A/N: Howdy. I've been around for a whilst, but this is my first CSI fic. Please let me know if you think I should try this more often. I don't beta my stories, and English is not my native tongue, so all mistakes are solely mine. Since I live outside the US, I haven't been able to watch all eps, or watch the correct chronology, so I might have taken some liberties with the timeline.

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When the smoke bomb went off, all he could think of was her. Was she okay? Had she gotten away? So he went back inside looking for her, calling out her name, until his eyes stung too badly for him to keep them open, until his voice went hoarse and his throat felt as though he had swallowed the fire of a thousand homes. And he would have kept on searching for her until he had passed out if the firefighters hadn't dragged him out of the building. And he'd probably had gone right back in if the EMTs hadn't strapped him to a gurney and slapped an oxygen mask on him.

Fortunately for his state of mind the last thing he saw was her hair shining in the dying sunbeams, and the last thing he heard was her voice demanding to know if he was going to be okay. Only then did he surrender to the welcoming darkness.

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Gil Grissom was trying very hard no to loose his patience any more, so he wouldn't start sighing loudly enough for the nurse at the station to hear him. She was taking forever and a day to get the discharge paperwork completed and yet, a tiny part of him was thankful for the delay. As much as he knew he had to do this, he was in no way in a hurry to face the young CSI waiting to be released from the hospital after serious smoke inhalation, so serious, in fact, he had scarred his larynx.

And for what? No matter how Grissom looked at the evidence, it just didn't add enough as to explain why a serious trained professional like Nick Stokes would do something as foolish as go back to an already cleared building after a smoke bomb had gone off. Grissom suspected, and he dreaded the suspicion, that the young man had finally snapped under pressure. No matter how many "I'm fines" Nick threw his way, Grissom knew the Texan was nowhere near "fine". Far from it, actually. No one went through a near-death experience and bounced back to keep on going as if nothing had happened and it was all in a day's work.

But Grissom couldn't force Nick to open up about the whole thing anymore than he could force himself to admit to his own demons. He had no problem dealing with hard evidence, no matter how unsettling it might be, but feelings… feelings were an entirely different matter and they had always made the scientist uncomfortable. And yet, Grissom knew, no matter how uneasy the topic made him feel, he'd have to deal with this head on or Ecklie would have a field day chewing off both their asses. Neither activity ranked high in Grissom's list of favourite things to do, but given the options, he'd much rather discuss Nick's state of mind with Nick, thank you very much.

The nurse handed him the paperwork to sign, and he quickly did so. And with the release document in hand, he headed for Nick's room, mentally bracing himself for what was about to come.

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"If it had been Sara, wouldn't you have done the same?"

Grissom looked at the young man in front of him and felt a mix of sorrow and tenderness. He was absolutely sure the performance report he'd have to fill did not include "Crazy in Love" as a valid explanation for reproachable behaviour and yet he knew exactly where Nick was coming from. Now that he had the whole background, Grissom could not, in all honesty, claim he would have acted differently had he been in Nick's place; but he couldn't admit to it, either.

"We're not talking about me here, Nicky," he answered softly, knowing darn well it wasn't an answer at all.

"It's just… I don't know Grissom… I mean, how stupid can I get? I feel like I'm starting to unravel all over the place and I can't do anything about it and she's the only thing that's keeping me safe. But do I tell her? No." The young man smiled a mirthless grin. "Guess it's official now. I'm royally fucked up. Christ, I could use a stiff drink now. A double would be even better…"

Grissom was now officially worried. It wasn't exactly what Nick had said, but more like HOW he had said it. The Texan was not one to swear easily, nor was he, as far as Grissom knew, in the habit of indulging in alcohol to "solve" his problems. Granted, he had also never let personal issues affect his performance before, either, and the entomologist wasn't sure he, or the lab, were prepared to deal with a Nick Stokes in love. In UNREQUITTED love, to make matters even worse.

A noise at the door had both men looking up. Standing in the doorway, was the source and solution of the whole issue and Grissom couldn't help but marvel at the change that operated in the younger man as soon as he saw his beloved. For a mere fraction of a second, Grissom pondered if his face gave his own feelings away so easily whenever he saw Sara, and then went back to the scene unraveling before him.

