Author's Notes: Thanks to everyone who reviewed my last chapter. You've all been very encouraging, and I'm looking forward to hearing what you think of this chapter. Also, thanks to beaujolais for help with the beta. Any errors left are entirely mine from over tweaking.
Spoilers: Little tiny spoilers for Season One, Stalker. If there are others, they were entirely unintentional and I didn't notice them when I re-read.
Chapter 7: Destination In Sight
Catherine had been trying to hide her interest the whole way to work, but Nick wasn't volunteering any information about Grissom and Sara. She decided to probe a little and see what he would tell her. "So, who was on the phone?"
Nick looked distracted as he drove, but he made an effort to bring his thoughts into the now and focus on the other occupant of his speeding SUV. "Hmm? Oh, uh, just Brass."
Catherine's brow furrowed slightly. "What did Brass want? Was it about a case?"
He took brief sideways glances at her so that he wouldn't rear end the small pickup he was tailgating. Nick tried to mentally multitask, choosing his words carefully. "No case, just a social call." He didn't want to betray the confidence of his friend, but he also didn't want to lie to Catherine.
"Social call?" Catherine's furrows deepened from curiosity to confusion.
"This isn't the place for you to be right now," Jim Brass said in a steely monotone.
Gil Grissom looked up from his seat on the stairs to Sara's apartment to see Brass standing on the landing just below him. "Isn't Sara with you?"
Brass clenched his teeth for a moment to stop any smart remarks from escaping. He hadn't been expecting to see Grissom for at least another day, and he'd been hoping to have the "Sara situation" solved before talking to Gris again. Slowly, he replied in clipped words, making his irritation evident, "No, she's not with me at the moment."
Grissom nodded, but didn't speak for several long minutes. Instead, he stared at a spot on the floor in front of Jim's feet. Just as Brass was about to tell him to hit the road, Grissom broke the awkward silence.
"I was wrong. I shouldn't have said those things about Sara." He paused to glance at Jim to gauge his reaction, but Brass's expression was like stone. Inhaling deeply, Grissom continued, "It was right for you to defend her. However, as friends, we could have talked it out. You seriously endangered our relationship when you hit me."
Brass stood silently for a moment, not quite surprised by the change in course, but not prepared either. He eyed Grissom with suspicion, wondering what his intentions were, then suddenly he came to a decision and sat down on the stairs beside Gil.
Brass carefully weighed his reactions. He could feel frustration rising in his throat at Gil's words. Talked it out! I've tried talking to this thick skulled idiot savant! Obviously talking didn't sink in and less enlightened measures were necessary! As he considered sharing his thoughts with Grissom, he realized that another argument would ensue. Taking a deep breath to calm himself and gather his courage, Brass made the decision to get right to the point.
"Grissom, I know why you're here," he said quietly, turning to look Grissom straight in the eyes, "and I'm telling you that it's not a good idea."
When Grissom made no move to respond, Brass continued. "I know how you feel about her. Hell, I've even tried to talk you into telling her." Pausing, he looked away to stare with intense scrutiny at the unnatural green indoor/outdoor carpeting of the landing. "The problem, Gris, is that you run hot and cold with her, and that's got her all twisted up. She doesn't know whether to jump left or right, and she's sure that whatever she chooses will end up being wrong. For what it's worth, she's probably right. Sometimes there's just no right way to approach you."
Grissom stared fixedly at Brass's profile. "I suppose you know what I should do."
Brass slowly let out a long breath and turned to face his friend. With determined certainty, he said, "Yes. Yes I do. And you'd better do it, or you're likely to lose your two best allies, and a very good friend."
Sara slowed to a stop in front of the small brick house that she had spent the better part of the day at. She was disappointed to see that there were no lights on inside, and his car was no where to be seen.
"Damn!" she swore under her breath.
Maybe he ran some errands after he dropped me at my car. For a moment, she considered waiting for him to come home, but then she thought that he had probably gone in to work after all.
