A/N: Post-ep for 1st season episode "Big Trouble". I never just sit and write something in one sitting, but I did with this one. I've always liked this pairing and never been able to get it it down on paper, but I've just spent the better part of two days watching the whole season again and this seems like a turning point for me in the relationship between Grace and Louis. And, I figure, this is as good a place as any for me to dip my toe into the pond.

Disclaimer: Not mine. I just like to play in other people's playgrounds 'cause they're cooler.


Subtle Shifts

Grace is surprised to see Louis sitting at his desk in the half-darkened police station late that evening. She's been there for hours, working the case; had heard about his close call earlier. She knew that the cops on the scene had likely already taken his statement and Sammo and Terrell would wrap up the case. She expected not to see Louis again until the next morning, completely recovered and as warm and easy-going as ever. As though he hadn't nearly been killed just a few hours ago.

Instead, she comes back from a dinner break at the hot dog stand across the street to find him sitting in the shadows, staring blankly at the wall, and his uncharacteristic broodiness sends a chill through her.

She knew what had happened, had heard the words, had taken them in with a nod and practiced composure. But she hadn't let them linger in her mind, hadn't let herself picture it and realize just how close she'd come to losing her partner. Instead, the words had buzzed around in her head for hours, just waiting for the moment she dropped her guard and forgot they were there so that they could settle on her brain.

When she sees Louis, they finally find their mark.

Still, she is a professional and she shakes it off and walks up behind him casually, because there is a cop code that you never acknowledge someone else's mortality when it is standing in a room with you.

"I heard you had a close call earlier," she says airily, by way of greeting, and he only barely starts at her abrupt arrival.

He just blinks and turns his head in her direction to offer her a half-hearted smile.

"Yeah."

He watches listlessly as she drops into her chair across from him and shuffles a few papers around, pretending that there is actual work to do and she's very busy and she's not peeking out from under her lashes to check him over. There are no visible scrapes or bruises, no sign of the physical trauma of the day. The only sign of what he's been through is in the slump of his shoulders and the seriousness of his expression and the dark shadows in his eyes.

He finally shakes his head, an attempt to free himself from that darkness that has crept into his mind, and admits, "I gotta tell ya, Gracie. I didn't know if I was gonna get out of that one alive for a minute there."

The chill inside her seems to solidify around her heart at the admission and she tries to quell the shiver running up her spine.

She flashes him a confident smile. "But you did, Louis. That's all that matters."

He stares at her for a moment with those startlingly clear eyes and it scares her because he's never looked at her like that and she doesn't like the way it makes her feel like he can see through every lie she's ever told and every mask she's ever worn.

But then he blinks and flashes that familiar, if slightly worn, smile and says, "Yeah, I guess you're right, Gracie."

She's almost ashamed at the relief that courses through her when he reverts back to her laid-back, never-serious partner, because it has nothing to do with him being alright and everything to do with the fact that he's not looking at her like that anymore and she feels like her secrets are safe again.

The ice has been broken and she's just about to start the familiar banter with him when a movement catches her eye and she glances up to see Cassie McGill coming toward them. She's caught off-guard and knows that her surprise shows in the instant before she locates her self-control.

"Looks like you've got a visitor," she signals Louis with a subtle nod behind him.

He shoots her a puzzled look as he swivels his chair in the direction that she's indicating, but practically leaps out of the chair when he spots Cassie hovering behind him with an uncertain smile.

"Cassie!"

Grace isn't sure why his sudden surge of energy irks her.

"Louis," Cassie answers his greeting.

"Everything okay?" Louis asks anxiously. "Did something else happen?"

"No," Cassie rushes to reassure him. "I'm fine. I … just came by to see you."

"Oh."

They shuffle around each other awkwardly for a moment, both avoiding eye contact, and Grace feels her annoyance grow. Louis glances at her and she realizes that they're waiting for her to move.

"Uh… I'm just going to go over.. there to.. look for something," she mutters, as she stands and retreats, making the least graceful exit of her life and contemplating whether she should change her American name.

