You can blame this one on Beaujolais and her suggestion that someone REALLY needed to write a nice little "what happened next" fic after Brass read Catherine the riot act in "The Gone Dead Train." Because, come on, there's no way Brass would come in on what was obviously his night off for just anyone...


Workman's Comp
by Alice Day


This is the last time I ever do a favor for Doc, Catherine Willows thought as she sat in an exam room at Desert Palms Hospital, the bite on her wrist no longer the worst pain on her body. That honor now went to the injection site of her brand new rabies vaccination, courtesy of the CDC and the late Darla Kelly.

The Grave shift supervisor spent a couple of unpleasant hours waiting with Ray Langston while the vaccine was couriered in from Atlanta, the nearest location that stocked the expensive serum. We get millions of tourists every year, all of them pumping God knows how much money into this state, and the Nevada health officials are too cheap to keep the appropriate rabies vaccine in stock? Un-freaking-believable. Once it arrived, she sent Ray back to the crime lab, insisting that he back Nick up while she waited out the short observation period.

A nice young Asian attending with a honey-thick Kentucky accent then injected her with the serum, apologizing for the burning sensation as it went into her bicep. "Normally we'd administer this intradermally, but since you were bitten by an infected human it needs to go directly into a muscle," he explained. "On the bright side, at least you don't have to get a series of shots in your stomach anymore."

"Lucky me," she grunted.

That was a half hour ago. She was wondering if she could stretch out and catch a quick nap on the exam table when the door opened. Unfortunately, it wasn't the attending who'd administered the vaccine. After seeing the look on her visitor's face, Catherine would have preferred another shot.

"Before you ask, your doc said I could come in," Captain Jim Brass said, closing the door and folding his arms across his chest. "You're in the clear -- you can take off whenever you're ready. Oh, and I'll be driving you directly home, so don't even think about sneaking back to the lab. Nick's got a handle on everything -- you're officially on sick leave until tomorrow night."

Catherine groaned. The black t-shirt and jeans Jim wore meant that he'd been at his place rather than the station. Which meant that someone in the lab called him on his day off about Doc Robbins' discovery, just as they'd called him last night after she fought with Mrs. Kelly. Catherine had her suspicions about the informant, and they rhymed with 'Nick Stokes'. Sellout.

"By the way, I will shoot you if you try to bite me," he added.

"Oh, ha ha," she said sourly, rubbing her arm. "I got the vaccine. You're safe."

"Good. More importantly, you're safe," the Homicide captain said, coming over to the table. One large, warm hand curled around hers, holding it gently but firmly. "Baby, you scared the hell out of me last night."

"I know," she said, unable to meet his eyes. Last night she'd hoped it looked like embarrassment to Langston and the paramedic; plain old humiliation at being caught in a rookie mistake. Now she recognized it as the special kind of guilt you felt when you inadvertently terrified someone you loved.

And it sucked.

"Jim, I didn't think there was going to be a problem, I swear to God," she insisted. "I was just doing the doc a favor."

"Uh-huh. So that's why you went into a dark house with an open front door all by yourself," he said in what she recognized as his "velvet glove" interrogation voice. "I talked to Doc -- he told me what happened."

She scowled. The hell with Cirque du Soleil -- there better be one damn big bouquet of "I'm sorry I shot my mouth off to your boyfriend" roses waiting for me when I get back.

The worst part of it all was, Jim was absolutely right. She'd known something was off when the door opened at her push, when the lights were out and Mrs. Kelly didn't answer her call. Her gut was screaming at her to wait for Al, and she went inside anyway.

"Catherine." He cupped her cheek, gently making her look at him. "You know better than that. Why'd you do it?"

She pulled away from his touch. "Because I had to."

His eyes narrowed. "What do you mean, you had to?"

She brushed her hair out of her face, wincing a bit at the pain in her arm. "Because I'm the shift supervisor," she said bluntly. "And I'm a female shift supervisor which means I always have to be that much tougher because God forbid I show a sign of weakness. I don't have the luxury of wimping out and asking someone to take care of me." She shook her head. "Hell, I wouldn't do that even if I could. And calling for armed backup just to ask a grief-stricken mother some questions -- Jesus, Jim, I would've looked like a grade A moron."

He was silent for a long moment. "So, let me get this straight," he finally said. "You went into a situation that tweaked you because you were afraid of looking stupid?"

She pressed her lips together. You would have to put it that way. "Yeah," she admitted.

Another long pause. "Baby, are you sure you were never in the Marines?"

She couldn't help chuckling. "Yeah, pretty sure."

"Mm-hmm." He put his arms around her, pulling her close. "Well, at least it's nice to know how I'm gonna die," he sighed. "Between you CSIs and Ellie, I'm gonna stroke out from stress long before some moe gets the chance to shoot me."

"Pour some salt on the wound, why don't you?" But she slid her arms around him and held him tight. "I'm sorry I scared you," she murmured. "I really am."

"Yeah, well, guess I have to forgive you," he said, kissing her on the temple. "Just don't do it again, okay? I'd rather have you stupid and alive than tough and dead." He pulled back, looking her in the eye. "And if I do get called in again because you're hurt, you're gonna get hugged and kissed in front of everyone, you got that? Screw discretion -- I'm not holding back anymore."

"Gotcha." She raised an eyebrow. "So, um, wanna practice being indiscreet?"

"I thought you'd never ask." He moved closer, then stopped. "Shit. Cath--"

She realized the problem at the same time. "You can't kiss me," she said, woeful. "The virus can be passed in saliva, and I'm still infectious."

He thought for a moment, then took her hand and raised it to his lips, brushing them across her knuckles in a caress that make her shiver. "Consider that an IOU," he said softly. "Now I'm taking you home, then I'm gonna make you something to eat, and then you're going to bed."

"Alone?"

"Hell no. I'm afraid you'd clock yourself on the headboard or something."

She smacked his arm lightly. "You are so lucky they already gave me the vaccine," she said, grinning.

He grinned back, his eyes turning the stormy color that she loved. "No biting today, just in case," he said. "But you can chew on me all you like tomorrow, how's that?"

Catherine licked her lips. "You got yourself a deal."