifted her head slightly, giving her equilibrium a moment to adjust to her new position, then adding, "That couldn't have been good."
Grissom shook his head, his voice flat, "It wasn't. Ecklie feels that your illness, and the severity of it, was a result of my poor management skills, and while we both tried to smooth things over with him, it didn't work as well as we hoped."
"You aren't fired, are you?" Nick asked, his face paling slight as the thought came to him. Grissom had shown him nearly everything he knew about being a CSI, it wouldn't feel the same in the lab without him. Sure, they worked different shifts now, but they still got to see each other at least 3 times a week.
Sara bit her lip, "I'm not fired, am I?"
"Oh, no, of course not!" Catherine exclaimed, "No one is being fired. Ecklie believes that a few changes are in order, though. As soon as you come back to work--"
Grissom interrupted her, "But feel free to take as long of a break as you need, we don't want you to risk your health for your job."
"Right, take as long as you need to get well. As I was saying, when you do come back from leave, you'll be working on swing, and Warrick is being transferred to graveyard," Catherine said, her voice nearly apologetic. "Ecklie is just trying to get everyone all riled up, he thinks that we'll start fighting again, giving him reason to terminate all of us. You know how he is, it probably won't be permanent, only until he finds another way to interfere with our lives."
"And by 'interfere', she means 'ruin'." Grissom said cooly, "I'm so sorry Sara, I know it's been crazy since they moved everyone around the first time, but there's nothing any of us could do."
Nick watched as a frown crossed Sara's face, followed by a small smile, "What did Greg have to say about this? You know, Warrick taking my place? Who's he going to flirt with now?"
"Hopefully not Warrick," Catherine quipped, relieved to see Sara hadn't taken the news too badly. "Nick, I also need to talk to you about your vacation time. I know you took 2 weeks off to stay with Sara and help out..." She glanced towards the pizza box Nick had left on the counter, "And I see you're trying your best..."
Nick nodded with a heavy sigh, "If you need me to come in sooner, I will. I don't want things to get too backed up."
"And my doctor thinks I should be well enough to return to work by the end of next week or the beginning of the week after. I can get a release from him, though, if you need the extra help." Sara added, unable to keep the sleepiness out of her voice, although managing to stifle the yawn. "I'm already feeling better."
Nick shot a look to Grissom and Catherine which told them both Sara was full of it, and Sara kicked him softly, although her eyes were closed, "Stop making that face."
"What face?" Nick asked innocently, earning a smile from Catherine, and even a half-smirk from Grissom.
Sara's eyes tiredly opened again, and she pulled her head off of Nick's shoulder, even though she wanted to stay there all day. "I'm sorry, guys, for causing so much trouble."
"Hey, I should have listened to you, you can't blame yourself for Ecklie being a jerk." Grissom interjected, "You know he looks for ways to torture all of us."
Sara shook her head, "No, really Gris, I'm sorry. I've gone out of my way to do things to push his buttons recently, and now he's mixing everything up to punish me."
"Grissom's right, it's not your fault, it's just Ecklie being Ecklie. Don't beat yourself up over it," Catherine said with a worried smile, rising to her feet, "I can see you're still exhausted, and no offense, but you look awful, girl. Go get some rest, I want my new CSI to be in tip top shape when she comes back to work."
Sara nodded, too tired and weak to protest. Nick led Catherine to the door, but Grissom stayed behind for a few moments, resting his hand over Sara's, "I really hope you feel better...I worry about you, you know."
"I know you do, but you don't need to, I'll be fine," Sara replied with a tired smile, suddenly more exhausted than she had been the night Catherine had taken her to the hospital. "I guess I'll be seeing you around, then?"
Grissom nodded, letting his hand linger on top of hers for a moment more, than hurrying to catch up with Catherine. As the door shut behind them, Sara laid down on the couch, suddenly unable to hold her body up any longer. The news had taken a few minutes to really sink in, but now that it had, her head was aching worse than she had ever felt it ache before.
