Summary: A conversation between Grissom and someone you know it exists but that you haven't seen yet. The subject of the 'chat': Sara.
Author's Notes: As always, huge thanks to Peggie for doing the beta on this and for helping me drag my muse back from early retirement.
I wrote this a while ago, back when I was in my let's-experiment-with-fanfiction mood. 'The postcard' and this fic are the result of that phase. Hope you enjoy.
Feedback: You know it's important, especially when the fic is weird.
* * *
Grissom sat comfortably on one of the backyard chairs, letting the memories wrap up his senses and transport him to a childhood that seemed so distant he sometimes doubted it had ever existed.
He could almost hear the laugher of children, the delighted squeals and all the other noises kids make while they're playing.
He closed his weary eyes and breathed in the smell of freshly mowed grass. He opened his eyes and smiled when his gaze magically settled over the only tree in his old backyard.
Many things had happened around and up that tree, Grissom mused dreamily.
That's from where he'd fought back the Martian Invasion with his neighbour and best friend Ollie Winston at the tender age of five.
Where he'd broken his arm in an unsuccessful attempt to capture an elusive insect.
Where he used to tie his cousin Carl when they were playing cowboys and Indians with all his relatives under the age of ten.
The memory elicited a chuckle and a nostalgic shake of his head.
Poor Carl. Half the times we forgot to untie him, Grissom thought.
It amazed him how a simple tree could resuscitate fuzzy childhood memories and wake the kid you still had inside.
Grissom sighed and smiled. Everything in that backyard evoked warm memories of a time and place where he was just a carefree kid. He was a tad weird, but regardless of that, he was just 'Gil' or 'Curly' as Ollie often called him.
Now he was Gil Grissom, supervisor of the Las Vegas Crime Lab nightshift. He lived alone in a townhouse and he didn't know what to do with his life.
He didn't know what to do with Sara.
A hand snapped its fingers in front of his face.
He turned around and found his mother's eyes staring at him. It was a mother's stare. One of those that could read exactly what was going on inside you, in the deepest parts of your soul.
'What's her name?' she signed, without her gaze ever leaving her son's troubled eyes.
Grissom's eyes widened a little bit, but the surprise was as fleeting as a shooting star on a dark starry sky. He knew his mother was no fool and that she could read him like an open book.
'Remember Sara Sidle?' he signed back.
His mother nodded slowly and tried to hide a victorious smile.
Ah-ha, she thought.
She'd heard of this Sara before. Her name popped into conversations sometimes, always hand-in-hand with a flattering adjective and a look in her son's eyes that spoke volumes about this 'special student'. Then he would move onto another subject but the shine in his eyes would linger, as if he couldn't get her out of his thoughts.
She'd been waiting for the name to come up again ever since Gil had told her she was going to stay in Las Vegas. It was just a matter of time.
Grissom saw his mother nodding and smiling as if she'd been waiting for this moment for a long time. He'd had relationships before but, somehow, his mother knew this time things were serious. None of the others had had the baffling power to leave him speechless with a few words.
The only occasion in which his previews relationships rendered him mute was when they gave him an ultimatum that seemed to be scripted since the words seldom changed: 'Choose Gil, your work or me. You can't have both'.
'My shift starts in 20 minutes' Grissom would say with the least tactful of tones.
Sara had shattered the routine.
Sara. Yeah, Grissom thought wearily, she's caused me more than enough trouble.
She was still causing it. Adventuring into areas of Grissom's head that had been closed off to strangers, stirring feelings that should have been sound asleep and posing a lot more questions in a day than he could answer to himself in a decade.
'Do you want to sleep with me?' had been one of those questions.
She hadn't meant it as a real invitation, but all the same, there had been an eternity before she had spoken again. That was a long time to take a question seriously and to amaze himself with the answer he would have given.
'If you could tell me what you are thinking, I could be of some help,' his mother joked with a smile.
Grissom smiled back. 'She still works for me.'
She worked for him. For four years now. It seemed like a lifetime since the day he'd heard her voice when he and Nick were tossing dummies from that Hotel. He would recognize her voice anywhere.
So many things had happened since then. He felt like he was remembering past lives instead of four-year old memories.
'She's smart,' Grissom added as soon as the thought crossed his mind.
'Always a good thing,' his mother commented quickly. Grissom smiled and nodded.
As if a dark cloud had moved over him, he lowered his eyes and looked defeated. His mother frowned.
'Yeah. Too smart maybe. She's going to figure it out someday soon,' Grissom added.
She was starting to. Grissom could see it in Sara's eyes every time he said something he shouldn't have, something completely opposite to the night before. She would walk up to him and smile, sparkly-eyed. She would say something, probably in a teasing tone.
And he would screw up.
And she would look at him -stare at him- as if he'd just broke something inside her or simply slapped her in the face.
'Figure what out?'
His mother was not confused, she knew where he was going. Gil had always been leery when it came to close relationships, going through them with a dread that would make anyone think he was tiptoeing across a mine field. Men like him did not have a good rapport with women. Specially with the intelligent ones who had enough brains to interest him in the first place.
'I don't know. That I'm not worth it? That she could be with somebody younger who worships her like a queen and never puts a look of confusion and disappointment in her eyes?'
'Have you done that?'
'Countless times. Various degrees of confusion and disappointment,' he replied with a weak smile, obviously not proud of it.
'Why do you think she's still with you?'
