Disclaimer: CSI and its related characters belong to CBS, Alliance Atlantis, and the show's creators; no copyright infringement is intended.
A/N: As always, a big thank you goes out to beaujolais – for the help, encouragement, and support. Any mistakes are mine and mine alone.
One Good Turn…
Inevitably the sun would set and the moon and stars would take their place in the evening sky, at least that's what his mind's eye told him.
Jim Brass wasn't sure since he'd crawled into bed half-dead upon arriving at home, and still hadn't roused himself fully out of his stupor.
Yet he was supposed to have been up on his unstable feet preparing for his normal graveyard shift to commence. Realistically he knew it wasn't possible since every bone and muscle in his body protested when he moved so much as an inch.
He lay there in the dark thinking…
Crime on the other hand wasn't taking the evening off, so closing his eyes he once again tried to breathe in deeply through his free nostril then focused his mind on preparing himself to fight off a rather nasty flu bug.
A flu bug… he breathed out and rolled over in bed letting out a groan.
The time was… let's just say it was late, since he had flung the alarm clock by the bedside across the room when it had gone off several minutes ago. The faint light filtering in from the backyard light told him so. Jim lay there fully dressed, feeling the aches and pains accompanying the low-grade fever coursing through his body. His necktie was askew and his jacket occupied a spot on the floor where he'd tossed it earlier. Shifting in bed he grunted softly when his handcuffs, which were still clipped to his belt, dug into his lower back. Jim gingerly sat up and pulled them off, then settled the soles of his feet onto the carpeted floor.
Dizziness washed over him and he squinted in the dark to regain his balance after straightening up. The rest of the house was still and silent as he trudged through into the kitchen for something to suppress the fever that threatened to go higher. He found some cold & flu medication hiding behind his bottle of Tums and swallowed two capsules down with an entire bottle of water. The water felt cool and refreshing going down his parched and sore throat but once the fluid and medication reached his stomach he winced at the sudden onset of nausea. He gripped the edge of the counter top and swallowed deeply, mentally willing the awful sensation to go away.
Catherine was the one who had found him sitting in his car at the station looking like he was about to pass out from the exertion of just walking out to his vehicle. He had to admit, she was right, the light-headed sensation had followed him back from a crime scene. She insisted upon driving him home after getting no response when she had lightly rapped on the window. And in an already weakened state he faintly recalled nodding when she asked if he needed any assistance getting inside the house and into bed. Now he felt foolish for exhibiting such weakness in front of her.
The shrill ringing of the phone snapped him to attention and multiplied the headache he was succeeding in trying to ignore.
He let the machine pick it up.
It was Catherine.
Jim listened to her voice and his expression turned somber when she subtly brought up their little encounter several days ago at the crime lab. She had no idea how much he really cared for her and that ordeal had left him a bit shaken. He stood there a few minutes longer listening to the creak and snap of the floorboards then sighing heavily he gave up his place in the kitchen for the comfort of the sofa's cushions in the living room. He rested his head and closed his eyes in the gloom, allowing the medication to work its magic and the next thing he knew he had begun to doze while that memory floated ever closer and infiltrated his fatigued mind.
Several days' earlier…
Location: the crime lab but to be more precise, outside the lab's personnel locker room.
Jim was busy looking for something to hang a newly acquired framed picture on one of his bare office walls, and having done a thorough search of the supply closet at the P.D. he was driven to frustration to find out that a few things had gone missing. He had made an idle comment about it while sharing a cup of coffee in the break room with Nick and the CSI suggested Jim go through the younger man's own personal locker.
Someone will have to launch an investigation to recover those items soon, he mused to himself as he slowly stepped back out into the hallway.
"Ooof! What the hell . . . No, don't let the door– "
"I've got a feeling they'll be sending out a search party when they figure out the department is two crime-fighters short of a…"
There was a lengthy pause.
"You really have no idea what to add to that, do you?"
"…suspicious homicide investigation?"
