|A Promise to Keep
Author: GSRFanGirl PM
After a 10-month absence, Sara, still struggling with the ghosts from her past, returns to Vegas, only to find that Grissom has already left. It's mostly GSR, but it does have some Wedges & YoBling, too. For my old readers, new stuff begins at Ch 73.Rated: Fiction T - English - Angst/Drama - Sara S. & Gil G. - Chapters: 88 - Words: 268,488 - Reviews: 296 - Favs: 71 - Follows: 103 - Updated: 08-10-09 - Published: 04-18-08 - id: 4205216
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: I'm sorry for how long it has taken me to update this story, but I've had a lot going on lately that hasn't given me a lot of time to write. I had my house on the market for 14 months, and towards the end of the listing I had to slash the price in half. Once I did, my house ended up getting shown a lot, sometimes once or twice a day. After awhile, it seemed like all I was ever doing was preparing for a showing or waiting on a showing to be through. Writing a fan fic had to take second place to making sure the furniture was dusted, the dishes were clean, the bed was made, and the carpet didn't reek of pee.
My mother also died unexpectedly at the end of April. Her insurance wasn't enough to pay off her house, so I ended up spending about two months back in my hometown helping my sister pack up my mom's things and catering to my nephew's every whim. I had very little computer access for the first month, and during the second month my computer use was limited to whatever video game my nephew was telling me to play.
However, even if those things had not happened, I honestly just needed to take a break from the whole CSI fandom. It can be rather draining at times, especially when it comes to just how overly critical some factions of it can be, and I don't just mean in terms of writing fan fiction.
On that subject, I'm just going to say this. If you're one of those people who find me stiff and blunt and who will only tolerate me if I add LOL and ha-ha at the end of everything I say, then you probably shouldn't be reading this story. It's all together possible that in writing this chapter and future chapters that I will continue to be stiff and blunt or that I will make Sara or some other character stiff and blunt, and I know that offends your delicate sensibilities. It's also all together possible that I may interject sarcasm into the story without adding LOL or ha-ha after it. Thus, certain plot points or dialogue may go completely over your heads. I'm sure that there are plenty of unblunt, unstiff, unsarcastic stories out there that you can choose from.
And, yes, before anyone says so in a comment, I know that I'm being stiff and blunt right now, but I figure at this point I might as well live up to my reputation. That being said, for the five people who don't find me offensive and recently PM'd me about updating, here is your update, all 57 pages worth. Hopefully, at least the five of you will enjoy it.
"For the hundredth time, I'm fine. Will everyone just stop fussing over me already and go see about my friend?" Catherine asked the nurse who was strapping the blood pressure cuff on her arm. It was the third time that a nurse had checked her blood pressure in the last thirty minutes. If her blood pressure wasn't elevated when she was brought into the ER, it sure was now.
"Mrs. Willows," the nurse began, as she pumped the rubber bulb, inflating the cuff.
"Ms. Willows," Catherine corrected.
"Ms. Willows, as I have told you before, we have people who are looking after your friend. Now let us look after you." The nurse released the bulb slowly, letting air escape as she tried to listen to Catherine's heartbeat over the onslaught of complaints.
"And as I've told you before, there is nothing to look after. I'm fine. I have some cuts and some bruises, and I'm probably not going to be able to move tomorrow, but otherwise I am fine. Now can I please go?"
The nurse noted the reading on her chart before removing the cuff from her arm. "Not until we get your test results back."
"And how much longer is that going to be?"
"The results should be back any minute now. Please just try to be patient."
"Patience isn't exactly her strongest virtue," Warrick stated from the doorway.
"So I've noticed," the nurse mumbled under her breath before leaving the room.
"Warrick, what are you doing here?" Catherine asked, surprised by his sudden appearance.
"Brass called. He said that you and Sara had been in an accident."
"Yeah, some drunk driver ran a red light and smashed into us. How is Sara? They won't tell me anything."
Warrick started towards the examination table but then stopped, as if he had finally remembered that he and Catherine were on the outs. "Ronnie said they're taking her into surgery."
Catherine, who had noticed Warrick's sudden hesitation, tried to pretend that she had not as she asked, "What for?"
"Her spleen. Apparently there was damage from the wreck."
"Her spleen...She was complaining that her stomach was hurting in the car, but I just though it was from the seat belt tightening. Are they going to have to remove it?"
"Ronnie said that they don't know yet. They're hoping that they can just repair the damage, but if they can't..."
Catherine looked around the room, trying to find where the nurse had put her phone. "Has anyone called Gil?"
"Ronnie and Brass both tried. He wouldn't answer, so Brass has gone to get him."
"Good," Catherine responded, as she finally located the phone on the tray table across the room. "What about Nick and Greg?"
"Ronnie said that they're just waiting for Ecklie to send someone from days or swing to replace them, then they're on their way."
"What about our scene? Ecklie said that no one was available from days."
"I don't know. I guess he's calling in swing for that as well."
"Okay, so that's handled. What about Sara's brother? Richard? Ritchie? Has anyone called him yet?"
"I don't know. I didn't think to ask."
"It's okay. I'll do it. I don't have his number, but I can probably just call the main line at the LAPD and get patched through. I just have to get my phone."
"Catherine, you were just in an accident. Let someone else handle it."
"I don't mind."
"I know, and I'm sure Sara would appreciate the fact that you're trying to handle everything for her, but she'd want you to take care of yourself, too."
"I'm fine," Catherine protested.
"So you keep saying, but why don't we wait for the test results to confirm that fact before you go charging into the waiting room and start micromanaging everything?"
"Okay, okay," Catherine said, throwing up her hands in surrender. Both she and Warrick remained quiet for a few minutes. Catherine finally broke the silence by saying, "This is so surreal. One minute we were fighting about you. The next minute..."
Warrick sighed. "Catherine, nothing happened between me and Sara."
"I know that now. I was just angry, and I let my anger skew my judgment."
"I know the feeling," Warrick admitted, thinking back to the night at the hotel.
"In the car she kept telling me to leave her, to save myself and forget about her."
"No. I stayed with her."
"That's good. At least she wasn't alone."
"She'll be okay, right?"
"Who, Sara? She'll be fine. I have no doubts that Sara will probably outlast us all."
"Just in case, I should probably be out there. Gil might need me." Catherine slid off the end of the examining table, but her knees buckled as she attempted to stand up. Warrick, seeing that she was about to fall, quickly closed the distance between them and caught her before she hit the floor.
"Whoa," Warrick said, as he helped her straighten back up. "I told you we should wait for the results."
"I'm fine," Catherine once again declared. "I just didn't get to eat breakfast before Ecklie called me in."
"Right...Just the same, you're going to sit here until the doctor comes back in and tells you that you can leave."
Catherine shook her head as she said, "Fine. Whatever," and allowed Warrick to guide her back onto the table.
Approximately 10 minutes later, Catherine's doctor arrived with the test results. Catherine, frustrated by how long she had been required to wait, crossed her arms and glared at the doctor. "Well, it's about time," she told the doctor. "Now can you please tell him and everyone else that I'm okay?"
The doctor looked up from her charts. "She's okay," he told Warrick. "In fact, they both are."
"Sara's out of surgery?" Catherine asked.
The doctor look confused by Catherine's question. "Who's Sara?"
"Sara Grissom. She was brought in at the same time as me."
"I'm not sure about her. I'll have to check."
"But you just said that we'll both be okay."
"I was actually talking about you and your baby."
"My what?" Catherine asked, at the same time that Warrick said, "What did you just say?"
"Your baby. You're pregnant."
Catherine held up her hands in protest. "No. That's...that's impossible," she stammered.
"I assure you that it's quite possible," the doctor replied, looking down at Catherine's charts. "In fact, we ran the test twice just to make sure."
"Then run it a third time because there is no way that I'm pregnant. I am 45 years old. I have a 17 year old daughter at home. I cannot be pregnant."
"But you are. Of course, at your age there is a higher risk of complications, but as long as you take care of yourself and follow your doctor's orders, I see no reason why you can't have anything but a perfectly normal pregnancy."
"That's not what I meant," Catherine mumbled.
"I'm going to write you a prescription for prenatal vitamins. Of course, I recommend that you make an appointment with your OB-GYN as soon as possible, as he or she may want you on something else and you can discuss any concerns you have about the pregnancy at that time. If I were you, I would also take it easy for the next couple of days." The doctor scribbled something onto his prescription pad, tore the top piece of paper off, and handed it to Catherine. "You're free to go."
Catherine, shell-shocked, stared down at the piece of paper. "Did that just happen?" she asked Warrick as soon as the doctor had left the room. When Warrick didn't answer, Catherine finally looked up from the prescription and over at him.
"Is it mine?" Warrick inquired.
"Yes. Of course, it's yours. How could you even ask me that?"
"How could I not?" he asked.
When Catherine failed to answer, Warrick left the room as well.
The smell was making him nauseous. It never ceased to amaze Grissom that, no matter how clean and sterile the hospital environment, the vague odor of urine still remained in the air. Given his profession, the smell should not have bothered him, and, under any other circumstances, he would have found it to be a minor annoyance. However, given today's circumstances, given the fact that his wife was laying on a table upstairs, having her spleen removed, while he sat down here, powerless to help, he found the odor nothing short of sickening.
Over the last hour, other members of the team and the LVPD had trickled in, as news of Catherine and Sara's accident had spread throughout the department. While he appreciated their support, both their faces and well wishes had become a blur, mere background noise to questions he could not answer, to the thoughts that had preoccupied him since opening the door. What if something went wrong during the operation? What if Sara didn't make it? What would he tell Connor and Ava? How would he raise them alone?
"I thought you could use this," Catherine said, as she slipped a paper cup into his hand and momentarily interrupted his thoughts.
"Vending machine coffee?" Grissom asked, staring down at the brown liquid.
"It beats the stuff at the lab."
Grissom took a sip and grimaced. "Not by much," he commented, as he placed the cup on the coffee table closest to him.
Sitting down next to him, Catherine inquired, "How are you holding up?"
Grissom shrugged. "As well as can be expected."
"She's going to be okay."
"That's what everyone keeps telling me." Grissom looked over at Catherine and stated, "I thought you would have gone home by now."
"I'm not leaving. I plan on sitting right here until either the hospital or Sara kicks me out."
"Have you seen a doctor yet?"
Catherine hesitated before answering, "And I'm fine. You know me. I'm like a Timex watch. I can take a licking and keep on ticking."
Grissom smiled for a moment and then, as if remembering where he was, stopped. Staring off into the distance, he asked, "How do we keep ending up here, Catherine?"
"Is that a rhetorical question, or do you really want an answer?"
"I don't know. I just keep thinking about how many times over the last few years we've sat in this very room, waiting for a doctor to come out and tell us that someone we care about didn't make it, and how many of those times that the doctor came out and told us the exact opposite."
"We've been lucky, Gil."
"Which is what I'm worried about. You and I have both lived in this town long enough to know that the odds are always in favor of the house. Sooner or later, our luck is going to run out."
"That doesn't mean it has to be today."
"But what if it does, Catherine? People die on the operating table every day. What if that happens today? What if Sara dies? What am I supposed to do then? What are my kids supposed to do?"
"You shouldn't be thinking about those things."
"Then what should I be thinking about? Please, tell me, because right now all I can think about is if Sara doesn't make it, I'm going to have to go home and tell my son that his mother is never coming back. He already has abandonment issues. If Sara dies..."
"Sara is not going to die," Catherine stated resolutely.
Grissom, however, seemed not to hear Catherine as he continued, "And what about Ava? My daughter is only five months old, Catherine. If Sara dies, she's not even going to remember her a few years from now. She'll just be a picture in a frame."
"I'm sure you won't let that happen."
"But what if I do? You've said it yourself time and time again. I'm not a people person, so how am I supposed to raise two kids alone? When I first got back, I could not even change a diaper correctly without having an eight year old walk me through it."
"But you learned."
"Yes, I learned after about the tenth diaper fell on the floor."
"So you'll learn everything else as well."
"But life doesn't always give you ten chances to get something right. What am I supposed to do then?"
"Then you let your family help you." Catherine slipped her hand in Grissom's and gave it a reassuring squeeze. "Look around, Gil. People person or not, you're not alone. Neither is Sara."
Grissom, who never felt more alone, merely sighed in response. Catherine, however, wouldn't be deterred. "Do you want me to prove it to you? Okay. How about this? Immediately after the accident, Sara and I smelled gas. My first thought was to get us both out of there before the car blew up, but Sara's legs were pinned down and I couldn't get them unstuck. She kept telling me to leave her."
"No, not even after the paramedics tried to drag me out. Sara and I may fight like cats and dogs sometimes--"
"Sometimes?" Grissom asked, raising one eyebrow.
"Okay, more than sometimes lately, but I would never leave her alone, not like that. I would like to think that, had the situation been reversed, had I been the one stuck in that car, she wouldn't have left me alone either."
"She wouldn't have."
"So what makes you think that she's going to leave you and the kids alone? Sara is a survivor, Gil. She's survived a lot worse. She'll survive this."
"I hope so."
"I know so, so drink your bad coffee and snap out of it because if you're still talking like this when Sara gets out of surgery, you're going to really piss her off."
"Hey, how's Sara?" Greg asked, as he and Nick approached Warrick outside the ER.
Warrick glanced up from his own cup of bad coffee and replied, "She's still in surgery."
