A/N - Hello! A few notes before we start here: I haven't written a GSR fic in literally years, but I got to thinking, what if Ted Danson leaves and William Petersen agreed to be in the last season (never ever going to happen ever, I know, but just humor me here) and the show was still about catching murder-y people and everything, but it was also about Grissom and Sara finding their way back to each other? I kinda got obsessed with it, so here we go. I still watch the show but not nearly as intensive as before, so if I'm not correct with my current facts, feel free to let me know.
Thanks to the amazing and talented Scullyseviltwin for the beta, I don't own anything, GSR is my OTP for life, and let's do this. Feedback is always appreciated! Thanks for reading.
Sometimes things work out and sometimes they don't. Sometimes you fall in love and it's hard and it sucks but you're happy, and you get a house and a dog and a life, and then everything falls apart. Maybe there isn't even a reason why; maybe it's just the way things are. And sometimes it's two years later and you're in the lab pondering your pathetic excuse of a love life and how much you miss the early days of romance and how easy and fun it was until everything went to hell. And then maybe sometimes you get interrupted by your boss while you're deep in thought.
Sara was going through some tissue samples while listening to the Ramones, a staple of her angsty teenage years, with her headphones on, so she didn't hear Ecklie at first. When he tapped her on the shoulder, she snapped her head up and saw he was trying to get her attention. Oops. She took her headphones off and tried not to look like a deer in headlights.
"Sorry, Conrad, I didn't hear you. What's up?"
He looked down at his shoes and Sara instantly knew she wasn't going to like what he was about to say. Sara used to quite literally loath Conrad Ecklie, but ever since he got his relationship with Morgan back on track, it was so much easier to be around him. Perhaps that was about to change.
"Well. As you know, DB is thinking about retiring soon, and Nick's last day is next week." Sara did not need to be reminded about that. She and Nick had worked together for almost 15 years (aside from the few times she had to get out of town for a while) and she didn't know what it would be like without him by her side, assisting her when she got stuck on a case, counseling her when she needed his help, just being a damn good friend. It was impossible to think about. They'd lost so many good people over the years. She still missed Warrick every day.
"Yeah. They're dropping like flies around here," Sara said, wishing Ecklie would get to the point.
"They really are. So we've been looking for a suitable replacement, and we couldn't come up with anybody who fit the requirements we're looking for, and so I kept thinking about who we really wanted, and who would be best for department, and it came to me. I didn't know if they were available, but… we reached out to someone."
Ecklie's lack of pronouns was unsettling and Sara wondered who he possibly could be talking about. Not Catherine, Sara knew for sure. Catherine was far too happy with her new gig to come back to the old one. Who else could he mean?
Sara stopped breathing. Maybe not literally. But kind of. Ecklie wasn't talking about what she thought he was talking about, was he? This couldn't be real. This was not happening. No. No, no, no.
"No," Sara said, even though she knew she was being slightly irrational.
"Come on, hear me out before you say no," Ecklie said, clearly ready to battle it out.
"I know what you're about to say, and I want to say no."
"Sidle, I know we've had our differences in the past, but I don't think this is that unreasonable. You're both adults, right? Think about what's best for the department."
No, Sara thought again, but it was starting to occur to her that her protests weren't worth it. This was going to happen, she knew it in her gut. It was practically inevitable, she supposed. What comes around goes around, as her father would say. And any other number of clichés she could come up with on such short notice.
"Look," Ecklie said patiently. "He wanted me to ask you first before he said yes. We all know how complicated this can get, how complicated it already is. But Gil Grissom is the best we had, Sara. He's well-known in certain circles and he was damn good at the job. Since he's been gone, he's had an important paper published and the buzz about him is electric. His project in Costa Rica is just about over and he was going to need something to do. So...I really hope you say yes, because we need him."
Sara exhaled. Really? Really? She didn't even want to think about how crappy it was that Grissom didn't even call or email or, hell, fax her about this before Ecklie blindsided her. So not cool. He was getting Ecklie to do his dirty work for him and Sara didn't appreciate it. She wanted to put down everything she was working on and run as far away as possible. But Sara knew that Ecklie was kind of right, too, and that's what really sucked the most. The lab could use Grissom after DB and Nick left. It hadn't occurred to her before, well, because she was heartbroken, but it also seemed like Grissom didn't want to come back; he was fine without the lab and having to show up every day and solve crimes like he did in his old life. But if he was done with his research, and if he thought it wasn't a terrible idea, well...maybe it would be good for them to actually have to face each other every day.
Or...a complete disaster. Either way.
Ecklie patiently waited for an answer. She could tell he was anticipating her ensuing meltdown, but things had changed. Sara was older now. Wiser. She knew this might be hard, or perhaps even impossible, but she also realized it could change everything, and maybe even for the better.
"Whatever's the best for the department," Sara finally replied.
Ecklie exhaled. "Great. Wonderful. Thank you, Sara, I'll call him and let him know immediately."
"Ecklie, wait. I'll take care of that, okay? I-I want to."
"Okay," Ecklie said, looking relieved. But he also looked sympathetic, which Sara wasn't quite used to yet. "I think you're doing something important here, Sara, even if it is hard. Thank you."
Sara nodded, and Ecklie smiled, and then it was over. Except…it had just begun.
