June 2006. Note from the Fic Maintenance Unit (the author): I murdered unnecessary adverbs, I love doing that, ya know? Tweaked a couple of sentences but not much else.
When I came to Las Vegas to work at the Crime Lab a guy named Greg told me, after a year of socializing, that I reminded him of someone. He told me I had a certain Sara-aura he couldn't quite pinpoint to an exact face feature or expression but that it was definitely there.
"Who's Sara? Old girlfriend, Gregy?" I teased, as I leaned on a table, legs crossed at the ankle. He had his back to me, he was processing something I couldn't see but I was sure it involved DNA.
He snorted a laugh and shook his head. I smiled, I loved to exchange banter with him, especially on a slow night. That night had been more like 'dead', no pun intended.
"Not a girlfriend, she was taken the second she set a foot in Las Vegas. She used to work here. A CSI, like you. She'd come even on her days off, practically had her mail delivered at the Lab."
I scrunched my nose. "Hmm, sounds familiar," I mumbled. I unwrapped my sandwich.
Greg chuckled. "Very familiar."
"Nightshift or dayshift?" I asked, trying to picture this Sara person to whom I already felt sympathy for, being a workaholic myself.
He swiveled in his chair to face me, relieved to have an excuse to stop working. He recoiled a bit when he saw me standing there, as if he'd seen a ghost.
"Sorry-you-I thought you were—" He rubbed his eyes and blinked a couple of times before realizing I was not a hallucination. Sometimes Greg can act a tad odd.
"Never mind," he said. He seemed lost for a moment. "Ah, she was from nightshift."
"So, Catherine must've known her, right?" I took a small bite from my sandwich.
Catherine was my supervisor. A hell of a woman if you didn't get in her way on a case; then she can get pretty scary.
"Catherine knew-knows her."
Greg propped his legs on a box under the table I was leaning on. He grimaced when he heard something cracking inside.
"She transferred or something?"
Greg's face froze for a moment in a faraway expression. I snapped my finger in front of his eyes and he came back from wherever he'd been.
"No." He lowered his eyes. "She quit."
I suspected the reason of the sudden gloominess in his manner.
The reason why she'd quitted hadn't been a nice one. Five years on the job and I'd seen three brilliant CSIs 'put down the gunpowder and brush' for good because of burn-outs, stress or a bad streak of difficult cases that drained them emotionally and physically, leaving them craving for a little normalcy in their lives.
I loved the job but I was painfully aware it could take a toll on the psyche.
Greg seemed to read my thoughts and added, "She didn't quit for good, she went back to San Francisco."
I took a huge bite from my sandwich, bigger than one would consider lady-like. "Went back?"
"Yeah, Griss had brought her here because of the Holly Gribbs case."
I nodded. Unfortunate situations such as that one traveled fast through the grapevine. I knew about the case as a 'what not to do' example of crime-scene handling.
He entwined his fingers over his belly and continued. "So, she came here as a temporary thing, to handle the internal investigation. You know what happened to Holly Gribbs, right?"
I nodded. "I know the basics."
"When the case was solved, Sara handed him the report, Griss asked her to stay and she did."
"'Griss'?" Who the hell is that? I wondered.
Greg's dark eyes glinted with something hard to describe. My question had opened a door, to where I had no clue.
"Gil Grissom. Used to be the nightshift supervisor. Catherine was the second-in-command," he explained patiently as if those two facts were the first sentences of a long story I ignored and he knew perfectly.
The name did ring a bell. I rejected the astronaut for obvious reasons and then it hit me. The entomologist. I've read a lot about entomology and I remembered him clearly.
"Have you seen that fish-shaped cork board?" Greg asked with a playful smile.
"Yeah, clever. I like it."
"That's Grissom's work," he said with a grin, proud to have known the man.
I felt somehow connected to Grissom already. I'd seen that board, read about the ones that 'got away' and probably touched the same names he had a long time ago for some of this unsolved cases were decades old.
"Where is he?" I took another a bite of my sandwich. "He quit too?" I said lightheartedly.
"Yes." The mischievous smile that had been on my lips vanished instantly.
Ok, so they both had quit. Supervisor and supervisee had both quit presumably around the same time. My CSI brain was on fire.
