A/N: Thanks so much to Rouchie and CSI4nsicAce for beta-ing this thing, which was going to be really short but took on a mind of its own. Special thanks to Ray for beta-ing this part so I could post it. And thanks to all of you who have read and reviewed, I love you all and have cherished every review I have received.
Disclaimer: I do not own them and I really couldn't afford them either.
Walking through the back door, Sara couldn't help feeling that the courthouse was different. Usually when she walked through the doors she felt alive with a sense of purpose. She was there to help a victim find justice. As she flashed her CSI id card to the guard, she felt the walls closing in on her. The anxiety and terror, she had felt back in 1984 as she walked into the Marin County courthouse for the first time, was overcoming her. Her palms were sweating and her breathing was becoming shallow and labored.
She made a quick exit towards the women's bathroom, ignoring Grissom's calls for her. She braced herself against the sink, closing her eyes as she gripped the marble. 'Come on Sidle,' she chided herself. 'Get a grip. You can do this.' Looking up into the mirror, she forced herself to control her breathing. Then, she began taking all of her emotions and putting them into a box in the back of her mind to deal with later. Finally, she stood up straight, inspecting her features for any sign of anxiety. Satisfied that there was none she exited the bathroom.
Grissom said nothing when she ventured out. He simply cocked his head in the direction of the court and started walking towards it. She slid easily into synch with his stride, a small smile tugging at the corners of her mouth as she felt his hand rest on the small of her back as he guided them into the room. They walked down the aisle, stopping at the first row behind the prosecutor's table.
The room was relatively empty. The court reporter and court clerk were both already in their seats, idly looking at the papers before them. In the back rows sat a few people, a mixture of law students observing court proceedings and a few casual observers. Sara's eyes traveled to the defense table, wondering how it would be to see Dr. Doyle on the other side, wanting to know how he had accomplished his crimes. There were still so many unanswered questions. How did he know about her past? How did he carry out each murder? Why did he murder them the way he did and then display them in such a peculiar fashion?
Sara turned her head as the courtroom doors opened and rose as she watched Tom Martin from the District Attorney's office enter the room with Brass. "Ms. Sidle, Dr. Grissom," Martin greeted, shaking both of their hands. "The evidence collected so far appears to be air tight and I know that the forensics department is still working hard to uncover more evidence to tie Dr. Doyle to these horrendous crimes."
"The fact that he broke into an employee of the police department's home does not bode well for him, nephew of the mayor or not," he continued, looking closely at Sara, a fake smile of condolence on his face. "How are you coping with the invasion to your privacy, Ms. Sidle?"
"Fine," she said, forcing a smile of her own.
"Good," the attorney said, barely acknowledging her reply. "I don't expect the judge to allow for bail based on the charges, but we never know. Excuse me," he ended and left them.
"He's the best attorney from the office," Brass commented as he sat down beside them.
Sara nodded in consent to that fact as she slid down to the bench. "Doesn't change that he's a major ass, though," he continued.
"Do you know who Doyle has acquired for legal counsel?" Grissom asked. "Is Ben Pierce still representing him?"
The captain shrugged. "We'll all find out at the same time," he replied, looking towards the courtroom doors as they opened again. "It's Pierce," he informed the CSIs.
As he passed by them, Sara looked down at her watch. 'Five minutes until three o'clock,' she thought and looked towards one of the side doors. That was where Dr. Doyle would enter from. She sat up straighter, perfecting her mask of indifference, not wanting the man to think he had any affect on her, annoyed at herself for allowing him to have affected her life to the degree he had so far.
Her gaze traveled around the room, dismayed at her altered view of it. She had been in this very courtroom less than two weeks ago, testifying about the chain of custody of evidence in a sexual abuse case. It was not as though she had rose colored glasses on when viewing the court. She had seen countless murders, thieves, and predators allowed back on the street, she knew the topsy turvy legal system all too well. But whenever she was in this room, or any of the courtrooms, she had always believed that justice would prevail.
'Justice is greater than our personal feelings.' Melissa Winters had said those words at the last trial she had ever prosecuted. Sara looked at the table in front of them. It had been in this court room where she had heard the last, captivating speech from Melissa before everything turned to dust, and she had learned another valuable life lesson. No matter what, Melissa's speech concerning the importance of justice had struck a chord with her. Justice needed to be embraced here, any personal concerns pushed aside in the acquisition of it.
