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. 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.

Spoilers: general sixth season through "Secrets and Flies".

This one is for Cincoflex. She not only supported me through the runaround that this fic gave me, she told me exactly what was wrong with it, repeatedly--an undertaking that requires courage as well as clear sight. Eventually, I paid attention. (grin) Thank you, my friend--I couldn't have done this without you.


She'd never been shot before, but she knew it wasn't fatal. A CSI's work wasn't all corpses, after all; they saw many a survivor, battered and bruised, and often took photos of the damage. It was a flesh wound, it hadn't broken her collarbone…she didn't think it had, anyway…and with Warrick clamping a pad made of his shirt over the wound, she wasn't even in danger of bleeding out.

Damn, it hurt, though.

"Stay with me, girl," Warrick said in her ear, and she wanted to reach back and pop him one, except that would hurt worse.

"I'm not going to pass out," Sara retorted, wishing on one level that she could. The street was chaos as cops scrambled in pursuit of the shooter, who had apparently fired three shots and fled into the night. Only one of them had found a mark in living flesh.

Brass, startlingly pale, skidded to a stop next to their huddle behind the SUV. "How you doing, sweetheart? She okay, 'Rick?" His eyes skimmed over her face and fastened on Warrick's makeshift bandage on her left shoulder.

"She'll be okay if the paramedics get their asses here now," Warrick growled, and Sara hissed as his grip tightened.

"She is right here and listening, guys."

They both ignored her, which did nothing for her fraying temper. "I thought you secured the scene!" There was old panic in Warrick's voice along with his anger.

"We did. The shooter came from outside, down the block somewhere. Might be related, might just be some crazy with a grudge." Brass tapped nervously on the glass of the SUV's window and raised his voice to bellow at a passing officer. "Merck, tell the medics to put on some speed! I got a CSI bleeding all over the pavement and no wagon in sight!"

Sara wanted to scream, she really did. Not from the pain, but from the sheer frustration of being randomly hit by a bullet at a crime scene--we didn't even get started processing!--from the huge disruption it was going to cause in her life, from the trouble it was going to cause at work. I really, really didn't need this.

"Guys!" She raised her voice a little, ignoring the fresh stab of pain from the effort required to cut across their bickering. "Will you quit arguing!"

Both of them blinked and stared at her, which she would have found funny if she weren't hurting so much, and they shut up, which was what counted. Then Brass' radio crackled and summoned him away, and he rushed off with one worried backward glance. Sara turned her head cautiously towards Warrick.

"Sorry," he mumbled, looking a little abashed. "We're just--worried about you, you know."

"I know." Her elbows stung from hitting the pavement when she'd fallen, and there was a pebble or something digging into her thigh--the pavement here wasn't smooth--but she was afraid to move, lest the pain increase. The SUV's tire was rough against her back, and she was starting to shiver, which hurt too.

Warrick was shivering as well, but then he wasn't wearing anything on top at that moment, and it was chilly enough that their breaths smoked a little. "Guess I picked a bad day to not wear my vest, huh?" Sara managed, trying for a smile and not quite succeeding.

Warrick managed one, and lifted his head as the sound of a siren approached. "Yeah, what's with that?"

"Decomp last night. It stank, so I dropped it off for cleaning." Sara wondered ironically if this incident would motivate the LVPD to spring for extra vests. Somehow I doubt it.

"Damn, it's about time," Warrick said with relief as the ambulance wove its way into the scatter of cop cars, spilling racing light everywhere. He raised his voice as the paramedics spilled out. "Over here!"

They were familiar faces, going from professional calm to personal concern as the three men recognized the CSIs, but as it became clear that there was only one injury and that non-life-threatening, they started teasing a little as well, though their hands were still gentle.

"Since when did you volunteer for target practice, Sidle?" asked the big one, Mark, as he peeled Warrick's handiwork carefully away.

"Since I signed up for work," Sara answered through clenched teeth, managing half a smile this time. Simon, the oldest, slipped a needle into her good arm with expert smoothness.

"That should take the edge off in a sec," he said kindly. "Just stay put until we get the gurney over, and then it's an express ride to University. Dan--" He pointed at the third man. "Get Brown one of the spare shirts while you're over there, okay?"

A clean bandage was pressed into place, and Sara felt her head spin a little faster, but already the drug was dulling the edge of the agony. Over her head, she heard Mark ask Warrick if he was going along to the hospital.