"Did he really quit or it was like Sa—"
"He quit," Greg interrupted. "For good."
My mind was racing, I felt like there was definitely something underneath the simple facts Greg was feeding me. I'd gone to one of Grissom's seminars once and this had been a guy that had struck me as the type that would never, - unless the world came suddenly to an end, - never quit his job.
I connected the dots in my head and a new question was born. I chewed faster and swallowed with excruciating effort. I could have used a soda to wash it down but there was no time now.
"Who went first? Sara or Grissom?"
"Grissom, but I think it was because of her," Greg said as he stood up and grabbed a brown paper bag with his own previously bought lunch or breakfast, depending on the time of the day.
Someone inside my head went 'Aha!'.
Who would've known so many things had happened before I got here? I wanted to know more. I could already imagine them walking along the hallways or sitting in the break room chatting or drinking Greg's special coffee.
Until something happened that made them both leave the lab.
Greg noticed my overflowing interest in the story.
"You'd have to ask Catherine for the specifics. I still don't know all the details," he paused to take a bite of his own sandwich and I did the same. He was still chewing part of it when he continued.
"Warrick and Nick never told me everything," Greg informed with a tingle of resentment as he inspected his sandwich for content's leaks. You wouldn't trust a lab's results if upon entering the place you slipped on a smear of mayonnaise.
I frowned and took the last bite of my sandwich. Warrick and Nick? I needed introductions again. Greg saw my yet unasked question and addressed it before I could finish chewing.
"Warrick and Nick were the rest of the nightshift. They left too. Everything came apart the second Grissom quit. With them it just took a while longer," he lowered his eyes and lapsed into silence for a few seconds as if he were re-playing how it all had happened.
"What did Sara do to make Grissom quit?"
He looked up, almost startled, his dark eyes locked with mine.
"I'm sorry, you don't have to answer if it's too personal," I added. I admonished myself for letting the gossip-animal inside me out of its cage.
To be honest, I would've died right then and there if he decided not to proceed with the story.
"No, no, it's ok," he assured me. "Just as long as you don't post it on the B-Board later. Anyway I don't understand how come you didn't find about this sooner, rumors are still flowing like the Nile River here. Three-quarters of them are false but still you should've heard something by now."
"I'm not very gossipy," I said with a shrug of my shoulders. "Actually all my time is devoted to the cases I'm in and that doesn't leave much time for anything else."
I smiled to obscure the fact that my response clearly stated that I did not have a life. Greg's eyes lingered on me for a moment, as if he were looking at a different person.
"You smile just like her. Anyhow, Sara didn't do anything to make Griss quit. It's more what it was done to her that made him quit."
I could feel my face going grim; there weren't a lot of good things one can do to a person in this job that would make another one quit. I didn't dare to ask.
Greg continued, "The way I know it happened was that before the end of the shift, Griss and Sara returned to a crime scene. I suppose it was because Griss had had one of his epiphanies and needed another glance at the scene to solve the case. The man was—still is—a genius. But this is just me filling the info voids."
I smiled and nodded understandingly.
"Turns out they weren't alone at the crime scene."
My smile disappeared. I stared at him as he spoke, my eyes fixed in a wide-open and shocked expression.
Greg continued, seemingly exited to have such an attentive audience.
"I don't know exactly what or how it happened but Sara was shot twice and nearly died." He left half of his sandwich uneaten and tossed it back into the brown paper bag I recognize as being from the deli's. His appetite gone.
"Oh my god. How? Who? Why?" I quizzed.
"As I said before," he said, raising a finger, "You'll have to ask the Zen Master." I frowned and Greg added, "Queen of the Nightshift Kingdom otherwise known as Cath."
It was strange. I'd seen Cath's office a hundred times but this was the first time I noticed the pictures and the people in them. Cath wasn't in and if I had listened to my self-preservation instinct I would've scooted out of there but I felt like I was being tugged inside the office by an invisible and persistent rope. Who am I to argue with the rope?
I walked towards her desk and for the first time I wondered what was on the other side of the framed photo Catherine kept on the right side of her desk. I glanced over my shoulder to see if I was still alone. The coast was clear.