But now, as she looked around the room, her eyes traveling over the witness stand, she couldn't feel any of the hope that was usually attached to this place. It had disappeared, replaced by a sense of despair and anguish that she hadn't experienced since the first time she had ever been brought into a courtroom, forced to testify about what had happened that fateful day in her house.
A frown seemed to be pasted to her face, her forehead crinkled in anger. She wondered how long this was going to go on, how many weeks, months would the trial be? To what extent would her past be brought out in court by the defense to discredit her and the evidence she had collected? What ramifications would there be towards her job? She sighed inwardly, fearing the answer to all of those questions.
The side door opened, and she tensed as she watched a court officer bring in Dr. Doyle. He scanned the room, his gaze finally resting on her, and smiled that sickly smile at her. She fought back the gag reflex and glared at him, allowing Grissom's hand to find hers, and taking the comfort he was offering, instead of following her instinct to push his hand away.
"Any idea what he's pleading?" Brass inquired, forcing Sara's attention from the doctor.
She shrugged, unsure of the answer and knowing that it would have a direct effect on how long the trial would be. If he pleaded not guilty in any form, there would be a drawn-out trial, preceded by a lengthy pretrial preparation period. And the media would have a field day with the case. Dr. Doyle's relationship to the mayor would be paramount to reporters and eventually her own connection to the case would be brought out, which could lead to all types of inquiries into her own background. She inwardly cringed, dreading the admittance of his plea to the court.
It was through a blur that she rose as Judge Mulligan entered the courtroom and began the arraignment hearing. She barely acknowledged the debate for bail, unconsciously pleased that the judge had denied bail for the heinousness of the crimes. She heard him ask for the defendant's plea, holding her breath for an eternity as she waited for his answer, knowing that it would seal her fate.
"Guilty," Dr. Doyle said his voice void of any emotion.
She let out the breath she had been holding as she gasped, but it was muffled by the murmurs erupting throughout the courtroom. "Order!" the judge demanded, striking his gavel once, sending a shriveling gaze to the courtroom occupants. He turned back to the defendant's table, and continued, "Mr. Pierce have you advised your client of what entering a guilty verdict entails?"
"I have, your honor," Pierce replied.
"Very well," Mulligan stated. "Dr. Doyle you are hereby remanded to the custody of the Clark County police department until your sentencing."
The sound of the gavel once again erupting through the room caused Sara to squeeze Grissom's hand at the news. She looked towards Doyle and Pierce, unmoved by the salacious look the doctor was sending her way. She watched the court officer hand cuff him and allowed a satisfied smile to brighten her face as he was brought out of the courtroom.
"I can't believe he pleaded guilty," she admitted, looking at Grissom, bewilderment dominating her features.
He was frowning and she could tell he was mulling over what had just happened. "Something else is at work here," he said, his frown intensifying. "Doyle would not want a speedy resolution to this."
Before she could reply, Martin was by their side, smiling broadly. "Well, that made are lives a lot easier," he stated. "However, we're going to need all the evidence we can, Dr. Grissom, in order to make sure Dr. Doyle will receive the most ample punishment for these crimes."
Grissom nodded and Martin's smile grew. He nodded towards them and then exited the courtroom. "I need to get back to the precinct," Brass informed them as he stood. "I have more reports to finish than I care to think of."
They both nodded in response, watching him depart, before turning to look at one another. "What do you think?" she asked, wondering what the next step was.
Grissom shook his head. "I want to know what progress Nick and Warrick have made on the second car," he said and rose.
She nodded and followed his lead in standing. "Lab?" she asked and smiled as he nodded in consent.
She exited the aisle, stopping a few feet from it, as man stood blocking their way. "Dr. Grissom, Ms. Sidle," he said in greeting. "The mayor would like a word with you."
Grissom raised an eyebrow and cast a questioning look towards Sara. She shrugged and he nodded to the man, unconsciously placing his hand on her back as they followed the aide to another room in the courthouse, wondering what this new event had in store for them.
The scenario was so clichéd that Sara struggled to stop herself from laughing out loud or rolling her eyes. She had the overwhelming feeling that she was an actor on a primetime cop show instead of participating in her own real life drama. Grissom and she had been herded into one of the courthouse conference rooms. The mayor, with his political advisor sitting on one side of the long table, motioned for them to take a seat. Casting a sidelong look at Grissom, she followed his lead and sat down.