"How's Catherine?" Nick asked.
"Better than Sara," Warrick answered, as he returned his gaze to the coffee.
"What does that mean exactly?"
"It means that she's a little banged up, Nick. Can we just leave it at that for now?"
"Hey, I was just asking," Nick responded defensively.
"I know. I'm sorry, man. It's just been a rough day."
"Is that why you're out here?" Greg inquired.
Warrick placed his coffee cup beside him on the bench and leaned back against the stucco wall. Closing his eyes, he said, "I needed some fresh air."
"I can understand that. I spent one too many days in there myself," Greg responded, as he glanced over at the double automatic doors.
"I think we all have," Nick added.
The three men stood in silence for a few minutes. Greg was the first to break it. "Okay, then. Well, I'm going to go in and see if Grissom needs anything. Are you guys coming?"
Nick answered, "We'll be there in a minute." Once Greg had disappeared inside, he turned to Warrick. "So do you want to talk about it?"
"Talk about what?" Warrick asked, opening his eyes.
"The real reason you're out here."
Warrick sighed. "Maybe later, Nick. Right now I just need some time by myself."
"Okay, but if you change your mind and you want to talk, you know where to find me."
"You're welcome. Enjoy your coffee." When Warrick grimaced at the suggestion, Nick chuckled. "That bad?"
"Let's just say that I think the hospital and the lab buy their coffee from the same supplier."
"Nice. Maybe I'll pull rank and send Greg on a coffee run later."
"I'm sure he'd appreciate that."
"He'll get over it."
"Have you met Greg?"
Sara was out of surgery.
Grissom sat down beside her hospital bed and took her right hand in his, the way he had so many months before. As he peered at his wife's sleeping countenance, her face blemished by cuts inflicted by the SUV's glass and bruises from the passenger side air bag, he experienced the distinct sense of deja vu, a feeling of familiarity that only made him squeeze her hand tighter.
She had not opened her eyes since the helicopter. Everyone assured him that it was to be expected, given what she had been through. The diagnoses, a cyclone of terms that even a layman could understand the gravity of, continued to rotate through his mind as he held her right hand. Heat stroke. Dehydration. Concussion. Multiple fractures and contusions. Even now, hours after Nick had first spotted the speck of light reflecting off the Mustang's broken side mirror, he knew that she was still at risk, that despite their best efforts to find her, despite the determination that she had shown in escaping the car, despite the cooling blankets, ice packs, and intravenous fluids, her organs could still succumb to the effects of the desert heat.
As Grissom tightened his grip around Sara's hand, he could feel his mother's rosary beads pushing against his palm. Catherine had placed them beside him an hour earlier while giving his shoulder a reassuring squeeze. "I figured they couldn't hurt," she had said softly, before returning to the waiting room down the hall where the rest of the team stood vigil.
Although he had not practiced the Catholic devotion in years, Grissom had found himself reaching for the beads and wrapping them around his left hand, silently reciting from memory the prayers that his mother had taught him decades before. A short time later he had abandoned the words but not the rosary, as he had found the feel of them reassuring against his palm.
The beads shifted in his hand, slightly at first, then with more force. Grissom opened his hands and watched as Sara's fingers moved against his own. He then turned his gaze to the pale face that was now marred by small cuts and bruises, battle scars from the night she had endured. "Sara?" he inquired.
Sara answered with a soft moan and a flutter of eyelashes. Grissom stood up from his chair, placed his mother's rosary beads on the night stand, and then sat facing Sara on the hospital bed. He noticed that a stray strand of hair, a curly lock that he knew she had painstakingly straightened some 24 hours before, had fallen across one eye. He reached for the curl and gently tucked it behind Sara's right ear before questioning her again, "Sara?"
This time Sara's eyes opened fully and focused on him. "Hi," he said, smiling.
She attempted to smile back but winced when the movement irritated the cuts and bruises. "Hi," she managed to say in a scratchy voice before wincing again and reaching with her right hand for her throat.
"Here, let me get you some water," Grissom offered, standing up. Sara gave a small nod before Grissom hurried over to the pitcher of water on the rolling cart, poured her a cup, grabbed a straw, and brought both the cup and the straw back to the bed. He placed the straw in the cup and held it up to Sara's lips. "Here, drink," he directed.
Sara sipped from the straw for a minute before telling Grissom, "Thanks." While Grissom placed the cup on the side table, Sara's eyes darted around the hospital room, taking in her new surroundings. Only when Grissom sat back down did they finally still. "You found me," she stated.
"Well, I can't take all the credit," Grissom responded.
"I wasn't sure," Sara said, her voice trailing off as she moved her gaze to the IV bags hanging from the pole next to the bed. She paused for a moment and then asked, "Natalie?"
"We found her, too."
"Good." When Sara turned back to him, Grissom noted that her eyes seemed sad. Attributing the sadness to fatigue and stress rather than genuine melancholy, Grissom reached out and stroked her cheek in an attempt to comfort her. Sara closed her eyes in response.
"I'm sorry," she muttered.
"For what?" Grissom asked, lowering his hand.
"I should have stayed with the car."
"No, you needed to get to higher ground. You did the right thing."
"Did I?" she asked, as she broke eye contact.
Grissom, perplexed by the question, rubbed her hand and tried to reassure her. "You did everything you could."
Sara shrugged and looked down at their hands. "How long have you been here?" she inquired.
"A few hours," Grissom confessed.
Sara pulled her hand from his. "You should probably go then before anyone gets suspicious."
"No, it's not. We've been through this before. If Ecklie finds out about us, you could lose your job. We both could."
"I'm sure by now Conrad already knows."
"What?" Sara asked, looking up.
"Some things kind of came out while we were trying to find you," Grissom admitted sheepishly.
"Great..." Sara mumbled, as she stared at the door, half-expecting Ecklie to walk in with a pink slip in hand.
"Look, Sara, don't let it worry you. I can handle Conrad. It will be okay. Everything is going to be okay."
"You say that now." Grissom, again puzzled by Sara's words, silently watched her turn her attention from the door to the thin, white sheet that covered her. After a few minutes of picking at a stray thread, she took a deep breath and said, "Gil, there's, uh, there's something I need to tell you."
Before she could tell him what that something was, someone knocked lightly on the door. Sara looked up and Grissom turned towards the source of the knock to find Catherine, Warrick, Greg, and Nick standing in the doorway. "You're awake," Greg proclaimed. He walked into the room, the others following him.
"That I am," Sara responded.
Grissom turned back to her and noted that she was now smiling. Taking the smile as a sign that she was feeling better, he failed to ask her what that something was sometime later, when the team had left and it was just the two of them again. She was alive. That was the only something he needed to know.
Catherine was right; he needed to snap out of it. She was alive now. He knew that people got their spleens removed every day and went on to live long, healthy lives. Sara was going to do the same. She was going to wake up, and they would either go back to fighting about Heather or they would try to work things out. Which one wasn't so important to him anymore. He could live with either outcome so long as she did, in fact, live. As for the alternative, that he could not fathom.
He did not have to think about the alternative for long, as Sara opened her eyes a few minutes later and looked at him.
"Hiii," she said, her voice slightly slurred from the effects of the anesthesia.
"Hi, yourself," Grissom replied. Temporarily pushing his worries aside, he smiled at her and attempted to make a joke. "You know we've got to stop meeting like this."
"No kidding," Sara responded, as she slowly looked around the hospital room. "Which hospital am I in?"
Sara closed her eyes and commented, "Mmm, my fave. What happened this time?"
"Don't you remember?"
"No, the last thing I remember is Catherine picking me up from Dr. Young's and getting in a fight with her about Warrick." Sara opened her eyes and looked at Grissom again as a thought occurred to her. "Wait. Did she try to kill me? Is that why I'm here?"
"No. The two of you were in an accident."
"So she accidentally tried to kill me?"
"No, a drunk driver ran a red light and hit you."
Sara groaned as she tried to sit up higher in the bed. "Well, that explains why I feel like I got run over by a truck." Grissom, noticing Sara's struggles, quickly stood and helped her sit up. "Thanks," Sara told him. "How is Catherine? Is she okay?"
"She's fine," Grissom answered while readjusting her pillows. "She's a little scratched up, but otherwise she seems to be doing fine. She's worried about you."
Sara leaned back against the pillows. "Yeah, she's worried I'll get better and take Warrick away from her."
"No, I don't think that's it," Grissom stated, returning to his chair. "I think she's genuinely concerned. She told me that she stayed with you in the car, even after the rescue workers tried to make her get out."
"That was nice of her, almost uncharacteristically so these days. Are you sure she wasn't trapped and had no choice but to stay with me?"
"Yes, from what I've been told, she could get out. You couldn't. She said that she didn't want you to be alone."
"Oh. I'll have to thank her later," Sara said, wincing at the last few words. She rubbed her neck and asked, "Why is my throat so sore?"
"It's probably from the breathing tube."
"The breathing tube?" Sara repeated, her eyes darting around the room in panic. "How long have I been here? What's wrong with me?"
Grissom, fearing Sara would have a panic attack before he could tell her about the surgery, grabbed her hand and tried to get her to focus on him. "Sara, honey, look at me," he directed, but Sara continued to look everywhere but him. Not knowing what else to do, Grissom took Sara's face in his hands and forced her to look at him. "Sara," he repeated several times before she finally answered him in a soft voice, "What's wrong with me?"
"Nothing is wrong with you. You just had to have a splenectomy. That's all."
"A splenectomy? I had to have my spleen removed? Why?"
"The car that ran into you hit the SUV on your side. The impact was hard enough to rupture your spleen. Apparently, there was too much damage to treat it any other way." Sara began to tear up so Grissom tried to reassure her that she would be okay. "Hey, you're going to be fine. You can live a long, healthy life without a spleen. You'll just be a little more susceptible to infections than the average person, that's all. We'll just have to make sure that you get your flu shot every year, take your vitamin C, get plenty of rest, stuff you should be doing anyway."
"How long have I been here?"
"Just a few hours."
Sara nodded and whispered, "Okay." Grissom, taking the movement as a sign that her panic had subsided, wiped away a tear with his thumb before removing his hands from her face and awkwardly placing them in his lap. "What about the kids. Do they know?"
"Not yet. Connor is still at school. Ava is with Rachel."
"If I don't come home..." Sara said, her voice trailing off as she thought about the possibilities.
"Gil, Connor already has nightmares about something happening to me. When he finds out about this..."
"I'll talk to him. We both will. We'll find a way to make it okay."
"I know that I didn't do such a great job of that yesterday."
"No, you didn't."
"I haven't been doing such a great job at a lot of things lately, and I am truly sorry for that."
"I haven't been doing such a wrap up job myself."
"Sara, about Heather--"
Sara cut him off before he could go any further. "I don't have the energy to talk about her right now," she stated, leaning back into the pillows and closing her eyes.
"Fair enough. I just wanted to say that I'm sorry."
Sara opened her eyes and stared at him, as if trying to determine the authenticity of his apology. After a few minutes, she nodded and said, "Okay."
Grissom, scared to press his luck any further, stood up. "I should probably go so you can get some rest."
Sara surprised herself and him by saying, "No, don't. Can you stay?"
"If that's what you want."
Grissom sat back down.
Sara stared at the TV hung on the wall. She had only been watching it for 10 minutes, and already she was bored. She wanted to get up. She wanted to do something other than just lie there, but she knew she couldn't. The sharp pain that she felt in her left side every time she moved too much in one direction was a testament to that fact. The initial onslaught of visitors had helped to ease the boredom some, but the majority of the well-wishers had insisted on leaving after a few minutes so she could get some rest.
"What a joke," Sara mumbled to herself. If any of them had spent any substantial time in a hospital, they would have realized that it's virtually impossible to rest in a hospital. So far, she had not been able to sleep for more than an hour at a time without a nurse waking her up to check her vitals.
Then there was Grissom's hovering. She appreciated the fact that he was so concerned, but his constant questions--"Do you want me to fluff your pillows?", "Do you need some more water?", "Do you need another blanket?", "Do you want me to close the blinds?", "Do you, do you, do you?"--were beginning to make her crazy, especially now that the anesthesia had fully worn off. She had to finally send him out for food and a shower just so she could have a few minutes of silence.
Not that she didn't need the food, she thought, as she glanced over at the food that the nurse had left on the tray table. Indigestible did not even begin to describe it. It wasn't fit enough to give to Hank, let alone a person who just had an organ removed.
Sara glanced back up at the TV when she heard the studio audience boo. The male guest was pointing at a picture of him and a toddler on a split screen. "That ain't my nose! I'm telling y'all. That ain't my nose!"
The audience booed him again. "She ain't nothin' but a ho" got another round of disapproval.
"It really isn't his nose," Sara told the TV.
Sara turned away from the TV when she heard a knock on the her room's opened door. "Are you up for a visitor?" Greg asked from the doorway.
Sara lit up. "For you, always."
"I come bearing gifts," Greg said, holding up a duffel bag. "I thought that you would be bored by now."
"I am. I've had to resort to watching talk shows." When Greg put the bag on the foot of her hospital bed, Sara pointed up at the TV. "Look, this woman has had Maury test nine different men already, and not a single one of them was her baby's daddy."
Greg turned around and looked at the TV screen. "Is she back for the tenth?" he asked.
