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: Time of Your Death. Pure post-ep fluff, very self-indulgent.
"Are you sure about this?" Sara asked Vartan quietly as they mounted the creaking porch stairs of the run-down house. "I mean, we still don't know where McAvoy is."
The detective glanced back, his expression easy. "We've got an APB out on him, but he most likely made tracks west. CHiP will have to pick him up."
Sara wasn't convinced, but she followed Vartan inside. McAvoy's residence obviously had seen little benefit from the drugs money flowing through his hands; the place was a pit, filled with garbage and lacking anything but the most basic of maintenance. What did you expect of a drug dealer? Sara asked herself, then delivered a mental scolding for the stereotype; but in her experience most dealers also had a drug habit, and all but the wealthiest often seemed to let hygiene go.
Glancing around, she pulled her phone from her belt and hit 2 on the speed dial. "Greg, where are you?" she asked when he answered.
"Man, some idiot T-boned a light pole eight cars ahead of me," Greg answered with a theatrical groan. "I'd put on the flashers and haul ass, except there's nowhere for these guys to go to get out of my way."
Sara peered into the kitchen, eyes narrowing in distaste. "Are you close enough to walk?" There were some benefits to working with the newest guy on the team, and one of them was assigning him the grosser jobs.
"And leave the SUV just sitting in traffic? What's it look like, Sara, is this one going to take us all night?"
"Probably," she answered, rueful, and followed Vartan down the hall towards the bedroom. It wasn't their primary crime scene, but there was no doubt evidence to be gathered here as well. "Look, just get here as soon as you can, and--"
There was a flash of movement up ahead, and Vartan let out half a yelp. Sara dropped her phone and nearly fell as he lurched--was thrown--back into her. She staggered, trying not to let him fall. "Vartan!"
A man, taller than she and emaciated, stepped out of the doorway. His hair was tangled and his eyes were way too wide, but Sara still recognized their suspect. Shit! He didn't make a run for it after all!
"Bitch!" McAvoy lunged for her. Sara took a hasty step backward, trying to drag Vartan with her, but he was unconscious, and she lost enough of her grip that he fell in slow motion to the floor. Sara straightened, reaching for her gun, but McAvoy was too close, and was leading with his fist.
The first blow splintered light and shouting pain across her vision; Sara wobbled into the wall, trying to focus, but the second one, right across her cheekbone, dizzied her, and the third hit the bridge of her nose and sent her toppling to the filthy carpet. Struggling to hold onto consciousness, she saw her open phone not far from her head, as jackknifed as she. Sara almost fancied she could hear Greg's puzzlement, but the scream of "Bitch! Bitch! Bitch!" was too loud. Then the shoe connected with her chin, her head snapped back, and everything vanished.
She wasn't out very long. It was Greg's frantic voice that woke her to pain, and she could only manage a moan in response, but his gentle hands helped her roll over onto her back. "Sara, what the hell happened? One minute I was talking to you and the next someone's screaming--"
Sara struggled to lift her head, which was pounding with pain. "Call the paramedics," she mumbled, or tried to; her mouth was filled with blood and more pain.
"They're on their way. Lie still--" Greg's hands held her shoulders down. "Vartan's out cold, he's got a lump like a tennis ball on the side of his head."
"Can't shee." Her vision was blurry, and one eye didn't seem to be working at all.
"No duh! Sara, do you hurt anywhere besides your head?" Greg sounded urgent, frightened even, and she tried to think past the agony in her skull.
"Sara, think! You're bleeding from the mouth, and I don't know if you've got internal injuries--"
Any movement brought a fresh burst of pain in her head, but nothing else seemed to hurt. "No."
Greg's fuzzy silhouette relaxed a trifle. "Okay, good."
"There's nobody here but us." Sara felt dim gratitude that Greg could understand her; she could feel at least one loose tooth, and she was beginning to wonder if her jaw was broken.
The sound of a siren reached her ears, and she heard Greg heave a sigh. "Good, they're almost here. You still with me?"
Greg's fingers, slightly clammy, wrapped around hers. "Don't pass out on me, Sar." Clammy but comforting. "Just...stay with me."
Not going anywhere, she thought, and listened to him mutter until the paramedics arrived.
She lost her grip on consciousness a time or two, but never for long--rather to her regret, for waking always brought pain. But the paramedics were gentle and the doctors were kind, and eventually she was pronounced only superficially damaged--severe bruising and a mild concussion, but she wouldn't need orthodontic surgery and her nose was set with a deft and agonizing yank. A nurse old enough to be her father cleaned the blood off her face with a light touch, teasing her enough to make her find out that smiling hurt, and brought her ice chips to suck on.
