Summary: There are no guarantees until there is trust.
A/N: I guess if you close one eye, you might be able to see this as a follow-up to Splinters or if you have both eyes open, it can just be a stand-alone. This was originally posted on the Jim Brass Yahoo list as part of a challenge but I added a little more to it. Okay, so I practically re-wrote the damn thing.
Special big thanks to Nancy for the beta. Yeah, I so owe you a story.
Jim Brass sat at the end of the bench, just outside the interrogation room, and held a cold pack on his swollen jaw, unaware of the activity around him in the busy corridor. The EMT had told him to sit tight and that's exactly what he was doing. Actually, if it hadn't been so painful, he might have laughed. Sitting tight was really his only option. His knees were still shaking too much to do anything else.
He'd closed his eyes, trying to will away the throb in his right temple while replaying the events in his head, not noticing that he was no longer alone.
"Less than stellar day, I take it?"
Silently, he looked up at Catherine Willows. "You could say that," he replied gruffly as his gaze returned to the floor. He didn't feel much like talking and even if he did, he could barely move his jaw, making him wonder if it might be broken.
"Mind if I sit?" She could tell by his dark mood that he probably did mind but she didn't care. Whether he liked it or not, she wasn't leaving. Under her calm, cool demeanor her heart was racing—much as it had been since she overheard the news back at the Crime Lab that Captain Brass had been attacked by a suspect during an interrogation.
Taking the space next to him on the bench, her thigh touching his, her hand on his, she pulled away the ice pack, exposing a red welt and a nasty bruise. "Nice. That's going to leave a mark."
"So, you going to tell me what happened?"
Brass leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees then looked over at her through his eyebrows. "Ever have one of those days where you should have just stayed in bed?"
"Several, but my bed's been a bit cold lately."
He stared down at the tips of his shoes, his anger giving way to guilt. She didn't outright say so but Brass knew it was his fault. He'd been the one making excuses, working shifts that overlapped and putting in more overtime than was probably necessary. It wasn't that he didn't want to see Catherine. God, she was all he thought about. And that was the problem. He'd worried that he was speeding along with this thing while she was still trying to figure out what she wanted. He was backing off before he was told off.
"You want to tell me why you've been avoiding me?"
Brass didn't really want to get into it now but she deserved an answer and something told him she wasn't going to leave until she got one. Quietly, he said, "I don't want you to get tired of me."
"Tired of you? Jim, I barely see you any more. I miss you. I've actually been hoping for a homicide or two just for the possibility of working with you." No longer caring who was looking, she reached out and touched his shoulder, feeling him relax slightly. "You need to trust me, okay? So when I tell you," she leaned forward so that she was now close to his ear, "that I'm in love with you, you'll know I'm serious."
He looked over quickly, forgetting about the cold pack, the pain in his jaw, and all his insecurities as her words sunk in: Catherine Willows was in love with him.
"Oh, don't look so surprised."
But he was surprised. Jim Brass always feared that he was nothing more than a fling, that one day she would get bored, move on to someone younger, better looking, more exciting than a follicle-challenged, middle-aged detective nursing a black and blue jaw.
"You're just trying to make me feel better."
"Is it working?"
"Yeah, it is." He put his hand on her knee just long enough to give it a gentle squeeze. "I been so worried about wearing out my welcome, I didn't think…"
"Jim, there aren't any guarantees for us, not for the present or for the future—at least not until you trust me. Not until you understand that I'm not pretending about any of this. It took a while but I finally figured it out: we're good for each other. Not perfect by any means but damn good."
He didn't reply but managed a lopsided grin in return. Catherine was right: he did need to trust her. She'd never given him any reason to doubt her intentions; it was just that he hadn't been able to trust any woman in such a long time. But Catherine wasn't Nancy. He'd reminded himself of that little fact more than once. If only he could remember it.
Catherine's gaze wandered down the hallway, to where Gil Grissom stood talking with the Sheriff. "I take it Gil was in the room with you?"
Brass followed her gaze. "Yeah, he was sitting across the table from the suspect during the interrogation. Guess I got to close and hit a nerve or something because the guy went nuts. Must have clocked me with the handcuffs. Everything's kinda hazy after that. Next thing I know I'm sitting out here, I got a headache, and my jaw hurts like hell."
Catherine didn't tell him that she always worried something like that might happen to him. Jim had a habit of getting in the face of a suspect and pushing every button until he found the right one, the one that got a reaction, a confession, something. From the sound of it, this one got a reaction all right. She was just grateful he was okay.
Rubbing her arm over his back, not caring that Grissom and the Sheriff were now looking at them, she lowered her voice, "If you decide you need a little comfort, you know where I live."
"Yeah, well, if you're lucky, maybe I'll show you my more intimate wound." He was tired and his head ached but this self-imposed separation was killing him. Besides, he was well aware of the kind of comfort she had to offer.
"You'd better." Standing to leave but giving him one last look, she leaned forward and kissed him, then walked away, nodding to the gaping Sheriff and a smiling Gil Grissom as she went, and leaving a blushing Jim Brass to look on in amusement.
It was nearly noon when the doorbell rang. Opening the door, Catherine wasn't the least bit surprised to see a very weary, very bruised Jim Brass leaning against the porch railing.
"Does that offer still stand?" he asked, pushing away from the railing.
"It does." She opened the door wider and let him pass. "You look dead on your feet."
He didn't argue. He was dead on his feet but seeing her definitely gave him a little more energy.
Closing the door, she helped him off with his jacket, eyeing his discolored jaw as he removed his holster and cuffs and handed them to her.
"Is Lindsey home?" he asked, as she momentarily disappeared behind a closet door.
"No, she's at my sister's." She closed the door. "How's the jaw?"
"Not broken but it still hurts like hell."
"So, does it hurt all over?" she asked, narrowing the space between them.
His eyes were focused on her lips. "Mostly just everything above my shoulders."
"So everything below your shoulders feels okay?"
"A few bruises maybe."
"Does that include your more intimate wound?"
"But it's nothing a tough homicide detective like you can't overcome."
He leaned forward. "Maybe with a little help."
"Is this spot okay?" She gently kissed his chin careful to avoid his injured jaw.
"That's good." He pointed at his neck. "I think this part's okay too."
Catherine started at the hollow of his neck and worked her way up to his left ear. "How about here?" she whispered before nibbling his earlobe.
"That works." Jim was leaning back against the wall for support, immensely enjoying her little assault.
"We should get rid of this." She undid the knot in his already loosened tie and slid it off his collar then tossed it onto the floor. "And maybe unfasten a few of these." Her fingers lithely freed the buttons on his shirt. "That's much better."
"I don't know. It's kind of drafty."
"Hmmm," slipping her hand inside his shirt, running her fingers across his chest, feeling the soft fur under her palm, she said, "maybe we can create a little friction?"
"That'd be nice."
"You feel up to it?" Her eyes fixed on his; she ran her hand ran along the fly of his trousers, pleased when she heard his slight intake of breath. "Yes, you do."
"That part of me is functioning just fine."
She took him by the hand and led him down the hallway. "Good, then let's go warm up those sheets."