Disclaimer: 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; no infringement is intended in any way, and this story is not for profit. All others belong to me, and if you want to borrow them, you have to ask me first. Any errors are mine, all mine, no you can't have any.
Spoilers: general fifth season
A gift fic for velocityofsound's birthday surprise for scullyseviltwin. Happy Birthday!
"How far do we have to go again?" Catherine asked, her voice echoing oddly from the rock walls. Her bootheels clicked ahead of Sara as the two of them and Grissom walked deeper into the mine.
"About another five hundred yards, according to the deputy," Grissom replied, sounding a bit hollow from his lead position. Sara shifted her grip on her kit and concentrated on her path. The mine was long abandoned, and the once-smooth floor was littered with sand and pebbles.
"And you think this has something to do with my unsolved shooting."
Grissom's light didn't waver. "This victim is also missing his tongue."
"Mob hit?" Sara offered. "They didn't keep quiet?"
"Not the usual M.O., but it could be," Grissom answered judiciously.
Catherine sighed loudly enough for Sara to hear over the scrunch of sand underfoot. "Why'd he have to dump him in a mine?"
"Didn't you ever want to go spelunking?" Grissom asked, sounding amused.
Catherine didn't deign to answer, and Sara allowed herself a small grin. She and Catherine hadn't had much to do with each other since their public fight in the lab hallway, and working with her would probably be uncomfortable; it was mean, but amusing, to see her discomfited by the surroundings.
It wasn't that bad, Sara thought, glancing around a little as they walked. The ceiling was at least four feet above their heads, and the hallway cut into the rock was wide; it had to be, to get the ore out. Getting a body in was probably no trouble at all.
"Here's the scene," Grissom said ahead of them, and Sara slowed. The corridor here widened into a slightly larger chamber some twenty yards across; the far exit was blocked by a rockfall, and in front of it lay their vic.
Yep. Definitely a body dump. The corpse was twisted in a position that no one living would assume, and there didn't seem to be any blood at all around it, not even the drops that would come from the removal of a severed tongue.
"I feel like Chicken Little," Catherine grumbled, glancing up at the ceiling, which was higher than the hallway.
"The mine is listed as stable," Grissom said, setting down his kit. "And the sooner we process the scene, the sooner you'll be out, Catherine."
They set to it, scarcely needing the few words of direction that Grissom gave them. It amused Sara again to see that Catherine, now supervising her own shift, still automatically assumed Grissom to be in charge of the scene. But then, it is a nightshift case.
They had only been working for about ten minutes, however, when Sara heard a snapping sound. Grissom's head jerked up from his crouch next to her as a small shard of rock dropped from the ceiling and smacked into the dust in front of them. For a long, tense second there was silence; then Grissom dropped the forceps he was holding. "Out, now," he hissed.
But they only got as far as straightening up. As the world turned into noise and darkness and the iron grip of Grissom's hand on her arm, the single thought in Sara's head was sometimes Chicken Little is right.
The quiet was weird after the deafening boom and clatter. A slow hiss of settling sand and gravel underscored the hush, and Sara swayed on her feet in the darkness, then crouched to feel frantically for her flashlight. Fortunately, it had not rolled far, and she straightened and clicked it on.
The Maglite's beam showed mostly dust, and the paleness of Catherine's grimy face, the red of blood a shock across her hair. Grissom bit back an oath and dropped to his knees beside her still form, apparently oblivious to the rough ground. "Catherine!"
Sara knelt a little more slowly, training the light on the older woman. Catherine lay sprawled among the rubble of the mineshaft, looking oddly small in unconsciousness. "Catherine?" Her voice was hoarse with dust.
Grissom shook his head, a barely seen movement outside the beam of light, and set his fingers against Catherine's throat to gauge her pulse. "She's out cold."
Sara cleared her own throat. "Broken neck?" An awful thought, but it had to be spoken.
"I don't think so…" Grissom ran gentle hands over Catherine's neck and shoulders. "I can't detect anything."
Sara shone her light back towards the entrance to the mine, only to encounter a pile of stone. "Uh, Grissom..."
He said a very bad word, one that she had never heard cross his lips before, and stood. Sara handed him her light, watching as he crunched cautiously over to investigate.
It didn't take him long, and she could just see the grim expression on his face as he came back. "I think we're stuck. At least for the moment."
Sara grimaced as he moved the light to Catherine's head wound, and chose to ignore their larger problems in favor of dealing with the more immediate ones. "I've got some first-aid stuff in my kit."
Grissom blew out a breath. "Good. You can check her for other injuries, then I can try to find your kit."