They watched as Maury Povich read the results of the tenth DNA test. "You are not the father," he told the man who had sworn that the child's nose was not his. The child's mother knelt down and screamed.
"Damn," Greg commented.
"No kidding." While Greg sat down beside her, Sara told him, "You know people have been in and out of here all afternoon, and this is the first time that I've seen you. I was starting to wonder if you were the drunk driver, and no one had the heart to tell me that you were in jail or dead."
Greg responded slyly, "Well, just between you and me, there have been a couple of times over the last few weeks when I've thought about showing Catherine how I really feel about the way she's been treating you, but I would never do that with you in the car."
Sara laughed. "Good to know. So where have you been?"
"I was here. Then Nick pulled rank and sent me on a coffee run."
"Right, I had forgotten how horrendous the coffee is here. He shouldn't have sent you though. He should have sent Hodges."
"It's okay. I don't mind. I wanted to pick you up some things anyway. I know how easy it is to go stir crazy in this place."
"So how does it feel to be spleen-free?"
"Not as bad as you would think, so long as the nurses keep giving me my meds on a regular basis. My swimsuit modeling days, however, are so over," Sara answered, rolling her eyes at her last statement.
"Hey, I'd still pay good money to see you in a bikini."
"Gee, thanks, Greg. So what did you bring me?"
Greg leaned over, grabbed the bag off the end of the bed, and put it in his lap. He then unzipped the bag and started handing things to Sara. "Some magazines, both forensic journals and some stuff you'll probably never admit to reading. Don't worry. If anyone asks, I'll swear that I saw you reading the journals, not the tabloids."
Sara laughed again. "Thanks, Greg," she told him. "I knew I could count on you."
Greg pulled more items from the bag. "I also brought you your iPod, my DS--you can thank me later—and some movies."
"Anything good?" Sara asked, while flipping briefly through the titles.
"I hope you think so," he said, as he pulled the last item, a portable DVD player, from the bag. Looking around the room, he inquired, "Um, where's Grissom?"
"I asked him to get me something to eat. There's no way I'm eating that mystery meat over there," Sara answered, motioning in the direction of the tray table.
"No vegetarian menu, huh?"
"Even if I wasn't a vegetarian, I wouldn't eat that."
"How long ago did he leave?"
"Just a few minutes. Why?"
"No particular reason," Greg answered. He turned on the DVD player and placed it in Sara's lap.
Sara, growing concerned over Greg's questions, looked suspiciously at the player. "Greg, this isn't one of your home movies, is it? Because if it is, you should know that while I may be high on pain meds, I'm not that high. I'm really not in the mood to see you and some girl--"
"It's not me."
"Just watch," Greg directed, hitting play.
"Sara, just trust me, okay? It's not what you think."
"Fine," Sara said, crossing her arms and preparing herself for what she assumed would be a compromising video of one of her other coworkers. She quickly found out that it wasn't exactly a coworker.
"Shh, Ava. Shh. Please stop crying. Mommy will be home soon."
"That's Grissom," Sara stated, as she watched her husband pace the townhouse's living room with their crying daughter in his arms.
"Yes, it is."
"When is this from?"
"Nick told me where you kept the DVD's for the nanny cams. Luckily, you hadn't recorded over this one yet."
"Do you want Mr. Teddy?" Grissom asked Ava, as he bent down and retrieved a teddy bear from the play pen. When he stood up, he shook the bear from side to side so that it appeared to be dancing in the air. "Look, Ava. Here's Mr. Teddy, and Mr. Teddy really wants you to stop crying." Ava looked at the bear and screamed louder. "Okay, Mr. Teddy is going bye-bye," Grissom told his daughter, as he tossed the bear back into the playpen. "What about your blankie? Is that what you want? What do you say we go find it?"
As Grissom disappeared from the screen, Sara admitted to Greg, "I was so upset, I didn't even think to check."
"Hey, neither did I, but then I was on my way to Starbucks to get everyone's coffee, and a news report came on the radio about a babysitter who had been arrested for child abuse after the nanny cam caught her shaking her employer's baby. So that got me to thinking about your nanny cams and whether Grissom had remembered to turn them off when he got home Monday morning. I called Nick, and he said that you had brought the cameras and discs with you so after I dropped off the coffee, I borrowed Nick's key, swung by his place, and voila."
When Grissom reappeared, Sara pushed the DVD player away from her. "Greg, if this shows what I think it's going to show, I really don't want to see it."
Greg pushed the player back into her lap. "Yes, you do."
"That's better, isn't it? Daddy will have to remember to try the blankie first next time. Now what do you say we get Daddy some coffee?" Grissom started to walk into the kitchen but stopped when he heard the knock on the door. "Or not," he told Ava. "Let's hope that's Mommy, and she forgot her keys."
As Grissom walked towards the door, he and Ava disappeared off screen, but the nanny cam still managed to record their and a woman's voices.
"Hello, Gil," the woman said.
"What are you doing here?" Grissom asked. A few seconds later, Ava began to cry again.
"I thought maybe we could talk."
"I don't think that's such a good idea," Grissom stated, as Ava's cries turned into screams.
"Why? Because of Sara?"
"Yes, because of Sara."
"I called the lab, Gil. I know that Sara is still out in the field. I'll be gone before she ever even knows that I'm here."
"I don't know."
"Given the way that you treated me the last time that I was here, I think that you do."
Greg and Sara heard the sound of the front door creaking further open, followed by the click of heels on hardwood and the sound of the door shutting back. First Lady Heather and then Grissom and Ava appeared on screen. When Ava screamed louder, Grissom tried to quiet her.
"Shh. Sorry about the crying. The rubbing always seems to work for Sara, and yet it doesn't seem to be working for me."
"Have you tried a warm bath or driving her around the block?"
"Do those things actually work?"
"Like a charm, or at least they did with Zoey."
"I'll have to try them later. I think that she's just sleepy. It's past her bedtime."
"Maybe you should go put her down then."
"Yeah, maybe I should. I'll be right back."
After Grissom walked off-screen, Lady Heather picked a magazine off the coffee table, flipped through a few pages, and then placed the magazine back on the table.
"I guess Lady Heather doesn't like your supply of reading materials."
"Yeah, well excuse me from not subscribing to Better Homes & Bondage."
When Lady Heather began crossing and uncrossing her legs, Greg asked, "What is she doing that for?"
Sara answered sarcastically, "I don't know. Maybe her leather thong is giving her a wedgie."
Grissom reappeared, sans Ava, and stood opposite Lady Heather. "Look, Heather. I'll admit that I don't like the way we left things."
"Neither do I."
"But that night should have never had happened. I should have never started drinking. I should have never let you in, and I certainly should have never slept with you."
"I agree. You know, I once chastised my daughter for sleeping with a married man. It would be hypocritical of me to now suggest that it's okay for me to do the same. Still, I sometimes wonder..."
"What it would be like for us if there was no Sara. Don't you ever wonder that?"
Seeing the leg action again, Greg asked, "Another wedgie?"
"I doubt it," Sara answered, the sarcasm now gone from her voice.
"Not even once?"
"Skank," Sara whispered, as she watched Lady Heather move her skirt up her legs.
"Not even once. For me, there is only Sara."
"Good answer. Just make sure you tell your wife that when she comes home."
When Lady Heather stood up and walked over to Grissom, Greg advised, "Sara, you may not want to watch this part."
"It's okay, Greg. I've already seen it," she responded, her jaw set in anger.
On screen Heather kissed Grissom. Almost immediately, a slew of cuss words were heard off screen. Grissom pushed away from Heather and walked in the direction of the curses.
"You lying, no good, piece of--"
"It's not what you think," Heather said from the living room.
"Sara, please," Grissom stated off screen.
"Don't touch me. Don't ever touch me again." The sound of the door opening was followed by, "He's all yours," and the door slamming shut.
Heather walked off screen as well. "Gil, I am so sorry. I never meant for her to see that."
"I think you should leave now."
The door creaked open. Then Heather could be heard saying, "You should go after her."
"Thank you for the advice. Please don't come back."
The door could be heard shutting. Grissom then walked back on screen and sat slowly down on the couch. As the man placed his head in his hands, Greg reached over and hit stop on the DVD player.
"He was telling the truth, Sara. He didn't sleep with her, or at least he didn't sleep with her again."
"No, he didn't," Sara admitted quietly.
"And he didn't initiate the kiss."
"No, he didn't."
"You know I'm not Grissom's biggest fan these days, and I know that this is none of my business, but if that kiss is the only reason you left him, maybe you should give him another chance."
Sara shut the lid to the DVD player and handed it back to Greg. "You're right. It's not any of your business."
Greg took it and placed it on the side table. "Well, then I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said anything." Greg paused for a minute and then said, "No, I'm not sorry. Sara, you're my friend. Hell, you're probably my best friend, and I want you to be happy. If that means going back to Grissom, then, great, go back to Grissom. If that means divorcing him, then I'll drive you to the lawyer's office myself. I just...I don't want you to leave again."
"Who said I was going anywhere?"
"No one, but..."
"But you're the one who said that leaving is what you do. Call me selfish, but I don't want you to go."
"I'm not going, Greg. I don't know if I'm going back to Grissom or not, but I'm not leaving Las Vegas."
"Good. You know, I could so start singing a Sheryl Crow song right now," Greg joked, trying to lighten the mood.
"Please don't. Nick singing to me last week was bad enough."
"Fine. I can take a hint. Is there anything else I can get you?"
"You've brought me enough. Thank you."
Greg stood up. "Then I'm going to go so you can get some rest."
Sara mumbled, "Yeah, you and everyone else."
Warrick and Nick sat at a booth at Chuck-E-Cheese, eating pizza and watching Connor play games. When Grissom had asked Nick if he could pick up the child from school, Nick had readily agreed and asked Warrick to come along for the ride. He had hoped that, once they were away from the hospital, Warrick would tell him what was going on with him, but so far his friend had said very little. Instead, Warrick had alternated between staring off into the distance and watching Ava bang her rattle against the side of her stroller.
At one point, Ava threw her rattle down, screamed, shoved her hand in her mouth, and began to cry. While Warrick retrieved the rattle, Nick lifted the baby from the stroller and tried to comfort her.
"Someone's grumpy," Warrick commented, as he placed the dirty rattle on the table, just out of Ava's reach.
"She's been doing that a lot lately," Nick told him. He rubbed circles on Ava's back, the way he had seen Sara do it many times before, but the motion did little to soothe Ava's cries. "Sara thinks she's teething."
Warrick put his hands up. "Mind if I try?" he asked Nick.
"No, go ahead," Nick said, handing the crying child to Warrick.
Almost immediately, Ava stopped crying. Warrick chuckled and looked over at Nick. "Ah, see. Teething has nothing to do with it. Someone just doesn't like her Uncle Nick."
Ava chose that moment to reach up, grab a handful of Warrick's hair, and pull. When Warrick winced, Ava laughed, let go of his hair, and then began babbling.
"Funny, but I don't remember her pulling my hair," Nick retorted.
"Maybe that's because you hardly have any."
"Uh-huh," Nick mumbled, unconsciously rubbing his semi-shaved head. He then nodded in Connor's direction. "Do you think he knows something is up?"
Warrick looked over at him as well. "Considering the fact that he has been looking more at us than he has the video game screen, I would say so. See, there he goes again, sneaking in another look."
Nick had noticed the same thing. "I've heard Sara say that he's wise beyond his years."
"Well, look at who his parents are. You can't possibly be surprised."
"No, I guess I can't. I guess it's time we tell him what's really going on," Nick said, as he motioned for Connor to come back to the table. When Connor slid in next to Nick, Nick told him, "Connor, we need to talk."
"Mom isn't working late, is she?" he asked the men, the look in his eyes telling them that he already knew the answer to his own question.
"No, she isn't," Nick admitted.
"I knew it. If Mom was working late, she would just have Rachel or Grissom pick me up."
"Grissom?" Warrick asked the child.
Connor looked down at the table and mumbled, "I don't feel like calling him Dad right now."
Warrick looked at Nick and raised his brows at Connor's answer. Nick shrugged in response. As Connor began fiddling with his previously discarded napkin, he asked Nick, "What happened to her? Was it the bad lady?"
"Was it Michael?"
"Did she get shot?"
"No, she was in a car accident."
"Is she dead?" he asked quietly.
"No, of course not."
Connor finally looked up. "Are you sure?"
"Yes," Nick answered.
Recognizing the distrust in Connor's eye, Warrick piped in, "Connor, we just saw her at the hospital. She's fine, I promise."
"So then why is she in the hospital?"
"Because she had to have surgery."
"The accident damaged her spleen so the doctors had to remove it."
"What's a spleen?"
"It's an organ that's on the left side of your body, right up under your ribs."
"What does it do?"
"Mostly it helps you fight infection."
"Will Mom be okay without it?"
"She'll be fine."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, I'm sure. Your mom is as strong as they come."
"Okay." Connor played with his napkin for another moment and then put it down. "Can we go see her?"
"Of course," Nick answered.
"Good. I want to go now."
"Then let's go."
Sara never got to rest. She also didn't get to give much thought to Grissom and the DVD, as she received an unexpected visitor a few minutes later.
"Hank, what are you doing here?" she asked her ex, who was standing in the doorway with a vase of flowers.
Hank awkwardly stepped into the room. "I, um, I wanted to make sure that you were okay." He walked over to Sara, held out the flowers, and said, "These are for you. You still like daisies, don't you?"