The mayor nodded to the young aide, who left the room, closing the door behind him. "The less who are privy to this conversation, the better, I am afraid," Mayor Stephen Blaney explained, a grim smile on his face.
Neither CSI commented, both intent on learning the meaning of this meeting before speaking. Blaney looked intently at both of them, silently trying to read their facial expressions. After a few seconds he gave up and sighed. The two of them were giving nothing away.
"I'm sure you want to know why I had you brought here," he started. "My office was informed of my nephews arrest this morning and of the nature of the crime he has committed. I have no doubt that the forensics department has done everything according to the law and that all of the evidence is without reproach. After all it is the second best lab in the country."
If the mayor had been expecting either of them to show a response to his flattery he was disappointed. Sara forced her hands to remain motionless, wishing the man would get to the point and stop with all the pleasantries. She had a pretty good feeling that Grissom felt the same way.
The mayor smiled at them, probably trying to use the charm that had won him so many votes in the last election, but only reminding Sara of Doyle's sickening one. "I want to express my sincere apologies for any hurt that William may have acted upon you, Ms. Sidle," he said, his voice anything but sincere.
When she made no attempt to acknowledge him, he continued, "I wanted to know what you are going to do now that William has pleaded guilty."
Her forehead scrunched in confusion, unsure what he meant. "Go back to work," she replied.
"Of course, Ms. Sidle," Blaney said a placating smile on his face. "But what charges, if any, of your own are you planning on filing?"
She opened her mouth to ask what he was really after but closed it when she felt Grissom's hand touch her arm. "Just say it, Mr. Blaney," Grissom said his voice tight with anger. "You want to know if there will be any political ramifications for you."
"The press has now learned of this, Dr. Grissom," the mayor informed them. "And they are already calling my office and yours to learn what they can about William. They will want to know if Ms. Sidle is planning on filing additional charges and if so against whom."
"Is there any reason why you or your wife would be brought into a civil suit?" Grissom asked.
"No," he said but the few seconds Blaney took before responding contradicted him.
Grissom's eyes narrowed. "What are you not telling us?" he asked, forcing himself to remain calm.
"After his wife's death we had William undergo a psychiatric exam," Blaney stated. "The psychiatrist recommended that he continue further therapy at an inpatient facility because there were some underlying issues that needed to be looked at. William did not want to and we didn't press the issue."
"The psychiatrist didn't say anything?" Sara asked.
"The bonus we gave him deterred any further inquiry," the mayor said.
"If Dr. Doyle needed psychiatric help why didn't you want him to have it?" Sara asked. Her eyes widened as she realized the answer. "You were afraid of the political ramifications having your nephew in a psychiatric hospital could cause," she said voicing her thoughts.
The mayor didn't answer but the look on his face let her know she was correct. "There is no proof that if Dr. Doyle had received psychological help that this could have been prevented," the political advisor stated.
"Of course not," Grissom said acrimoniously. "However, if he had been in the inpatient facility the likelihood of him killing the three women and stalking my CSI would have decreased dramatically."
"Now see here--" Blaney said, his voice rising as his face reddened in anger.
"Three women are dead because of your ambition," Grissom growled.
The mayor and his advisor looked at the night shift supervisor vehemently, and Sara could see that this conversation was soon going to deteriorate into a yelling match.
"I will not be filing any other charges, sir," Sara interrupted, trying to calm the situation. "I want nothing more than to put all of this as far behind me as possible."
"At least one of you is reasonable," the mayor muttered, fixing a pointed look at Grissom.
"However," she continued, "I cannot tell you what the families of the other three victims will want to do, Mr. Blaney."
"I see no reason for them to find out what I just told you," the mayor replied.
An exasperated snort escaped Sara before she could stop herself. "Do you honestly expect us to ignore that information?" she asked, surprised that he would even insinuate that.
"District Attorney Martin and I have talked and do not see how it has any bearing on the case," Blaney replied, leaning back in his chair. "Especially since William has pled guilty."
"That's rather convenient," Grissom remarked, his tone bitter.
"I would think that you would rather he plead guilty, Dr. Grissom," the mayor replied. "He'll rot away in prison, and Ms. Sidle will be free to continue working as a CSI."