"Me?" Sara was taken aback. She and Catherine were barely on speaking terms, and all they spoke about was work. "Are you sure?"
"Better you than me." His voice was edged with humor. "If she wakes up in the middle of it I'll never hear the end of it."
Sara sighed. "All right, all right." Beggars couldn't be choosers, and the collapse of the mineshaft around them had left them poor indeed. Grissom aimed the light at Catherine's still form as Sara carefully checked her limbs for breaks and cautiously pulled up her jacket and blouse. "Don't look," she warned Grissom, and he gave a strained chuckle and held the light steady.
No marks bloomed beneath the woman's pale skin, and while Sara was hesitant to roll her over--she still wasn't sure about Catherine's neck--it looked as though the head wound was the only major trauma. "Okay," Sara said, tugging Catherine's clothing back down. "Fetch, boss."
She wasn't at all sure where that had come from, and she could practically hear Grissom's brow going up, but he said nothing, simply moving away to Sara's kit on the other side of the little hewed-out cavern. The light went with him, and Sara watched his shape occlude it, keeping her fingers on Catherine's wrist more as a reassurance in the dark than a need to monitor. The pulse was strong and steady.
Grissom rattled around in Sara's kit for a couple of minutes, then returned with the alcohol and gauze and tape she kept for emergencies. "Good thinking," he said absently, kneeling down next to Catherine again and handing Sara the flashlight. She shone the light on Catherine's head again, wincing at the blood still oozing from the gash, and observed as Grissom produced a pristine handkerchief from somewhere and mopped away some of the blood.
Catherine didn't stir as Grissom bandaged her head, which worried Sara. Grissom finally sat back with a sigh. "Are you all right?" he asked in a low voice, still staring down at his colleague.
"I'm fine. Didn't even get bruised," Sara replied, which wasn't quite true. She figured she'd probably have five little bruises on her arm where Grissom's hand had gripped her. "You?"
"Fine," he said off-handedly, as though it didn't matter. "May I have the light back, please? I want to try to find mine."
Sara handed it over, and stayed by Catherine's side, taking the older woman's limp hand in hers and rubbing it gently in hopes of a response. Grissom rose a little stiffly; Sara listened to him scratch and scrabble around the little room, eventually coming up with his own handlight. It came on when he tried it, but he switched it off again. "Better save the batteries," he explained, and Sara nodded.
"Where's Catherine's?" she asked.
Grissom swept the beam in an arc around the fallen CSI, and it caught and held on a twinkle. Catherine's flashlight had apparently been caught under a falling rock; crushed plastic glittered on the lumpy ground.
Grissom heaved the small rock aside, and sighed. "Even the batteries are flattened," he said, sounding disappointed.
"Well, how long do you think it'll take them to get us out?" Sara asked logically. "The deputy at the entrance will probably miss us even before David gets here to pick up the body."
"True." Grissom knelt once more and leaned over Catherine, peeling back her eyelid to take a look. "And we have a draft, which means fresh--"
Catherine gasped and half sat up, startling Grissom into falling onto his backside. Sara choked back a semi-hysterical giggle at the sight and slipped a quick arm behind Catherine's shoulders. "Hey! Take it easy, Cath."
The wounded CSI groaned. "Where's the truck?" she mumbled.
"That hit you?" Grissom asked dryly, straightening. Catherine shivered and leaned heavily against Sara.
"My head's killing me," she said, putting one hand up to the bandage. Sara batted it gently down.
"No surprise there, you've got a pretty good bump. I'm glad you're awake--you were starting to scare us."
Catherine looked up at Sara blurrily. "Scare you? Didn't know it was possible. --What happened?"
Grissom frowned a little. "We had a bit of a cave-in. Catherine, look at me." His voice was authoritative, and Catherine rolled her head along the crook of Sara's arm to meet his gaze. "Tell me your age and address."
Catherine's look was both pained and dry. "Grissom, you know that. And you also know you should never ask a woman her age."
"I'm trying to determine if you have a concussion," he said patiently. "Answer the questions, please."
Catherine sighed, and rattled off the information, then squawked as Grissom reached for her chin. "Hey!"
"I need to check your pupils. Sara, hold her still."
Sara snorted, but braced the older woman's shoulders. "Just let him do it, Cath. He won't leave you alone until you do."
Catherine winced, but held still as Grissom shone the light in one eye and then the other. He let out a breath afterwards. "Your pupils are the same size--you probably don't have a concussion."