"Yeah, sure. Thanks." Despite her gratitude, Sara did not take the flowers from Hank. Instead, she nodded in the direction of the windowsill and asked, "Could you, uh?"
"Right, of course," he responded before walking quickly to the window.
With Hank's back to her, Sara stared inquisitively at the man she had not seen in years. "So how did you know I was here?" she inquired.
Hank turned around. "Don't you remember?"
"I was one of the paramedics on scene. I helped get you out of the car."
"No, I'm sorry. The last thing I really remember is Catherine picking me up."
"Oh," he responded. Seeming not to know what to do with his vase-free hands, Hank alternated between putting them in his pockets and rubbing them on his pants. Finally settling on pockets, he asked Sara, "So how are you?"
Sara motioned at the IV tubes and monitor. "Obviously I've been better." Feigning politeness, she asked, "How are you?"
"How's Elaine?" she asked, her polite tone now replaced by a flip one.
"She's, uh, she's doing great. The last I heard she was married and expecting her second child with a doctor she met through work."
Sara tried unsuccessfully to stifle a laugh. "I'm...," Sara said, pausing to put her hand over her mouth and conceal the smile that went with the laugh. "So sorry."
Hank laughed a little himself. "No, you're not."
Sara lowered her hand and agreed, "You're right. I'm not."
"It's okay. I deserved it."
"Yeah, you kind of did."
"Look, Sara, what happened...The way you found out...It wasn't supposed to go down like that."
"You mean I wasn't supposed to find out that you had another girlfriend to much, much later?"
"No, that's not what I meant. What I meant to say was that I never meant to hurt you."
"Of course, you didn't," Sara replied sarcastically.
"I didn't, I swear. I just...got in over my head."
"Well, that's one way of putting it. Tell me, Hank, how long did you think you were going to be able to string both of us along before one of us found out about the other?"
"I don't know. I didn't think--"
"You didn't think, what? That we'd ever meet? Vegas may be big, Hank, but it's not that big."
"No, I just---"
"Are we interrupting?" Nick asked, knowing very well that he was.
Sara, appearing grateful for the interruption, motioned for him, Warrick, Ava, and Connor to come in, as she stated, "No, come in."
"Warrick and I thought that you might be up for a couple of visitors."
"Hi, Mom," Connor said, as he slowly approached Sara's bedside.
"Hi, baby," Sara replied, replacing the scowl she had aimed at Hank with a smile.
"Nick and Warrick said you had an accident."
"They also said that you had a body part removed."
"Actually, it was an organ, honey. The doctors had to remove my spleen."
"It was still part of your body, wasn't it?"
"Then it was a body part."
"Yes, I guess it was."
"Does it hurt?"
"It did, but the doctors gave me something to make it feel better."
From the other side of the bed, Hank, looking confused, cleared his throat and caused everyone in the room to look at him. After a few seconds of awkward silence, Connor was the first one to speak. "Who are you?" he asked Hank.
"I'm Hank," the paramedic replied.
"We have a dog named Hank, or at least we used to. He's just my dad's dog now."
Hank looked from Connor to Sara. "You named your dog Hank?" he asked.
Sara smirked as she answered him, "I thought it was a good name for a dog." Nick and Warrick laughed from across the room, causing Hank's face to turn red. Figuring that this was a good of a time as any for introductions, Sara motioned to Connor and said, "Hank, this is my son Connor." She then caught Warrick's eye and nodded. After Warrick crossed the room and handed the child to Sara, she continued with her introductions. "And this little one is my daughter Ava."
Hank stared wide-eyed at Sara and her children while he said, "Your son and your daughter. Wow, that's new."
"Not really," Nick replied.
"How do you know my mom?" Connor asked Hank.
"We, uh, we used to work together," he responded.
"You don't anymore?"
"Not if I can help it," Sara answered for her ex.
Hank looked at Sara, then at Connor, squinted, and then returned his gaze to Sara. Thinking out loud, he said, "Connor...Connor...Why does that name sound so familiar?"
"It's a pretty common name, man," Warrick answered.
Hank looked at Warrick and Nick, trying to figure out if they knew something he didn't. When he failed to find an answer in their faces, he returned his gaze to Sara. Sara, however, would not look him in the eye and chose instead to stare at Ava's kicking feet. Hank was silent for another moment, and then his eyes grew big again. "Wait. I remember. Isn't that the name of that kid you were watching that night, that kid from down the hall, the one who's mother..." He stopped when he saw Sara's cheeks turn red. Realizing that he had been lied to, he asked, "She wasn't his mother, was she?"
Sara finally looked up at him. "No, she wasn't."
Sara smoothed the hem of her dress and checked her image again in the mirror. It had been a long time since she had worn a dress, let alone heels, and she had to admit that it was going to take some getting used to. She knew, however, that her normal work attire wasn't going to cut it tonight. For once, she and Hank had the same night off. He had managed to get them a table at Spago's and tickets to David Copperfield. She had manged to blow a good portion of her paycheck on the dress and the fancy lingerie that she wore underneath. She hoped Hank would see it as a fair trade.
"Only one way to find out," she told her reflection when she heard the knock on the door. "You're early," she said, as she opened the door, but both the smile on her face and her upbeat tone disappeared quickly when she saw who was on the other side. "Michael, what are you doing here?"
Michael frowned at the greeting. "Nice to see you to, Sare. I thought you knew what today was."
"What today is," Sara repeated. Michael shook his head at Sara's response and stepped to the side. A three-year-old Connor, carrying a Blue's Clues backpack in one hand and a stuffed bear in the other, took his place.
"Thupwise, Mommy!" Connor exclaimed. Dropping his bag and bear, he ran the few steps to Sara and wrapped his arms around her legs.
"What today is," Sara said again, wincing as she realized what Michael had meant. "Connor's birthday."
"Right. Connor's birthday," Michael mimicked, picking up Connor's belongings and following his son inside. Giving Sara the once over as she shut the door, he continued, "Nice dress. Is this how criminalists dress in Vegas?"
"No. I had plans."
"Well, now you have new ones. Son, tell your mother what you wanted for your birthday."
Connor looked up at Sara and held up his arms. "You."
Sara leaned over to pick up Connor and stumbled as she tried to right herself in her heels. "You want me?" Sara asked her son.
Connor nodded. "Uh-huh. Gueth what," he challenged, placing his face nose-to-nose with Sara's.
"What?" Sara asked, trying not to tear up as she stared into Connor's brown eyes.
"I fwee now," Connor answered, holding up three fingers on one hand.
"I big boy."
"I mithed you," Connor said, placing his arms around Sara's neck.
"I missed you, too."
"Good," Michael commented, as he dropped several items on Sara's sofa. "Here's his backpack, his overnight bag, and Pookie. I'll be back Friday to pick him up."
Sara, panicking at the idea of being left alone with Connor for several days, tried to stop Michael from leaving. "You can't go. I have to work."
"Not tonight you don't. I called the lab and checked," Michael responded with a smug smile.
"But I do tomorrow night."
"So call in sick. Knowing you, I'm sure you have plenty of sick time saved up."
"No buts, Sara. The lab can live without you for a few days. Your son can't. Deal with it." Michael patted Connor on the back. "I'm going to go, Connor. Have fun and be good for Mommy."
"Kay," Connor replied, turning his head to look at Michael.
"I love you."
"I wuv you, too, Daddy."
Michael looked Sara up and down a second time. "You know, Sare, when I get back, you could wear this dress again, and we could catch up on old times."
Sara glared at Michael. "Like that's ever going to happen."
Michael smirked. "We'll see."
Sara grimaced, as she shut the door behind Michael. She knew what "We'll see" meant, but she also knew that she couldn't dwell on that now. She had to first figure out what to do with Connor and with Hank.
Seeming to pick up on Sara's anxiety, Connor began squirming in Sara's arms. "Mommy, want down!" he commanded.
Sara lowered her son to the ground. Once free, Connor ran over to the coffee table, picked up the remote, and began hitting buttons. Sara checked her watch, frowned at the time, and looked over at Connor. "Is there anything else you want?" she asked.
"Pongebob!" Connor exclaimed.
"Spongebob. Okay, I think I can manage that." Sara walked into the living room, took the remote from Connor, and flipped through the channels.
As she passed Nickelodeon, Connor cried out, "Mommy!"
"You mithed it."
Sara began to slowly flip through the channels, going in the opposite direction than she had just gone. "Is this it?" she asked Connor on the next channel.
"No, Mommy!" Connor exclaimed, putting his hands on his hips.
Sara turned to another channel. "What about this?"
"No, no, no."
"Okay, how about this?" Sara asked, as she changed the channel to one featuring what, to her, looked like an animated piece of cheese.
"Okay, okay." Sara sat down and watched Connor dance to what she assumed was the theme song. "So why is his name Spongebob?"
"Mommy, he wiv under thea."
"Why would cheese live under the sea? Wouldn't he melt?"
"Mommy, Pongebob not chethe."
"Then what is he?"
"Oh." Sara watched the show for a few minutes. Not quite seeing the sponge connection other than in the name, she asked again, "Are you sure he's not cheese? He looks like Swiss cheese to me."
"Mommy, Pongebob not chethe!"
"Okay, okay. So who's the pink guy?"
"What is he supposed to be, a chewed up piece of bubble gum?"
"Patwick not gum. Patwick tar fith."
"Oh. I can see that...I think. So who's the one with the bubble on her head?"
"Mommy!" Connor turned around to face Sara and put his hands back on his hips.
"Me no hear."
"Sorry." Sara stood up. "I'm going to go change."
"Why? Mommy pwetty."
"Thank you, Connor, but Mommy's not very comfortable right now. You're not going to eat something you're not supposed to or break anything while I'm doing that, are you?"
"Nuh-uh," Connor responded, turning back to the TV.
"Good. Don't, uh, stick your fingers in the electric sockets either."
Sara quickly changed into the jeans and blouse she had on earlier and returned to the living room just in time to hear a knock on the door. Realizing Hank had finally shown up for their date, she mumbled, "Shit," under her breath.
"Mommy thaid bad word," Connor stated.
"You heard that?" Sara asked her son, embarrassed that he had caught her cussing.
"You know not to say that word, don't you?"
"Uh-huh. Daddy thaid word bad. I not bad boy. I good boy."
"Yes, you are. Um, Mommy needs to talk to her friend for a minute, okay?"
Sara partially opened the door to see Hank standing there in a suit and tie and holding a bouquet of flowers. "Hank, hi," Sara greeted.
"These are for you," Hank said, handing Sara the flowers.
"Thanks. They're beautiful."
Hank stared at Sara's clothes for several moments and then checked his watch. "Did I, um, get the time wrong or something? I thought I said 7."
"You did. Something came up."
"What? Did you get called into work?"
"No, not exactly."
"Then what, Sara? Do you know how hard it was for me to get us that table?"
"I do. It's just--" Before Sara could finish explaining, she felt a tug on her shirt and looked down to see Connor beside her.
"Okay, I'll get you something in a minute."
"I fwirsty now!"
"Okay. I'm coming. Why don't you go finish watching Spongebob, and I'll bring it to you?"
"'Kay," Connor said, sighing.
Sara, seeing the perplexed look on Hank's face as he watched Connor stomping back into the living room, tried to explain without giving away her secret. "Like I said, something came up."
"Yeah, I can see that."
"That was Connor. He's, uh, he's one of my neighbor's son. I don't know if you've met her or not. Diane? She's the lady that lives down the hall. She had an emergency, something about her mother being taken to the hospital. She asked me to watch Connor until she got back."
"Yeah, I know I'm not the most ideal choice for a babysitter, but she couldn't get anyone else on such short notice. I really couldn't say no. I'm so sorry."
"It's okay. I understand."
"Maybe you can call up one of the guys from work. I'm sure one of them would want to see David Copperfield with you."
"A night out with the guys wasn't exactly what I had in mind for tonight, Sara."
"Me, either. I mean, you should see the dress I bought," Sara teased, her voice taking on a huskier tone. "I wouldn't dare waste it on a night out with Nick and Warrick."
Hank laughed at Sara's tone. "And why's that?" he asked.
Sara stepped closer to him. "Because it was very tight and very...shall we say...brief."
"I'm sorry I missed that."
"Me, too. I'm also sorry you missed what I was wearing underneath."
Hank smiled. "And what was that?"
Sara stepped even closer and whispered in his ear, "Very...little."
Hank blushed and then started to cough when he saw Connor approaching them. "What?" Sara inquired, confused by the cough.
"The kid," Hank whispered.
Sara turned around quickly, her blush matching Hank's when she found Connor staring at them. "I thought you were watching Spongebob."
"Pongebob over. I want milk."
"Okay, I'm coming." Turning back to Hank, she stated, "I should probably go. He's thirsty."
"So I gathered. You know I could stay and help. I'm actually pretty good with kids. We could order a pizza, pick up a couple of Disney movies. It could be fun."
"I'm sure it could, but I don't want you to lose all that money you put into the Copperfield tickets. Call Todd. Call Jason. Call Alex. Go have some adult fun."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes. I'm sure. I'll call you later."
"Okay, but only if you promise me one thing."
"And what's that?"
"That you save the dress."
Sara smiled. "I promise I'll save the dress."
Hank gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. "Good."