"No, he's not," she said sharply, contradicting Warrick's acceptance. "He has to process the scene."


She frowned at him, which wasn't hard at the moment. "Somebody has to do it. Call Catherine and get her to send somebody else out. I'll be fine."

She could see a dozen arguments jostling in his eyes, but he just frowned back. "Somebody has to process you too," he pointed out logically.

Sara closed her eyes and leaned her head back against the SUV. "Cath can do it. No offense."

He snorted, and raised his hand to catch the EMT-labeled shirt that the returning Dan tossed his way. "Got me there. Okay, I'll call Cath and get it set up, and then I'll call Grissom."

"No." Her good hand wrapped around his bicep without her conscious thought behind it. "Don't call him."

Warrick frowned again as the paramedics lowered the gurney to the ground with a rattle of chrome. "Sara, he's on vacation, not incommunicado. He'll want to know."

She had so many objections that she didn't know where to start, but there was a simple way to cut Warrick off at the pass. "I'll call him myself. Tell Cath. Don't let anybody else do it."

"Okay, we're ready," Simon cut in. "Just scoot on over here--easy--let us do the work." The strong hands helped her onto the gurney, and it was such a relief to lie back, even though the movement stoked the fire in her shoulder.

Warrick was still clutching the shirt, and she could see--absurd detail--the small smear of her blood that was staining it, transfer from his hands. "I'll be fine, 'Rick, don't worry."

He blinked, and shook his head as they raised the gurney back up to full height. "Yeah, right." His hand brushed her good arm in a swift touch, and then they were wheeling her away to the ambulance, with Simon saying something about starting an IV. Sara stared up at the black sky, and tried not to cry.


She didn't exactly pass out on the way to the emergency room, but things did get a little fuzzy for a while. The IV provided both fluids and better drugs, and while it hurt like nothing else she'd experienced when they removed the bullet and treated her shoulder, the painkiller at least kept her from caring as much.

"You're staying overnight," the ER doctor told her firmly, a steely glint in his eye. "The bullet nicked the bone, and we want to keep an eye on you for at least twelve hours. Behave yourself and don't run a fever, and you can go home afterwards."

Sara thought about arguing, just on principle, but before she could open her mouth Catherine spoke from the curtained entrance to the cubicle. "I'd listen to the man if I were you. It's that, or I'll send Greg home with you to take care of you."

Sara felt her lips turning up. "Anything but that," she said tiredly. The doctor nodded, satisfied.

"They're setting up a bed for you now. An orderly will take you upstairs when it's ready. Until then, stay put." He shot her one more stern look and whisked out.

Catherine advanced into the cubicle, shaking her head. "Hey, kid. You got lucky out there."

"Tell me about it." The more unpleasant possibilities kept running in Sara's head, helped along by the chemicals in her veins; a shot a little lower, through her elbow or her lung or her abdomen; a shot a little higher, through her skull. Though with the latter I probably wouldn't notice.

Or worse, the shot hitting Warrick instead. It was all too easy to imagine him limp on the asphalt, blood and brain spattering over the ground and over her.

Catherine regarded her for a moment, and then nodded, reaching out to twitch Sara's patient gown into place; they'd had to cut her shirt off. "Well, I'm mostly here to collect the bullet and take photos, but I'm also the eyes of the lab--everyone's going to want to know that you're okay." She raised her brows. "Will you be okay?"

She was too exhausted to lie. "Yeah. Eventually."

Catherine nodded again. "Is there anything you need? Anyone you want me to call?"

"Not right now." Grissom, the back of her mind reminded her. "Oh, Catherine, don't call Grissom. I can do it."

Not a lie; she could do it. Whether I will is another matter entirely.

Catherine shrugged. "It's your call. Tell you what, let me get the photos out of the way and grab your bullet, and then I'll hang around until they take you upstairs. If you want."

Sara was a little surprised to discover that she did want. "Thanks, Cath."


The county's HMO didn't cover a private room, of course, but apparently University was having a slow night, because there was no one else in the triple to which they wheeled her. Sara stared at the ceiling and tried to relax into the crisp sheets, but her shoulder burned and her stomach was queasy, and the constant low murmur of the ward was just enough to keep her on edge.