"Good for me," Catherine grumbled. Sara caught Grissom's gaze and jerked her head back at her kit, and their synchronicity fell into place; Grissom went over to it and pulled out the bottle of water from the bottom. He handed it to Catherine.
"Drink sparingly, that's the only one we've got unless you have one in your kit."
"Nope," Catherine said tiredly, twisting off the cap and taking a careful swallow. "Looks like you get to be the Scout this time."
The look she shot Sara was half-irritated, half-rueful, and Sara figured that the annoyance was reserved mostly for Catherine herself, who hated being helpless. Sara shrugged.
"Grissom handled the first aid. Look, if you're up to it, we can move over to the wall there and be more comfortable."
"Sure." Catherine made to push to her feet, but Sara held her down, ignoring the glare, until Grissom could step over. He bent and picked his friend up with surprising ease, ignoring her protest; it was only a few steps to the side of the chamber, and Grissom settled Catherine with her back to the wall.
Sara rose herself, and eyed the fall of rock between themselves and the outside. "Do you think we should try to dig out?"
Grissom's mouth twisted as he thought. "Probably not," he said at last. "This section is demonstrably unstable, and I think we can safely assume that the outside world already knows we're in trouble. We have no immediate medical emergency and we have a source of fresh air. We should probably just sit tight and wait."
Sara grimaced, but he was making sense. Much as she would like to attack the heap of stones, she didn't want another avalanche. "All right."
Grissom shone the light slowly around the cavern. The air was moving sluggishly, as indicated by the dust in the beam, which didn't seem to be settling. It smelled musty to Sara, but not like stone--more like something vaguely organic.
"So we just sit and wait?" Catherine asked, sounding tired. Grissom upended the light so that the beam reflected off the cavern ceiling, producing a diffuse glow.
"Do you have a better idea?" he asked dryly.
Catherine snorted. "Actually, I could use a nap," she admitted. "I'm not so used to these late nights any more."
Sara grinned to herself. The only reason Catherine was along on a night shift case was the scene's similarity to a case that swing shift had caught. "So take one," she suggested. "If you don't have a concussion, we don't have to worry about you."
Catherine's face was streaked with dust, but was still pale as she leaned her head back against the wall. "I think I might." She shivered.
Sara stripped off her jacket at once and handed it to the older woman. "No arguing," she said sternly as Catherine frowned. "I'm not the one who was bleeding from the scalp."
Catherine closed her mouth, taken aback. "Thanks," she said finally, shrugging into the garment.
Sara sat down near her, stretching out her legs and leaning back against the wall. Grissom kept wandering around, apparently looking at the cut marks on the mine walls, and Sara finally gave into curiosity with a soft question. "What are you doing?"
Grissom glanced back at her. "There appears to be some kind of fungus growing on the walls here. I've never seen it before."
Sara yawned, feeling sleepy herself. "And you're an expert on cave fungi now?"
Grissom shrugged. "If you want to learn about forensics, master everything else first."
"I've heard that before." Sara glanced over at Catherine, who had curled up on her side and was now apparently asleep, huddled in on herself as though cold. Sara shivered in turn; the cave air was cool and damp. She scooted over next to Catherine and gingerly lifted the other woman's head into her own lap. Catherine sighed but didn't wake. "I swear, Grissom, we really ought to start carrying something more powerful than a cellphone."
"It still wouldn't work this deep in the rock." Grissom eyed her thoughtfully, then pulled off his own jacket. "Here."
Sara's pride tried to rebel, but she was cold and tired, and Grissom was wearing a long-sleeved shirt. Besides, he's got more body mass. She took the jacket. "Thanks."
It was too big, of course, but it was warm and smelled pleasantly of Grissom. Sara slipped her arms into it and snapped it up, then leaned her head back against the wall and closed her eyes.
It might have been ten minutes later, or thirty, when she heard the rustle and scrape of Grissom sitting down next to her. Sara didn't really drift to full consciousness, only listened as he shifted Catherine so that she was lying fully across his lap and Sara's, and then carefully--as if afraid she would wake--pulled Sara's head to rest on his shoulder. He was warm too, and Sara let herself snuggle into him, feeling the weight of his arm as it settled around her. And then she was truly asleep.
She was dreaming. She knew it, as she sometimes did, but these dreams were deeper than usual; normally only her nightmares were so vivid.
They were strange, too. Sara was used to the odd juxtapositions her sleeping mind would create, but viewing herself from outside was a new one. There she stood, talking to someone, but clad in a sort of silvery armor. And the emotions accompanying the image were foreign as well--a sort of yearning, mixed with a miserable despair.