Sara watched him go and then shut the door. Turning around, she found Connor staring at her, his hands once again on his hips.
"Mommy wied," Connor accused.
"I know," Sara admitted.
"I not wady kid. I your kid."
"Why you wied?"
Sara knew she couldn't tell Connor the truth so she told him the first thing that came to mind. Placing the flowers on the kitchen counter, she said, "Because if Mommy told him that you were my son and that it was your birthday, he would want to come in and have cake with us, and Mommy's a little embarrassed because she doesn't have one yet."
"I wike cake."
"Well, what do you say after you drink your milk, we go get one?"
"What flavor do you want?"
"Chocolate, huh?" Sara asked, as she bent down and tickled Connor's sides. "You like chocolate?"
Connor squealed and laughed. "Yeth!"
"What else do you like?" she asked, continuing to tickle him. "Do you like candles?"
"Uh-huh," Connor managed to answer between fits of laughter.
"How many should I get? One? Two? Four?"
"No! Fwee! I fwee!"
"Are you sure because I could have sworn someone told me that you turned ten today?"
"Mommy, I fwee! I fwee!"
"Okay, okay. Then three it is. How much milk do you want?"
"How much is a lot?"
"Thith much," Connor said, holding his arms out as far as he could reach.
"Wow. That really is a lot. I don't know if I have that much milk. Will you settle for a cup of milk instead?"
Sara stood up, started to walk over to the kitchen cabinets, and then stopped. "I just remembered that I don't have any sippy cups," she told Connor.
"It 'kay, Mommy. I no need thippy cup. I big boy."
Sara stared down at him. "That you are."
Hank shook his head in anger. "You lied to me," he stated.
Sara smiled as she replied, "I'd say that makes us even."
"So who's kid is he? His?" he asked, motioning in Nick's direction.
Sara sighed before answering. "Grissom's."
"Grissom's? As in your boss, Grissom?"
"That would be the one."
"And who's her father?"
"The same person."
Hank's face was now the color of a ripe tomato. "So the entire time we were together, you were sleeping with your boss and lying to me about it. How could you?"
Before Sara could answer, Warrick and Nick jumped to her defense. "How could she? How could you?" Warrick asked, as he crossed the room, quickly closing the distance between him and Hank.
Nick followed him. "Or have you already forgotten about Elaine? Because I assure you Sara hasn't, and neither have we."
Warrick cracked his knuckles. "No, we definitely haven't."
"Yeah, well Elaine wasn't my boss, and she wasn't old enough to be my mother. I mean, come on, Sara. He's got to be what, 20, 25 years older than you?"
"Fifteen," Sara muttered.
"Fifteen. Same difference. I mean, I knew you had daddy issues. You used to change the subject anytime I asked you about your father, but, seriously, Sara, sleeping with your middle-aged boss isn't exactly the way to work them out."
"Mom, what is he talking about?" Connor asked, confused by Hank's tirade.
"Nothing, honey. Hey, could you do Mommy a favor?"
"Could you take that pitcher over there to the nurses' station and ask them for some more ice? I'm getting thirsty again, and the ice is all melted."
Everyone was silent as they waited for Connor to leave the room. However, once Connor was gone, their conversation re-erupted.
"You bastard," Sara stated venomously. "How dare you say those things in front of my son?"
"Hey, the kid is going to hear them sooner or later. I'm not going to be the only person who points out that Daddy Dearest is old enough to be his grandpa and that his mother is a tramp."
Before either Sara or Hank could say anything else, Warrick cracked his knuckles again, causing everyone in the room to look at him. "Hey, Nick," Warrick said, nudging Nick's arm.
"Yeah, Warrick," Nick replied.
"Do you see that line right there?" Warrick asked, pointing at a spot on the floor.
"And which line would that be?"
"The one right by Hank's foot."
"Oh, yeah, I see it."
"I believe Hank's foot just crossed it."
"That it sure did."
"Hey, Nick, tell Hank what we do to people who cross that line."
"We make sure they can never cross it again."
"And how do we do that?"
"Oh, I'm thinking with a long drive out into the desert and a couple of shovels."
"Hmm, sounds like fun. Hey, Nick, do you have anything planned for the next couple of hours?"
"Nope. Do you?"
"I do now."
"Cute, very cute," Hank responded. He turned to Sara and said, "They're like your little guard dogs. Let me guess. You're sleeping with them, too."
"There went the other foot," Warrick stated, as both men took a step towards Hank.
Hank backed up in response. "Fine, I'm leaving," he told the men and Sara. He then reached behind him and grabbed the vase of flowers. "But I'm taking my flowers with me."
"You do that," Nick replied. When Hank got to the door, he couldn't resist one last retort. "Oh, and Hank, say hello to Elaine for me."
Connor, who passed Hank in the doorway a second later, asked the three, "Who's Elaine?"
"She's no one important, honey," Sara responded.
"Oh." Connor held out the pitcher and asked, "What do you want me to do with this?"
"Here, I'll take it," Nick, who was standing closest to Connor, offered. Connor handed the pitcher to Nick and then walked over to his mother's bed. When Sara subsequently patted the side of the bed next to her, Connor carefully climbed on and laid his head on her shoulder. "Are you going to have to spend the night?"
Sara, whose arms were still occupied by the squirming Ava, laid her head against Connor's. "Yes," she answered him.
"What about tomorrow night?"
"I'm probably going to have to spend several nights."
"Where are me and Ava going to go? Can we stay here with you?"
"I don't think the hospital will let you."
"Well, do we have to go home with Grissom?"
"Grissom?" Sara asked, surprised by the name Connor had called his father.
Connor gave her the same answer that he had given Nick and Warrick. "I don't feel like calling him Dad anymore."
"Okay," Sara said slowly, deciding that now was not the time to press the issue. "Do you want to go home with Grissom?"
"He doesn't want me there, so why should I?"
Sara sighed at her son's response. "Connor, we've been through this. He does want you there."
"No, he doesn't. If he did, he wouldn't have kissed that lady."
"Connor, your father kissing that lady has nothing to do with whether he wants you."
"Yes, it does. I asked him if she was his girlfriend, and he said she wasn't, but if he kissed her, that means she is his girlfriend and he's a liar. If he's a liar, then that means he also lied when he said he wanted us to stay."
"No, it doesn't."
"Yes, it does. Liars lie all the time. That's why they're called liars. I'm not stupid, you know."
"I never said you were. Where do you want to stay?"
"Can I stay with Uncle Ritchie and Aunt Cam?"
"Honey, they're four hours away."
"So? They have a car. They can come pick me up."
"But Aunt Cam has her alligator movie, and Uncle Ritchie has to work."
"Couldn't Cindy and Mindy pick me up? Then I could go the movie set with Aunt Cam. Maybe they'd let me be in the movie."
"You have school."
"So? Don't they have special schools for actors, like home school or something?"
"But you're not an actor."
"But I could be. I'm just as funny as Zack and Cody."
"Fine," Connor said, crossing his arms in frustration. "I won't be an actor. Can we still stay with Nick? I'd rather stay there than go back to Grissom's."
Sara looked over at Nick, who nodded. "Sure, you can, but you're going to have to behave and do whatever Nick tells you to do, which means get a bath--"
"Mom, I told you baths are for girls."
"Fine, get a shower, eat your vegetables, go to bed--"
"I know, I know."
"And I want you to take care of your sister for me. Do you think you can do that?"
"Yes, but do I have to change her diapers?"
"No, I think Nick and Rachel can handle them."
"Good, 'cause poop makes me puke."
Sara, despite the drama that had just occurred with Hank, laughed. "Well, we wouldn't want that," she told him. Ava, however, seemed to disagree with her mother's statement, as she reached over, grabbed Connor's hair the same way she had grabbed Warrick's earlier, and yanked.
"Hey," Connor said, as he quickly slid off the bed and away from his sister. Ava took further offense and began to cry.
"Aw, it's okay, baby," Sara said, before kissing Ava's forehead. "Connor didn't mean it. I'm sure your brother loves your poop."
"No, I don't!" Connor protested.
"On that note, we should probably get going, Connor," Nick suggested. "Your sister is getting cranky, and your mom needs her rest."
"Okay." Connor gave Sara a quick hug and then whispered, "I hope you feel better, Mom," in her ear.
"Thank you, baby."
"I love you."
"I love you, too. Be good."
"I know, I know."
Sara gave Ava another kiss and then asked, "So who gets this one?"
Warrick walked over to Sara. "I'll take her," he said, picking up the child. "She's not too fond of her Uncle Nick these days."
"Why's that?" Sara asked, puzzled by the remark and the shade of red that Nick was turning.
"Not enough hair to pull."
"Oh," Sara said, laughing again. "Hey, Nick, for what it's worth, you should consider yourself lucky. She can pull pretty hard for a five-month-old. It's not fun."
"Okay, first of all, the hair will grow out," Nick countered.
"Keep telling yourself that, Nick," Warrick joked.
"I will. Second, when Ava turns five and I buy her a pony, we'll see who's her favorite uncle then."
"Why don't I get a pony?" Connor asked. "I like horses, too."
"Honey, no one is getting a pony. Nick was just trying to make a joke."
"Hey, um, before the two of you go, I just wanted to thank you for the save earlier."
"Anytime, Sara," Nick replied.
"Yeah, it was a long time coming," Warrick added. "I'm just kind of disappointed that we didn't get to take that drive out to the desert."
"Me, too. Sara, if he comes back or gives you anymore problems, just let us know. It's not too late to buy the shovels."
"Thanks. I'll keep that in mind."
"And those things he said. We know they're not true. You know they're not true, so don't sit in here obsessing over them," Nick continued.
"I won't," Sara replied, unable to meet his eyes.
"I won't," she said, finally looking up at Nick. "I promise."
"I'm going to hold you to that."
"Are you really going to get Ava a pony?" Connor asked Nick on the way to the elevator.
"No, I was just joking."
"But if you do get her one, will you get me one, too?"
"Sure, but I'll tell you right now, with what I get paid, it will probably be a stuffed one."
"That's fine. Just don't get me a pink one. Pink is for girls."
"I'll try to remember."
"It shouldn't be too hard to remember. You're a boy. Would you want a pink horse?"
"So why would I want one? I'm a boy, too."
"That you are. I'm making a mental note right now. No pink horses for Connor."
"Good." Connor waited until they had stepped into the elevator to ask his next question. "What does daddy issues mean?" he inquired.
"Why do you ask?" Nick replied, momentarily taken aback by the child's curiosity.
"Because that's what that mean guy was saying Mom had before she made me go get the ice. What does it mean?"
"It...uh...it means that she has unresolved...uh...feelings...or, um, things--," Nick stammered, as he tried to figure out how to explain the concept to an eight-year-old.
Warrick shook his head at Nick's ineptitude. Taking over for him, he explained, "Connor, it usually means that someone didn't get enough love or attention from their father when they were a child."
"Well, that's not Mom's fault. Grandpa died. It's hard for him to pay attention to her if he's dead."
"That it is," Warrick agreed.
"So why was he blaming Mom, and what does that have to do with Da—Grissom?"
"Hank was just pointing out that your father is a little bit older than your mother."
"So? He's not her father."
"No, he's not."
"So why does it matter if he's older? Everyone is older or younger than somebody else."
"That's true; they are, and it doesn't matter. Hank's just jealous, that's all."
"Why is he jealous?"
"Because he used to go out with your mom a long time ago."
"Go out where?"
"I don't know. Restaurants. Movies. I think they went to a vineyard once."
"You mean he was her boyfriend?"
"Ooh. Mom had a boyfriend with the same name as her dog! "
"Well, I think he was just your dad's dog at the time, assuming Grissom even had him then. I can't remember."
"Still, it's weird."
"You're right; it is."
"Why was Hank here if he's not her boyfriend anymore?"
"I don't really know. I guess he was worried about her. He might have heard about the accident on the news or at work."
"He didn't act worried. He acted mean."
"That he did."
Stepping out of the elevator into the hospital lobby, Connor continued his line of questioning. "Who's Elaine?" he asked. When Warrick and Nick exchanged glances rather than answer him, Connor got mad. "Don't tell me she's no one like Mom did. I know she has to be someone, or everyone wouldn't have said her name. I'm not stupid, you know."
"No, you're not," Nick said. He looked over at Warrick one more time, who nodded for Nick to continue. "Elaine...Elaine was Hank's other girlfriend."
"His other girlfriend? You mean he had two at the same time?"
"Yes, your mom and Elaine."
"Did Mom know?"
"Not at first, but she eventually found out."
"Just like she did about Da—Grissom and his girlfriend."
"Yeah, kind of like that."
"Did she cry then, too?"
"Did he ever tell her he was sorry?"
"Knowing Hank, probably not."
"Did he choose Mom or Elaine?"
"Then he's stupid and a butthole, and I hate him."
"Well, then you're in good company."
Nick, Warrick, and her children weren't gone five minutes before Sara managed to break her promise.
"I knew you had daddy issues."
As much as she wished it wouldn't, the phrase kept echoing through her head, summoning forth memories that she had spent a good portion of her life forgetting, propelling her back in time to the night that started it all.
Sara could not sleep. She was still mad that she could not go to Suzy's. As she stared at the glow-in-the-dark stars stuck on her ceiling, she kept thinking, "Chicken pox? Who the heck gets chicken pox at their age?" Sara had had them in the first grade. So had most people in her class. Why hadn't Suzy, Sara wondered. She claims she was in Oregon then, but I bet it was just a lie so no one would know that she was really in a plastic bubble, like John Travolta in that movie.