Grissom regarded his mother with genuine surprise. That was a question that for some reason had eluded his analytical mind. He'd never thought about it.
There was always a second before Grissom thought of an answer to a personal question like -'why did you do it?'- in which he was terrified he would never come up with an answer. Call it arrogance, call it 'need to have everything clearly explained' but there was something intrinsically horrifying about not knowing the motives behind his own actions.
Perhaps the real scary monster inside his mind's closet was knowing his motives.
'She works here. She has friends here. Her career. She's not going to leave just because of me.'
There. Question answered. The universe is back to normal. Planets can return to their normal rotation. Everything is under control.
His mother frowned and glanced up at the afternoon sky. It was getting more pink and violet by the second. She looked down at her son. He was absently scraping something off the table with his fingernail. He looked up.
'Son, correct me if I'm wrong but, didn't she move to Las Vegas because of you?'
Grissom stopped scraping.
'It's not the same. That was during the Gribbs case. It was work.'
It was a shaky answer, Grissom knew it. Blow over it and it would disintegrate like a castle of clouds. It would never cut mustard with his mother, she could be sharper than the sharpest prosecutor.
Grissom liked to think he had something of that sharpness in him.
'Show me the difference. Explain the difference to me as well as you explained to me the difference between a bee and a wasp when you were nine.'
Why not ask for the moon and the stars, mom?
'That was much easier. This is. . . she. . .she. . .'
Grissom frowned and looked straight ahead as if he'd just figure out the proper way to achieve cold fusion.
Why was she still here?
The realization that Sara might feel something for him other than friendship, despite her other 'relationship', brushed his consciousness before it went into hiding again behind a column of fear and denial.
Grissom found the words, but they didn't sound as true anymore, as if the truth serum had . . .worn off. Dissipated.
'Maybe there weren't many things holding her back in San Francisco,' Grissom replied.
His mother nodded in return, giving him the impression he'd pass the test, that he wasn't so clueless about his own life and the people in it. He felt a bit more confident.
It wasn't like he was stumbling around his life with a blindfold on. Maybe Sara was tired of the San Francisco fog and yearned for a bit of the desert life.
Yeah, that was it. Nothing to do with him.
Grissom stood up and took two steps on the cushy grass, always facing his mother.
'Did you ever ask her?' she asked from her seat.
Grissom's first reaction was to chuckle.
Not because he found the question funny but because it was as obvious as a red dog walking among a thousand white dogs.
Maybe he was colour-blind.
Ask Sara why she came here so fast? Hmmm. . .. Not a chance, he decided.
He remembered calling her without a second's hesitation, as if she'd been in his head for a long time, waiting to surface back to the top. He'd never mulled it over, he'd found himself dialling even before he knew what he was going to say besides 'Hi'.
He knew why he'd acted like that. He didn't want to admit it though. To admit that a woman 15 years his junior had that much power over his actions would be like relinquishing his sacrosanct emotional independence from people.
When he had asked her to stay, Grissom could say that, for someone who would have to move to another state and leave an entire life behind, she had made the decision in the blink of an eye.
He didn't know why she had done that, said 'yes'.
'I can't ask now' Grissom signed, his eyes looking like he'd given up on something important.
'Why? Is she unconscious?'
This time Grissom laughed.
He took a casual peek at his watch. 'No. Right about now she must be at the Lab. She always goes to work really early.'
His mother frowned. 'That's not good. You should do something about that.'
'I can't lock her up in her house until start of shift,' Grissom replied.
His mother regarded him with a skeptical stare, as if saying 'don't-you-try-to-out-smart-me'.
'Take her to dinner sometime, so she doesn't show up early. Isn't that part of your responsibility?'
Grissom shook his head, already at odds with the idea. 'I don't think so and that's definitely not a supervisor's duty.'
'The last time I checked, dinner was not the equivalent of a marriage proposal,' his mother commented.
Grissom arched an eyebrow.
'I wouldn't know what to say. How to ask--' he waved his hands and stopped signing. Talking about possible moves...about the Sara-issue...always wore him down.
Give him a Super-Genius crossword puzzle to solve any day of the week and he'd do it. But ask anything about Sara Sidle, and his brain cells would start knocking against each other like a bunch of drunken monkeys.
'Remember how you learned to walk?'
Grissom frowned in the same way Nick or Warrick did when he said something cryptic. Now Grissom was in their shoes, he felt like he was twelve again and he didn't know a thing about life.
'One step at the time, Gil. You didn't go out jogging the day after your first steps.'
She remembered the day clearly. His little arms let go of the coffee table and he looked at her as if to let her know he was going to go for it. He swayed slightly, big baby blue eyes calculating, deciding before going headlong in her direction. One unsteady step after the other until he reached her, squealing with excitement when he sensed that his last feat had been so important.
'I thought I did. You always told me I was a precocious child,' Grissom teased, tilting up his chin in mock superiority.
That made his mother laugh for a whole minute.
After the laughter subsided she clarified, 'Precocious in some areas.'
She saw how her son's brows furrowed as he debated internally with her suggestion. She pressed again. 'Take her to dinner at least once so she doesn't show up so early. I'm sure afterwards she won't demand you give her your last name for her future children.'
Grissom still didn't look convinced, so his mother went on, 'Have fun. You always told me she was easy to talk to. Enjoy a simple dinner and while you're at it, go ahead and ask her.'
Grissom frowned. 'Ask her what?'
'Why did she leave San Francisco for you?'