"Oh, never mind. You might want to quit that, it's no use."
"At least I'm trying to get out of here."
"I get that, but you just joined me." In the dark, Jim could hear her breathing heavily and it made him a bit curious. "Not enjoying my company, is that it? Whoa! Uh, Cath, that isn't the door knob."
"Uh, right… sorry. Question. What're you doing in here? And why are the lights off?"
"The bulbs burnt out when you slammed the door shut behind you. That's my best guess." He paused then added, "Or, it could be the wiring, I really don't have a clue."
"That investigative mind of yours is ever so sharp."
"Always. I was actually on my way out when you nearly tackled me to the floor. You know, I don't know whether to feel flattered or a bit scared, so I'll settle for confused. "
"Not that I mind your company, Brass, but this isn't exactly my idea of a good time."
"Now I'm disappointed."
"This must be the doorknob, it's metallic and cold."
"Nope, that's my sidearm."
"Dammit, Jim, you're not helping."
"Avoiding someone?" There was no response. "Either way, I'm back to feeling confused."
"It's a long story . . ."
"Well, considering that the door locks from the outside, I just might have time for a long story."
"I get the distinct impression you're trying to avoid me, now."
"Not possible since we seem to be stuck in here together."
"Then, you're avoiding the question."
"Yes, and I'd like to keep it that way."
There was another pause, a rustle of clothing, which was followed by a thump.
"You okay, Jim?"
"Uh, yeah, I think so. Here, this might throw some light on our situation." There was a click of a switch then Jim gasped softly. "Catherine, you alright?"
In the soft glow of his flashlight Catherine glanced away quickly, but not quickly enough. He registered the look of desperation on her face and his curiousness morphed into uneasiness and that sent out stronger ripples throughout his body like a rock being dropped into a pond. On instinct he reached out to her but she avoided his touch and kept her eyes averted away from his.
"Yeah," she answered, almost in a whisper.
"Hey, it's me," he said, once again approaching her. Her reaction was to make eye contact and he smiled slightly. "Talk to me, Cath."
"It's, uh… Derek, he's here." She looked at the door briefly then resumed looking into Jim's eyes. "I caught sight of him at the front desk and I'd have to assume he was asking for me."
"I thought you told him to back off."
"I did. Apparently he didn't appreciate me telling him to do that." Catherine made a show of glancing away just then, and Jim narrowed his eyes.
"You're not telling me everything." He pressed her further and she had no choice but to lock eyes with him again. "Did he do that to you?" he asked, while running his finger down her right cheek.
She closed her eyes, unwilling to answer the question and he took that as a yes. Jim sighed before continuing, "Listen, you've got nothing to worry about. Once you and I get out of here, this Derek guy will be hearing from me."
"I can handle it, there's no need for you to have to…"
"You're too good for this guy, Cath. You deserve better than having to resort to hiding in a strange smelling locker room."
"I, uh… you know, you've got a point. I should've…"
Jim gestured with his hand to keep her from going any further.
"Let's discuss this further after we're rescued."
Jim prayed that someone would eventually have to use the locker room, when the sound of voices presented him with some hope that they would finally be able to get out of their temporary confinement.
The door swung open and three of the crime lab's cadets looked at each other in confusion then at Catherine and Jim, who had separated himself from her presence and was intensely scrutinizing something on the floor. He welcomed their intrusion and made a quick exit accompanied by Catherine. "Go to Grissom's office and wait for me to come get you. I'm going to have a little chat with, Derek," Jim said over his shoulder.
"Be careful…" The words weren't completely out of Catherine's mouth when someone rounded the corner up ahead, with their voice raised.
"I'm sorry, sir, but you can't go back there. The lab is a restricted area and you need a visitor's pass."
Next to him, Jim felt Catherine gasp in surprise and fall back several paces. The uninvited guest approached her as if unaware or uncaring of the fact that she was in the company of another able-bodied person.
"Is this, Derek?" he asked Cath, who had now resumed her presence at his side, in a whisper.
