Moment of Truth

By: Blue

Summary: Missing scene from 'Veritas'. Sara patches up Gabriel and they reflect on a few things.

Rating: PG

Disclaimer: I don't own them, I just enjoy getting inside of their heads from time to time…

Spoilers: "Veritas"

Feedback: Pretty please? Feed me, feed me!!!

Moment of Truth

He was grateful that Sara walked him up the stairs, but he was reluctant when she offered to come in with him for awhile. As much as he appreciated the offer, all he really wanted was a stiff drink and a pain-pill, followed by a hot shower and bed. Eventually, he gave into her increasing insistence. She was worried about him, a fact which he could not help but find gratifying. Besides, he wanted her to stay. The part of him that wanted nothing more than solitude and oblivion was small in comparison to the part of him that craved the kind of comfort that only a close friend could provide.

So he led her in, through the shop and to the small apartment that he occupied behind it. "You want, um, a drink?" he offered, reaching under the sink and pulling out an almost-full bottle of scotch, old like everything else in his store.

At her nod, he grabbed two water-glasses and half-filled them. He handed one to Sara, placing the other on the end-table near the couch and then walked into the bathroom. As he sifted through the medicine-cabinet for a prescription-bottle, he heard Sara moving around in the living-room, or perhaps the kitchen.

Sighing and closing his eyes against the bloodied and bruised creature in the mirror, he dry-swallowed one of the pills, hoping that it would make a dent in the pounding, burning pain in his head, chest, stomach… in fact, pretty much everywhere in his young body. Half-closing the door, he gingerly unbuttoned his shirt, wincing at the reflection that confronted him. The livid area under his right arm, wrapping around to his chest and stomach, and probably a sizable portion of his back as well, at least explained some of the pain he was feeling there.

"Oh, jeez, Gabriel…" Sara muttered from the door, looking at him. She had thought that the damage to his face would be the worst. She had been wrong. His lean body had more than one bruise, many almost black.

He turned, startled. He considered closing his shirt again, then changed his mind. In addition to the fact that Sara had probably seen far worse, an overly-modest reaction would only have proved Nottingham right about his feelings for Sara. He bowed his head and closed his eyes, though, not wanting to have to look into those pity-filled eyes. His eyes snapped opened when he felt cool hands tugging gently at his shirt. He looked up at Sara as she gently removed the shirt, sliding it carefully off of arms that no longer had a full range of motion.

"I'm sorry they got the film…" he said softly, ashamed and knowing that she would never have allowed them to take it, Witchblade or not.

"Hey!" she said sharply, dropping his shirt and taking his chin in her hands, forcing him to look at her. "No recording is worth your life, Gabriel." She sighed sadly. "I'd never forgive myself if anything happened to you because of me."

"So, this is life in your world?" he asked softly. It was not what he had expected, not glamorous or exciting, only frightening and hopeless. God, poor Sara.

Sara nodded grimly. "Welcome to it. You got a first-aid kit?"

He nodded and bent to retrieve it from its location under the sink, but winced. Sara bent around him and got it herself.

"Come on…" she muttered, steering him into the living-room and to the couch. She had a bowl of warm, soapy water and several clean rags waiting. She had satisfied herself in the cab that, despite more than one injury to his head, he did not have a concussion, which meant that she only needed to patch him up and make sure nothing was broken. A homicide cop, she knew from experience that it could have been a lot worse. "Let's get you cleaned up."

"Sara, you don't have to do this…" Gabriel told her softly.

She hushed him and dipped one of the rags in the water, wringing it out before dabbing it lightly against the cut on his forehead. As he gasped and pulled away, she gently caught his shoulder and held him in place, letting the hand with the washcloth drop. "Hey, hey, take it easy…" she murmured gently. "Just relax, Gabriel."

"Sorry…" Gabriel muttered, more than a little embarrassed to have flinched away like that. After all, he reminded himself, he had been in worse pain than that in the past, even if he could not think of when. He must have been at some point. Right? Okay, maybe not… He reached blindly for his glass of scotch and took a long pull.