Mentally kicking herself for thinking he might actually be sitting at home licking his wounds and pining for her company, she pounded hard on the gas and squealed up the street.
"I knew you two had been closer ever since the stalking, but I didn't realize you were, uh, social."
Nick visibly winced at the mention of the deranged cable guy that had tried to kill him. "I thought we agreed never to mention Nigel again."
"Oh, yeah, sorry." Catherine flushed, trying hard to think of a question that would take Nick's focus off the previous trauma. "So, you and Brass are bosom buddies now, eh?"
Nick pulled into the lab's parking lot as he answered. "I don't know that I'd say bosom buddies, but after, uh," his voice trailed off for a moment before he glanced across the seat at her and started again. "After Nigel, Jim was faithful to check on me, see if I needed anything, and make sure I was okay. He was, well, he was easier to talk to than my PEAP counselor, not to mention easier to get in to see." He smiled at her and turned back to his driving just in time to swerve, missing one of the swing shift lab techs as they pulled out of their compact car parking space. "Jerk!" he mumbled.
Catherine sat silently as Nick pulled into a parking spot and got out. She still hadn't found out anything about Grissom and Sara, but she decided that this had been a good talk and she wasn't going to regret the turn it had taken. As they walked towards the double glass doors, she turned to Nick and smiled warmly. "It's good to know he's looking out for you."
Nick smiled back brightly. "Nah, we look out for each other." Laughing to himself, he opened the door and held it for her.
Catherine got the distinct feeling that he was enjoying a private joke, but she'd have to ask him about it later, because Warrick was just coming towards them.
Back in the parking lot, Grissom frowned at the Styrofoam cooler in his back seat. "So, you're saying that the picnic is a bad idea?"
Brass slowly shook his head. I know he's not that thick!
"But I got her favorite ice cream…" Grissom's face fell into contemplation. "I thought that was better than chocolates…" he said almost to himself.
Brass rolled his eyes. Maybe he is that thick! "What you're doing is exactly what has caused the tension in the first place. If you're this afraid of losing your chance with her, then maybe you should try acting like a human being in her presence on a daily basis."
Brass waited to see if Grissom understood, but Grissom was only staring blankly back at him. Oh, for crying out loud! "If you make this big gesture, she'll only see it as another way in which you're leading her on. Without any other evidence that things have changed between you the two of you, she'll be waiting for you to withdraw your favor at any moment because that would be more in keeping with your history."
A small spark of understanding came into Gil's eyes. "Ah."
Brass finally smiled at him for the first time all day. "So, take this stuff home and go back to work. Tomorrow, try being nice to her. Then, the day after that, try it again. Pretty soon, you'll have the hang of it," he said, patting Grissom on the arm and trying to hurry him to leave.
Gil frowned suddenly, his eyes narrowing at Brass. "Are you trying to get rid of me so you can take a shot with her?"
Brass's voice became immediately hard. "I have never known you, Gil Grissom, to make the same mistake twice. So, let's not go repeating our little scene in the park, okay?"
Jim's face turned red as he spoke, and he began to feel a throbbing in his temple. The anger from earlier in the day was beginning to creep back into him. When Grissom had insulted Sara's honor and made certain implications about her sex life, Brass's temper had burst a gasket. He could still remember the anger driving him, the feeling of hitting Grissom and holding him against that tree. In the emotion of the moment, Brass had made a necessary point, but Gil was his friend and he didn't want to have to make that point again.
"As far as I'm concerned, you had a huge moment of 'dumb-ass' this morning, but you're never going to do it again, so there's no need for us to mention it again. Is there?"
Grissom unconsciously reached up and rubbed his bruised jaw, then slowly shook his head.
"Good! I took no pleasure in cleaning your clock, Gil, but I'll do it again any day if you ever suggest such things about Sara, or that I don't have her best interests in mind."
Brass was clenching his teeth, the muscles in his shoulders tensed. He looked as though he might be preparing to take another swing. It was evident that Brass was telling the truth, but Grissom couldn't back down just yet. Carefully controlling himself, he asked in an even tone, "Are you telling me that you don't have feelings for her too?"
