"What bugs you most?"

A CSI fan-fic story, started May 2003; WIP, but I was bitten in a recent plot bunny attack (October 2007) and decided to dust this one off and see where it goes. It is a much longer companion piece to the "Better Brass biography" posted over at the "jimbrass" Yahoo group.

The usual disclaimers: none of the CBS or CSI characters belong to me, and I make no money doing this kind of thing. I am not affiliated with CBS or CSI in any way.

Spoilers: this is set sometime between Seasons 4 and 5 (so lots of water under the bridge since I started this fic). Greg Sanders is still in the lab.

Rating: T for adult themes and language.

Pairings: Jim/Catherine; Bobby/OFC.

Thank you to the very kind folks at the "jimbrass" Yahoo group and at Meg's Brass Fan site. The "Internet Movie Database" is another good source of research information.

Author's notes: Although I've tried to minimize occurrences of "Captain Exposition", it does work sometimes, you know? I didn't really like the "official" CBS biography for Jim Brass (January 3rd Capricorn? Puh-lease.), so I changed some of it to suit my purposes; it's in the "Better Brass biography". No, "Dr. Mickey Kaye" is not really me, but I bet I could play her on television. I confess to being a Brass/Willows shipper from the beginning of Season 1, although CaptainBrass/CaptainAnnie is cool too.

Chapter 01/??

"Flights of fancy"

(a Sunday night in mid-May)

It was a perfect dark night: new Moon meant no Moon. Kevin O'Grady checked and re-checked the aircraft and its cargo. He didn't want anything to go wrong, and had gone over the procedure dozens of times with his aircrew.

"How does the bird look, Michols?" he asked his pilot.

"A-okay, Major. We should be in the air in twenty," was the reply.

O'Grady grunted acknowledgement and rubbed his hand through newly cropped hair. A lifetime in the military had come easily to him: his father and grandfather had served with distinction in the U.S. Army, and had not protested over-much his decision to join the Air Force. His original goal of the NASA Space Program had been a no-go, but the Sciences Division had far made up for that disappointment. He taught from time to time at the USAF Academy in Colorado Springs, which gave him time to pursue other interests: skiing and "home-grown" microbiology. He could teach introductory biology courses in his sleep.

O'Grady was glad that training missions were scheduled out of Nellis AFB during all hours, and that a buddy from boot camp was in charge of the calendar. It gave him plenty of chances to join the pilots in the course of his experiments: delivery systems for biological specimens. He didn't bring himself to call them "weapons" exactly; more importantly, his superiors had taken an interest in his agricultural biotechnology. It made a good cover story anyway.

As the aircraft took off into the dark night, he allowed himself a grim smile. Tonight was the first actual release of lyophilized cultures, for the most part harmless of course, but useful in pinpointing the best conditions for release. He absently answered the pilot's questions as he warmed up the system in the cargo bay, and checked his notes. It was going to be a good flight.

He must have spoken out loud because "Roger that, Major, roger that," came back over his headset. O'Grady forced himself to chuckle, mainly to keep the aircrew from becoming suspicious.

"And viva Las Vegas," said the co-pilot in a passable "Elvis" voice as they climbed from the runway. "Hot damn is that pretty." The bright lights of the oasis in the desert shined brightly below them.


It was just after midnight and Homicide Detective Captain Jim Brass sat in his Las Vegas Metro PD office with Gil Grissom, drinking coffee and going over the first reports of the night. Grissom was the night shift CSI supervisor, Jim's previous position with the department, and crime-wise, it was a quiet night in "Second Chance City". Rare, but both men had been in Vegas long enough to believe that it was really a calm before the storm kind of thing.

"So, what do you think?" Brass asked his colleague. "O'Riley can get over to the parents in the morning."

He idly stirred at his coffee with the plastic swizzle stick, and then sucked on it speculatively. He chewed on it too, realizing that it had been a long time since he'd wanted a smoke. Jim made a mental note to pick up some more nicotine gum when he had the chance, every few months he went through the same thing with the cigarettes. Maybe he'd get some cigars instead.

"Good. We should have the tox-screen back shortly. Doc Robbins is leaning toward accidental death based on his preliminary findings, and not homicide or suicide at this point," Gil said, sadly shaking his head. "Kids."

Brass heaved a sigh and nodded his agreement, thinking with pain in his heart about his poor relationship with his own daughter, Ellie.

"Too rich, too bored, and too stupid to lay off the huff. Whatever happened to hobbies like baseball, basketball and Scouts? Hell, I played hockey for years growing up back east. During the season, I was too busy skating and practicing slap shots to get into…much trouble."