"We work the evidence, Mr. Blaney," the night shift supervisor said. "If evidence of your negligence with Dr. Doyle's mental health comes to light, it will be documented and given as evidence to the district attorney's office."
"I'm sure that Conrad would have a different opinion on that matter," he replied, the comfortable air that had been around him dissipating and a colder one seeping through the room.
"Conrad Ecklie can have what ever opinion he desires, Mr. Blaney," Grissom said, his eyes narrowing dangerously. "I follow the evidence and I am sure the tax payers would rather I do my job then cover your ass."
"I believe that is all we have to say to one another then," Blaney replied curtly.
"I believe it is," Grissom stated and rose, Sara following suit.
As the two exited the conference room, she winced at the force that Grissom used to close the door. He was angry and she didn't blame him. Politics were a part of the job she could do without. Leaving the courthouse, she frowned at the tension he was exuding.
"You okay?" she asked as he unlocked the Denali.
"No," he answered gruffly before closing the car door.
She closed her door and buckled her seat belt, waiting for him to start the SUV. After a minute had passed and he hadn't turned the ignition she glanced over at him, noting the whiteness of his knuckles as he tightly gripped the steering wheel. "Sometimes I do not know why I still do this job," he finally said, breaking the tense silence.
His grip on the steering wheel weakened, and Sara gave him a wry smile. "You love your job," she replied. "It's the politics you can't stand."
He looked at her, a smile mirroring her own gracing his face. "I always told myself the day I had to become politically savvy to do this was the day I would quit," he informed her, his smile drifting away.
"You could quit?" she asked, surprised at this information.
"There are days when I seriously contemplate it," he told her.
"What makes you stay?" she asked.
He didn't answer right away, looking seriously at her, and she was afraid she had asked the wrong question. "Sorry, Grissom," she started, trying to back peddle. "I shouldn't have--"
"You," he said, interrupting her. "Well, not just you. Nick, Warrick, Catherine, Brass… even Greg."
His mouth hung slightly open and she could tell he was trying to put his feelings into words. "Catherine once told me that a family was being formed around me, whether I wanted one or not," he said, tilting his head as he remembered the day, a small smile forming on his lips. "And one has."
She nodded, understanding that feeling all too well. They were her family too. "I don't think I truly grasped that until Ecklie broke the team up," he continued. "Work hasn't been the same. It never will be again. But I'll keep coming if it means I get to see you and all of them."
Sara smiled in response, knowing that no words were necessary. She was thrilled that he had decided to allow her another glimpse into the mysterious Grissom psyche. After a few seconds, he cleared his throat. "The lab?" he asked, turning on the ignition.
"Definitely," she replied. "I want to know if they've found anything else out."
As the Denali pulled into a parking space, Sara braced herself for the reactions she would be receiving when she walked through the back door. She had no illusions about the rumor mill that efficiently worked its way through the crime lab. The information about her past that Dr. Doyle had blurted out only a few hours ago would have circulated through both day and swing shifts and probably trickled over to night shift employees also.
Unbuckling her seat belt, she forced a smile on her face and turned to look at Grissom. With a concerned gaze he scanned her face. She dropped the smile, knowing it was fooling no one, and shrugged before turning and opening the door. It was best to get this over with sooner than later. She preferred the method of ripping the band-aid off in one swift motion to gently prying it off and prolonging the agony.
Shutting the door, she walked forward, stepping onto the sidewalk and waiting for him to meet her there. "Where to first?" she asked, placing her sunglasses on the top of her head as they walked into the building.
"You are not allowed to process any of the evidence," Grissom reminded her, as they walked down the hallway.
She knew this path all too well. They were heading towards his office. She hoped he wasn't under the impression that she would allow herself to sit idly in there. 'He knows you better than that, Sara,' she thought shaking her head in annoyance at herself.
"I need to get my messages," he said, causing her to look at him. "And I'll find out what Nick and Warrick know."
She nodded and glanced at the threshold of his office. "I'll meet you back here in five minutes," she said and continued off of his perplexed look. "I need to see someone."
Without waiting for a reply, she turned on her heel and headed towards a different office. She stopped at the doorway, studying the woman sitting at the desk and feverishly signing papers and looking at reports. Any anger Sara had felt towards her had evaporated a while ago. Grissom was right; they were a family, and she needed to make sure things were okay between the two of them for everyone's sake.
