Probably a one-shot, Sam's thoughts on Beth set after Death by a Thousand Cuts. Which I finally watched, even though I didn't really want to since I hate cliffhanger endings, particularly when there's not even a blurb online or a few words in the commentary about how they might have resolved it.

This includes my own interpretation of their pasts since I got the impression from the show that although Beth was new(ish) to the team, she and Sam had known each other for a while.


His hand twitched, adding a bright streak of reds and yellows and oranges to his painting, a splash of color where it had no business being, and Sam shook his head and set down his palette and brush when he realized what he'd done. That had been happening more and more lately, even when he was trying to concentrate on something else. Beth might have been the most recent addition to the team, but she was one of them now, and spending time in the field without her felt wrong somehow. And his subconsciousness seemed determined to drive that fact home.

It had been luck more than anything that had kept her alive through Rawlins' attack. Well, luck and her own mile-wide stubborn streak because although Rawlins had tied her ankles together, he hadn't tied them to the chair, and despite his training—or maybe in spite of it—Rawlins had been standing just a little too close when he'd pointed that gun at her head.

Beth hadn't managed to do much damage; hell, given the weight differential and the lousy positioning it was amazing that she'd been able to get enough force behind the kick to make him jerk his arm to the side even two inches, but those inches had turned what would have been a bullet hole in her forehead into an ugly graze along her temple. Her action had angered Rawlins enough that he'd lashed out and struck her with the gun rather than trying to shoot her a second time, and while the blow had left a nasty crack in her skull—more luck that it had neither killed her outright nor done permanent injury—it had also damaged the weapon enough to keep him from firing it again. And the fact that she'd been tied to the chair had actually made it harder for him to beat her.

Sam knew that Mick and Gina must have broken the sound barrier getting to the address that Stahl had blurted out when Sam had fired past his ear, and it was a good thing that they had because 'harder to beat' didn't mean impossible. Beth had been in surgery by the time that Sam had reached the hospital, but the injuries the doctors had described and the amount of her blood that had stained Mick's and Gina's hands and clothing…. Sam shook his head. He didn't like thinking about that even now. And as much as he knew that he shouldn't be, he was glad that Rawlins had ignored the order to stand down and died because of it because Sam didn't think that he'd have been able to restrain himself if he'd been forced to face the bastard.

They'd waited and worried for almost a week before Beth had opened her eyes, and it had been four additional days before the swelling around her throat had gone down enough for the doctors to remove the breathing tube. Those days had been almost as frightening as the ones when she hadn't been awake because she hadn't been able to communicate much beyond squeezes of the hand for 'yes' and 'no,' and while she'd obviously recognized him and the others on the team, they'd had to repeat an abbreviated explanation of what had happened every time she'd woken up just to keep her from trying to fight the doctors.

Fortunately her memory had improved as her head had healed, and thirteen days after regaining consciousness she'd finally been allowed on the jet to go home, but even then a medical team had met them at the airstrip and she'd been on bed rest for almost a month. Or supposedly on bed rest, at least. Sam smiled and shook his head. After the worst effects of the concussion had subsided, nothing short of force would have kept her in her room, and Sam and Mick and Gina had all decided pretty quickly to consider it a victory when she stayed in her apartment and accepted help with groceries. It had taken Prophet longer, mostly because he still felt bad about her being taken—although between the bullet hole in his arm and the concussion that he hadn't wanted to admit to he hadn't been in the best shape either; for a few weeks Sam's paintings had also been invaded by streaks of blue-grey—but even he'd eventually given in.

And then, despite still-bound ribs and her left arm in a sling, as soon as Beth had been officially allowed on her feet she'd started coming into the office for work. Sam more than the others had objected to that one; they'd been happy that she was close, but he'd have preferred her at home and safe until she was fully healed. She, on the other hand, had told him in no uncertain terms that there wasn't a damn thing wrong with her reading ability and daytime television made her want to shoot something. The fact that she was still healing and got fatigued after only a few hours had worked to his advantage and they'd more-or-less compromised with half-days a few times a week—more-or-less because on the days that she did come she did her damndest to stay as long as possible while he did everything short of ordering her out of there after lunch—but for the last few weeks she'd made it in for at least part of the day every day, even when he and the others had been called into the field, and assuming that the quals went okay it would be full time again starting next week.

He looked at the streak of color splashed across the canvas and shook his head. Beth was fire and fighter all the way. It had been twenty years since the first time he'd met her, and that was as true now as it had been in the beginning.