Catherine had, as promised, stayed until they had taken Sara upstairs, but she'd had to get back to work, and Sara was surprised at how much she missed the older CSI's presence. For all their conflicts in the past, Catherine had been a friend for those two hours, distracting Sara with funny stories from her days as a stripper and bringing her ice chips to soothe her throat. She wouldn't have been Sara's first choice as a companion, but she had been just what Sara needed.

And now Sara was lonely. She was tired, she hurt, and for all that she spent so much of her time alone--partly by choice--she really, really wanted a friendly voice by her bedside, a warm hand to hold. Shut up, she told herself severely. It's just a reaction to being shot. You're fine, you're in the middle of a good hospital. You've got everything you need.

Just not everything she wanted.

The incident kept replaying itself in her head--the shock of the bullet slamming into her, sending her sprawling onto the asphalt with the echo of the shot ringing in her ears; the struggle to stay conscious at first, and to comprehend what had happened; Warrick's furious, frightened oaths as the agony spread from a point in her shoulder to a scorching grinding that ran down the nerves in her arm and chest and up her neck. A moment's panic, before she realized that it hadn't hit anything vital; more fear as she braced for another shot.

She hurt less now than she had since it had happened, thanks to the drugs blurring the edges, but there was still a dull pain to remind her, and her stomach was none too steady either. Her bruises and scrapes were making themselves felt, and the tape that held the IV needle in her arm itched.

And she was all alone.

Self-pity was part of the dark cloud roiling under her breastbone, but Sara was in a mood to indulge it. Her thoughts kept drifting to Grissom, and she kept yanking them away, without a lot of success. On one level, she knew he'd be angry if no one informed him that she'd been shot, but in her hurt she built a wall between herself and that fact, brick by brick.

He's on vacation, the first one he's taken in years. He doesn't need to be disturbed.

I'm not seriously hurt. I could even be back at work before he gets home.

It's nothing Catherine and Ecklie can't handle--after all, she's dealing with all Grissom's work while he's gone.

I don't owe him anything. It's not like we're even friends any more.

He doesn't owe me anything. He'd think he had to come back for the sake of protocol, but he'd just be mad about having to cut his vacation short.

Somewhere in the back of her mind, she was aware that the logic of her last brick was somewhat flawed, but she didn't have the energy to care. She blinked at the ceiling--a very boring ceiling, it was--and felt a runnel of moisture spill out of the far corner of her eye and trail down her temple, turning from hot to cold as it went.

It's better this way. Maybe he won't even find out. And if he does, this will let him know that I don't expect anything from him anymore.

Really, it's a good thing.

Another splash escaped, but before a third could join them, a nurse appeared at her bedside. "You need to sleep. Doctor's orders," he said kindly, and added something to her IV. And after that, there was nothing.


He was a day early--or a night, rather--but he didn't mind. Grissom walked into the lab building with a renewed sense of contentment. Three weeks of vacation had done wonders for his energy level, even if the first week had been spent at a conference. Well, it was an entomological conference. That is a vacation.

He hadn't planned to take more than a week at first, but the combination of several pointed HR memos concerning leave and the memory of Sara's comment about his work habits had spurred him to do the unthinkable and actually leave the lab for three whole weeks. He'd spent the first week in Duluth, the second in Marina del Rey, and the third in Oregon studying termites. It, actually.

Now he was back, some twenty-four hours before anyone expected him, and Grissom was looking forward to work and routine, and seeing his people again. Even the stubborn brunette who troubled him so.

Especially the stubborn brunette. Grissom had done a lot of thinking, the past few weeks, and among his thoughts had been the question of whether Sara was still...well...interested.

He figured he was ready to find out.

Grissom stopped at the front desk. "Any messages?" he asked Judy, who looked up at him in surprise and fluttered a little.

"Oh, Doctor Grissom, I wasn't expecting you back until tomorrow. But yes, here." She handed him a thick stack, and he nodded his thanks and kept walking.

As he passed Catherine's office, he stuck his head in the door. "Hey. I'm back."

Catherine looked up. "You're early. Did you bring me anything?"

Grissom held up a jar. "A fine example of Zootermopsis angusticollis."

Catherine snorted, pushing back her chair as she stood. "Oh, please."

"Salt-water taffy. It's in my car. What's on tonight?" He fell into step beside her as she exited the small room.