I picked up the frame with one hand and turned it around. It was a group photo; I recognized some of the people in it. It seemed like the picture had been taken in the break room but I wasn't sure.
Brass and Greg were beside each other, standing proud in the upper left corner of the photo. Besides them there was a very handsome duo of guys. I had trouble deciding which one I liked the most. I assumed they were Warrick and Nick. Catherine was in the middle of them. I envied her immediately.
Below, sitting on a small couch were a young woman, who I quickly recognized as Sara. No big deductive process here, she was the only other woman of the nightshift, and Gil Grissom. He was a bit older than I remembered, but still just as hot.
What a bummer. I had come here after all the cute guys had left. Except for Greggo, of course, he wasn't so bad himself.
If I'd thought the story wasn't yet so interesting or enthralling, it was now.
Grissom's left arm was draped casually over Sara's shoulders and her hand was resting, just as casually, a few inches above Grissom's knee.
Somehow, the way they were seated, closer than necessary for a supervisor and one of the CSIs under his command, told me they were quite used to being close. Or in blunt words, they were sleeping together.
They were all smiling as if the photographer had said a joke at the last second. A happy moment frozen in time.
"Nice picture, don't you think?" Catherine's voice behind me almost made me jump and cling to the ceiling.
"Yeah," I said after quieting my thudding heart and carefully placing the frame back in its place.
"You all look happy," I added. I was nervous, I had been caught. That's why you always have to have a lookout. A suspect told me that. His cousin had told him the same in a letter from prison and he decided to pass on the family knowledge to me. I was honored.
"We were," she said with a smile as she walked around her desk and took a seat.
She gestured for me to do the same and I pulled out a chair, sat and looked at her across the desk.
"What brings you here, kiddo? You're bored 'cause we don't have any cases?" A dubious frown appeared of her brow. "Hey, isn't this your night off?"
"No," I lied. I started to twiddle my fingers. She stared at me with an intimidating glint in her eyes, waiting. My gaze wavered and a smile tugged at the corners of my lips.
My shoulders slumped. "Ok, yes, it's supposed to be my day off. But you see I was here—"
She raised her hand, palm towards me. "Spare me the excuse, you're not the first CSI to try to move in here."
"You're talking about Sara?"
Catherine eyes widened a bit, her surprise turned rapidly into curiosity. "Yeah, how did you. . .?"
I started to reel off the facts to her. "Greg. He was telling me this story of Grissom and Sara who used to work here. He said I reminded him of her. He stopped before telling me how she was shot and nearly died, and I was wondering if. . . "
All of a sudden, I felt like this wasn't the right conversation to be having with my supervisor.
"You know what? You don't have to tell me anything, I'd better go." I clapped my hands on the chair's armrests and started to haul myself up when Catherine spoke.
"Well, she was shot and yes, she almost died," she confirmed. I looked for any sign of annoyance in her face but I found none. I still couldn't bring myself to utter a word.
"Ask away, I'd rather tell you the true version now, instead of the Greek tragedy it has been circulating since they left," she paused and lowered her voice. "Ecklie being the source of it, of course. He and Grissom were never best buddies."
"What happened after she was shot?"
That was the first wagon of a train of questions that I had been cueing in my head, waiting to be answered.
"Everything is still something of a worry-blur to me, we've become good friends over time and the sight of her like that, the blood on Grissom's clothes." she shook the images off her mind. "Every time I see her I remember how close she came to dying." She gave me a strained smile.
"Grissom—you know who he was, right?" I nodded. "Ok, he rooted himself besides her bed and didn't move for three days. I'd never seen someone so worried. He barely spoke, he didn't move, he just. . . looked at her as some kind of guardian angel who's duty was to wait there until she got better. It was as if they were both dying."
"But she didn't die, right? Greg told me she went back to San Francisco."
She waved a hand. "Oh she's ok now. She has two battle scars to impress the rookies and scare the hell out of them too."
By Cath's amused smile I sensed Sara had done this and had told her. She'd probably said something like 'See, this job ain't all about lifting prints.' If I were a rookie, as green as golf course grass, and a more experienced CSI told me that, I would have second thoughts about the job.
"What I don't understand is why did she and Grissom quit. She got better so. . . " I wondered out loud, habit born out of voicing questions when analyzing crime scenes.
