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 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. This is in response to
a challenge at the YTDAW forums.
This is in response to a challenge at the YTDAW forums.
Spoilers: general fifth season through "4x4".
Grateful acknowledgement is hereby made to SSG K. Wolfskill, Sam&Alan, and Cincoflex, divers all, who made sure that what I was describing was possible. So much of a writer's strength lies in the people one knows!
The brilliant, wavering flash of light made every hair on Sara's body stand on end--not an easy thing, considering that she was wearing a heavy coating of neoprene. It was also tremendously alarming. Without a second thought, she abandoned her push towards the blurry shape above and ahead, and went down instead, as fast as possible.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw another dive light taking roughly the same path, trying to get away from the surface. Guess the storm came on faster than we thought.
Automatically, Sara headed towards the crime scene with strong pushes of her legs. The wrecked yacht was invisible in the black water of Lake Mead, but the buoy rope anchored to it held a number of cold chemical lights to guide the divers, and she caught the gleam of the deck rail in the beam of her handlight. The polished brass was scarred in places from the explosion that had sunk the boat, and Sara knew that in a day or so algae would begin to cloud its smoothness.
Sara let her feet touch down on the deck of the half-capsized yacht and settled in to wait for a bit. If the storm was flinging lightning down to the lake's surface, she didn't want to be anywhere near it. I just hope the launch doesn't get hit. If the crew had any sense, they were hightailing it towards shore and shelter.
Such a mess. And Sofia would have an I-told-you-so on her lips when Sara made it back up top, but--Sara had to admit--it would be at least in part deserved. Evidence was time-sensitive, yes, and the police dive team was temporarily decimated by the flu, but diving at night in the face of a thunderstorm was not exactly a tame stunt.
Sara looked back in the direction of the launch, though the water was far too dark for her to see it even if it was still there. The dive light she'd seen earlier was approaching slowly, the diver still hidden in the blackness. Only one--I guess the others made it back up to the boat.
It had been a scramble. At first it was only Sara and the one healthy police diver, but after they were already down three more divers appeared, anonymous in their masks and gear, and the five of them swam in and out of the wreck, processing what evidence they could in the cold and the harsh lights brought down from above. And then they'd headed for the surface…she had been the last to leave, even the big lights had been taken back up.
Now Sara watched the light approach with idle curiosity. She had plenty of air--she'd changed tanks in mid-process--and the water was cold but not freezing. She could wait at a safe depth for a little while the lightning passed. Better that than getting fried at the surface. She snorted silently. It could be worse. Warrick said that in Miami they had somebody standing by with a rifle in case of alligators.
Grissom was going to be livid, though, she thought. It had been some years since she'd had the time to dive for fun, but Sara was still certified, and while she wasn't entirely sanguine about a night dive in unfamiliar waters, she couldn't just let the evidence be lost to current and fish while they waited for more divers to arrive.
Not that that was going to count for much when her supervisor heard about this.
The owner of the dive light finally neared, not that Sara could see anything distinctive down here in the dark. A handlight flashed on and was tipped up to the diver's face, revealing enough features that she could tell that it wasn't the other female diver. The man waved, and then gestured at the wreck, and Sara would have grinned if it wouldn't have dislodged her regulator. My thoughts exactly.
She turned on her own light to signal her agreement and followed the man as he swam slowly down into the yacht's main cabin, the beams of their lights illuminating swirls of silt and the sudden faint gleam of brass fittings. The boat was ridiculously large for the size of the lake, a rich man's toy, and Sara had found it distinctly odd to swim down its tiny corridor and float around its cabins as though in midair. Fortunately for the processing, there were no corpses per se, though when she and the police diver had first reached the wreck they'd disturbed a school of fish feeding on a leg lodged under the wheel.
The leg was gone topside now, sealed in an evidence bag minus fish, and while a few piscines still lazed around the wreck, they fled as the lights touched them.
The two of them made their way through the wreck in a wordless ballet, checking and rechecking to make sure that all the evidence that could be collected had been, and ended up in the narrow galley. The boat lay mostly on its side among the rocks of the bottom, giving everything their beams caught a somewhat cockeyed look, and there was barely room for the two of them, even using three dimensions.
The ripple against Sara's skin warned her, and adrenaline flooded her as a muffled groan reached her ears. She twisted expertly around to face back the way they came, sparing one quick glance to make sure the other diver was following her, and the two of them shot back towards the deck as the wreck shifted around them.
The vibrations in the water made it hard to stay on course. Sara hit the wall of the short staircase as she swam upwards, and lost her stroke; the groan swelled, and a hand on her bottom propelled her forward with a strong shove as the yacht slid off balance and folded in on itself.