They let Greg in after a while. She hadn't seen him so pale since the lab blew up, but he gave her a half-grin and sat down next to her bed. "Keeping you for observation, huh?"
Sara shrugged. "How's Var'an?" Talking hurt less with the Demerol in her system.
"He woke up in the ambulance and started cussing everybody out," Greg said with relish. "But they've got him in the other wing. His girlfriend's here to keep an eye on him."
She blinked. "Girlfrien'?" She had thought him unattached.
"Yeah, big girl but, you know, va-voom." Greg gestured with both hands, one of the universal male signs for curves as far as Sara could tell. "Besides, Grissom and Brass both ordered me to stick with you."
She would have raised her brows, but they hurt too. "Really."
He gave a semi-abashed shrug. "Brass is smokin' mad. Not at you, at Vartan," he added hastily. "And Grissom's just mad. I think he's going to stop by later."
Later. Sara refused to read anything into that. She fumbled for another ice chip.
She slept, eventually, weariness rising over her like a wave, and fell asleep to the only slightly blurred sight of Greg in the chair next to her bed, halfway to sleep himself. She remembered being woken once, presumably for the doctors to check on her, but it was the later memory that stuck with her--a dryer, firmer hand than Greg's around hers, and the soft tones of Grissom's voice in her ears. She managed to drag one eye open long enough to see him there, his head bent, but then unconsciousness took her away again, and when she woke in the morning she was stiff, sore, and alone.
She went to see Vartan as soon as they took away the breakfast she hadn't eaten, pulling on the hospital robe and slippers to make her way to his room. He was still in bed, looking in worse shape than she felt, and the guilt on his face almost made her turn around and leave, but she made herself walk over to the bed.
"Sidle, I'm sorry--" he started before she could even open her mouth.
"Shut up," she told him, and patted his arm. "It was stupid, but stupid happens sometimes, and we both got out alive." Sara shrugged. "Better than a maniac with a shotgun."
He snorted, and winced. "I guess. Look, I should have cleared the whole place before I even let you in, but I didn't."
"Yeah, and he might have just killed you," she pointed out. "I distracted him, and Greg chased him off. Let it go, Sam."
His mouth twisted in rueful doubt. "I'll get right on that."
It was Greg who drove her home as well, appearing like magic when the doctor cleared her for release. "Grissom sent me," he said cheerfully, coming in with a paper evidence bag in his hand. "Your clothes, madame."
It was the spare set from her locker. "Did you sleep?" she asked him, leaving the bathroom door open a crack so she could hear him as she dressed.
"Yeah, that's why you're getting me as a chauffeur," Greg answered. "Nick offered to come with me, but he and Grissom worked straight through processing the McAvoy house, and Ecklie told them they had to go home and get some rest." He chuckled. "If looks could kill, he'd be radioactive ash."
Sara buttoned up her shirt with slow fingers. Grissom had been more like his old self in recent weeks, back to dry jokes and double entendres, but she was wary of interpreting them now. If he wants to do something, he's going to have to be a lot more proactive.
She looked down at her hand. The small, brilliantly pink smudge was still there in the crease of her wrist, proof positive that she hadn't imagined his visit sometime the night before. Serious crime, serious print powder. And the stuff does get everywhere.
It was worth thinking about, but not while Greg nattered on about Ecklie and Hodges' sucking up.
"You sure you don't need anything?" he asked after he'd escorted her to her door. "A drink of water, someone to fluff your pillow...?"
His teasing mock-flirtation made her smile despite the pain. "I'm good, Greg, thanks. Go get some more sleep." His eyes had shadows under them.
"Well, okay, but you call if you need anything." He gave her a gentle hug, and left.
Sara closed the door on him and looked around her apartment, suddenly exhausted. Her head was starting to pound again, so she took one of the pills the hospital had sent home with her and stretched out on her bed, trying not to jar her skull.
Fortunately, the drug worked.
Oh. Sara opened her eyes, and stared at her ceiling. I feel better.
It was almost four in the afternoon--she'd slept for hours. Her face was aching and her head still hurt a little, but the rest of her was deliciously relaxed.
It's almost like having a really bad cold. She couldn't breathe through her nose, and her lips were chapped and sore; one eye was still swollen enough to blur her vision slightly. Sara pushed cautiously to her feet and made her way into the bathroom. One glance in the mirror, and she winced.