She saw herself turn and smile, and the light shone off the armor, and the despair got worse. And it finally dawned on her, with the absurd clarity of the unconscious--it wasn't her dream.
Oh. Intrigued, only half-aware, she observed. There wasn't much to the plot, as it were; the emotions involved in the dream were more interesting. She sensed a distinct feeling of regret, of sorrow, the knowledge of something gone beyond reach. Frustration.
Her awareness faded out for a while. When it came back, she was arguing with a girl poised on adolescence, and it took a moment for Sara to recognize Lindsey through the layers of love and fear and pride. Then Lindsey became a little girl, and Sara--Catherine--swept her up and tucked her safely into a doll's cradle in the middle of a living room Sara didn't recognize. The dream shifted, and Catherine was dancing with a tall handsome man in a tuxedo. Sara didn't recognize him, but Catherine knew the strength of his arms and the smile on his face, and wistfulness and sorrow and a little bit of anger mingled as Eddie pulled her close and stepped more slowly. Sara was barely aware enough to pull herself away from the dream; whatever else it was, it was intensely private.
The next one was hers alone, a jumble of last week's cases and places, and Sara kept trying to catch up to Greg to get her results from him, but she kept missing. Grissom was there somewhere, in his office, and she banged her fist on the glass of his window in passing, but even though it left a neat imprint in blue on the hard surface, he never looked up.
Another, this one shocking and delightful, wrapped in quilts on an unfamiliar bed and Grissom in the cocoon with her; both of them fully clothed, but he was stroking his hands down over her breasts and stomach, and she wanted so much for him to slip them under her shirt. She looked up, and their eyes met, and some startled awareness widened his, and with a lurch the dream was gone.
Jumbled images, nothing clear. A scrap of time on a beach she knew from childhood. Blood on walls. Someone in a wheelchair, facing away. Ecklie, yelling.
Grissom in an interrogation room, looking drained. Someone was being taken out in cuffs, but Sara didn't care. The observation window was tearable as paper, and she pushed her way through it, throwing a leg over the sill so she could drop down into the other room. This was her dream, she was going to make the most of it. Striding around the table, she grabbed Grissom's wrist and pulled him to his feet, and kissed him the way she had always wanted to, soft wet slide of lips, prickle of beard under her fingertips, sudden hard grip of his hands at her waist--an explosion of wonder and fierce joy--
The sound of echoes woke her. Sara blinked in the dim light, aware that her head ached and her feet were cold, and that her backside was numb and her lap filled with something warm. The echoes came again, sharper, voices calling their names, and she inhaled quickly and shouted back. "We're here!"
Her voice bounced violently around the chamber, and Grissom woke with a start and Catherine with a groan. The flashlight clicked on; Grissom's arm lifted away from Sara's shoulders as Catherine stirred, and for an instant his eyes met Sara's, wide and stunned and aware. And then he was shouting too as the voices got closer.
They spent about forty more minutes pressed against the far wall as the heap of rock blocking their passage out was carefully dismantled; then they were whisked out into the light, blinking hard, and at Brass' insistence were taken to the hospital to be checked over. "The body's not going anywhere," he pointed out.
Grissom acceded faster than Sara expected, but she didn't argue too much; her head was throbbing pretty hard, and from the way Grissom and Catherine were squinting, she figured they weren't in any better shape.
They got separate cubicles at the emergency room, but the curtains between were no real barrier, and Sara heard snatches of Grissom's low-voiced conversation with the doctor, something about inhalation toxins.
The fungus? she wondered. Or is he talking about rock dust? It could be either one, and might account for her headache, which almost distracted her from the tests and examinations. Then the analgesic they'd given her cut in, separating her from the pain, and she was too tired to be more than mildly relieved when they told her that all the tests came back negative.
A weary-looking Brass came for her at last, trailing Grissom, whose face was strained and whose eyes did not meet hers. "C'mon, kiddo, I'll take you guys home."
Sara slid off the gurney and shoved her feet into her boots. "What about Catherine?"
"Her mother came and got her." It wasn't Grissom's hand that rested on the small of her back on the way out, it was Jim's, and it was his fussing she had to ignore as she slid into the back seat of his car and fastened the belt.
The ride to her apartment was silent. Sara felt the fog generated by pain and endorphins passing off a little, and tried to catch Grissom's eyes in the rear view mirror, but his gaze would always dart away as soon as she met it. It didn't matter; they both knew. The knowledge lay heavy between them in the car, choking as dust, as spores.