The push got her into the clear. Sara whirled in the water, kicking up and away from the cloud of sand and mud rising from the sagging yacht, bringing her handlight around to try to spot her companion in the murk.
All she saw was a fury of bubbles.
She doubled down again, heedless of the blinding particles, trying to see something, anything. The doorway of the stairwell had vanished, there was only a tangle of wood and metal left, with those bubbles still rushing up from it. No, no, no!
Something moved at the edge of the beam. She grabbed at it through the cloud, and it grabbed back--a hand, protruding from the tangle. Sara kicked closer, not letting go, prying at the trap from which the arm protruded, but it was beyond her strength. She lifted her light and shone it into the mangled stairwell, and a face stared back, wide Plexiglas-masked eyes half-obscured by the murk, mouth open.
Mouth open. Regulator gone. And, judging by the bubbles, the diver's tank was punctured anyway.
The eyes blinked, but only a few silvery spheres escaped the mouth, and her mind went into overdrive. He hasn't panicked. Yet. Don't you panic either, Sidle--
She'd never had to do this for real before, but this was the reason for practice. Sara took the prescribed deep breaths, and pulled her own regulator from her mouth, extending it towards the trapped man.
It didn't reach.
She shouldered forward, straining, but her own tank kept her from getting close enough. She could hear the dull clonk as it banged against the metal above.
Another few bubbles escaped the man's mouth. Sara jammed the mouthpiece back between her teeth and shrugged out of the tank, desperately trying to control her panting.
But the opening was still too narrow. Dammit! She could pass the tank through, or she could pass her arm, but not both at once--and the man's arms were trapped. He could not lift the regulator to his own mouth.
He blinked again, and Sara could see his eyes glazing. No. No you will not!
They covered this sort of situation in the classes too, though she'd never practiced it. Sara took another couple of quick lungfuls, then ducked her head into the opening, pushed forward, fumbled to grab the man's chin, and sealed her mouth over his. Upside down, so their masks would not block them.
They lost half the air in that first frantic press, but she felt his lungs sucking the oxygen from hers, and rejoiced. Evidently he remembered his classes too, because he didn't fight her as she pulled away, and she pushed back to her tank and took another two breaths before returning to him.
Sara repeated the actions twice before she was sure the diver's oxygen level had evened out, then fumbled for the cold light at her waist and cracked it, hooking it into a bit of the wreckage so it cast a greenish glow over his face.
It was a slow pattern, a cold and terrifying one in the foggy dimness, but he tasted of mint and male and impossible calm, and after she gave him his third breath she managed to smile at him.
He smiled back through the mist, eyes crinkling behind the facemask, and she nearly lost her own lungful of air as her mind finally put the pieces of his face together.
Old training held; Sara continued the routine of breathe, push, breathe, retreat, even as her brain scrambled to catch up. She hadn't known that Grissom was certified to dive, but when she thought about it, it made sense; he grew up on the water, and he was relentless in his pursuit of evidence. He would probably consider diving a perfectly logical skill for a CSI.
Another push, another press, the sensation of his lips against hers a double strangeness now that she knew who he was. Sara wondered wildly if he knew her identity. Sofia had no doubt told him that Sara had gone down, when he'd arrived, but the other female diver was slender as well, and in the dark water they were all but indistinguishable. For all Grissom might know, she was a stranger.
But on the next retreat, she met his eyes, and saw the knowledge in them. He knew exactly who she was.
There was nothing either of them could do, she realized; they couldn't even communicate. They could only go on, she giving, he accepting, and both of them--she guessed--counting seconds in their heads. This method of transfer was only meant to be temporary; they lost a small amount of air with every exchange, and a tank that held plenty for her would run out much faster divided between them.
It was a toss-up, Sara figured, between her tank and the storm. She had no doubt that the divers would return in search of them as soon as it was remotely safe, but the lightning could pass in five minutes or take forty, and in the meantime every breath was a risk for Grissom. If he choked or inhaled water, there would be no helping him.
Sara exhaled again into his mouth and pulled back for another couple of breaths. Grissom's eyes were clear for the moment, and he smiled again, but she knew he was getting less oxygen than he needed. Sooner or later he would start to get dizzy. She didn't think he would panic, but she couldn't be sure.
If they don't get back in time… Sara didn't want to finish the thought. If the divers didn't return before her tank hit the red, she would have to abandon Grissom, knowing that before she broke surface he would drown in the wreckage.
Her jaw tightened on the mouthpiece. That's not going to happen.