Sara turned over on her side and told herself that it was okay. Suzy was stupid anyway. Last time she spent the night, Sara had wanted to go out in the backyard and pretend that they were on the A-team, but Suzy refused. She said they couldn't play that because there was only one girl on the show, Amy, and they couldn't both be her. Sara had offered to wear some of Suzy's mom's jewelry and pretend to be B.A. or put on her dad's golfing gloves and khaki shirt and be Hannibal, but Suzy still stomped her feet. "No, you can't be a boy!" Suzy had declared. "You're a girl, and there aren't enough girls!" Sara tried to tell her that Murdock was crazy enough to dress like a girl, but that only made Suzy madder.
"What about Knight Rider?" Sara had asked. Suzy had looked at her like she was stupid and asked, "What do you want to be, the car?" Sara had shrugged and answered, "Maybe. My dad lets me work on his car sometimes with him. He even showed me how to change a tire."
"That's so stupid! My daddy says girls aren't supposed to get dirty and work on cars. They're supposed to be pretty princesses."
"My dad calls me a princess, too."
"Well you don't look like a princess," Suzy had retorted, pointing at Sara's skinned knees and dirty fingernails. "You look like Cinderella before she went to the ball. The only reason I play with you is because my mom makes me."
Sara had started to cry then. Suzy's mom had heard her and made Suzy apologize. They had spent the rest of the night in Suzy's living room, Suzy playing with her collection of Cabbage Patch Kids and Sara pushing around the girl's My Little Ponies, hoping that one would magically turn into a real horse so she could ride it back home.
She had never told her parents what Suzy had said. Maybe if I had, Sara thought, Mama wouldn't have called Mrs. Lewis and set up another sleepover. She still didn't know why she had started crying when Mama had told her she couldn't go. She guessed it was because she had wanted to get out of the house for awhile. She had rather be around Suzy and her stupid dolls than Mama and Daddy fighting all the time.
At least Daddy had promised to take her to the beach tomorrow to make up for it. That's why she had pretended to be asleep when Mama had checked on her a few minutes earlier She didn't want to get in trouble and have to stay home. It would be different if Ritchie were here, Sara thought. He always let her hang around him and Michael, but he had to go to that stupid football game with all those stupid cheerleaders that act just like Suzy.
"Stupid, stupid, stupid," Sara said to herself. "Everyone is stupid. I can't wait until I'm all grownup and around people who aren't so stupid."
Now on top of everything else she was thirsty. It's probably cause of Mama's cooking, Sara silently theorized. It was too salty tonight. She had drunk two glasses of milk at dinner, and her mouth was still dry. Even Daddy had thought it was too salty. To prove it, he had stuck his tongue out and made a funny face when Mama had gotten up to get desert. Sara had laughed so hard milk had come out of her nose. Mama didn't think it was funny though. She looked like she wanted to kill them both when she got back to the table.
Maybe I can sneak down the hall without waking her up, Sara thought. I can be really quiet when I want to be, maybe not as quiet as Suzy and her precious ballerina feet, but quiet nonetheless. She had to do something soon, or her tongue was going to be permanently stuck to the top of her mouth, and then how would she talk?
Sara got up, went to her bedroom door, and cracked it open. She couldn't hear the TV in the living room, and she didn't see anyone in the hallway so she assumed her parents must have gone to bed. "The coast is clear," she told herself, before opening her door further and slipping out. Hugging the wall the way she had seen Ritchie do a few weeks earlier when he had snuck out to go to a party, Sara tiptoed down the hallway until she got to her parents' bedroom.
Great, Sara thought. The door is open. Now what? She looked back at her bedroom door. She could just turn around and go back, but she really was thirsty. She didn't know if she could stand being that thirsty until morning. Taking a deep breath and thinking, "I'm invisible. I'm invisible. I'm invisible," Sara continued onward.
Then she heard a noise that made her stop. At first she thought that the Barretts' cat was inside. She knew that the cat made a noise a lot like that when she was in heat, whatever that meant, but then she realized that the cat being inside didn't make sense. The cat made her father sneeze. There's no way he'd let it in the bedroom. The noise was followed by a another sound, one that reminded Sara of the squishing sound that wet sneakers made when you walked in them. What were they doing in there, Sara pondered. And what on earth was that smell?
Her curiosity overriding her fear of being grounded, Sara stepped closer to the doorway. Only one lamp was on, but it produced enough light to illuminate her parents. Her father was lying in bed, and her mother was standing next to him, her right hand in the air. As Sara watched, her mother brought her hand down, making the squishing noise again, and then raised it back up.
"Mama?" Sara inquired, taking another step towards the bedroom. "Daddy?" she asked, taking another one.
When her mother turned around, Sara saw the blood on her dress. "Mama, you're bleeding," she said. Her mother didn't say anything in turn. She just stared at Sara, her eyes wide, her cheeks splattered with drops of blood.
Sara took another step into the room and noticed that the strange smell was stronger in there than in the hallway. "Daddy, wake up. Something's wrong with Mama. She's blee--" Sara began, stopping only when she realized that there was blood on her father, the sheets that covered him, and the walls. "Daddy?" she asked, running to him. She grabbed his arm and shook it. "Daddy, wake up! Daddy, please! We're supposed to go to the beach tomorrow! You have to wake up! Daddy, please!"
"Sara," her mother whispered.
Sara turned to her mother. "Mama, something's wrong with Daddy. He won't wake up. You have to make him wake up!"
"I'm sorry, Sara, but I can't do that."
Only then did Sara notice the bloody knife in her mother's hand. "Mama," she whispered, as she backed into the hallway, her eyes never leaving the knife. "What did you do?"
"I did what I had to," Laura answered, as she stepped towards her.
Sara, remembering the look that her mother had given her and her father at dinner, began to scream. She didn't stop until she felt Mrs. Barrett's arms go around her and pull her to her chest. "It's okay now, honey," she told her. "It's all over. You're going to be okay."
As she watched Mr. Barrett cuff her mother, she knew that she was going to be anything but.
"I knew you had daddy issues."
You thought you knew, buy your really have no idea, Sara thought, as she wiped a tear from her eye. Not even close.
"Knock, knock," Catherine greeted her from the door, interrupting her destructive thoughts. "You weren't about to go to sleep, were you?"
"No. Come in. I don't think I could sleep even if I wanted to."
"Mind if I ask why?" Catherine asked, as she pulled a chair beside Sara's bed.
"Hank was just here."
"Oh," Catherine said, looking at the floor.
"You don't look surprised."
"Why not? I was."
"Well, after what you told him in the car..."
"After what I told him?" Sara asked, confused. "Catherine, what did I say to Hank?"
"Don't you remember?"
"No. The last thing I remember is fighting with you about Warrick."
"Oh," Catherine stated, again staring at the floor.
"What? Did I do something embarrassing?"
Catherine finally looked Sara in the eye. "I guess it depends on how you look at it."
The pain below her rib cage was intense, a searing wave that transcended her abdomen, migrating to her left shoulder every time she inhaled. As she struggled to move, she wondered if she had broken something, maybe her arm again, possibly even a rib. Then there were her legs, which were still pinned under the SUV's glove compartment. Try as she might, she could not move them enough to tell what, if anything, was wrong with them. The pain and uncertainty, however, did not worry her as much as the smell. She had noticed the odor after the car had finally come to a stop.
"Catherine," Sara said, opening her eyes.
"I'm right here," Catherine answered, as she gave her left hand a reassuring squeeze.
Sara turned her head and winced at the pain in her neck. "You should go."
"Hey, I told you I'm not going anywhere."
"I checked it. The leak is not that bad."
"I'm not going, Sara. That's final."
"Okay." Sara whimpered and closed her eyes as another wave of pain shot through her body.
"Is it your stomach again?"
"Uh-huh," she said and whimpered again.
"It's probably just from the seat belt."
Suddenly tired, Sara kept her eyes closed and nodded in affirmation. Despite the pain, she was finding it harder and harder to stay awake. All she wanted to do was sleep was for the next few hours and then wake up to find out the accident was all a dream.
"What?" she asked, finally opening her eyes.
"You can't go to sleep on me," Catherine implored.
"Just a little nap," Sara muttered, her eye already beginning to close.
"You can nap later. Now you have to stay awake."
"But I'm too tired," Sara answered, her eyes closing the rest of the way.
"Well, snap out of it. The Sara I used to know could work two shifts on two hours of sleep and would even volunteer for a third."
Sara eyes remained closed.
Sara did not respond.
"Sara!" Catherine said more forcefully.
"Just a few more minutes."
"Sara, you have to wake up now. The ambulance is here."
Sara still did not open her eyes. Instead, she told Catherine, "But I don't want to ride the bus. Ethan always ends up sitting next to me, and he won't stop eating his boogers. Can't you just take me to school?"
"No," a confused Catherine responded.
"What about Daddy?"
Catherine, concern replacing her confusion, decide to play along. "No, he has already left for work."
"What about Ritchie?"
"He doesn't have his license yet."
"Right, I forgot."
Catherine looked up when she saw the blue uniform of a paramedic. "Finally," she told the uniform.
"How is everyone in--" the paramedic began to ask, as he bent down to Sara's shattered window. "Sara?"
"Oh, you have got to be kidding me," Catherine responded, recognizing both the face and the voice. "Were there no other EMT's on duty?"
"Nice to see you to, Catherine," Hank Peddigrew responded. As he opened up his medical kit, he nodded at Sara and asked, "How is she doing?"
"How does it look like she's doing?" Catherine smarted. "At least this ought to wake her up." Catherine shook Sara's left arm, causing Sara to groan. "Sara, wake up. You'll never believe who's here."
"It's too early for Santa," Sara mumbled.
"Well, it's definitely not Santa, although I'm willing to bet you wished that this person had disappeared to the North Pole a couple of times. Come on, Sara. Open your eyes."
"'Kay," Sara said, half opening her eyes and looking at Catherine.
Catherine pointed in Hank's direction. "Look who's here."
Sara turned her head and smiled. "You came," she told Hank.
"Did you think that I wouldn't?" he asked, as he reached through the window and strapped a blood pressure cuff around Sara's right arm.
"Maybe. I wouldn't blame you if you hadn't."
Hank inflated the blood pressure cuff. "I had to come, Sara. It's my job."
Sara turned back to Catherine. "See, I told you he wasn't like Daddy."
Catherine, not knowing what else to do, squeezed her hand and waited for Hank to finish taking Sara's blood pressure. When he started to take her cuff off, Catherine asked, "How was it?"
"It...it was low," Hank admitted.
Catherine, looking pensively at Sara's pale complexion, inquired, "How low?"
"Let's just say it could be better." Hank glanced behind him before addressing Sara. "Sara, the fire department is here. They're going to get you out of here just as fast as they can. Meanwhile, I'm going to go around to the other side and check on Catherine."
"Wait," Sara told him, as she reached through the window and grabbed his arm. "I have to tell you something."
"Okay," Hank said, looking down at her hand.
"I'm sorry about the things I said. I should have given you a chance to explain."
"It's just...seeing you with her. It hurt."
"I just wanted you to know that I still love you. I always will."
"Please tell me that you're joking," Sara implored.
"I wish that I could," Catherine replied.
"I actually told Hank that I loved him, and I always will?"
"That you did, but, if it's any comfort, your blood pressure was pretty low at the time. I think you thought that he was Gil."
"Did Hank know that?"
"I doubt it. You passed out right after you said it."
"Oh," Sara groaned. "Did anyone else hear me?"
"Well, that's just...that's just great. At least it explains the flowers."
"Hank brought you flowers?" Catherine asked, glancing around the bare room. "Where are they?"
"He took them with him after Warrick and Nick threatened to drive him out to the desert and bury him."
"Why would they do that?"
"Uh, let's just say Hank called me some not-so-nice things in front of my kids, and the guys took exception."
"Looks like I missed all the fun," Catherine joked.
"If you want to call it that." The two were quiet for a minute. Sara then asked, "So how are you feeling?"
"Better than you, I'm sure."
Sara smiled and held up her IV tubes. "Oh, I don't know. These drugs are pretty nice. I highly recommend them." The line elicited a short laugh from Catherine. "Warrick was here earlier. I thought that he would be home with you." Catherine shrugged, a frown replacing her brief smile. "Did you at least talk to him?"
"For a few minutes," Catherine admitted.
"And then he left."
"Maybe you should try talking to him again."
"I will, eventually. It's not like I have much choice in the matter."
Catherine sighed, as she looked down at the floor. "I might as well tell you. It's not like I'm going to be able to hide it for long." She looked up at Sara and smirked. "I'm pregnant."
Sara blinked rapidly, as she said, "Uh, okay. I can't say that I saw that one coming."
"Join the club."
"It would explain the mood swings though."
"Yeah, about those... I've been a real bitch lately, Sara, and I'm sorry. Hormones or no hormones, there's really no excuse for the way I've been treating you."
"Hey, don't worry about it. I remember how moody I was those first few months. At least you didn't quit your job, leave your husband, kidnap your son, and taser your ex, all in the same two week period."
"No, I can't say that I went that far, but give me time."
"Does Warrick know?"
"He was there when the doctor told me."
"And I don't think that he thinks it's his."