Jim's lip twitched, and his fingers curled and flexed. He blinked a couple of times as he stared at Gil's cold, probing eyes. This would not be a question he could avoid. Drawing a deep breath, he stood up to his full height and prepared his answer.
Warrick stopped Nick and Catherine at the door and led them into a side hall before speaking. "Guys, something weird is going on, and I thought you should have a heads up before you run in to Ecklie."
Catherine frowned. "Ecklie? His shift is over. He shouldn't still be here."
Warrick frowned right back at her and started shaking his head. "Ecklie is looking for you right now. He's got cases for you to hand out and…"
"Whoa, whoa, whoa. Handing out cases is Grissom's job." Nick interrupted.
Now Warrick nodded. "Yeah, but Grissom apparently took the night off, and so did Sara." Noticing Catherine's smile, Warrick also added, "And so did Brass."
As Nick's eyes widened at his comprehension of the situation, he dug his cell phone out of his pocket and began dialing. Seeing Warrick and Catherine's confused faces, he said, "Uh, sorry guys, I forgot I've got this one call to make. You'll have to excuse me." Abruptly, he turned and walked back out into the parking lot with the phone to his ear.
Warrick turned back to Catherine after a moment. "Seriously, Cath, what's going on? Everyone around here is acting really out of character today."
"I had my suspicions, but…you're sure Brass took the night off too?" she asked as she motioned him to start walking with her to the conference room.
Walking close by her and trying to talk so that they would not be overheard as they passed, Warrick quietly explained all he had seen the night before. Careful to point out that he had not actually heard anything noteworthy, he told her about overhearing her scolding Grissom, and later seeing him throw away a new box of chocolates, plus the components of a picnic spread out over his desk.
"Chocolates you say? Now that's interesting…" Catherine's thoughts trailed off as she considered the implications of Grissom and chocolates, and picnics.
"But that's not the half of it, Cath."
She turned back to him with her full attention, stopping in the middle of the hall and causing several people to have to walk around her. One eyebrow slowly raised and her expression became intense and searching as she stared at him. "What's the rest then?"
Again trying to quietly tell her what else he'd seen, he leaned down to whisper in her ear.
Springing back unexpectedly, Catherine's eyes widened. "You're sure you saw him holding her!"
Several people at the end of the hall stopped to look at them and feeling self conscious, Catherine grabbed Warrick's arm and led him into an empty evidence room.
"Listen, I know what I saw. He was holding her, and then he kissed her and left."
Catherine's jaw dropped momentarily before she could make her mouth say, "What? Kissed her? Did they know you were there?"
He thought for a moment before shaking his head. "No, they didn't see me. But when I came back later to check on her, she was crying and then she bolted out of the office and took off. I haven't seen her since, but a few hours later Brass called to tell me she was okay and she'd be taking the night off."
She leaned back against the table behind her and let the silence of the room soak into her thoughts. Grissom and Brass and Sara…Who was she talking to Nick about? I'm so confused!
Just at that moment, the door opened and Nick stuck his head in. "I've been looking for you guys! What are you doing in here?" He eyed them suspiciously.
Sara snapped her cell phone shut. It had been a bizarre conversation with Nick, and she got the impression that he wasn't telling her everything. He'd said that he had just arrived at the lab and wanted to check on her.
That wasn't the bizarre part, though. Nick had asked her if she'd seen Grissom today. He knows I spent the day with Jim. When would I have seen Grissom?
Even as she was asking herself that, she pulled into the parking lot of her apartment complex…and saw Brass…and Grissom.
Continued in Chapter 8
Okay, I know I'm cruel because I'm keeping you hanging. Honestly, though, I really thought this would be the last chapter, but it didn't work out that way and I hope you won't mind tuning in for one more chapter…or maybe two… However, reviews are required for inspiration. No reviews No inspiration. Do you see what I'm getting at here? For the love of all that's good (and for the rest of the story), review!