Without taking her eyes off of him she said yes. Jim knew from the unsteady gait in his walk that this guy was drunk and a potentially dangerous situation was developing; he had to keep Derek from coming in contact with Catherine at all costs. They both got closer to him and Jim slowed to a stop, keeping several feet of clearance between himself and their uninvited guest.
"There you are, you bitch."
Jim involuntarily flexed his left-hand and narrowed his eyes at the sound of that, then gestured for Derek to stop. "You heard her, you need a visitor's–"
"What I need is for you to get out of my way. She's the one I'm here to see. Now, as I was–"
"See, that's the thing, I'm not moving." Jim sighed. "Do you have any idea where you are?" The detective flashed Derek a tiny grin that wasn't meant to be amusing, more like menacing. The situation was getting a bit heated and he wasn't going to let it escalate any further.
"Who the hell are you? I knew she'd do this…" Derek remarked, oblivious to his surroundings.
Then their uninvited guest proceeded to make the biggest mistake of his life and lunged at Jim to get to Catherine.
"Whoa, buddy. I've got a nice place for you to kick back and sleep off that alcohol." Jim spun him around, shoved him up against the wall then flashed his badge in Derek's face. Their uninvited guest's eyes went wide then he groaned. "Get him out of here." Jim handed an unsteady Derek over to one of the uniformed officers' standing nearby. "Put him in a holding cell. I'll handle the paperwork later."
They watched him disappear down the hall in the custody of his officers' then Jim turned around. "It's over."
Catherine kept staring into the distance down the hall. "I don't think it'll ever be over."
"I give you my word, Cath, it's over. If I have anything to say about it, he'll be spending quite a bit of time looking through a wall of steel bars."
"Are you alright?" she asked him, letting concern edge her voice.
"I'm fine," he lied. Jim had to admit, that had rattled him, but he wasn't about to share that with her. "Question is, are you?"
"I will be," she said, looking at him for a moment. "I need to thank you."
"No need, all I'm concerned about now is that you're okay."
"Yeah, as a matter of fact I'm better than okay." She paused a second before continuing, "You were here and that's more than all I could've asked for."
Jim was slightly taken aback by her admission but managed to conceal his surprise.
All these years he had exhibited the same care and respect for her, such as he had reserved for the rest of her colleagues who he considered family. Only he knew that Catherine always brought out in him something more than just friendship. There was certainly a tension there and they both indulged in it freely, much to his pleasure but Jim always told himself that he would never be good enough for her. Why all of a sudden had her words struck a chord in him that went beyond the basics of friendship, had she initiated the first step to something more? Jim berated himself for trying to find a deeper meaning to her answer that went beyond simple words of gratitude.
Always, Catherine, you don't even have to ask. He thought to himself then glanced away.
A sudden surge of compassion surfaced and he wanted to reach out to her, to comfort her, to touch her – just as he had earlier but he wasn't sure whether she would welcome such a gesture this time around. Jim looked around him and cleared his throat, "It seems we've attracted a crowd and… I think Ecklie would like to have a word with you."
Catherine's only response was to stare at him in astonishment. "Hey, you're my witness and I could use your help with this."
Jim, somewhat embarrassed with his cutting remark, nodded his head in assent. Leaving her side, especially after the experience she had just been through wasn't the most honorable thing to do.
"I think I might. Catherine… in my office." Ecklie gestured for her to follow him and she traded a discouraging look with Jim. "Your presence isn't required, Brass," he said over his shoulder, directing that comment at the detective.
"Well, I think it is." He briefly shared another look with Catherine. "You know, I feel as if we're being led to the principal's office," Jim said under his breath and she smiled.
It was a genuine smile and he could see a weight had been lifted off her shoulders. He knew that she would be all right after this was over and their encounter had been shoved somewhere deep, where it would hopefully never see the light of day.