Nick sat down on top of the coffee table, reaching out to brush the hair from her face as she started to doze off. "Sara? Let's get you back in bed, okay?"
Sara nodded sleepily, allowing Nick to support her as they walked slowly back into her bedroom, both crawling in bed together, falling asleep not too long after.
Two weeks later, both Nick and Sara were refreshed and ready to work. Sara had been doing remarkably well, her doctor had told her the day before at her checkup that it was rare that someone responded to antibiotics so well, and so quickly, with the type of pneumonia she had been diagnosed with.
It was the first day back for both of them, and while Nick was rested and relaxed from being off work for two and a half weeks, Sara was nervous about her first shift with Catherine. They had gotten along decently the few times they had seen each other since Sara had gotten sick, but before that, everyone knew they didn't get along well at all, and that was just working together, Catherine not even being her supervisor.
Sara followed Nick into the break room, taking a seat and observing the bustle of the lab, it definitely had a lot more going on at this time of day than it did in the middle of the night. Nick handed her a cup of coffee and sat down beside her, looking at his watch, "Catherine's always late, between 13 and 15 minutes usually."
"That's very...specific." Sara replied, a smirk on her face, "Let me guess, you and Warrick had some spare time on your hands?"
Nick shrugged, "We're CSIs, it's our job to observe."
"Speaking of jobs," Catherine said, walking in the break room, two slips of paper in her hands, "We've got two fresh, hot cases tonight. Nicky, double at the MGM. Sara, triple in Henderson, you're with me."
Both CSI's rose to their feet, Sara barely able to stop her laughter as Nick pointed to his watch and mouthed fourteen. Maybe working on swing wouldn't be so bad. Without Grissom and his infamous mood swings, she'd be less stressed out. Without Sophia, she'd be less irritated and, as much as she hated to admit it, jealous. The only one she'd really miss working with is Greg, and that was partly because he was the only one she had been working with lately. He had turned out to be a great friend, if only they could have a shift with Nick, Greg, Warrick, and herself, it would be smooth sailing.
"I'm driving." Catherine said as they stepped outside, "How are you feeling? Are you sure you're up for working so soon? You still look a little pale."
Sara smiled at Catherine's sincerity, "I'm feeling a lot better, I'm just tired. It's hard to get back in the swing of things after sleeping away two weeks."
"It's not sleeping away...it's healing." Catherine pointed out, "It's not like you took vacation time to veg out on the couch and stay in your pajamas."
"Yet that's a lot of what I did." Sara quipped, fastening her seatbelt. She was silent for a few moments, then said quietly, "I think we need to talk."
Catherine turned to face the younger woman, her eyebrows raised in surprise, a bit of apprehension on her face. Like Sara, she knew they hadn't been getting along well, and she was suddenly praying they made it through at least the first shift without raising their voices.
Sara nervously bit her lip, knowing what she needed, and wanted, to say, but not sure how Catherine would react. She hated to apologize, especially when she felt like the other woman was just as guilty as she was, but she knew that if they didn't clear the air between them, Ecklie's plan to get them at each other's throats would succeed only faster. Sucking in a deep breath, she tried to think of the correct way to start the conversation.
Catherine waited patiently while Sara seemed to gather her thoughts, the nervousness clear on her face. Deciding to give her an out, just in case Sara had changed her mind about whatever subject had gotten her so antsy, Catherine asked, "Is it about you and Nick? Because if you're sleeping together, there's no rule against relationships among co-workers, as long as you're equals and it doesn't interfere with work."
Suddenly, Catherine wished she had a camera. Sara's jaw dropped and her face blushed slightly, the gears turning her head as she now struggled to find a response almost visible to Catherine. Her mouth opened, then shut, then opened again, saying, "I meant we need to talk about us...about learning to get along."
Catherine wasn't sure this was going to be a nice conversation, and she was almost positive they wouldn't be speaking (or actually, speaking very loudly) by the time they reached the crime scene. But as she contemplated a way out of the impending conversation, she couldn't help but realize Sara hadn't denied the accusation.
Shall I continue?
-Bugs N Suds-