The young couple stood there, just watching each other, for what seemed like an eternity. She finally dropped her eyes and flashed a weak smile towards Grissom before mumbling something neither of them quite caught. She realized her fumble and was hasty to repeat herself: "I came to see if you needed a ride home. Warrick told me he had driven your truck back to your place after you were admitted so… uhh…. I thought that maybe…."

Grissom might have not been all that adept when it came to feelings, but he recognized a cue to leave left stage when he saw one, so he jumped at the chance to make a quick disappearing act without being too conspicuous.

"That's a great idea. I need to go back to the lab and I don't want Nick anywhere near active duty for a couple more days, so you're more than welcome to take him home. Nick. Sofia…"

And with that, he was gone; swiftly forgotten by those left behind. Not that he would have cared, had he known.

"Uhm… shall we…?"

The question was never asked, not entirely. Before he could start thinking clearly, before he would start second guessing himself, Nick took two steps forward, grabbed hold of her neck and pulled her close for a kiss.

He wanted to be gentle. He wanted the kiss to be a whole palette of soft, caring emotions. He had envisioned their first kiss as a mere whisper of his lips on hers, allowing her to set the degree of intensity, the pace, the speed; him, always the gentleman, taking his cues from her reactions. Heck, he took pride on being a gentleman!

But all dreams and considerations apart, truth was, Nick Stokes was not prepared for the shock of reality. It hit him at gut level, it got underneath his skin, it made his blood boil and his desire flare and he knew right there and then that he wouldn't be able to stop until he was deeply buried inside her, naked skin on naked skin; her voice hoarse with passion ringing in his ears, giving his name a religious edge as she whispered it over and over again…

And for the first time in months, Nick felt truly alive.

She tasted of coffee and mint and Chap Stick that tasted, for lack of a better word, pink, and something that was uniquely Sofia that he just couldn't find words to describe and he just couldn't get enough of, either, so he raised his other hand to grab her head and deepened the kiss even more.

Sofia had surrendered to the kiss in an almost complete manner. Her hands had been at her sides for perhaps 4 seconds before they reached up and set residence on his waist. She had dared dreamed about his mouth before, fantasized, to be more precise, but not even in her wildest visions had she imagined it would be so… searing? Seamless? Soulful? Either way, it didn't matter much then, as she was, for all practical matters, speechless, totally and utterly lost in the sensation of that mouth, those lips, those teeth…

Inasmuch as he would have loved to remain an eternity locked to her mouth, Nick broke the kiss up after a few moments. His hands still at the sides of her face, his forehead resting against hers, both breathings labored, both hearts pounding, both fearing to talk, but ending up talking at the same time, in a rush of words and emotions:

"Do you have any idea…"

"How long I've wanted to do this?"

"How scared I was when I saw you on that gurney?"

"I thought you were still inside the building."

"I thought I had lost you…"

"I wanted to let you know…."

"I want to…"

"I need you…"

"Sofia…" His voice was hushed, slightly overcome by emotion and it seemed to caress her whole body and soul, making her shiver. "I so need to kiss you again…" A soft kiss on her right eyelid. "And again…" Kiss to the left eyelid. "And again…" Another kiss, this time to the tip of her nose. "But I'm certain I won't be able to stop, for once I start I want to kiss every inch of you…"

This time around, it was him who was interrupted by a kiss, both fierce and gentle. This time around, her hands weren't idle, but rather, quite active participants, running all over his chest and back up to his face. This time around, he forwent gentleness and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her flush against him. Under normal circumstances, he would angle his body slightly to avoid lower body direct contact, but this time around, he didn't. Instead, he slid his right arm below her hip line and firmly pushed her into his straining erection. He wanted Sofia to know exactly how she made him feel, and his efforts were rewarded by her moaning deeply against his mouth.

"Either you take me home right now, or you get to explain to Grissom AND Brass why the hospital slapped us with an indecent exposure lawsuit…"

Without letting go of her waist, he grabbed his overnight bag in the other hand, and led the blond woman out of the hospital and into the parking lot.

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A/N: Should I leave this here, or should I take it with them back to Nick's place? I'll aim to please the majority…