Title: I'd Rather Not
Rating: K+
Disclaimer: I don't own CSI, although I wouldn't mind it if I did. And if anyone really thinks I make money off of things like the stories I write, then they're plain stupid.
Spoilers: Tag to "World's End"
Beta: I would like to thank the wonderful SeattleCSIFan for her beta of this. As always, she did a wonderful job.

Author's Note: Reviews are appreciated. I hope you enjoy.


Las Vegas police captain Jim Brass sometimes wondered if he had the brains God gave a squirrel. His faux pas hadn't been intentional. Thoughtless would be a better way to describe it – at least, thoughtless on his part.

Spying the woman he sought in the small vegetarian restaurant, he smiled and approached with a half-wave of his hand. As he settled in across from her, she studied him with a look of curiosity.

Meanwhile, Sara Sidle-Grissom studied the detective as he settled in and raised his hand to garner the attention of the waitress. It had been a long time since he sought her company outside of work, and she wondered what had his eyes shadowed in dark circles.

"You look like hell," she eventually said, as the waitress dropped a menu in front of him and he ordered a coffee.

"Yeah, well…" he started to say something, and then left off, unsure of how to approach the topic he needed to broach. Blowing out a breath, he decided now was as good a time as any and said, "I'm sorry."

At her curious look, he shrugged and said, "I shouldn't have given you a bad time about not wanting to go into the storm drain during this case."

Understanding dawned in her eyes. She hadn't been able to fool him with her excuse of wanting to know what kind of a family bred hatred, after all.

"Look, I can understand why you wouldn't want to go underground after a flood," he continued. "I didn't really think about it until later, and I kicked myself."

"Musta hurt," she quipped, although the intended humor didn't reach her eyes.

"Ha ha," he replied, as the waitress approached and he quickly gave her his order.

Settling back in his chair, he studied the brunette again, noting the changes in her features. Had he tried to talk to her a couple of years ago about this, her face would've become a mask of impenetrable blandness… or she would've looked pissed. That she simply looked soft and sad took him by surprise and he wondered at the differences marriage and time had made.

"Jim, it's okay," she eventually said. Tilting her head, Sara gave him a gap-toothed grin that did reach her eyes and she ruefully continued, "I know my limits. I really do now. It's why I left, and it's why I know there are some things I just can't do."

"Yeah, well, I'm glad," he replied. And he was. There had been a time when her self-destructive bent had almost succeeded. More than once, he'd watched her hold herself together with a little grit and determination, and a lot of invisible duct tape.

"I still can't stand the sound of rushing water. It brings back being under the car, in the desert, and drowning in mud," she admitted. Although, she'd grown accustomed to the lazy sounds of river water and waterfalls while in the tropics. Even then, there had been a few moments of panic when she'd nearly toppled herself and her new husband into the water. It had made their honeymoon off chasing bugs an interesting experience.

"Your abduction by Natalie was long enough ago that I don't think of it every day," Jim admitted, bashfully looking down.

In Sara's mind, she wondered if the look on his face was due to his admission of not thinking of it often anymore or the fact that he'd apparently thought of it so frequently. After her time alone in the desert canyon, she'd had so many moments of doubt and self-recrimination that she'd begun to question her own sanity. Whispers in the back of her mind had driven her from the only home she'd really known. Sure, the little angel and devil on her shoulders had always been there, but after being buried under a car and left to die in the floods…

Those slight whispers had become a deafening roar.

It had taken the peace of the jungle, and the lazy camaraderie of newfound friends to make those whispers die down again. Then Grissom had come along and proved to her that sometimes fate wasn't so cruel after all.

She'd just come to the conclusion that she could be happy alone. Always independent, she'd found it odd that being alone had habitually terrified her. In the middle of a jungle, she'd discovered that sense of self-realization that most experience in their formidable years. Then again her formidable years had been spent in quiet, studious terror. One didn't grow up moving from home to home as a teenager without feeling traumatized.

"You okay?" Jim asked as her silence reigned.

Thinking of Grissom – off teaching a course and loving every minute of it, Sara smiled. She worked with the best in her field. The man she loved more than any other was giddily filling up young minds. And somewhere in the midst of it all, she finally acknowledged that these people – Jim, Catherine, Nick, Greg, and even Warrick – were family. That sometimes letting go opened up a world of possibilities.

"You know? I'm not okay. I'm great," she replied, sitting back as the waitress brought their meals and settled them on the table.

As Jim took his first bite, Sara eyed him and added, "But I've got my limits. And sometimes when I'm told to do something I'll have to say that I'd rather not."

"That's good, kid," Jim gruffly replied after swallowing a bite of something yellowish-green that should have been an omelet. Frowning, he dropped his fork with a clatter on his plate, took a large swig of coffee, and muttered, "But let me say this. Sometimes I will too. Like right now? This breakfast? I'd rather not."

Chuckling, Sara shook her head and continued to eat.

Life really was good, even when Jim started muttering about bacon.