And how are you going to deal with it? You, the consummate scientist? Something was growing in her, slowly, some thick emotion. Sara got out of the car with a few words of thanks to Brass and trudged up the stairs, knowing that Jim would not pull out of the lot until he saw the light go on in her window. She flipped the switch obediently and stood for a moment, caught between exhaustion and that burning emotion.
A shower served to wash away some of the tiredness. There was a message on her machine when she emerged, Grissom's carefully neutral voice telling her that she had the night off because of the cave-in, that it was going to take a few days to clear the rockfall entirely and stabilize the mine. Sara stared down at the machine as the message finished, feeling her eyes narrow and recognizing the emotion at last as anger. Coward.
She looked down at the pajamas she'd pulled on in an automatic search for comfort, and deliberately changed her mind.
The lights were still on in Grissom's townhouse when she reached it, but then she'd expected them to be. The anger was carrying her on its wave, slow and inexorable as molten rock, and Sara wasn't at all sure she wouldn't have banged on his door and roused him even if the place had been dark.
As it was, a firm knock brought him to the door at once; she could all but feel his hesitation when he looked through the peephole, but she raised a brow at the door, daring him, and it swung open.
Grissom too had showered; his hair was still wet and his feet were bare. "Sara," he said, and nothing more, and she cast aside politeness and stepped forward, trusting in reflex to move him out of the way.
Six feet into his house, she turned and watched him shut the door. "Are we just going to ignore this?" she asked sharply.
Grissom looked at her, and she could see the hesitation, the desire to deny any knowledge of what she was talking about, but it passed; perhaps because of her stare. "Sara...you don't know how sorry I am."
The pain from that was so intense that she didn't even flinch, but a second later it puzzled her, because it was an apology. "Why are you sorry? It's not something we could help."
He rubbed a hand over his face as though trying to find a solution in the motion. "I dragged you into my...my private...thoughts about you, and you don't think that's worth an apology?"
Sara remembered the sweet, warm one, the simple closeness of his body in the blankets, the aching anticipation of where they were going, and bit her lip. He was ashamed of having the dreams, it was clear, but suddenly she was ashamed for intruding, even though neither of them were at fault. "I dragged you into mine, remember?"
His eyes met hers for an instant. "Yes. I couldn't understand why I didn't look up."
She shrugged. "You never do."
Grissom winced at that. "I really am sorry."
Impatience took her. "Apologies don't change anything, Grissom." He winced again, but she ignored it. "The fact is, we did get into each others' dreams, and we can pretend it didn't happen, I guess, but if we do we're finished, you know that." She bit back further words, and took a breath.
"I felt what you felt," she went on, more softly. "And you felt what I felt. Grissom...why are you so afraid of this?"
He turned away, staring at his kitchen area with blank eyes. "I felt...frustration, mostly." His shoulders twitched. "I don't know what you want, Sara. For me to acknowledge you? I can do that, but what will it change?"
She frowned, confused. Grissom swung around again and approached her, eyes on her face without quite meeting her gaze. "How can I face you, Sara? I dreamed you...doing things I had no right to make you do." He raised a hand slowly, and touched his fingertips to her cheek, as though the merest brush would make her vanish. "My ego even forced you into the interrogation room."
Sara wanted to laugh, suddenly, or throw up her hands in exasperation. Instead she lifted her own hand and covered his, pressing it to her skin. "Grissom, that was my dream. Not yours."
His eyes widened again, his lips moved silently, Oh. The same insane courage took her, and Sara ignored the fact that this wasn't a dream but real, and leaned forward to fasten her mouth on his.
It was better than her dream, or her imaginings. The slide, the warmth, the texture of his beard, they were all there, but there was also the scent of him filling her throat, and the muffled gasp he made, and then his fingers hard around the back of her head and his arm around her torso.
Eventually she tore away and put her lips to his ear, feeling the pull of her shirt where he had the fabric clutched in his hands. "What do you want to do, Grissom? Keep on dreaming, or wake up?"
He made a sound between a groan and a sigh, and Sara pulled back enough to look at him. His face was flushed and strained. "Promise me something," he said, voice a little hoarse, and she tilted her head, encouraging.
Grissom leaned forward, so this time it was he speaking into her ear, low and intense. "Don't ever leave me without a word. If you have to go, go, but not without telling me why."
Like you'll ever get rid of me. She didn't say it; now wasn't the time. "Deal," she promised, and rubbed her cheek against his, unable to resist the warm skin so close to her own.
He kissed her for a long time, as though trying to make up for the years of lost chances. She delighted in it, only pulling back once. "By the way, what's with the armor?"
Grissom only laughed, and kissed her again.