"Hey," Sara said, knocking softly on the metal doorframe.
"Hey, yourself," Catherine replied, smiling sadly as she looked up from the paperwork and motioning her inside.
Sara closed the door as she entered, not wanting the rest of the lab to be privy to the conversation. She sat in one of the seats, ruminating on what she wanted to say. Glancing at the swing shift supervisor, she could see that she was not the only one struggling for words.
"I was out of line," Catherine began.
Sara quickly interrupted her. "It wasn't as though I was making it easy for you," she said, pursing her lips in thought.
"True," the other woman replied, smiling. "But when have you ever made anything easy?" she continued jokingly.
"Hey now," Sara said, allowing a small smile to play on her lips.
Silence fell on the room as the two women silently laughed. Their relationship may have started off rocky, and wasn't always peaches and roses, but when it came down to it they were friends. After all, Catherine was the one who had brought her out for drinks after the Hank debacle. They were both strong, opinionated women and were not always going to see eye to eye. That didn't mean they couldn't be friends though.
"I heard Doyle pleaded guilty," Catherine said, breaking the silence.
"He did," Sara responded, her mouth twisting in thought. "The mayor called us into a meeting afterwards. He had an inkling of his nephew not being exactly stable."
She watched the older woman shake her head. "He wanted you to keep it quiet, didn't he?" she asked.
Sara nodded. "Grissom showed no political savvy, did he?" Catherine asked.
"Of course not," Catherine said and sighed. Her forehead crinkled in thought. "Do you think Doyle pleaded guilty to appease his uncle?"
"The thought has crossed my mind," Sara answered. She looked down at her watch, remembering that she needed to meet up with Grissom soon. "We're good?"
"Of course," Catherine replied, a hesitant look passing over her face before she continued, "Sara…?"
"The guys giving you problems?" the younger CSI asked, already knowing the answer. She stood and started towards the door. "I'll talk to them."
"Sara," Catherine called as her hand touched the doorknob.
She turned and nodded for the swing shift supervisor to continue. "Watch out for Ecklie," she warned. "He's on a warpath."
"Thanks for the heads up," Sara said and exited the room, glad that her relationship with Catherine was back to status quo.
Gil Grissom sighed as he walked into his office and without a thought sat down in his chair. He placed the evidence bag down on the desk and looked warily at it. He didn't know how he was going to tell her about this. He cringed, knowing he would need to. Eyes closing, he pinched the bridge of his nose and then looked back at the object on his desk. Through the clear bag with the red lettering was a plain black, spiral notebook. There was nothing conspicuous about it from the outside. It was when you opened it that its significance was known.
Inside was Sara's handwriting, pages and pages of her thoughts, of her recounting what had happened that fateful night in her childhood, as well as her feelings and frustrations in regards to a number of people. He removed his glasses, gently biting on the tips, as he tried to think of a way to tell her that not only had Dr. Doyle seen this but so had Nick and Warrick also. It had contained her deepest secrets and now it had been laid bare for all to see.
Grissom knew how he would feel if someone had been allowed access to his private thoughts without permission, outraged and discombobulated. He was pretty sure Sara would have the same kind of reaction. What troubled him more was that it wasn't all they had found. Nick and Warrick were still going over the cartload of evidence they had gathered from the veterinarian's car and office. A gentle knock caused him to look up and he couldn't stop himself from smiling.
Sara stood in his doorway, smiling a genuine smile, the tension from earlier seeming to have disappeared from her body. "Hey," she greeted and quickly took up residence in one of the chairs. "I talked to Catherine."
"Oh," he replied, placing his glasses down on the table.
"Yeah," she continued. "You should talk to her too."
His gaze grazed over the evidence bag, unsure how to go about telling her the news. He really didn't want to change the amiable atmosphere that was currently surrounding them. Giving in, he frowned as he held up the evidence bag, allowing her to see it clearly.
Her chocolate eyes widened in surprise and disbelief before narrowing in annoyance and anger. "So that's how he knew about my past," she said.
"We believe so," Grissom answered, laying the bag back down on his desk.
"Where did they find it?" she asked. There was no emotion in her voice and it worried him.
"In his office."
