Author's Note: I've never really been a Snickers fan. It's not that I was against Sara and Nick, just that I'd never given a relationship between them much thought. And then I recently watched some old episodes of CSI and this story sprang to mind.

The Perfect Heart

Chapter 1: Devastation into Love

Nick Stokes entered his apartment whistling softly to himself. He was juiced; his flight home from the American Academy of Forensic Science convention, which had been held in Chicago this year, had actually arrived back at McCarran on time. Now, he had plenty of time to get in some sleep, a shower, and maybe a dinner date with that sexy red head he'd met last week while he had been out with Warrick, all before he had to report to the Crime Lab for shift tonight. He pushed his key into the lock on his apartment door and turned it, pushing heavily on the door with his shoulder as he opened it. The door had a habit of sticking, and soon after he'd moved in almost two years ago after his encounter with Nigel Crane, he'd discovered this was the most effective way of getting that door to open.

Nick closed the door behind him and turned on the lamp that was on the table by the door. He placed his car keys and his house keys in their customary place on the table, thoughts on where to take the redhead to dinner running through his head. He was so preoccupied that he didn't even notice the person sitting on his living room couch until he practically banged into them on his way toward his bedroom.

Nick stopped right in front of Sara, a flirty remark, something along the lines of being his welcome home present about to leave his lips when he actually took in her overall appearance. Sara looked terrible. She was wearing a pair of his track pants and a Texas A&M t-shirt. Her hair was messy around her face, curling as it dried. There were two empty beer bottles on the coffee table and a third, half finished already in her hand. But what jumped out at Nick the most about Sara's appearance were her red eyes. The poor girl had been crying, and by the look of it, rather hard and for a long time.

He immediately dropped down onto the couch beside her and put an arm around her shoulders, squeezing her gently to his side. "Are you okay, Sunshine?" he asked her softly, trying to make eye contact.

Sara shrugged, frowning slightly. "I made myself at home. I hope you don't mind." Her voice sounded coarse to Nick, like she'd been using it to scream for a long time. He briefly wondered if she'd been hurt, attacked maybe and had been calling for help, but quickly discarded that idea when she softly continued. "It's finally over."

"What's finally over?" Nick questioned, rubbing her back soothingly.

"My reason for being here," she answered him, continuing to look straight ahead, effectively avoiding his concerned brown eyes.

Somehow, he knew she didn't mean his apartment, but Las Vegas itself. "Do you want to talk about it?" he asked, prodding, but not pushing.

Sara shook her head. "I don't know. Maybe later." She looked over at him for the first time since he'd entered his apartment and said tearfully, "I'm sorry. I knew you'd be home soon and I didn't want to be alone, so…" She stopped talking, choking up with tears.

Nick reached over and started to wipe away the ones falling from her eyes. "'S'okay, Sara. You can come over anytime. Are you hungry? Can I fix you something to eat?" Nick said gently, almost tearing up inside himself at seeing her anguish. Something was deeply, deeply wrong with Sara and he knew that he couldn't leave her alone right now. Something in him was screaming that he needed to take care of her right now, because if he didn't, he'd lose her forever. When Sara shook her head at the idea of food, Nick tried again. "You should eat something…"

"I'm not hungry," she said softly, once again turning to stare straight ahead.

"Okay," Nick murmured. "But I gotta tell ya, I'm pretty famished. I just got off a plane, I smell kinda funky, and I'm about to eat my arm for nourishment. I'm gonna go grab a quick shower, and then make myself some pancakes. I'll make extra, so if you do start to get hungry, there'll be plenty for you. Can I leave you alone for a few minutes while I shower?"

Sara nodded. "I'm not going anywhere. I don't want to be alone."

"Okay then," Nick replied. "I'll be back in a few minutes, I promise." Then he did something he'd never done before in almost four years of friendship. He leaned in and kissed Sara on her forehead. His lips lingered a moment before he slowly rose and made his way to the bathroom. Once in the bathroom, Nick closed the door most of the way, leaving the door slightly ajar. He knew he'd probably not be able to hear her over the sound of the rushing water, but leaving the door partly open satisfied Nick's fear of leaving Sara alone. He reached around the navy shower curtain and turned the knobs, first the cold, then the hot, adjusting them to the right temperature for him. As soon as he was satisfied with the water, he stripped naked and jumped behind the curtain.

When he was younger, Nick had always hated getting up early, especially if he had to go to school. He would just prefer to lie around in bed pretending to be asleep, or actually be asleep. But once he'd reached the age where he'd had to shower in the mornings, Nick hadn't liked getting up earlier. So he'd take what his mother had called warp speed showers. Then around age fifteen or so, when he'd had to start shaving, he'd learned that shaving in the shower saved him almost ten minutes in the morning. So, ever since then, Nick had been an in-the-shower shaver.