Somehow, 'Clumsy' doesn't have the same ring to it. Maybe Graceless.

She only goes far enough to give the illusion of privacy, but she doesn't feel that guilty about it because this is, after all, a police station and privacy doesn't really exist. There's another desk between her and Louis and Cassie and she continues shuffling randomly through papers while she watches them from beneath lowered eyelashes, just as she was doing to Louis earlier.

She's just brushing up on her surveillance skills; they'd been getting a little rusty.

"I just wanted to thank you," Cassie says, the words rushing out nervously. "For what you did earlier. Saving me."

Louis smiles. "You don't have to thank me, Cassie, I didn't really do anything. We're just lucky Sammo and Terrell got there when they did."

"Still. If I had to be stuck in a life-or-death situation with someone… I'm glad it was you. You knew what to do, you kept me calm…. I owe you a lot."

Louis actually looks embarrassed. "I was just doing my job, Cassie."

She blinks. "Of course! I know that. But, still… thank you."

Louis nods for lack of anything else to say. "Are you going to be okay?"

She nods and smiles. "I'm going to be fine. Now that Gambozzo and his thugs are taken care of, I should be able to get the business back on track. And I'm glad the truth came out about how my dad died. I can move on now."

"I'm glad to hear it."

Grace waits until they wrap up—Louis telling her to give him a call if she ever needs anything—and Cassie's halfway to the door, before she grabs a random file and comes back to her desk. Louis settles back into his own chair with a slight smile on his face and doesn't seem to notice her right away.

Grace's irritation grows, and she has no idea why. She knows that Louis has no trouble landing a date; it's a running joke in the department that she's heard—and played along with—ever since she joined. This isn't even the first time she's seen him in action. There was that case of illegal animal smuggling a few weeks back, with Louis' ex-girlfriend, Julia. That hadn't bothered her, even when she'd had to give them their privacy so that Louis could ask Julia out and they'd ended up getting ambushed.

Then again, she also hadn't been surprised when Julia had stood Louis up for their date to take care of a sick monkey. Julia was a nice girl, but not really right for Louis.

Is Cassie?

She kills that train of thought before it gets started, not wanting to know where it will take her. Louis is finally starting to show signs of life again, sorting through his own mountain of paper work for something to do. Something that he's willing to do.

"She seems nice," Grace offers, and hopes that he doesn't notice her reluctance.

He doesn't.

"She is. Cassie's a really sweet girl. She's been through a lot lately." He stops shuffling to glance over his shoulder at the doorway she'd disappeared through.

"You should ask her out."

And Grace is amazed to discover that she's a better actress than she'd known, because her body is keeping up the act while the rest of her is struck dumb.

He shoots her a surprised—and uncomfortable—look. "I don't know, Grace."

"Why not?"

He shrugs uneasily. "She's vulnerable right now. And she thinks I'm some kind of hero for saving her."

"You did save her."

"No, I didn't. If Sammo and Terrell hadn't shown up when they did, Grace…" He shakes his head, and that chill snakes through her once again at the realization of just how close a call he'd had.

"Anyway, even if I had saved her, I was just doing my job. I'm not a hero. I'm just a cop."

She smiles, and it only feels a little stiff, because Louis is the only guy she's ever known who wouldn't play the hero card for all it was worth.

"Louis. You spent the whole day helping her make deliveries so she didn't lose her business. That wasn't your job."

He glances up to meet her gaze, as if gauging the validity of her argument in her eyes, and she hopes she was wrong about his ability to see through her.

"Yeah?"

She flashes that same, slightly wooden smile. "Yeah. I'd say you're still a hero. To her, anyway."

He smiles then, his first real, genuine smile of the night and she feels herself thaw under its warmth.

"Thanks, Gracie."

Her smirk, this time, is also genuine. "You're welcome."

"You know, I think Henry was wrong about you."

It only takes her a split second to see where he's going with this—it's been his favorite subject to tease her with for weeks—and she levels him with her coldest glare in an effort to stop him before he starts.

He smiles widely, completely immune.

"I think you do have poetry in your soul."