Even now, more than forty years later, he could hear his mother calling from the kitchen window for the boys to come in for dinner.

Grissom smirked. "And I played baseball and football, I know, Jim. To use the language of my neighbor's children: 'it's just not cool anymore'. Still…" He made some notes in one of the folders.

They were interrupted by a quiet knock on the doorjamb. A young woman's head popped in around the slightly opened door, her longish brown hair and glasses immediately familiar to the veteran detective.

"Oh, excuse me," she said when she saw Grissom. "I'm looking for Detective Captain Brass' office and the front desk person directed me here. Uncle Jimmy?"

In all the time he'd known him, well over ten years, Gil Grissom had never, ever seen Brass' face brighten so quickly and completely as it did just then; usually he kept his expression carefully neutral, or he looked like someone (often Grissom or one of the other CSI's in the course of an investigation) had just poured water over him, figuratively speaking, of course. A real, honest-to-goodness smile dropped ages from his worn features. They both stood, Gil tucking the stack of manila folders under one arm.

"Mouse! Unbelievable, get over here girl," Brass said, positively beaming as he came around the desk to hug her. The woman was actually his niece, and he was as proud of her accomplishments as if she was his own child. "When did you get into town, you turkey? Dammit, you look terrific."

The young woman he'd called "Mouse" kissed him on the cheek, then pulled back halfway from his embrace. She quirked an eyebrow, hoping he'd let her answer some of the questions before he continued in his rapid-fire pace.

"About an hour ago. I took a cab in from the airport, uh McCarran, I guess it's called." She was smiling too, and Grissom noticed then the very strong family resemblance between them: same height-about 5'9, same dark brown hair, and same profile. Almost. She had a much better tan.

Brass returned the kiss on the cheek, and then held up her left hand to check the ring finger. He raised his eyebrows significantly; a silent question.

To Gil's surprise, she shook her head at the detective with what seemed to be exasperated affection.

"That topic is a nunya, Uncle Jimmy," she admonished. "As in, 'nunya damn business'."

Grissom couldn't place the accent as she spoke to Brass directly, and he wondered about it, somewhere in New England maybe. He noticed too a small gold ring on her right ring finger: a traditional Irish claddagh with the heart, hands and crown design. Other than that, there was no jewelry on her hands. Even her watch was simple and functional: black plastic, digital and waterproof like his own.

Jim Brass smiled more gently, giving her arm a fond squeeze, and then he shrugged. "I know it is, kiddo. You probably get enough of that discussion from my sister, if I know our Margaret."

His expression was sympathetic. Margaret Brass Kaye often shared her opinions on how her "baby brother" James should live his life, an annoying habit leftover from their childhood in Massachusetts. Hell, he was almost fifty and she still did it.

The young woman's answer was merely a long-suffering, dramatic sigh, but her smile was genuine. Holding her left hand in both of his, Brass turned to Grissom.

"Gil, this is my niece, Dr. Michelle Kaye. She's visiting from Florida for some conference out here this week, and forgot to phone her uncle to pick her up at the airport when she got in. Mouse, meet Gil Grissom, CSI graveyard shift supervisor." Brass raised his eyebrows at her again, smirking to add to his verbal emphasis.

Michelle shook hands with Grissom with her free right hand. "Dr. Grissom, pleasure to meet you. Please, call me Mickey. Michelle is for folks who don't know me or are about to give me a lecture on why I am not married at 34, or some dumb crap like that."

Grissom frowned momentarily at her frankness and at the seemingly inappropriate nickname, thinking that she sure wasn't "mousy-looking" by any stretch of the imagination, and then smiled in understanding.

"And you. Call me Gil. A Walt Disney fan perhaps?" He realized at that moment that she was probably a lot like Captain Brass: very intelligent, a little bit cynical, and more than a tad sarcastic.

Brass and his niece both laughed at this. "The Big Mouse is king where I live," she said, winking at Grissom with an impish look he knew so well in the detective captain when the mood struck him. "Actually, Uncle Jim has a hopelessly bad habit of giving nicknames in the family, and everybody gets one whether they want it or not. Some are more obscure than others, I swear, but you got it in one. Most folks don't even get the joke."

Gil noticed that her accent had changed again, very slightly and to a different region of the U.S., and he wondered how she did it. He chalked it up to his unresolved hearing issues these days.