She nodded and looked away, concentrating on the edge of his desk. He watched her; unsure what to say, what she needed or wanted to hear. She looked back up at him and continued, "Did they find anything else?"
"Sara," he started.
"Damn it, Grissom," she said, her voice low but still forceful. "Just tell me."
He nodded. "There was a photo album of pictures of you from your childhood and teenage years, an old address book, letters to you spanning back a couple of years," he told her, hesitating briefly before continuing. "And there was a small wooden box too."
Her eyes widened again, fear and embarrassment spreading across her face. "Did you see in it?" she asked her voice hollow.
He nodded again. "You must think I'm…" her voice trailed off, and she refused to look at him.
"You kept the course curriculum packet from the summer class I taught," he said, breaking the silence that had fallen.
He didn't think it was possible but she turned even redder. "If it makes you feel any better, I still have the wrapping paper you used to wrap the art book you gave me for Christmas," he informed her.
She finally looked at him. "A little," Sara replied.
"I'll never understand why you kept your feelings for me all these years after the way I've treated you," Grissom said, looking away from her this time.
"Must be love," she replied and then gasped, mirroring his shocked expression. "Uh, listen…I…crap," she cringed, burying her face in her hands.
"Must be," he finally said, when his vocal chords worked again. He cleared his throat and continued, "And Sara, just so you know, it's a mutual feeling."
She looked back up at him, giving a hesitant smile. He smiled back at her, trying to show her with his eyes all the feelings he held for her but knowing that he would never be able to show her all of them so easily. Just like Sara Sidle was a complicated mystery that he was forever learning new pieces to, his feelings for her were just as intricate and endless.
Conrad Ecklie's voice interrupted and forced both of them to look towards the doorway. "Good, you're both here," the man said, walking into the office and shutting the door behind him.
He sat down in the chair beside Sara, and she forced herself to remain seated and not give into the urge to move as far away from him as possible.
"How can we help you, Conrad?" Grissom asked, forcing himself to be professional.
"Sara, because of Doyle's…fixation on you, you're on paid leave for three days," Ecklie began. "We want to make sure you're ready when coming back to work so you will need to see the office psychologist before returning."
Sara nodded, making sure not to show any sign of annoyance at this request. Eclkie wasn't being nice; he merely wanted to know if she was able to competently work.
"I received a call from the mayor and the district attorney's office," Ecklie continued. "As of this moment, night shift is off the Doyle case."
"That was night shift's case, Conrad," Grissom stated, annoyance evident in his voice.
"Not anymore, it isn't," the assistant director replied. "Swing shift is now in charge of collecting and analyzing any and all evidence that has been or will be collected."
Ecklie gave a wicked smile before continuing, "You did this to yourself, Gil. You know that politics are part of this job."
With that said, he stood and walked towards the door. He turned back towards them, his hand on the doorknob, and continued, "Either you need to embrace that fact or walk away."
Sara watched him leave; the door shutting behind him, before turning back to Grissom, concern etched in her every feature. He was staring at the door, his face blank, his eyes void of emotion. Silently, he rose from his chair, a stiff frown lacing his features. She opened her mouth to speak, but quickly closed it when she couldn't think of anything adequate to say. He removed paper from a drawer in the filing cabinet and then sat back down.
He methodically put pen to paper, writing for a few minutes before folding the paper. After removing an envelope from the top drawer, he placed the paper inside, and quickly licked it closed. "I'm not on for another few hours, why don't we go for a drive?" he asked, rising once again from his chair.
Sara nodded as she rose, trying to decipher this change in behavior. He smiled at her and lifted the evidence bag and envelope from the table before walking towards the door. She followed him, watching his movements, as they walked through the hallway. He stopped at the doorway to the evidence room and briefly conversed with Warrick and Nick before handing them the evidence bag. She nodded to both guys before following Grissom on his trek through the lab.
They stopped again, this time at the reception desk and she watched him smile at the receptionist. "Can you please make sure Conrad Ecklie receives both of these," he informed the young woman, handing over the envelope and a set of keys.
Sara stared at the keys, wondering what it could mean, before Grissom's hand on her back steered her out of the lab. They stopped in front of her car and she cast a brief look at him before fishing her keys from her purse. When they were both buckled in and she had pulled out of the parking lot, she was finally able to ask what she had been wanting to for the last few minutes.
"What did you give to Amber, the receptionist?" she asked, looking sideways at him.