Jim sat up with a startled jerk and glanced around to gather his muddled wits about him. He had no idea how long he had occupied the spot on the sofa in his living room. The onset of a painful muscle spasm in his leg made him groan and he rolled his head to one side listening to the joints in his neck pop. Thankfully his sinus headache was receding… but in its place were the aches and pains of being in an unnatural position for far too long.
He ran one hand down his face and decided it was time to get up and possibly, try to make the trip back to his bedroom without falling flat on his face. Jim's body on the other hand would hear none of it, the furthest he managed was to slide forward onto the edge of the cushion and rest his face in the palm of his hands.
Spending more time on the sofa wasn't something he was looking forward to with admiration so he gripped the edge of his coffee table and tried to straighten up. Once on his feet he couldn't hold back the sneeze any longer and much to his chagrin, the force behind it sent him sitting back down on the sofa cushion he had just deserted.
Jim moaned and cursed under his breath.
Adrenaline shot through his entire body and jumping up, he spun around at the sound of her voice. She smiled and stifled a giggle under her hand as she watched Jim's eyes widen then narrow at the sight of her standing in his living room entryway. He swayed a bit and she came to his rescue.
"Sheesh, Catherine…" he grumbled as he let her lower him back onto the sofa. "I think you just helped in clearing up my sinuses."
She couldn't contain her laughter at his remark and Jim joined in a few seconds later, his voice cracking because of the soreness in his throat.
"Jim… you're hot." Catherine could feel the heat emanating from his body as she came in contact with him.
"You're not so bad yourself, Catherine," he said with a smirk.
He received a playful slap on his thigh and they both reacted to the intimacy of the gesture by looking down then staring into each other's eyes. Catherine quickly rose to her feet and took two steps back.
"You're avoiding me again."
"No I'm not. I'm here aren't I?"
"Exactly why are you here, Cath?"
"I just thought I'd swing by to check on you. I felt a little bit guilty just leaving you sprawled on the bed fully dressed while you felt miserable."
"I didn't feel much of anything," Jim paused, then continued by saying what was on his mind, "I woke up and noticed you were gone, that's when I started feeling miserable."
She had no idea what to say so she opted for silence while processing his words. "Well, I'm not leaving until I know you're feeling better.
"Honestly, Cath, I know you have more important things to do than nurse a cynical homicide detective like me back to health."
"Lindsey sends her greetings and so does my mother. Really, Jim, it's not a big deal. Like I said, I feel guilty for just dumping you in bed and running off like I did."
"Well, the prospect of having you all to myself sounds good, but as you've already noticed, I'm not feeling so well."
"In that case, you should get back into bed and get some more sleep. I stopped on the way here and picked up several remedies to help ease the aches, clear your sinuses, and knock you out if you prefer so you can sleep better."
"Mmm, I've heard of such a remedy… but it'll just give me more than a nasty hangover in the morning."
"As tempting as that sounds to you, that remedy didn't make my list. Now please stop talking and let me help you to bed."
"All right. But Catherine you really don't have to do this."
"Yes, I do. Come on, let's get you into bed."
"I'm extremely flattered but I feel obligated in letting you know that I'm the shy type."
"You know perfectly well what I meant. And when have you ever been shy?"
"Well, back when I was…"
Their conversation continued as they both made their way to Jim's bedroom. She helped by taking off his shoes and socks then stepped out to retrieve some medicine to help him sleep peacefully. When she returned to the bedroom he had already slipped under the warmth of the bedcovers and was attempting to doze off. She watched him for a minute and shook her head in amusement while thinking about their earlier conversation. Jim Brass, a shy man… certainly not, and Catherine knew it. She admired this man and maybe her feelings went deeper, but she wasn't about to admit that to him.
Catherine stared at him from the doorway a few minutes longer then Jim popped one eye open and smiled. "What is it?"
"Nothing," she answered and stepped into the room then took a seat on the edge of his bed. "Here, take this and let the medicine do its job. I'll be here when you wake up and hopefully you'll feel a lot better."