"Not much. Lucky for us, because Sara's off tonight." Catherine shuffled through a few assignment slips. "Do you want to do the honors, or shall I?"

"You go ahead," Grissom said magnanimously. "Even though I know that means I'll probably get stuck with paperwork."

"Too right." They arrived at the breakroom, which already held Nick, Warrick, and Greg. All three looked up as they entered, but as their eyes fell on Grissom Nick's face hardened and Greg scowled.

"You're finally back," Warrick commented laconically, eyes cool.

"Yes, I am," Grissom returned, slightly puzzled, but before he could pursue the issue, Catherine spoke.

"Okay, guys, here we go. Nick, you and Greg have a 419 out at Shepherd's Park. Warrick, 459 at the Sheraton on Louis Street." She flipped two slips out of her handful. "I'm taking a suspected suicide, and Grissom gets the booby prize with paperwork. Serves him right for taking so much time off."

Grissom sighed exaggeratedly. "If I don't take time off, you hassle me. I can't win."

"Live with it, big guy," Catherine advised, and swept out. Without a word, the three men got to their feet and followed her.

Confused, Grissom blocked Greg's exit behind the other two. "Is there something going on I should know about?"

Greg looked at him with unfriendly eyes. "You tell me."

Grissom frowned. "I'm not in the mood for games, Greg."

The younger man's indignation was clear, though Grissom couldn't fathom a reason for it. "It's been two weeks, Grissom. Did you even call?"

Now thoroughly confused, Grissom didn't stop Greg as his newest CSI pushed past. "I didn't know you missed me that much," he murmured dryly as Greg disappeared down the hall. And then frowned. "It was three weeks."

Shaking off the small mystery, he trudged off to his office to tackle the paperwork that had stacked up in his absence.

Two hours and half a pile later, Grissom was bored and considering serious coffee. He'd gone through requisition forms, inventory printouts, and lab memos, none of the papers requiring much brain power but all of them needing more than just a signature. Tedious in the extreme. Why must bureaucracy insist on everything in triplicate?

The next thing down, however, was considerably more interesting, an accident form half filled out in Catherine's distinctive small hand. Did someone get hurt while I was away? His attention caught, Grissom began paging through the attached report. It can't have been serious, or someone would have called m--

The name at the top of the form, the name repeated again and again throughout the report, made his stomach twist sharply. Sara got hurt?

Sara was shot?

It took an effort to read calmly, to discover that her wound had been minor and that there had, so far, been no complications. She had even returned to light duty at the lab a few days before, but had opted to take her scheduled night off.

Grissom found himself on his feet without a memory of rising. With an odd detachment, he realized that his hands were trembling a little as he shrugged into his jacket and picked up his wallet and keys. As he closed his office door behind him, he saw Catherine coming down the hallway towards him.

"Clear-cut suicide," she said briskly, then halted.

His grip on her arm was too tight, but Grissom just didn't care at the moment. "Sara was hurt," he said, his voice icy.

"Yeah, but she said she'd call--" Catherine's indignation melted into shock. "Oh, she didn't. Did she?"

"She did not," Grissom said with perfect calm, and released his colleague, heading for the front door. "Don't warn her, Catherine," he said over his shoulder, and though he didn't pause he was pretty certain he heard a muttered "Wouldn't dream of it."

He carried his fury as he would an overfull glass, stepping carefully so as not to spill a drop of it from the trembling rim. His thoughts were clear, controlled. Getting into her apartment complex wouldn't be a problem, Grissom mused as he drove. Her door might be trickier; he wouldn't put it past her to refuse to answer it if she knew who was on the other side.

What in hell is she up to? She knows she has to face me sooner or later. Grissom gritted his teeth and concentrated on his driving, but the closer he got to Sara's place, the clearer the realization became.

There was no question any more. He knew exactly what he wanted, and as long as there was the slightest bit of interest left on her part, he intended to get it.

As Grissom had expected, it was easy to get into her complex; he just followed a resident in, not even having to flash his badge. And when he stepped out of the elevator onto her floor, he discovered he was in luck. Sara's door was open, and an older woman stood in the doorway, her back to the corridor. "All right, dear," he heard her say as he approached. "If you need anything, just give me a call."

She turned the other way and walked away without even really noticing Grissom, and it was absurdly simple for him to step forward and shove the closing door.

See Chapter 2