A/N: This is a sequel to my fic, "Playing the Hero". You probably should read that one first because it explains the whole Brass/Sofia dynamic, but if you saw "Bang Bang" and "Way to Go", this will probably still make sense. And yes I know this is fairly short. That's because there's a third in the series coming very soon.
As always, my eternal gratitude to my friend, Inamberclad, for the beta. As usual, I changed a few things after the fact so any errors you find are mine and I don't share.
Karen Thomas had been an ICU nurse for nearly twenty three years. She'd seen more vigils held for critical care patients than she could count and without fail, she could always tell which one was closest to the patient.
The patient in Bay 4A was a police captain named James Brass who had come into her ICU a few days ago. She hadn't liked his odds when he first came in: gunshot wound to the chest, bullet lodged in an artery very close to his heart. But she knew this one was a fighter. He wouldn't have made it this far if he wasn't.
This one must have had a lot of friends though because he'd had a non-stop stream of visitors all holding their own silent vigil since the first day. It didn't surprise her really. She knew from experience that cops held their own close.
She'd become familiar with a few of the regulars: the bearded man with the gray hair, the strawberry blonde and the young girl she assumed was his daughter who'd been there every day until he'd woken up. Karen hadn't seen the girl since.
She'd wondered if the man had a family—other than the regulars. Often family members would arrive late, a day or two at the most. It saddened her to think this one had no family, particularly since he would need the love and support of his family to get him through the recovery.
Karen had been in the process of changing his IV bag and hanging more blood transfusions when she first noticed the young blonde woman standing in the waiting area, arms crossed tightly over her chest, watching her patient through the large window. There was something different about this particular woman; this woman had a sadness about her that ran much deeper than the other visitors. Karen was willing to bet this one had a more personal interest in her patient. Perhaps a girlfriend?
Taking a chance, Karen entered the waiting area and spoke to the young woman. "He's asleep now but he was awake earlier. Why don't you go in and sit with him. I know he'll like the company."
Sofia Curtis turned, surprised by the presence of another person. "Are you sure it's okay?"
Sofia smiled her thanks to the older woman and quietly followed her inside hesitating at the foot of Jim's bed.
Karen took a plastic chair from the side and moved it closer to the bed. "Most of his lines are on his left side so you won't have to worry about unplugging anything," she whispered, placing the chair so that Sofia would be on Jim's right side, facing him when she sat down.
"I'll give you some privacy but if you need anything, I'll be nearby."
Sofia sat quietly, not really sure what to do or say, afraid to touch him for fear of somehow hurting him. It was funny how someone who seemed so strong, so tough, could look so small and vulnerable when he was lying in a hospital bed. The mere sight of all the machines and tubes and wires made her shudder, especially when she thought how necessary they were in keeping him alive.
"Hey." Jim reached out unsteadily with his right hand. "You finally found your way."
Her fear suddenly fading away, Sofia slipped her hand in his and felt his grip tighten. Relaxing, she smiled. "Yeah, I finally found my way. It was a little hard at first."
He didn't reply but she could see the crease in his brow and knew he didn't understand what she meant.
How could she explain to him why she hadn't visited until now? He wouldn't understand how angry she'd been at first or how she'd tried to distance herself by concentrating on work only to go home every night and cry for him. He wouldn't understand how she'd tried to appear detached when the news was bad, like she'd only cared because Jim was her friend and not because she was in love with him.
She couldn't tell him any of that right now but then, this wasn't about her. It was about Jim; it was about getting him better and out of the hospital and back on his feet. She'd explain everything else later.
Jim was watching her, looking at her with forced intensity through heavy lids. He was tired but he didn't want to sleep while she was there. He didn't want to wake up later and find her gone. But it was getting too hard to stay awake and already he felt frustrated that his body wasn't doing what he wanted it to do.
His hand tightened on hers. "Don't leave."
"I won't leave until they make me, okay?"
He'd closed his eyes but he still managed to nod his head.
She thought he had fallen off to sleep when suddenly he spoke again. "I'm sorry."