Catherine inhaled slowly and let the air come out in a weary sigh.
"He was—is—convinced it was his fault," Catherine said.
"That she got shot?"
"Yeah. He thought—thinks with every twisted brain cell of his that he is the one to blame."
I recognized Cath's exasperated tone, reserved exclusively for those to were too strong headed to listen to reason or to her. In most cases they were the same thing. Catherine had like a third eye or something.
Catherine brushed a rebellious lock of blond hair from her face and continued.
"You see, they were making a quick stop at the crime scene, in and out. Grissom had a theory and he wanted to confirm before the end of the shift."
"And Sara didn't want to go, so he thought it was his fault because she didn't want to go in the first place?" I ventured.
Catherine chuckled at my silly theory and shook her head. My assumption wasn't so farfetched unless you actually knew Grissom and Sara.
"If Gil Grissom was excited about something involving a case, I can guarantee you that unless it involved insects or meat, Sara Sidle was too. When they were on a case they were like the same person with two brains," her smile slowly faded. She missed them.
"She wanted to go, that's for sure, she told me that at the hospital, two weeks later. Anyway, Grissom went ahead with Sara following closely behind. After a minute or so he turned around to tell her something, he said he'd asked her what she wanted for breakfast, and she wasn't there. He called her but she didn't answer so he went back the same way he'd gone, checking each room until he found her, lying on the floor, bleeding."
I took a hand to my mouth in horror. "Didn't he hear anything? I'm sure she would've screamed something like 'Freeze!' or. . .I don't know. . . something."
Catherine looked at me as if I were the most naïve human being on Earth, as if I didn't knew a secret everyone else did.
"He couldn't hear, he was nearly deaf by then. It was an hereditary problem, his mother was deaf too," Catherine said.
And the plot dribbles and runs off with the ball leaving me standing on the field like an imbecile. That, I wasn't expecting.
"He was-is—." I was confused. "That's why he blames himself? Because he couldn't hear?"
The mechanics the 'it's my fault' syndrome were a mystery to me. Sometimes they were illogic but at the same time managed to make perfect sense to the person who experienced the guilt.
Catherine just nodded and rolled her eyes. "Sara told me she'd heard a noise and had stopped. It had happened before and it had been one of the victim's pets. A cat, I think. She thought it must've been another one pet, since there was a missing dog. So, she went in but it turns out it wasn't a dog," Catherine said. She shrugged.
"Basically, everything happened because of a missing dog?"
Life and its twisted plans for people. Too bad you can sue 'Life' for emotional and physical damages.
"It's stupid, I know. If Sara had reached for her gun sooner it would've happened anyway because the second the guy saw her doing that he would've fired. If Grissom had stopped with her or heard something, unless he had the power to stop time, he couldn't have done anything to change what happened. In any case, they both could've been shot. They both could have died.
Anyway we caught the bastard and Grissom broke his nose before half the police department landed on him. He would've smashed the scum's head against a wall."
"That's why he quit. Guilt. But why did she quit?"
"It started as a threat," she said. I squinted my eyes and started to mouth a 'what?' when Catherine continued.
"We tried the impossible to make him change his mind but he didn't want to listen. As soon as Sara was out of the hospital and he was sure the news wouldn't affect anything more than her heart, he told her. He wasn't going to be the supervisor anymore. They wouldn't work together again."
I realized I've been biting my nails but I couldn't stop doing it. "What did she do?"
"Well, first she tried everyway possible to explain to him that it hadn't been his fault, that hearing or not hearing hadn't had anything to do with her being shot. It had been an accident. She tried every tick in the book but when push came to shove she was left with one last tactic. The one I'm sure she didn't want to use."
"She threatened to leave?"
"Grissom works well with ultimatums, if you help him," she pointed out.
I smiled conspiratorially. "I'm sure you did." Catherine flashed me a wicked smile.
"I nudged him a little the last time Sara threw him an ultimatum, yes. It was a kind of 'either you come to your senses and see it wasn't you fault of I'll quit too' ultimatum. She knew he didn't really want to quit.
If you want to know something about those two, they both lived for their job, they were like fish in the water when they were on a case, and they loved it. Take away the water . . ."
" . . .and the fish dies."