He couldn't say that their first encounter had been particularly auspicious. At least not at the start. Not long after he'd joined the FBI—he'd been twenty-six or so at the time since he'd started at seminary out of high school before deciding that the church wasn't quite the right place for him and then had gone on to get his criminology degree as well—he'd agreed to help a friend play a prank on a particularly obnoxious coworker. Griffith wasn't a name that had been familiar to Sam, but from Toby's description she was a real pain in the ass, and it wasn't like they'd intended to do her any actual harm. Unfortunately Toby had grossly overestimated her weight, and what would have been nothing more than a vaguely embarrassing podium collapse for a person thirty or forty pounds heavier had ended up knocking her to the ground during a presentation she'd been giving. She'd clenched her jaw and pushed herself back to her feet and kept right on going, but Sam had felt badly enough about his part in it that he'd waited around afterwards until the auditorium had cleared and then went down to the stage to apologize.

Of course, Beth being Beth although he hadn't known that at the time, she hadn't let him get more than three words of his apology out before ripping into him, and half his size and a couple of years younger or not, the sheer venom in her attack had put him on the defensive almost immediately. It had taken his shout that he was trying to say he was sorry to get her to stop yelling, and even then instead of going quiet she'd given him a scowl and told him that he was lying since no one ever said that to her. Since his temper had still been up and one thing he absolutely wasn't was a liar, he'd snapped right back that if she wasn't a total bitch people might, at which point her jaw had dropped and they'd been left staring at each other in silence. He'd figured that he'd totally torn it and had been about to mutter the rest of his apology and walk away when her blank expression had dissolved into a startling grin and she'd started laughing.

He smiled at the memory. After his shock had faded he'd started laughing as well, and the two of them had ended up sitting on the stage floor talking until the late-night janitor kicked them out. It had turned out that while her personality truly was acerbic, when she let her overly defensive front down a little she was actually pretty nice person. He'd thought about tracking her down again and seeing if she wanted to get dinner or a drink or something sometime, but then two days later he'd gotten his transfer papers to a team working out of the San Francisco office and it had never happened.

A year had passed before they'd seen each other again, and six or eight months before the encounter after that, but somehow they got into the habit of getting together for lunch or whatever when they had a chance. They'd never ended up based out of the same city again, but theirs was the sort of easy casual friendship that held up even when months went between chats, and she'd been one of the first people he'd talked to when he was considering taking a leave of absence from the FBI.

He hadn't known that she was transferring again when Fickler had been pushing him to finally complete his team and he'd seen her name on the list of available agents, but it hadn't really come as a shock. She was the best there was at what she did, and if it wasn't for the fact that she made him look like an expert in politics she'd have had her own team years ago, but as it was personality conflicts tended to keep her on the move. He'd given her a quick call to make sure that she was okay with it before grabbing her, and while he had worried a little about how she'd fit with the others since he knew her temperament as well as anyone, she'd settled in surprisingly easily. It had been as much of a shock to her as to anyone, he suspected, although she'd never come right out and said anything, but she really did belong with them. And although things could have turned awkward between them since he was now technically her boss, they never had.

Her presence on the team was good for him, too, and he knew it. As much as he was capable of following politics, bureaucracy had never done anything but give him a headache, and he didn't miss working out of the FBI building and all that that entailed. There were, however, times when he missed being able to grab a quick lunch with Aaron and Dave and some of the other guys he'd known for most of his career. He and Mick had been through more together than most people could imagine, but he'd always been Mick's superior, and that line remained even when the team went out for drinks or whatever. It was similar with Gina; he'd handpicked her out of the academy, and while she trusted and respected him and he felt the same in return, there were things that they just couldn't discuss. Prophet was closer to his age which might have made things easier despite their different backgrounds, but although they got along well enough, Prophet's easy 'boss' put a barrier between them as sure as the one that existed with the other two. Sam didn't know where Prophet's habit of distancing himself from authority had come from, whether he'd picked it up in prison or afterwards or maybe even in the years before that that he never spoke about, but there was no denying that it existed. Beth, on the other hand, he didn't doubt that she'd back him when he made a call even if she disagreed—though she'd damn well let him know that she disagreed—but they'd known each other for twenty years and there wasn't much that either would call off-limits.

He shook his head and sealed his paint cans quickly before putting his canvas aside and going to wash his hands. It was Saturday so the odds were that Beth would be home, and for someone he knew was accustomed to spending her free time alone, she'd never complained about him and the others dropping by. Besides, aside from the fact that his subconsciousness seemed to want some reassurance, he was pretty sure that she'd said something yesterday about a useless landlord and wanting to finish repainting her living room. Stubborn as hell or not, she was only five feet tall, and she could probably use a hand.