"You're sorry? Why?"
"I screwed up." His eyes were barely open. "Almost ruined a good thing. Been wanting to tell you."
Sofia had never been an overly emotional woman but right now she felt the lump in her throat. "You didn't screw up. I'm here. I'll be here for as long as you'll have me."
He closed his eyes and smiled. "Second chances."
"Yes, second chances for both of us."
He grew quiet again and this time she felt his hand go slack then twitch as sleep took him. Sofia only tightened her grip. She didn't want to let go, afraid that if she did he might not come back to her again.
She sat with him, watching him sleep, lightly stroking the underside of his forearm just so he'd know she was still there.
Almost an hour and a half later Nurse Karen entered the room again. She hated to have to tell the young woman that it was time to leave but already she'd let her have an extra fifteen minutes past regular visiting hours.
Sofia nodded her understanding at the news. After all, her job was all about enforcing the rules; she could hardly argue.
"I'll be back tomorrow," she said, not expecting a response but telling him all the same. Looking at the nurse, she asked, "Will you tell him that?"
Karen smiled. "Yes, I certainly will."
"Thanks," she said. Feeling much braver than she had earlier, she leaned over the raised side and lightly kissed his forehead then let go of his head. Leaving the room, she came face to face with Gil Grissom.
Gil Grissom had walked into the waiting area, his hand reaching for the door when he saw something that made him stop and take a step back. There was no other way to interpret what he was seeing and the sight of it made him smile. Grissom had been on his way over to tell his friend that he'd be staying at Grissom's place while he recovered but now, seeing the tender kiss Sofia placed on Jim's forehead, he knew it wasn't necessary. Jim was in good hands.
"Grissom," Sofia said, her face registering her surprise while her mind did a rewind. What had he seen and what would he say?
"I'm sorry, I wasn't trying to intrude but I've been here for a few minutes."
Sofia nodded, understanding what he implied. "You don't think this is wrong?"
"What, two mature people who happen to like each other?"
"It's more than that," she said, her gaze going to Jim before settling on Grissom. "I mean a supervisor dating his subordinate."
Grissom stroked his beard, smiling at the irony. It made sense now, why Jim hadn't looked down upon Gil's own relationship with Sara even though the detective had known for months. "Don't worry. There are ways of getting around that."
"But in the meantime, you won't say anything?"
"Sofia, Jim's my friend. If he's happy, I'm happy for him. It's nice to see someone come along who cares about him. He needs that now more than ever."
"Well, I'm up for the challenge."
"So am I."
Grissom nodded in agreement. "Yes, you are. Would you like to grab a cup of coffee?"
Sofia's gaze went back to Jim. She knew Gil was really asking if she'd like to talk but right now, too many emotions were fighting below the surface. "Maybe another time? I think I'd really just like to go home right now."
"Sure. My door's always open."
A frown flashed across her face for barely a moment and then it was gone. She had gone to Grissom once before because she'd felt he was the only person she could talk to after Bell's death. It had been the confrontation with Sara in his office that had caused her to seek out Jim for support. At first she'd been angry and upset with Grissom; now she was grateful.
Grissom watched her leave, absentmindedly stroking his beard in thought. He'd suspected something might have been brewing between the two detectives. More than once he'd wondered about Sofia's interest in Jim's condition, always asking for an update and then keeping tabs on Ellie. He shouldn't have been surprised though. Sofia and Jim had been through a fairly traumatic event together; she'd stood by him even while others in his own department had shunned him. It seemed reasonable to assume that the two would grow closer. However, Grissom suspected it wasn't as easy for Jim as it had been for Sofia.
Thinking back to one of the last conversations he'd had with the detective, Grissom recalled an interesting question from Jim regarding relationships. Grissom's advice had been something he'd learned only recently: Nothing in this world is worth having if it comes easy.
Apparently, Jim had listened.
Taking one last check on his friend, Grissom's smile reflected back at him in the glass.
"I hope you find the same happiness that I've found, my friend."