Jim sat up and downed the awful tasting liquid in the cup with a grimace then slid back down under the covers. He regarded her closely for a few seconds. "Someday you'll have to tell me what that 'nothing' was."
"Maybe, someday I will, but for now get some sleep, Jim."
He turned on his side and closed his eyes then Catherine rose to her feet and left the room quietly, leaving the door ajar behind her. She went back downstairs and tidied up the kitchen a bit then she made herself comfortable on the living room sofa and soon enough she was fast asleep. Subconsciously she kept an ear open in case Jim woke during the night but that never happened and the snap and creaking of the floorboards was the only thing heard throughout the house.
Morning dawned early and bright and a shaft of light hit Jim straight in one eye so he rolled over in bed with a grunt, then he remembered where he was, what had happened, how he felt, and more importantly, that he had company.
He had broken his fever but still felt weak as he sat up and shut his eyes at the sight of himself in a full-length mirror nearby. Jim was in need of a long hot shower and from the sounds emanating from his stomach, a hearty-sized breakfast. He slowly stumbled out of bed and performed his usual morning routine but decided against shaving since he wasn't going anywhere today and the thought of getting more sleep seemed very appealing.
Jim wandered on down the hallway to the kitchen, to find Catherine measuring out coffee grounds. She heard him and turned to greet him with a small grin. "You're looking a lot better. How do you feel?"
"Okay. Though, I could use some more sleep. Tell me you didn't spend the night on my sofa."
"All right, I won't."
"Seriously, Cath, you didn't have to do any of this."
"I gave you my reasons, now quit trying to tell me what I didn't have to do. What done is done, and I'm glad you're feeling okay."
They looked into each other's eyes for a minute and Jim glanced away. "Then a thank you from me is in short order."
"No need, I'm more than happy to help." Catherine poured herself a cup of coffee and put the pot back on the hotplate then turned to look at him. "Let's just say we're even."
"Even? What happened that I'm not aware of?" Jim looked down at the gray marble countertop and a thought occurred to him. "That's my job, Cath. I care about you and I wasn't about to stand around and watch you get hurt, no matter how well you thought you could handle yourself."
Jim smiled and Catherine patted him lightly on the arm then set down her mug. She went around the counter and leaned in to whisper thank you into his left ear. Jim inhaled her scent deeply, glad that his sinuses were clear, and sighed.
"Yeah, well, I had to come to the rescue of a damsel in distress."
Catherine strolled out of the kitchen and collected her things in the living room then reappeared at his side.
"You leaving already?" Jim asked, watching her rearrange her hair up in a ponytail.
"I hate to leave you like this, Jim, but I need to get a few things done today…"
"Now I'm definitely disappointed." He smirked.
"I've left you some scrambled eggs and two slices of toast in the microwave. I suggest you eat them and have a glass of juice instead of your normal cup of coffee," she instructed him. "I promise I'll be back later to check up on you."
"I'm fine, really."
"I'll be the judge of that when I return," she said and added a mischievous grin to her spoken promise.
They walked over to the front door and Jim held it open for her. "Thanks for being here, Cath."
Catherine turned and holding his eyes for a moment softly said, "Always, Jim, you don't even have to ask."
Jim sighed contentedly and closed the door behind him. He stopped in mid-stride as an intense feeling of something strangely familiar washed over him, it wasn't nausea, no, nothing like that; it seemed everything would be all right with the world again, however, Jim still felt like he owed her. He then sneezed rather violently, breaking the contemplative mood he found himself in and a curse word was heard reverberating throughout the house.
Jim headed into the kitchen and sat down at the table to eat his warm breakfast in peace, already formulating a plan on how to thank her properly the next time they saw each other again. A ghost of a smile settled on his lips when he realized that such an opportunity would present itself later on in the day.
Suddenly, the burden of slowly recovering from the remnants of his illness disappeared from his current mood, as he took a big bite out of a slice of toast. The ghostly smile playing on his lips broadened into a grin while his mind wandered over the possibilities.Fin