"Oh. I'm sorry. Give him time. He'll come around."
"I'm not so sure."
"I am. If you had seen him with Ava earlier, you would be, too."
Catherine snickered. "I'm surprised you're not asking me if it's his, too."
"If you had told me this yesterday, maybe I would have, but let's just say that I've recently learned that things aren't always as they appear and maybe I should start trusting people more."
"A car accident taught you all that, huh?"
"Did it also teach you how I'm supposed to tell my 17-year-old daughter that she's no longer going to be an only child?"
"No, sorry. My moment of great enlightenment stops there."
"Lindsey is going to freak."
"Yeah, probably. You could always just send her a text message. Isn't that the main way teenagers talk these days?"
"Don't think I haven't thought of that already. 'Lins, BION, I'm pregnant. LMFAO about it. BHL8. AML, Mom.'"
"That...could work. Maybe you should buy her a new car first. That way, she won't even notice the text message."
"Don't think I haven't thought of that as well."
Grissom took a deep breath in an effort to steady his nerves. He had faced down rapists, child molesters, and even serial killers before, but none of them had scared him as much as his eight-year-old son. He never knew what to say around Connor, mostly because the child had the almost uncanny ability to take even the most complex of subjects and tear them down to their bare bones, making them so simple that Grissom often wondered why he, with all his schooling and experience, could not see them the same way.
The incident with Heather was a prime example. To him, what happened Monday was complicated. He and Heather had been friends once. Because of that friendship, he felt obliged to let her in and to hear her out, even though, by doing so, he knew that he was breaking the promise that he had made to Sara and risked destroying whatever trust he had gained since coming home. While the kiss at first blush seemed culpable, he knew that it was purely platonic, a goodbye gesture between two people who had once been close but who, thanks to circumstances of their own choosing, could no longer be.
To Connor, it was much simpler that that. Grissom had told both him and Sara that Heather was out of their lives. He had talked to Heather on Monday. He had even let her kiss him. Therefore, he had lied about her being out of their lives. In Connor's mind, if he lied about one thing, he must have lied about everything else, including wanting him. He couldn't fault the kid for his logic. He just didn't know how he was going to disprove it.
He did know, however, that he had to try. Taking another deep breath, Grissom knocked on Nick's door and waited anxiously for someone to answer.
"Grissom, hey. What are you doing here?" Nick asked a few moments later when he opened the door.
"I told Sara that I would come by and talk to Connor about what happened this morning."
"Sara has already talked to him about it. Warrick and I took him and Ava by the hospital earlier."
"Oh. I didn't know. Sara sent me home for a shower and food. I haven't been back yet."
"You can still come in and talk to him," Nick said, holding the door open.
Grissom stepped in. "Thanks."
"Let me go get him for him. He's doing his homework in the back."
While Grissom sat down, Nick disappeared down the hall. Knocking lightly on the opened bedroom door so as not to wake the napping Ava, Nick told Connor, "Grissom is here."
"So?" Connor asked, looking up from his notebook.
"So he wants to talk to you."
"Do I have to talk to him?"
"It's up to you, but your mom would probably want you to."
"He's just going to lie again."
"Maybe not, Connor. I know it may not seem like it right now, but your father isn't a bad guy. Just give him a chance, for your mom's sake if for no one else's."
Connor sighed loudly. "Fine," Connor proclaimed, as he put down his notebook and slid off the bed. "I'll go talk to him for Mom." He then stomped out of the room, down the hallway, and into the living room. Seeing Grissom on the sofa, Connor crossed his arms and sat down in the chair opposite him with a loud huff.
Grissom, watching his son's antics, told him, "I take it that you're still mad at me."
Connor didn't say anything in return. He just set his jaw and stared at the floor.
"And you have every right to be mad at me," Grissom continued. "I haven't been the father that you needed, and I'm sorry for that."
Connor remained silent.
Grissom tried another tactic. "Did Sara ever tell you that my mother, your grandmother, was deaf?"
Connor shook his head.
"Well, she was, but you would have never known it when I was your age. Our house was always full of noise, laughter, talk."
"So?" Connor asked, finally looking up at his father.
"So all of that changed when I was nine and my father died. My father was my mother's world, and she kind of shut down after he died, emotionally. Our house became very...quiet. When she would talk to me, it was usually through sign language, not out loud."
"Why did she do that?"
"I think it was because speaking reminded her of my father. He may have been a brilliant botanist, but he could never quite grasp all the intricacies of ALS, and yet my mother never seemed to be bothered by that fact. She always spoke for his benefit, but after he died, at least at home, she just...stopped."
"Did she ever tell you that she loved you?"
"Did she say it out loud, or did she sign it?"
"Usually she signed it."
"So then you didn't get to hear her say that she loves you?"
"Then you should know how it feels!" Connor yelled. He stood up in anger and walked over to the corner, turning his back to Grissom.
Grissom stood up as well and took a hesitant step towards Connor. "Yes, I should, and I do," he admitted to his son. "I just didn't realize that I was doing the same thing to you, Connor, and I'm sorry."
When Connor turned around, there were tears on his cheeks. "You're sorry," he mimicked in a whiny voice. "So what? It doesn't mean that you love me."
Grissom took another step towards Connor. "Of course, I love you. You're my son."
"So? Mom's your wife, and you don't love her."
"That's not true."
"Yes, it is. If you loved Mom, you wouldn't keep kissing that lady."
"It wasn't that kind of kiss, Connor."
"Then what kind was it?"
"A goodbye kiss."
"Couldn't you have just shook her hand or said, 'bye,' like a normal person?"
"Yes, I guess I could have."
"So why didn't you?"
"I don't know. I guess I just didn't have time before she kissed me."
"But you didn't have to let her kiss you. You could have just pushed her away. That's what I did when Laura Jones tried to kiss me on the playground last year."
"I did push her away, but your mom had already left and didn't see me do it."
"How do I know you're not lying?"
"Then why should I believe you?"
Grissom closed the distance between him and Connor and put a hand on Connor's shoulder. "Because I'm your father, and I would never intentionally lie to you," he told his son.
Connor stepped back, causing Grissom's hand to fall from his shoulder. "But you did lie to me!" he exclaimed. "You said you wanted us to stay!"
"I did. I still do."
"So why didn't you try to stop Mom from leaving? Why did you let her take us?"
"I thought I was doing what your mom wanted."
"Well, if you think that's what Mom wanted, you're just plain stupid!" Connor screamed, before turning away from Grissom, running back to the bedroom, and slamming the door. Nick came back to the room just as Ava began to cry.
"I'm sorry," he apologized to Grissom. "He's still upset, and I think seeing Sara in a hospital again just made him worse."
"I tried, Nick. I don't know what else to do to get him to believe me," Grissom stated sadly.
"Keep trying until he does."
Grissom forced a smile on his face as he walked into Sara's hospital room. She had enough things to worry about for the time being; he didn't need to give her anymore. However, once he got closer to her hospital bed, he realized that he need not had bothered; Sara was asleep.
He tried to place the bag of food from the Potato Valley Cafe quietly on the side table but inadvertently knocked over the room's phone instead. Sara woke up and looked at him. "Hi," she said, smiling.
Picking the phone off the floor, he told her, "I didn't mean to wake you."
"You didn't. I was just resting my eyes."
Grissom placed the phone back on the table and retrieved the bag of food. Holding it up, he said, "I brought you dinner."
"Finally," Sara declared, grabbing the bag from him. Seeing the surprised look on Grissom's face, she tried to apologize for her abruptness. "Sorry. I didn't mean that the way it sounded. I'm just starving."
"It's okay," he responded, as he pulled a chair up to the bed and sat down. "I should be the one apologizing for taking so long. I just thought it would be prudent to stop by Nick's first and talk to Connor before I picked up dinner."
"Oh. In that case, apology accepted." Sara reached into the bag; pulled out a bottled water, a packet of plastic dinnerware, and a styrofoam to-go box; and handed them to Grissom. "Here's yours."
The two were silent while they fixed their food. After Sara spooned a particularly large bite of vegetables, cheese, and potato into her mouth, Grissom found himself laughing, despite the day's events.
"What?" she asked him, another large bite halfway to her mouth.
"Nothing," he said, staring at the humorous, midair portion of food.
Sara, realizing that he was laughing at her, merely shrugged off his amusement. "Hey, I told you I was hungry," she said, before putting the bite in her mouth.
"I take it that means you're getting your appetite back."
Sara finished chewing before responding, "There's nothing like a hospital stay to jump start your taste buds." After taking a sip of water, she asked him, "So how did your talk go with Connor?"
"Not so well," Grissom admitted, as he picked at his own food.
Grissom placed a fallen piece of lettuce back on his ham and cheese as he explained. "I talked. He pointed out the flaws in my argument.. Then he told me that I was stupid and slammed the door."
"Don't be. I can't really blame him. I disappointed him. I disappointed you. I disappointed myself."
"Yeah, about that," Sara started, now picking at her own food. "Greg was here earlier."
"Is that supposed to surprise me?" Grissom asked, his hand covering a mouth that was half-full of sandwich.
"No, but what he brought me might. It was the nanny cam DVD from Monday. You forgot to to turn the cameras off when you got home."
Grissom swallowed, took a sip of water, and responded, "Ava was so fussy that the nanny cams were the last thing on my mind."
"I know. I saw the video. I saw the other stuff as well. I know now that you were telling me the truth about what happened with Heather. I'm sorry I jumped to conclusions."
"No, it's not. I should have trusted you."
"I haven't given you a lot of reasons to trust me lately. The truth of the matter is I told you that she was out of my life. Then I turned around and let her right back in it. As our son just pointed out, if I lied about one thing, how are either one of you supposed to know that I'm not lying about everything else?"
"Connor said that?" Sara asked, both amazed and frightened by some of the things her son had said recently.
"That or something pretty close to it. I told him that I loved him and that I was sorry that I made him think otherwise. He said that he didn't believe me since, in his mind, I've lied about everything else."
Grissom shrugged sadly. "You can't really fault his logic."
"No, I guess you can't. You do realize his anger isn't really about you, or at least it's not all about you?"
"How do you figure that?"
Sara put her fork down as she tried to explain. "When Connor was three, Michael flew him out here for his birthday. I had worked a lot of double shifts that week, and I had finally gotten a day off so I had made plans with Hank. I didn't even remember it was Connor's birthday until they showed up at my door."
"In a Molly Ringwald movie maybe. Not in real life. Michael left him with me for three days. I canceled my plans with Hank. I called in sick. I bought Connor a cake and some toys. I even took him to the zoo. We actually had a nice time, no big screw-ups on my part, so by the time Friday rolled around I thought maybe I could do it full-time, that maybe I really could raise him on my own. Then like an idiot, I asked Connor if he wanted to stay with me."
"What did he say?"
"What do you think a three-year-old says after being showered with chocolate, ice cream, animals, and toys for three days?"
"Right. He said yes, and then Michael showed up."
"You don't have to get dressed so soon," an undressed Michael stated from Sara's bed, as he watched her slip on her bra at the foot of the bed.
"Connor will be up soon," she responded, as she reached behind her back and tried unsuccessfully to hook the bra. "He shouldn't see us like this."
Michael leaned forward and finished hooking the bra for her. He then whispered in her ear, "Like what, Sara? Together? Happy?"
Sara turned her head and looked back at him. "I was thinking more along the lines of naked."
Michael leaned backed against the headboard and laughed. Putting his hands behind his head, he watched the now lingerie clad Sara bend over and search the bottom dresser drawer for additional clothes before asking, "So who's the guy, Sare?"
"What guy?" Sara responded, as she pulled out a long sleeve shirt that she thought would cover the bruises that were beginning to form on her wrists.
"The blonde who brought you flowers the other night."
Sara, realizing that Michael must have remained in the parking lot of her apartment complex watching her place after he claimed to be leaving, turned around in anger. "Are you spying on me now?"
"I wouldn't call it spying. I would call it protecting my assets. I have a right to know who's around my son and my woman."
"I am not your woman."
"Funny, that's not what you were saying 15 minutes ago," Michael replied with a smirk. "So who is he?"
"He's no one," Sara answered, pulling the shirt over her head. "He's just some guy I work with."
"What's his name?"
"Hank Peddigrew," Sara told him, grabbing a pair of black slacks from another drawer.
"Hank Peddigrew," Michael repeated, scrunching his face up as if the name left a bad taste in my mouth. "So what does Hank Peddi-doodoo do at the lab?"
"Peddi-doodoo?" Sara asked, turning around again. "That's real mature."
"It was the best I could come up with on short notice. So tell me, Sara, what does he do? You might as well tell me because you know I'm going to find out one way or another."
Sara sighed. She knew that, chances were, he had already run Hank's plates and knew exactly who he was and what he did for a living. She therefore opted to tell him the truth as she put her pants on. "He doesn't work at the lab. He's an EMT."
"An EMT. Let me guess. You met him at a crime scene and liked the way he did mouth-to-mouth."
"Michael, come on," she pleaded, already growing tired of the sarcastic banter.
Michael, however, wasn't so easily deterred. He got out of the bed and sauntered over to Sara. "Did you buy this for him?" Michael asked, as he picked the discarded dress off the floor and held it against her chest. "Did he enjoy taking it off of you as much as I did?"