Once he'd wetted down his body and soaped up, Nick applied liberal amounts of shaving cream to his face and neck and the, using the small mirror he'd hung in the shower, began to remove his dark stubble. He knew that many women actually liked some stubble, but that Sara was not one of them. Briefly taken aback by that thought, Nick wondered where his mind was going, and then quickly refocused on the task at hand. The longer he was in the shower, the less time he was out there with Sara. Finished the shave job, he shampooed his hair then rinsed his entire body. Shutting off the water and jumping out quickly, Nick grabbed a thick, navy bath towel and dried off as best he could. Leaving the bathroom through a different door than the one he entered, Nick made his way into his bedroom, and rooted around for some clean clothes. Finally, he pulled on a dark grey Las Vegas PD t-shirt and a pair of black boxers. He gave himself the once-over in the bedroom mirror, and then returned to Sara's side. All in all, he'd been gone about fifteen minutes.

He found Sara almost exactly where he'd left her. The only difference was that her feet were now propped up on the coffee table, and a third empty beer bottle had joined the other two. A fourth bottle, only a few sips missing, was in her hand. Nick sat down in the same spot he'd occupied earlier, reached over, and removed the mostly full bottle from her hand. He took a long sip, and then placed it out of her reach. The fact that she didn't give him a dirty look for doing so scared him. Something was definitely wrong.

"You ready for some pancakes?" he asked softly, trying to draw her attention from whatever spot straight ahead she'd found so interesting.

Sara shrugged her shoulders in response. As Nick stood up to make his way to the kitchen, Sara reached out and grabbed his hand, pulling him back down onto the couch. He went willing, the look in Sara's eyes undoing him completely. She looked so scared, so tired, and so lost that Nick could feel his heart breaking for her. At that moment, he'd do anything for her, anything she'd ask if it would make that look in her eyes go away. That look of utter defeat. His best friend, who always fought, who seemed to be the toughest person he knew, had given up.

Suddenly, Sara threw her arms around him and held on tightly, burying her face against the side of his neck. In response, Nick wrapped his arms around her and slowly lowered her down with him so they were both lying on the couch. He lay on his back with Sara tucked half on him, half between him and the back of the couch. He gently rubbed her back with his right hand and his left cupped her head to his chest, fingers running through her dark hair. Sara's left arm was sandwiched between their bodies, but her right was thrown across Nick's chest, holding on to him.

As Nick gently stroked Sara's side and hip, he slipped a few fingers under the hem of her shirt to brush against her skin. He smiled as she shivered in response and snuggled in closer to him. To Nick, this was the best moment of his life. Lying here, with Sara in his arms, he couldn't ask for anything else. He knew for how long he'd loved Sara, but it finally hit him how much he loved her. Nick loved her more than his own life, her happiness and comfort were more important to him than his own. And, apparently, his own stomach. He had been attracted to her right from the start, that much he knew. And the harmless flirting the two of them had engaged in had been fun. Sara hadn't had any expectations from it, and neither did Nick, or so he had told himself at the time. Deep down, however, Nick knew he had been lying to himself. It was easy to pinpoint when he'd decided that he had wanted to be more than her friend; it had been when he first had competition for Sara's affections. To be precise, when Hank Pettigrew entered the scene. Suddenly, Nick saw any future plans with Sara dissolve right before his eyes, all because he'd been too afraid to directly ask her out on a proper date. He had tried, had implied as much when he'd told her to get out more. He had meant to come out with him and have some date-like fun, but whether because Sara didn't get his underlying meaning, or because he didn't give enough of a hint, Sara chose Hank to be her date. When he'd learned from Sara the reason she and Hank had ended it, he'd seen red. The first thought to jump into his mind had been where to hide Hank's body so that it would never be found and linked to him. Then he'd taken in the teary look on his best friend's face, wrapped an arm around her shoulder, and preceded to watch John Hughes films and eat chocolate ice cream all day. A few days later, he'd tried to ask her out again, testing to see if the waters were clear for another man to enter her life by talking about 'a buddy'. When she made it clear she wasn't interested in another relationship at that time, he dropped it, sad at heart, but knowing that Sara was telling the truth that she wasn't ready to let someone else it like that yet.