Sara waited until he drained the glass and returned it to the table before she resumed her interrupted care. She could hardly blame him for wanting a drink. She fully planned on going home and getting hammered herself once she had taken care of his injuries and seen him off to bed. She was furious with them for what they had done to Gabe, more furious with herself for not having been there to protect him. As she gently cleaned away the blood that had dripped down his face and forehead, she looked into his brown eyes, sighing deeply. She knew that haunted look from her own mirror. He had lost something very precious tonight and would never gain it back.

Impulsively, she drew him into her arms again, as much to comfort herself as to comfort him. She placed her hands gingerly and held him loosely, not wanting to cause him further pain. With a stifled sob, Gabriel wrapped his arms tightly around her and buried his face in her shoulder. Murmuring soothingly, she moved one hand to the back of his head and just held him. He was not crying, but he was shaking. Fighting tears of her own, she rocked him gently, shaking her head.

"Gabriel…" she whispered. "I am so sorry."

She sighed as she stared at the large bruise on his back. It would take weeks to fade out, she was sure, and would hurt for much of that time. The men who had worked him over had been professionals, and she doubted that any ribs were broken, but she had to check. When he pulled away and straightened up, she bent and began prodding the bruise with gentle fingers.

Gabriel closed his eyes as she worked. It hurt like hell. It also tickled, and he found himself enjoying it a hell of a lot more than he knew he should have. Girlfriend, Bowman, he reminded himself sharply, opening his eyes and leaning out of Sara's reach. God, she was beautiful when she was worried.

"Nothing's broken, Sara…" he told her gently before she could ask why he had pulled away so quickly. "I swear, I'm going to be just fine. Why don't you go home and get some rest? You look fried."

She shook her head. "No, Gabe. I just don't feel right about leaving you here alone now."

Damn. He sighed and nodded. "Get you another drink?" he offered. The alcohol and the pill had combined to make him feel a little light-headed. Mercifully, though, they had also dulled much of the pain.

She shook her head, wanting to get him cleaned up so she would not have to look at the blood that he had been forced to shed tonight. Because of her. She picked up a clean rag and began loosening the blood around the gash on his forehead.

"Danny tells me you have a new girlfriend?" she asked as she worked. She knew that the last one had not worked out, but she had not known that he had found someone else. She needed something else to think about, anything at all but what those bastards had done to her friend. "He didn't catch her name, but he said she looked like an Inga or something…" Sara continued.

She smiled faintly recalling the look on Danny's face when he had described his impressions first of Gabe's shop, or more specifically to some of the items in the shop, and then of his girlfriend. Jake, Danny had declared after sending the rookie off for coffee, seemed to think that Gabriel deserved bonus points because she did not speak English. Danny had seemed far more impressed by the fact that Gabriel spoke Bulgarian.

Gabriel chuckled softly. "Inga. Her name actually is Inga."

Sara smiled faintly, glad that he had someone even if it did make her feel very lonely. She would patch him up, she would put him to bed, she would go home, alone, and he would probably call Inga to come keep him company. God, it had been so long since she had experienced a normal relationship that she could hardly remember what it felt like. He was a lucky man. She envied him. She envied Inga.

She worked in silence, then, brooding over everything that had happened in the past 24 hours. "All done…" she announced finally.

She picked up the bowl and the rags and carried them into the kitchen. The water had taken on an ugly, rusty cast that she did not want Gabriel to see. Blood, his blood, spilled because of her… She emptied the bowl into the sink and turned, surprised to find that Gabriel had followed her into the kitchen. He was holding up the bottle of scotch again.

"Get you that drink now?" he offered.

Sara nodded and rinsed the cloths as Gabriel filled two more glasses. "So, I'm thinking…" she began slowly. It hurt her to say what she was about to say, but she felt that it would be best for him. She sighed and accepted the glass from him, taking a long drink. "Gabe, people close to me have a habit of dying…"

"You asking me to back off?" he asked softly, staring at her. Could she honestly believe that he would abandon her like that?

"I think it would probably be smart. Safe."

He shook his head firmly. "No, Sara. You're my friend. I can help you. You need that right now. I mean, hell, we've both seen Nottingham's version of 'help'. It leaves a lot to be desired."