Grissom immediately liked her quirky sense of humor, and was very pleased to learn about this new side of his friend and colleague. Even after working together for more than a decade, he knew very little about Brass' private life (though many in the Forensics/I.D. unit would say the same thing about him): he grew up playing lots of hockey in Massachusetts, right around Boston and some of the surrounding towns; he'd worked in Newark, New Jersey as a cop for many years before landing in Las Vegas; he was divorced; he had a twenty-something year old daughter; and, he had a thirty-something year old niece; that was about it.

"How did you know I'm a doctor? It's not a common assumption," he said.

The three of them sat comfortably around the Captain's desk, Mickey placing her glasses up on the corner of it. She undid her hair from the clip that held it in a neat ponytail and massaged her temples with a tired sigh.

"You've got the look Gil, of graduate school survivor I mean. What was your dissertation area?" She gingerly rubbed the bridge of her nose and then replaced the eyeglasses on her face.

"Ph.D. in forensic entomology mainly, plus a few other things. Yours?" An ironic smile tweaked at the corners of his mouth.

Mickey grinned, genuinely tickled at the fact that he knew she wasn't an M.D. either. "Ph.D. in soil microbiology mainly, plus a few other things. I'm teaching now, part-time since '97, and a consulting partner with an environmental firm in Tallahassee; 'bugs are us', if you will."

"Interesting combination, " Grissom commented.

She nodded her thanks to Brass, who had just handed her a small bottled water from the fridge at the back wall behind his desk. He guessed correctly that she probably wanted to lay off the caffeine for the night. East Coast-time, it was after two in the morning.

"Yeah, it worked out that way, strangely enough. My undergraduate program of study was biology and chemistry, and I played golf for the university; straight out, gung-ho pre-med for the first two and a half years. One creosote bioremediation project came through while I was a student lab assistant though, and surprise I was hooked on dirt and soil bacteria for life."

"See? Isn't that lovely? You're both bug doctors, " said the detective with an elfin grin.

Grissom and Mickey both turned sharply to him and started to protest in one voice, unconsciously saying the same words: "It's not the same th…"

Brass laughed, wickedly amused at their knee-jerk defensive reactions. He knew how to push his friend's buttons really well, and apparently his niece's too. The puckish devil on his shoulder was busy again tonight, as always.

Mickey realized before Grissom that her favorite uncle was teasing them, and she flipped the plastic cap from the water bottle across the desk, aiming for his forehead. "Thanks a bunch, pally. Taking advantage of the jet-lagged. Shame on you, Uncle Jimmy."

"Oh, you poor defensive thing," he fussed, dodging the little white cap, but his look was not the least contrite. "Come on Miss Crankypants, I'll give you a lift to your hotel before you get really mean, and start throwing big stuff at me."

He saw her eyeing a softball trophy with its team-signed ball on his bookcase, and he recognized the speculative shadow of a smile; Jim knew she had been a decent center-fielder in middle school, with a right arm like a cannon. Mickey grinned when she noticed that he had followed her train of thought. It was an old joke in the family, and thank goodness, no one had ever actually followed through with it.

Grissom's pager beeped for attention before he could make any kind of appropriate retort to the mild jabs: it read 'Robbins'. "That'll be the tox-screen, Jimmy. It was nice to meet you, Dr. Mickey. Maybe Brass will let you come back for a longer visit while you're in town."

"I'd like that, thank you. He's already told me about some of the really cool lab equipment you guys have in here. I need to check it out for my lab back home in Tallahassee."

Gil smiled at the captain who was trying to look innocent; Brass was a self-professed technophobe from way back.

"Really? Then I'm sure it can be arranged." He tapped the door with the stack of folders. "I'll let you know about the screen results as soon as possible, Jim. Good night, Mickey."

Brass reached into the top drawer of his desk to retrieve his car keys. "So, where you staying kiddo?"

Mickey finished the bottled water, then looked around for his trashcan and tossed it in, underhand. "Um, Hilton, yeah. Convention center, somewhere downtown I guess."

She smiled tiredly and slung a travel bag over one shoulder. A yawn escaped her as he bent to pick up a brown leather briefcase that looked much heavier. It was: laptop computer and God-knows what else. Jim gave a mock groan of effort when he straightened up again.

Brass grabbed his coffee for one last sip on the way out. He chuckled. "Poor little Mouse. You do look worn out. At least you travel light, " he said, nodding toward her shoulder bag.

She leaned over and poked him on the arm, then preceded him out the door. "Thanks. I have enough baggage to cart around as it is," she said cryptically. "You have no idea." The detective frowned and then filed the thought away on the short drive to the Las Vegas Hilton. He'd have to ask about that statement later.


Comments and questions cheerfully accepted.