With Sara lying on him, her breathing even and suggesting sleep, Nick's heart swelled with his love for her. He loved her and was deeply in love with her. It hit him then, the importance of this feeling of total love and devotion, and as he mulled it over in excitement. He had never felt this strongly about anyone before. She was his first thought of the day, and his last. He knew that he'd loved her, been in love with her, for a long time. He could pinpoint the exact date and time that he'd fallen in love with Sara Sidle. It had been a Tuesday. Tuesday, April 22nd to be exact, the year 2003. He had requested her help on a case that was bugging Brass, the one where the wife had been found dead in the bathtub, the grieving husband cleared and her death ruled an accident. And then three weeks later, Brass finds the husband out with a twenty-something blonde and a hot new car. Truth be told, he'd sought out Sara on this case. He generally enjoyed working with her, found her mind to be very sharp and he valued her opinion. Plus, she was the only one who could tolerate his desire to listen to country music and never forced him to change the CD while driving to the crime scene. He'd once questioned her about it, asking her how the only person he'd ever known who could carry on a conversation about music with Greg and his love of hard rock and obscure bands could listen to country music. She'd just shrugged and told him it was all part of the Nicky package. And then she'd surprised him by singing a few lines along with John Michael Montgomery.

That music conversation had taken place about a week prior to him falling completely in love with Sara. There she was, trying desperately to take down that towel rack over the tub, tugging on it with all her might, hanging from it, yanking desperately, and all Nick could think about was how much he wanted to pull her away, spin her around, and kiss her senseless for trying so hard to help him. That's when he knew he was a gonner, that he was put on this Earth to love Sara and only Sara. Only, Sara's heart had other designs, namely their boss, Gil Grissom. And so, Nick was resigned to the fact that he'd only be able to love her from afar.

He was pulled from his thoughts by movement on his chest. And wetness. Sara was crying again. She was awake, holding on to him, and crying into his chest. He continued to rub her back and her head, leaning down a little to gently kiss the top of her head. "Hey there, Sunshine. Whatever it is, you can tell me about it. I'm not going anywhere."

Sniffing softly, Sara buried herself into him and answered, all choked up, "I'm not worth it, Nick."

"Not worth…what are you talking about?" Nick asked, confused.

"He told…he told the suspect that he could love me, but that he couldn't take the risk…" Sara sniffed again, absently running her hand up and down Nick's chest. "I'm not worth risking his career and life…" Sara, if possible, snuggled in even closer to Nick.

Nick frowned. There was no need for Sara to tell him who this person was. He knew it was the same person whom she'd cried over eight months earlier after having put herself out there and asking him out for dinner, which he'd turned down without any hesitation. His hand made wider circles on her back, reaching up under her shirt from her neck down to her hip, and then back up, fingers giving a feathery touch, causing her to shiver again. In response, Sara ran her hand up under his shirt, stroking his chest.

"Sara…" Nick began his voice thick with growing desire.

"What's wrong with me, Nick? What's so wrong with me that no one could want me?"

"That's not true, Sar," Nick began, not sure if he should tell her the truth about his feeling, especially right now in light of what she'd just revealed to him. Sara was in an incredibly vulnerable state, and as much as he wanted her and to prove to her that she was most definitely wanted, he wanted it to be at the right time, and not where she'd probably regret it in the morning, or feel that he'd taken advantage of her.

Sara leaned up, putting both her hands under Nick's shirt, levering herself over him, staring down into his eyes. "Please, Nick," she said huskily, "I need to feel desired right now…I need to feel loved…" Slowly, Sara leaned down, pressing her soft lips to his. Instantly, Nick's body responded, his hands wrapping around her back, pulling her down onto him completely, even though his brain screamed at him that now was not the right time to do this. His body told his brain to shut up by grinding his hips up into Sara's and opening his mouth, tongue snaking out to run against her closed lips. Immediately, Sara's mouth opened to his and their tongues dueled inside her mouth for dominance, which Sara quickly acceded to him.

Nick broke the kiss after a few moments, framing Sara's face with his hands, looking into her dark brown eyes. He was trying to gauge her state of mind. Did she realize what she was doing? Did she want this as much as he did? What she saw reflected in her eyes were his own feelings of love and desire. Sara wanted to be with him as much as he wanted to be with her. He gently moved a stray piece of hair off of Sara's cheek, brushing his thumb against her face as she did so. She turned her head and kissed his palm, then returned to staring into Nick's eyes. "Yes, Nicky, I want this, too," she whispered to him before returning her lips to his.

Nick groaned into Sara's mouth, pleasure running all throughout his body. His hands were all over her, her back, her sides, moving around to her front. He couldn't get enough of her, and it seemed that she couldn't get enough of him, pushing his shirt up as far as their lip lock would let it go. He pulled away briefly so that he could pull his shirt over his head, and then crushed his lips back onto hers. After what felt like hours, but might have only been seconds, Nick pushed Sara back gently, stood up and offered her his hand. She took it without hesitation, and he led her back into his bedroom.

tbc