Sara sighed, frustrated and more than a little worried for him. "Gabriel… please. It's not safe for you to keep helping me. Don't you see that?"

He stood before her, shirtless, bruised, swollen, bloodied but unbowed. He looked at this woman who he had felt an instant affinity for and shook his head. "All I see is a woman who could really use a friend right now." He extended his hand, palm up, and regarded her steadily.

"Gabe, there's nothing to keep something like this from happening again. You have to understand that…"

"I do." He shrugged and walked over to the couch. The pill would have him swaying on his feet soon, and he did not want her to see him like that. He took a small sip from his glass and shrugged. "I'll be honest with you, Sara. Today, more than one person tried to kill me. I was chased, shot at, beaten, and it was horrifying." He looked up at her, shrugging. "And I'd do it all again for you. In a heartbeat." He watched as she rubbed the Witchblade on her wrist and knew that she thought that it was the reason why. "And it's not because of that thing." He rose and walked over to her again, looking her in the eyes and shaking her head. "It's because of you. Because you're my friend."

"Gabriel…" she whispered, moved almost to tears by his quiet words.

He smiled at her and drew her into his arms, recalling Nottingham's words. Crush my ass… he thought, hugging her as closely as he could without causing himself more pain. Unrequited his attraction may have been, but it was no crush. No man was willing to die for a woman he had a simple crush on. Maybe it was true that he was physically attracted to her, but his desire to help her had nothing to do with that. The first time he had seen her, he had known her, known that he had been her friend and ally, had lived and died for her, in a hundred lives before this one. And he had known just as surely that he would in a hundred lives after.

"I'm staying this out, Sara…" he told her softly. "No matter what you say or do, I'm sticking with you. Now go home and get some sleep."

Sara laughed once, softly, at that. "I'm supposed to be the one comforting you here, Gabe…" she reminded him gently.

"Oh, right." He let go of her, smiling and nodding. "My mistake. So, you going to tuck me in and read me a bedtime story now?" he teased. Part of him very badly wanted her to stay, girlfriend or not. He was lonely and scared, and more than a little tipsy, and even though he did not want anything to happen, he did not want to be alone.

"No…" she answered seriously, shaking her head. It was hard sometimes to tell if he was flirting in earnest of not. Not that it mattered. She was not of his world, after all. Still, she felt uncomfortable leaving him alone yet. "But I will sit up with you until you fall asleep." She paused, wondering if he would want her company. "If you want."

He smiled at her, that sly, shy grin of his. Very few women ever ended up on the receiving end of that particular smile, and those who found themselves there were typically powerless against it. It was not something he did on purpose, it was just who he was. "I'd like that, Sara."

"Okay." She smiled and nodded. "Let me know when you're changed." She waited in the living-room until Gabriel leaned back in, dressed in a pair of gray sweat-pants. "Ready to get tucked in…" he told her with a grin.

She shook her head. "Don't make me hurt you…" she muttered, following him into his bedroom. It was absolutely spartan compared to the shop and living-area, just a bed, a dresser, and a few dozen books scattered over every flat surface.

"I'd have cleaned up…" he began, transferring a pile of books from a chair to the windowsill. "But I wasn't exactly planning on company."

Sara nodded and settled into the chair as he climbed into bed. Satin sheets, she observed. The boy knew how to live. "So what you're telling me is that you actually were planning on everything else that happened today?" she asked wryly.

"Oh, yeah…" he yawned, nodding and settling his head into an over-stuffed pillow. "It was all in my horoscope."

Sara laughed softly and shook her head. "Night, Gabriel."

"Night, Sara." He rolled on to his side and smiled shyly at her. "You really don't have to stick around."

"Neither do you…" she pointed out.

"Don't have to…" he yawned. "Want to." He should not have had that second glass of scotch, he realized. The scotch and the painkiller were effecting him more strongly than a sleeping pill would have.

Sara smiled down at him as he curled up on his side, his hands clasped together under his chin. "Good night, Gabriel…" she whispered as he started to drift.

"Night, baby…" he replied, too asleep now to inhibit himself. "I love you."

"Sure you do…" she whispered, kissing the sleeping man on the cheek. Shaking her head, she rose and let herself out.

The End