He let out a long sigh before answering, "My letter of resignation."
"What?" Sara asked, looking at him in shock.
"The road, Sara," Grissom reminded her and she refocused her attention on driving.
That was it, Gil Grissom had gone insane. There was no other way to explain what had just happened. She blinked, looking to see what crossroads she was passing. Maneuvering her car, she turned at the next crossroad, and pulled into the parking lot. She turned off the car and took a deep breath, counted to ten and then looked at him.
"Come on, you're buying me a latte and then telling me what the hell just happened," Sara informed him as she removed the keys.
"I already told you…"
"Latte first," she growled and unbuckled herself, opening her door and getting out of the car.
She waited for him to follow before locking the car and walking towards the small coffee shop. He had mastered the fine art of unveiling information that made her need to stop and focus her attention on what was revealed, especially since any small detail that he provided needed to be analyzed and combed through in order to gain a better understanding of the enigma that was Gil Grissom.
Entering the shop, she made a beeline for the counter, quickly ordering a tall vanilla latte and a chocolate chip muffin. Grissom ordered next and she moved to pick up their orders as he paid. Taking their drinks and muffins she found a table away from the few occupants.
After taking a long sip, she put her drink down and looked at him, resting back against the seat. "Okay, explain," she said, motioning to him.
"I resigned," he answered, bringing the mug up to his lips.
She gave him a pointed look and he sighed. "Ecklie was right," he started, placing the mug on the table. "I was either going to need to become more political and learn to play the game or I could leave."
She nodded, encouraging him to continue. "I won't play their games anymore, Sara," Grissom explained.
"What are you going to do then?" she asked, bringing her latte to her lips.
"I don't know," he informed her, leaning back in his seat.
Sara looked at him, surprised that he wasn't anxious or tense about this. Granted, when she had been suspended by Ecklie earlier in the year and the prospect of being fired had been quite realistic, she hadn't been nervous either. But that was different. She hadn't cared about anything at that point, too numb with her own pain to worry about her career. But Grissom, she couldn't understand how he could calmly sit across from her. Then again, this was Grissom, and he was a master at hiding his feelings, but for some reason she had the feeling that he truly didn't care.
The way her mouth was repeatedly opening and closing reminded Grissom of a fish. He knew she was desperately trying to find the right words to use. He was doing the same thing, grappling with his brain for a quote he could use to explain. As he watched her mouth open and close again, he gave up on his mental search and realized that he needed to use his own words for this, no one else's.
"I don't know what I'm going to do, Sara," he said, watching her mouth hang open slightly as he spoke. "And I really don't care what I do either."
She moved to talk and he quickly interrupted her, "Let me explain."
Leaning back in her chair, she nodded for him to continue. He briefly looked down at the wooden table, gathering his thoughts and attempting to form sentences with them. "Have I ever told you why I became an entomologist?" he asked, looking back at her.
He could see the inner battle in her face as she controlled the quick retort that was desperately trying to make its way out of her mouth and instead shook her head for him to continue.
"I was five when my father left," he started, placing the mug on the table as he gathered his thoughts. "I remember sitting on the curb by our house for hours and waiting for him to come back. All I did was sit, ignoring my neighbors and mother's attempts to get me to play or at least go inside. I couldn't understand how he could simply take off and leave me and my mother behind."
"A couple of feet from where I had taken up post was an ant colony," he continued, the corners of his mouth curling into a small smile as he remembered. "One of the games the other boys played was killing the ants as they trailed back to the hill."
"I'm sure you enjoyed watching that," Sara said, a playful smile tugging at her lips.
"I had no opinion of insects then, besides registering the annoyance my mother had regarding the ants that built colonies inside our house," Grissom replied.
"I think it's a feature of California," Sara quipped. "There should be signs for anyone moving to that state, 'Beware, you will have ants'."
She smiled widely as he laughed and then motioned for him to continue. "I sat for hours on end with nothing to do but stare at the road and the sidewalk," he continued. "I began to notice the ants, watching as they began their trek from the tree stump across the sidewalk and towards different areas of the neighborhood before returning with their different spoils. I began to notice that every so often one of the ants would be carrying one of its dead back to the colony."