Cath nodded. "I hope you keep your mouth shut about all this because very few people know it."
"Nick and Warrick?" I guessed and Catherine frowned intrigued about me mentioning their names. "Greg," I explained.
"Yeah, they know, they were part of it. Brass too."
"Don't worry, I don't have people to tell the story to," I said with a tingle of sadness. Catherine saw this and seemed to want to say something but she stopped herself.
"I've always trusted you so I shouldn't have even asked," Catherine said with a wave of her hand.
"So? What happened?"
I'm not known for my limitless patience.
"She told him she would leave unless he stopped being an asshole." I chuckled. I think we would've gotten along just fine, Sara and me.
"And that was a quote," she added. "She couldn't bare the thought of Grissom leaving the job he loved so much because of her. So there you have it again, guilt. She felt guilty because she wasn't careful enough when she entered that room."
There was a short silence; Catherine seemed to be waiting for my reaction.
"That is. . .ironic. What happened when she said she would quit?" I asked, a little more franticly than I would've wanted.
"Grissom didn't budge. He did beg her not to quit her job, she had so much ahead of her. He said that she could leave him if she wanted to, that in fact that was the best. That it would be the 'safe' thing for her to do. 'Safe'." She shook her head.
"Can you believe that? Hearing him say that was what set her off. She became angry with him for being so bullheaded. She screamed, cursed, begged him to stop blaming himself, that she was alive, it had been an accident, life goes on but . . ." Her eyebrows rose in a hopeless gesture.
I narrowed my eyes, time to ask another important question. The one my romantic streak just itched to know.
"They were—" I cleared my throat, "'involved', right?"
Catherine doubted before answering.
"Yeah," she said with a warm smile, "That accident though." she shook her head again and leaned back on her chair.
"You should've seen them. Here at work they were all business but when we were at one our team's soirées, as Warrick referred to them, they were plain fun to watch; so different in some aspects and so alike in others. If you'd known Grissom without Sara, like I did, you would notice the difference. How preoccupied he became when Sara got the flu. He hovered around her since the moment he stepped over the door. 'Do you need anything?', 'More pillows?', 'Chicken soup?'. She'd sneeze and tell him to stay away 'It's just the flu, Griss', 'No, I don't need more pillows'."
I smiled. Men acting like concerned mothers were one of the sweetest things to watch.
Catherine smiled too. "He ended up with the flu too," she paused, her eyes saddened and then she added, "You see it in their eyes, you know? The way they look at each other."
It was strange to me how Catherine had switched to the present tense.
"Greg was a bit jealous at first. He had a crush on Sara from day one. The rest of the family was happy to see Grissom and Sara happy, as simple as that. Nick," she swiveled the framed photo I'd been looking at earlier and pointed me to Nick. "This handsome here," she said proudly. "Used to squabble with Sara about who knew more about this or that. All to impress Griss."
Yeah, I was interested in Warrick, and I admit it. So sue me.
"Warrick was the cool but serious uncle that watched over his nephews. Although sometimes. . ." She started to chuckle then the chuckle transformed into a laugh. I looked around the room, puzzled, scanning for the source of her unexplained laughter.
She managed to stop and explained it to me.
"Sara and Warrick had a rocky relationship at first, he was Grissom's favorite CSI and well, she didn't like it when Grissom forgave him things she thought Grissom shouldn't. They had their big clashes, like when Grissom made Warrick supervisor for the night when he and I were away. Sara gave him a hard time, poor Warrick."
Catherine continued, fighting hard against the laughter.
"All that changed with time, as they got to know each other better. I remember one day, April's fool. Warrick decided to play with Sara. She didn't know that, of course. Did you see that locker that looks like somebody beat the crap out of it?"
I smiled and said 'yes', trying to picture how it ended up like that and what Warrick and Sara had to do with it. It was Lucas' locker; he would be the equivalent of Nick, now that I think of it.
"Well, Warrick super-glued her to her locker."
We both laughed but I was sure Sara wasn't laughing when she was 'one with her locker'. I know I wouldn't.
"I think that day there was a meteor shower or something, all I remember is that the lab was nearly empty and that everyone had gone outside to see. When she noticed that her hand was stuck to her locker she tried to make leverage with her other hand to well. . .un-stick it. But Warrick, nasty practical joker that he is, had super-glued the entire locker so, voilà." She held both hands in the air.