After her shift ended, Sara drove home with her sunroof down, car stereo turned all the way up. She was listening to the Runaways, the band she always seemed to turn to when she had a lot on her mind. Something about the all-girl put her in a better place. Growing up, she needed a lot of coping mechanisms, and music became a big one.
Screw him, she thought, not for the first time and probably not for the last time. Not only screw Grissom because he couldn't call and tell her about Ecklie inviting him back. They actually hadn't talked on the phone or emailed in something ridiculous like six or seven months. She knew they'd talk again eventually because that's just how it seemed to work with them, but she wasn't going to be the first one to budge. Except now she'd have to be. Damn it, Ecklie. So, yeah, not only screw him for not calling her, but screw him and his bugs and his Frank Sinatra music and his stupid grey hair. Screw him and the Forensics Academy Conference where they met so long ago, and the six years they worked together before he was able to let go of his worries and fears about being in a relationship with her. Screw him and his baseball stats and his analytical mind and his ability to throw out witty one-liners at the drop of a hat. Screw it all, in fact, but not really because she didn't know where she'd be without him. Ughh, when did this get to be so hard?
When Sara got home, she threw off her work clothes and put on some sweats. She tried not to miss Hank, who had passed away a few months ago, adding an extra layer of devastation to her already fraying psyche. She put her iPod in a dock and let it play at random, and then got started in the kitchen. Onions, bell peppers, tortillas, cheese, sauce...Sara, for as hopeless as she used to feel as a cook, could now make some damn good enchiladas. It was Grissom's favorite meal when-
Blah. This always happened. Her thoughts always landed on Gil Grissom. And it's not like she hadn't moved on. She was generally in a good place these days, with the help of her friends, her job, her therapist. She'd even been dating here and there. A few weeks ago, she went out with a journalist she met online and was delighted to find that he was a cool guy. They were both so busy, but were planning another date for the near future. So she was doing fine without Grissom and he was probably doing fine without her.
The problem with that, though? She'd been in love with the guy since that dumb conference, which was what now, 17 years ago? God, they were getting old. It felt like she was just a kid back then, even though she'd already went through the death of her father, the trial and imprisonment of her mother, foster care, Harvard, working in the field for a few years...but it felt like a lifetime ago. And now it was hard to see anything without a tinge of Grissom. What would he do? What would he think? What would he say? Time heals all wounds, it was said, but not fast enough.
Sighing, Sara poured herself a glass of wine and went outside to her deck. It was noon, and it was warm, and she wanted to feel the sun on her face while she begrudgingly made the call. She took her cell phone out of her pocket and stared at it for a minute or two. Grissom was in Costa Rica doing research and writing papers on some new species of bug they found down there. It hurt that she didn't know he wanted to come back. And part of her desperately needed to feel like at least some of the reason why. But that's how she ended up in Vegas in the first place-because she thought he wanted more than just an investigation of Warrick. At least, that's what Sara wanted and imagined having all those years when he couldn't—wouldn't—make it happen. Maybe he did want more, but he talked himself out of it. Sara couldn't handle the thought of that happening again. She just couldn't. So…she wouldn't.
Sara took a deep breath and went to her contacts. She hoped he still had the same number, at least. It took a few rings, but finally a familiar voice answered.
"Sara. Hello. Ecklie must have spoken to you." Oh, how she missed his voice. Hearing it almost felt like a shot of tequila, or a warm, comforting bath. Those two were the same, right?
"Gil. Yes, we spoke today." She was quiet for a moment. So was he. "Is it true? Do you really want to come back here?"
"I think it's time," Grissom said, and she could tell he was trying to carefully choose his words as usual, which was annoying but so like him. "For a long time I never wanted to come back, but when Ecklie called to say DB and Nick were leaving, I thought about it for a long time. I'm getting a little restless out here, Sara. I haven't had a real home in years. And I want to come back."
Come back to what? Sara wanted to ask. Come back to Vegas, to the lab, to their house, to her? Did she even want him to come back to her? Maybe. But it wasn't going to be easy. He couldn't just walk right back in. He had to earn it this time.
"I see. Well, I think if that's what you want to do, you should," she said, trying to be just as careful. "The team could really use you around here, especially when DB and Nick leave. Nick's been amazing at picking up the slack with the bugs, so he'll need a replacement."
Grissom chuckled softly, and Sara was glad. She was teasing him a bit. It felt nice.
"Well, good. I'll talk to Ecklie here in the next few days and sort it all out, then. If everything goes well with my project, I should be back to Vegas by next month. I'll rent a place, of course, so, you know...don't worry about that."
Sara wasn't worried about it. She'd been around long enough to know this wasn't about her, and if it was, it would be a long time before he made his intentions known. Maybe she'd wait, maybe she wouldn't. Her journalist guy was really hot, and he was her age and liked the same music she did and probably was a good kisser. If they every got to see each other again, she'd have to figure that out.
"Okay. See you soon, I guess," Sara said, both happy to hear his voice and sad that it had come to this-a brief, somewhat awkward phone call that didn't even begin to cover the things still left unsaid. They were in love once. It was good and important and after all the things Sara had been through in her life, she deserved that. So did Grissom. But things change.
"I guess you will. I'm looking forward to it, Sara," Grissom said, a hint of vulnerability in his voice. But Sara wouldn't take the hint. Not tonight, and hopefully not any time soon.
"Me, too," she said. "Good night, Gil." And she hung up. Things were about to get complicated, and Sara wasn't sure if she'd ever be ready.
TO BE CONTINUED...