Well, damn. I certainly don't look better. Her bruises had darkened, rendering her face a mask of purple and red, with small cuts for accents. Her nose was swollen and she had what was going to be a spectacular black eye. Her hair was tangled, and matted with residual blood on one side. Ugh. It could have been worse, I suppose, but I'm going to look like a rainbow in a few days.
Sighing, she soaked a washcloth and started working some of the blood out of her hair. Look on the bright side--at least it's yours. She'd been splattered with other people's fluids before, and it was a part of her job that she didn't relish at all.
Her head was too sore for her to really comb out the tangles, but Sara managed to smooth it down somewhat, and decided she was clear-headed enough for a bath. She even managed some mouthwash, though it stung the cuts in her mouth until the tears came to her eyes.
Once clean, she got dressed, pulling on an old T-shirt and some light cotton pants and considering the possibility of work. I should probably take the night off, but if Nick and Grissom pulled a double--
She padded into the kitchen and put on the kettle for some tea, still debating the question. The kettle had just begun to sing when someone knocked on her door, and Sara took it off the burner and went to open the locks, expecting Greg.
But it wasn't Greg. She blinked at the sight on the other side of the door, instantly reminded of Grissom's previous visit. "Uh, hi."
Grissom's lips parted with dismay, and he said something under his breath; Sara suspected it was a swearword. Sighing, she stepped aside. "Come on in."
"How are you feeling?" Grissom asked quietly, halting a few feet inside. Sara kept going into the kitchen.
"Better. Want some tea?"
"...Sure." He watched, hands in pockets, as she fetched down mugs and filled them. "I hope you're not planning on coming in to work tonight."
She sighed again. "Did you get any sleep, Grissom?"
"Enough." He accepted the mug with a nod of thanks.
Sara took hers over to her couch and sat down. "Are you going to sit and tell me why you're here, or are you going to just stand there and watch your tea steep?"
Grissom shot her a wry look, and sat down in the same chair he'd occupied the last time. "I, uh, I'm glad you're okay, Sara. You are okay, right?"
She shrugged. "No major damage."
"Good." Grissom stared down into his mug.
Sara waited, growing impatient. Finally, she set her cup on the small table in front of her. "Grissom..."
He pursed his lips, then set his mug next to hers, lining them up precisely. "I can't be worried about you, Sara?" he asked softly.
His words took her aback a little, but they also made her angry. "I don't know, Grissom, you've got a funny way of showing it."
His face closed, and feeling reckless, she went on. "You knew I was okay already, you were in my hospital room last night."
Grissom flinched. "Yes, but I..."
I am so damned tired of his games. "I guess that was the only time you felt comfortable," Sara said bitterly. "I wasn't awake to reject you, and I sure as hell wasn't beautiful." She gestured at her battered face.
Grissom stared at her in shock, then covered his own face with his hands. "Sara." The word was muffled but unmistakable; he drew his palms down over his cheeks and blinked at her, then moved.
He could be fast when he wanted to be. Sara jumped a little as he sat down next to her, but the couch was too small to offer her a retreat. Then his hands were on her shoulders and his lips were next to her ear. "You will always be beautiful to me, Sara. Always."
Her throat swelled at his words, and she wanted to jerk away from him, but she couldn't force herself to move. Grissom pulled back enough to look at her, and she shook her head slightly. "You..."
He still had a grip on her right shoulder, but one long finger touched her lips, very gently. "Sara, will you just...let me in?"
She wasn't sure what he was asking, but whatever it was, it was in his eyes too, and she couldn't look away. A warmth spread in her chest, the pain he so often caused easing. "Why?" she muttered.
He didn't lower his hand. "Because...I want to make it up to you. All of it."
This wasn't the Grissom she knew; but then, the Grissom she did know was a bastard a lot of the time. You want this. You know you do.
...You can always kill him later, if he backs away.
Slowly, part of her screaming that she was a fool, she moved her lips against his finger, a ghost of a kiss.
Grissom shuddered before slipping his arms around her. Sara let him draw her down against his chest, and he leaned back so that she could relax comfortably against him.
A long while later, she spoke up lazily. "If my mouth wasn't so banged up, I'd kiss you, just to see if you'd freak out."
His chuckle tickled her hair. Grissom unclasped his hands and took one of hers in his, lifting it over her head to his face. The soft touch of his lips on her palm made her suck in a breath.
"There," Grissom said, folding her fingers over into a loose fist. "For later."
It hurt to smile, but she did it anyway.