Can you imagine yourself being alone inside a building with both hands stuck to a locker like a complete idiot?
"Oh my god. Not the other hand! What happened?"
Catherine wiped a tear of laughter of her cheek and sighed. "When we went back Nick thought he heard yelling in the locker room. We found her with both hands glued to her locker, one boot glued as well. In anger she'd kicked the locker and bang! It became stuck too. Nick took a picture of it.
I'd never seen Grissom laugh so much. He didn't laugh often. He had to sit on the floor, gasping for breath. I think we left her like that for ten minutes because we couldn't move. Every time we did, we took one look at her face, her socked foot and we would just explode. She kept saying 'Grissom, stop laughing! I know it was you Warrick Brown, you're a dead man!'"
From that day on I would smile every time I entered the locker room, almost hearing the laughter that had once echoed in those walls.
"It must've been a great team," I said when I saw Catherine taking the framed picture of her old team in her hands. She ran a finger over it before placing it back on her desk as if it were the most precious and delicate thing on Earth.
Her blue eyes lingered on the photo before looking up at me. "Yeah, but without Griss everything crumpled down. First Sara, then Nick and finally Warrick." She shrugged as if the collapse had been unavoidable.
"Nick met a CSI from Chicago and got a job there. Warrick went to see Grissom once, to see if he could win where Sara had lost but it was useless. Grissom had always been like a father to Warrick. He called me yesterday from Los Angeles to tell me he had his own team now. My kids are growing," Catherine mused with a glint of sadness in her eyes.
"You stayed here," I observed, not very sharply.
"That's because I knew you and the rest of the monkeys would come here," she teased. I smiled, I liked Catherine. "Las Vegas is my home, plus I have Lindsay. I was yanked from state to state when I was a kid and that wasn't a fun way to grow up. I didn't want the same to happen to her," she explained.
I heard Greg hollering 'oh my god' in the hallway. Catherine and I frowned and shrugged.
"Grissom was never the same since Sara left. Although that's what he'd said," she made the sign of inverted commas, "was the best."
I shook my head at Grissom's stubbornness. Catherine continued.
"The last time I saw them, it was my birthday. They all managed to show up. It was a great night; it almost seemed like nothing bad had happened.
Sara and Grissom laughed together again, everything went back to the way it used to be. It was as if they had forgotten about it all." She paused, her voice sad. "It was foolish to think that, I know it now. When we left Griss and Sara alone in hopes they would make up, everything started again. Sara was still mad at Griss for letting her leave and Grissom still felt guilty. And I bet my two kidneys they still love each—"
"Look at you, chatting in the middle of a shift. This place is out of control."
I swiveled my head towards the door.
"Oh, shut up." Catherine stood up with a dazzling grin on her face, sweeping her arms wide.
I didn't move, I was too astounded to speak. They had a shot affectionate hug, like old friends. Catherine introduced me as 'the one I've talked you about' and the woman in front of me nodded and smiled as if she already knew me.
"Sara Sidle, nice to meet you," she said outstretching her hand and smiling.
I shook hands with her but didn't say a word. I couldn't believe I was standing in front of her.
Catherine noticed my shock, as did Sara so I forced myself to come out of it.
"I'm sorry for the blank face," I said. "I haven't slept in two days. I'm in a long distance connection with reality."
Sara smiled at me like she knew the feeling and said something I didn't quite understand but she and Catherine seem to, "You should ride roller-coasters. I know from a good source that it helps."
I glanced at the framed picture behind her, perched over a metallic rack, one that I hadn't seen before.
It had her draping her arms over Grissom's shoulders, they were almost cheek to cheek, both looking like they would never leave each other's side.
Sara turned to Catherine and I excused myself with a 'I think David's calling me' and left. Just when I turned around the door I heard Sara saying 'I'm going to get married'.
I stopped dead in my tracks. I heard the future groom's name. Jack Something. Even though I'd just learnt about Nick, Warrick and Sara's existence and her relationship with Grissom I couldn't help to ask myself one question.
What about Grissom? Didn't she love Grissom?
I would like to know your opinion people: )