Breathe, push, exhale, retreat. Over and over. It became a ritual of sorts, as though it was the only thing they had ever done. Her mind kept going around in circles; if only the regulator would reach, she could try to swim around the wreck and see if she could free him, but it would not reach. Fear told her to search anyway, to take a few extra seconds; reason warned her not to burn their precious air any faster with exertion.
Breathe. Breathe. Push. How odd, to kiss him like this, upside down in the dark and the cold, and a wild humor rose up in her at the thought that not only could he not refuse her kisses now, he took them eagerly. Most of her concentration was taken up making sure that each press of her mouth was as air-tight as possible, but she kept track of it, this feeling, the taste of him, cold lips and warm breath and the life passing between them.
He kept smiling at her. Encouragement, thanks? She couldn't tell. But she would smile back, both of them letting their spent air trail up and away, time measured in tiny gleaming spheroids. In breaths. In rhythm. The rhythm kept her going, kept her thoughts from spiraling towards despair, towards what if they don't get back here in time?
She was getting chilled. Lake water wasn't warm at the best of times, but swimming had kept her comfortable before; now her body heat was leaching away. She took a closer look at Grissom. The cold light did peculiar things to colors, and Sara couldn't tell if his lips were getting blue. She couldn't even see enough of him to tell if he was starting to shiver.
He's got more body mass was countered by he could be hurt, in shock. His gaze was still strong, but the light picked out the creases around his eyes, lines that were deepening as his strength ebbed. Come on, guys, we don't have a lot of time here.
Breathe. Breathe. Push, connect. She felt a vibration against the hand that gripped his chin, as though he were trying to force words through the heavy water, but there was no time for anything but his inhale, even if she could hear through her mouth.
After ten more breaths, she checked her dive watch. The amount of time that had passed shocked her; it seemed both too little and too much. After the next exchange, she used her handlight to read the gauge on the tank, and her remaining body heat seemed to flow out of her.
There was almost nothing left.
Sara schooled her face to calm, remembered to smile as she pulled out the mouthpiece and moved back to Grissom, but when she retreated again she saw that she had not fooled him. His eyes narrowed, and when she ducked again, something caught her floating hair.
She stopped, reached up to untangle it, and the snag grabbed her fingers. Grissom's hand, still protruding from the wreckage. When she shone her light on it, the fingers waved to get her attention, and as she watched, his forefinger described a spiral, and a circle. A spiral, a circle.
Sara frowned, confused, and glanced in at Grissom's green-lit face, but he frowned back and nodded as best he could, and made the gestures again. Spiral, circle. And then he pointed his forefinger up, and she understood.
Sara held back the yell. Neither rage nor terror nor sheer incredulity would serve her now. Instead, she pushed in to give him his next breath, and when she retreated she shook her head firmly.
Grissom frowned more deeply, and even under the mask she could see the stern supervisor. She held up one hand, fingers spread. Five minutes.
He could scarcely argue with her, Sara realized, but she saw his lips moving slightly as she pulled back from their next kiss, and Sara realized he was counting seconds.
Frustration and a little of that hysterical amusement hit her. He didn't trust her to tell him when five minutes was up--and he was right to doubt.
Sara knew, and knew that Grissom did also, that at forty feet or so of depth one was supposed to stop once on the way up to decompress, but also that they weren't deep enough to cause serious injury if an emergency required an immediate surfacing. If she had to, Sara could drop her dive belt and be at the top within seconds. She wondered with a tinge of despair whether Grissom feared that she would run out of air on the way up, or whether he just didn't want her to watch him drown.
Too bad. Seeing him die before her eyes would be an unsurpassable horror, but there was simply no way that she was going to leave him before absolutely all hope was gone, even if it meant nightmares for the rest of her days.
She would not leave him to die alone in the dark.
Breathe. Push. Breathe. Retreat. Grissom's eyes were less focused, whether due to shock or lack of oxygen, and Sara pinched his cheek with numb fingers to keep him alert. His glare was welcome, even if he did start counting again.
Come on, guys. Come on! We need a little help here-- Breathe. Breathe.
She was starting to feel light-headed, despite the regulator in her mouth, when she saw Grissom's lips stop moving. Sara ducked in, expecting him to be foggy again, but instead she saw that his eyes were clear, and when she pressed her mouth to his, his lips did not unseal.
Shocked, she raised her head. Grissom's gaze held hers, held it, his eyes had never been so intense...and then a slow line of bubbles began to stream from the corner of his mouth, and she lost half her own air in a wail. She reached for him, desperate, but before her hands touched his face something jerked her back, hard. The back of her head smacked into the wreckage, and with a burst of light and pain, everything vanished.
See Chapter 2