Sara grabbed the dress out of his hand. "Yes, I bought it for him. No, he didn't enjoy taking it off of me. In fact, he never even got to see me in it because you showed up."
"Good," Michael said, his face mere inches from Sara's. "Make sure it stays that way." He then attempted to kiss her, but she turned her head, blocking the kiss. "Oh, so that's how it's going to be now. I insult your...EMT, and you play hard to get." Michael grabbed Sara by the forearms and yanked her towards him. "No problem. I can play that game." Forgoing her lips, Michael began kissing Sara's neck, gently at first, then with more force. When Sara let out an involuntary moan, Michael stopped and laughed. "Now that's more like it," he said before grabbing a handful of her hair and forcing her lips to his.
They both stopped when they heard a "Mommy!" coming from the living room. Sara pulled loose from Michael's embrace, grabbed his clothes off the floor, and threw them at him. "Get dressed, while I go see about our son."
Sara left the room and shut the door behind her.
"Mommy!" Connor cried again from the sofa where he had been sleeping.
"I'm right here," Sara told him, as she crossed the room. Once by the sofa, she turned on a lamp and then sat down next to her son. Connor, in response, put his arms up in the air, silently telling Sara what he wanted her to do next. Sara complied by pulling him into an embrace. "Did you have a good nap?" she asked him.
Connor laid his head on Sara's shoulder. "Yep."
"Are you thirsty? Do you need me to get you anything?"
"Me need go pee pee."
"Do you want me to go with you?"
Connor pulled back from Sara and crossed his arms. "No, Mommy!" he exclaimed. "I big boy."
"You sure you don't want me to help?"
"Okay, but if you change your mind, Daddy's in there changing clothes. Get him to help you."
Connor jumped down from the sofa, ran to Sara's bedroom door, opened it, and ran inside. Knowing that Michael and Connor would have to leave soon if they were going to catch their flight, Sara stood up and began putting Connor's things in his overnight bag. Her efforts, however, were soon interrupted by a crying three year old, who ran across the room, threw his arms around her legs, and wailed, "Mommy!"
Sara looked down at her son and then up at Michael, who had followed Connor out of the bedroom. "What did you do to him?" she asked angrily.
"Nothing," Michael replied in turn. " I just told him that he needed to get his stuff together because it's time to go."
Connor looked up at Sara, his face already red from crying. "Mommy, I no go! I thay!"
Michael put a hand on Connor's shoulder as he addressed him, "Son, we've been through this before. You can't stay here."
Connor let go of Sara's legs, turned around, and crossed his arms in anger. "Mommy thaid me can," he informed Michael.
"Mommy said that?" Michael asked, surprised that Sara had said so. When Connor nodded in affirmation, Michael looked over at Sara. "Sara?"
Sara tried to clarify by saying, "I just asked him if he wanted to."
Michael shook his head at the statement. "Oh, let me guess. You made it three days without hurting or killing him, so now you suddenly think you're fit to be a mother?"
Sara shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe."
"Maybe. He's a child, Sara. There are no maybes. Look at this place," Michael said, motioning around the overcrowded apartment. "It's not much bigger than a closet. Where exactly do you plan on putting him?"
"He can sleep with me until I can get a bigger place."
Michael laughed at the suggestion. "Have you run that one by Hank?" he inquired.
"Hank doesn't live here," she answered.
"No, but I'm willing to bet you've had a few sleep overs. Am I wrong?" Sara didn't answer. She just stared at a spot on the wall. Michael, however, found her silence to be just as telling as a verbal confirmation. "That's what I thought. Did you tell him about Connor? Did you tell him about me?"
Sara sighed and replied, "No."
"Then what did you tell him the other night?"
Connor answered for Sara. "Mommy thaid I wady kid."
Michael, growing increasingly angry, asked Connor, "What lady?"
Connor shrugged. "Me dunno."
Michael directed his next question at someone who would know. "What lady, Sara?"
"No one," Sara mumbled. "Just someone down the hall."
"Someone down the hall? Not yours? Tell me, Sara. Have you told anyone about Connor? The guys you work with, your boss, this mysterious lady down the hall, anyone?"
"No," she admitted reluctantly.
"Yeah, some mother you are. Even better than Laura. At least she told people you were hers." Michael put his hand on Connor's shoulder again. "Come on, son. Get Pookie and let's go."
Connor stepped away from Michael and stomped his feet as he yelled, "No! Me want Mommy!
This time it was Michael's turn to sigh. Bending down, he took Connor by the shoulders and told him, "I'm sorry to tell you this, son, but Mommy doesn't want you."
Again Connor pulled away from Michael. "Wiar!" he accused his father. "Mommy wuv me!"
Standing again, Michael responded, "Well, she has a funny way of showing it."
"Daddy, pweathe!" Connor pleaded.
"I'm sorry, Connor, but you can't stay. Your mother has no room for you in her life. Tell him, Sara."
Sara glared at Michael and then bent down so she was closer to Connor's eye level. Rubbing a small smear of chocolate off his cheek, she said, "You know I love you, right?"
"And that I would love nothing more than for you to live with me?"
"But your father is right. This place isn't big enough for the both of us, and I work so much that I would never get to stay home with you."
"You home now."
"Yes, but I had to lie and say I was sick to be here. I can't pretend that I'm sick all the time."
"No, baby, I can't."
Connor started to cry again. "But you thaid me thay."
"I know, and I shouldn't have. I didn't think things through."
"You can wiv with me and Daddy."
"I can't, Connor. My job is here."
Connor put his arms around Sara's neck as he continued to plead, "Pleathe, Mommy! Pleathe! Wiv with me!"
"Mommy, pleathe! I be good boy."
"You already are a good boy."
Unable to take anymore of Connor's pleas, Sara removed his arms from around her neck, stood up, and walked into the kitchen, leaving Connor crying in the middle of the living room. "Just take him, Michael," she directed. "Just take him before it gets any worse."
Michael picked up Connor's backpack, put his coloring books, crayons, and bear inside, and slipped it onto the child's back. He then picked up both Connor and the overnight bag and carried them both over to Sara. "Connor, give Mommy a kiss goodbye so we can go," he told the child.
Connor laid his head on Michael's shoulder and wailed, "No! Mommy wied! Me hate her!"
Micheal looked over at Sara. "Well, at the moment I'm not too fond of her myself."
"Michael convinced me that I couldn't do it on my own so I let him take Connor back to California," Sara admitted. "Before they left, Connor told me that he hated me."
"He was three, Sara. I'm sure he didn't mean it."
"Maybe he did. Maybe he didn't. I'm only telling you this now so you can understand that Connor's attitude isn't so much about whether you have ever told him that you love him or what happened with Heather or even with us leaving. It has more to do with stability.
His whole life Connor has been told one thing only to find out that another is true. When I first moved here, I told him that I would only be gone a few days. Then I didn't come back at all. When he was three, I told him that he could stay with me. Then a few hours later I told him to leave. Michael told him time and time again that I didn't want him. Then last year he found out that I did. I told him for years that Michael was his father. Then he finds out that you are. You told him that Heather wasn't your girlfriend. Then he hears about a kiss that makes it seem like she is. At this point, I don't think Connor really knows who to believe or who to trust so he's just taking it out on you."
"So what are we supposed to do to make it better for him?"
"I've been thinking a lot about that since Greg left, and I think I have come up with a solution. I'm just not so sure you're going to like it."
"Okay," Grissom stated, as he put down his sandwich and tried to prepare himself emotionally for what Sara was about to propose. "So what is this solution?"
"For starters, we can't go back to the townhouse. I'm sorry because I know that you love it, and it was our first home together, but I just can't live there. Heather ruined it for me. I see her everywhere. Worse, I see you with her, and that's just one more ghost that I don't need to live with."
"Fair enough. So where do you want us to live?"
"Not us, at least not yet."
"Does that mean you want a divorce?"
"No, not at all. I just think we need to work on ourselves first before we work on each other."
"Meaning I want you to see a counselor."
"But when I asked you about seeing a marriage counselor a couple of weeks ago, you turned me down."
"I know, and I shouldn't have. I'm sorry."
"Okay, so we'll see a marriage counselor."
"Not just a marriage counselor, Gil. I want you to see someone individually as well. I know that that's going to be hard for you. It's hard for me, but I'm not the only one in this marriage with issues. If you can't agree with that---"
"I'll do it."
"Are you sure?"
"If it's what you want, then yes, I'm sure."
"Okay," Sara said, surprised that he had so readily agreed. "With the economy like it is, I know it's going to be hard to sell the townhouse so I thought that maybe I'd find us a house to rent in the meantime, something with a big backyard for the kids to play in, maybe a swing set. I thought that if I got us a place that was just ours, someplace that wasn't yours or Michael's or Ritchie's first, maybe Connor would feel more secure, especially if was just the two of us and Ava for awhile. Then once Connor realizes that I'm not going anywhere we can ease you back into the picture. Am I making any sense?"
"I'm just scared that if we go back to the way things were, if we just go back to pretending like everything is okay and we're just one, big, happy family, sooner or later things are going to explode again, and we'll be right back to where we are now. I don't want that for the kids. I don't want that for me."
"I don't either."
"I promise that I'm not going to shut you out of their lives or mine. We can still have dinner together every night. We can do things as a family. It's just, given what happened yesterday, I don't think that it's a good idea for it to be 24/7 for awhile. Connor needs to learn to trust us, and we need to learn to trust each other again, and I don't think that either of those things can happen overnight. I know you probably think that I'm trying to punish you for Heather, and I'm not. Yes, I'm still mad that you let her in, but this isn't about Heather, or at least it's not just about Heather. It's about--"
"It's okay, Sara," Grissom interrupted. "I get what it's about."
"You do?" Sara asked, surprised yet again by her husband's malleability.
"It's about what's best for the kids. I can't say that I particularly like any of it or that, in an ideal world, I would choose it, but I understand why you need me to agree to it."
"Does that mean you will agree?"
Sara and Grissom finished their meal in silence. When they were through, Grissom got up and threw the boxes away. He then returned to Sara, sat beside her, and took her hand.
"Sara, I know I don't say it enough, but I do you love you."
"I know," Sara replied, squeezing his hand.
"And I do love our kids."
"I just wish they did."
"They will. Just give them time."
Warrick sat in his car, drumming his fingers against the steering wheel. He had just come from the hospital. He had gone there hoping to talk to Sara about Catherine. If anyone could understand what he was going through, it was her, but he had found Sara's bedside already occupied by Grissom. He had stood in the hallway, just out of their line of sight, watching them interact. Grissom had gotten up from his chair to adjust Sara's pillows for her. She had looked up at him, smiled, and appeared to say something to him before sliding over in the bed. Grissom had said something back, which had caused Sara to nod. He had then sat next to her and put his arm around her shoulders. Sara, in turn, had leaned against him and closed her eyes.
That's when Warrick knew that Sara had forgiven Grissom. Despite everything that she knew he had done, despite everything that she thought he had, she had forgiven him.
Warrick rubbed absently at the scar on his neck, as he thought about that concept. He remembered what his grandmother had told him after his parents had died, when he was still so angry at them for leaving him that he had lashed out at anyone who tried to help him. She had quoted something that she had once heard Martin Luther King, Jr. say many years before. "Warrick, 'we must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.' You have to forgive them, child, or you'll never be able to love them or anyone else."
Although it took some time, he had eventually forgiven his parents. Could he forgive Catherine as well?
Warrick did not know the answer to that question. However, after spending several hours with Ava, he had decided he had to try. If Catherine's child was, in fact, his, he could not abandon it. After all, his grandmother had taught him another important lesson. You didn't run away from responsibility. You owned up to it, even when it hurt. That's why she had marched him back to Mr. Jackson's corner store and made him apologize for swiping a pack of Bubble Yum when he was ten. The problem was there was more at stake this time than 50 cents, some processed sugar, and a possible stint in juvie.
If his grandmother could see him now, sitting in his car in the dark, staring at a house like it was the scariest thing in the world, she would have probably shook her head in shame and yanked him out of the car herself.
"Sorry, Grams," he mumbled, looking upwards. "I'm trying." He then got out of his car, walked across the street, and knocked on Catherine's door.
Lindsey answered. "Can't you just get her to make you a key?" she scoffed when she saw Warrick. "I'm getting really tired of answering the door."
"Nice to see you, too, Lins," Warrick replied.
"Uh-huh," Lindsey said under her breath. She then turned to go back to her room. "I assume you can figure out how to shut it on your own."
After shutting the door, Warrick walked into the living room, where he found Catherine curled up on the sofa, a wine glass filled with milk beside her. He cleared his throat, surprising her to such an extent that she accidentally knocked over the glass of milk.
"Great," Catherine muttered, as she looked around for something to sop up the liquid.
"Wait. I'll get something," he told her. He ran to the kitchen, grabbed the roll of paper towels off the holder, and hurried back to the living room. Bending down, he began wiping up the milk. After a few seconds, Catherine bent down, grabbed a few paper towels off the roll, and helped him.
"I didn't mean to scare you," he told her.
Warrick placed a fresh paper towel over the remnants of the spill and stood up. "You may want to let it sit for a few minutes, absorb the rest."
Catherine stood up as well. "What are you doing here, other than the obvious?" she asked him, nodding at the milk.
"I thought it was time we talked."
A/N: The next chapter will jump forward several months in the story. I already have about 10 pages of it written. Hopefully, I'll have the rest soon.