"In my five year old head I was fascinated by that, intrigued that ants didn't leave any of their family behind like my father did to us," he finished, a wry smile on his face. "Of course, I began reading anything I could get my hands on about ants, asking questions to anyone who would listen, and when that didn't work I began watching and recording what I saw the different species of ants do."
"And so Gil Grissom the entomologist was born," she said, grasping her glass with both hands.
He nodded and took a sip of his coffee. "I moved on from ants and began reading everything I could find on insects and studying the ones I could find," he explained. "And when I was older and allowed to venture to the beach by myself I began studying the different insects that developed on the decaying corpses of animals that I found."
"And from there it wasn't a far step away from studying the insect activity on a human corpse," she remarked.
He placed the mug back down and sighed. "I miss being wholly involved in cases," he informed her. "All I ever seem to be doing is paperwork and trying to work nicely with Ecklie. I've been disenchanted with the current situation for a while, Sara. It wasn't a rash decision."
She gave him a look and he smiled before correcting himself, "Okay, it was a rash decision but it was one that was going to present itself in due course. It was simply a lot sooner than I expected."
"Do you have any idea what you're going to do?" she asked, idly rolling the glass between her hands.
"The university has been after me for sometime to teach some courses," Grissom said. "And Edward Cormier has been looking to leave the body farm and wants me to step in to head the research."
Her hands stopped their movements and she looked at him, her mouth hanging slightly open in disbelief. "You've really been giving this a lot of thought," she said, not quite believing the words leaving her mouth.
"There were certain areas of my life I saw could be improved if perhaps I continued on elsewhere," he explained, looking down at the mug in front of him and then back up at her. "Primarily in regards to my social life, or lack there of."
Her mouth formed a perfect O as she grasped the implications of his words. He watched her perform her fish act again with her mouth and smiled. His cell phone began ringing and he removed it, quickly checking to see who was calling, before silencing the call. "Who was it?" she asked, her brain seeming to function again.
His answer was cut off by the ringing of her cell phone. She flipped it open and answered it, before quickly moving the offending object a few centimeters away from her ear as Conrad Ecklie's voice reverberated through it. She raised an eyebrow as Grissom removed the phone from her hand and swiftly closed the call, before turning her phone off.
She watched him casually place her phone down and return to drinking his coffee. "I believe you're on paid leave for three days, and I'm no longer employed," Grissom began.
Sara nodded, not quite believing the whirlwind of information she had just been told. "How do you feel about enjoying sites and sounds of Pahrump with me for a couple of days?" he asked, placing his mug back down.
She opened her mouth, unsure of how to respond. "A wise young woman once told me that she knew what to do about 'this'," he continued, motioning between the two of them. "I'd like to take the opportunity to see where this can lead us."
A smile played on her lips and she nodded. "Pahrump, huh?" she asked.
"I believe I ruined one of your trips to there. The least I can do is make it up to you," he replied and rose from his seat.
"Now?" she asked, surprised at his impulsive behavior.
"There is no time like the present," he said.
She rose from her seat and smiled brightly. She started for the door, her smile growing as his hand rested on the small of her back. "What kind of ant was it in California that got you hooked on insects?" she asked as he opened the door.
"Camponotus modoc, the black carpenter ant," Grissom informed her. "I have a jar of them preserved in my bedroom."
She laughed at the absurdity of it and the fact that she found it rather endearing, which was probably why she didn't realize he had moved closer to her until his breath tickled her ear.
"Perhaps I can show it to you sometime," he continued, the timbre of his voice causing her body to shiver, and her mind to reel with the implications from those words.
Greg Sanders closed the door to his silver Passat and began his trek towards the back door to the crime lab. He was almost half an hour early and hoping to see Sara before they were all thrown into the whirlwind of cases for the night. When he and Nick had left the townhouse they had seen her lying on the bed, crying softly, before Grissom closed the door and they had silently retreated. All he wanted to do was see that she was alright and maybe be able to use some of his charm to cheer her up again.
'Laughter really is the best medicine,' he thought as he entered the crime lab. She had laughed once at his attempts to cheer her up and he wanted to make her laugh that way again, to wipe away the sorrow that had settled into her once carefree eyes. It was his goal and he wasn't leaving the lab until it happened.
Passing by the swing shift supervisor's office, he looked in surprise to see Catherine leaning against the wall, her forehead touching the cool surface, and Nick and Warrick looking awestruck at her. He watched her turn and shake her head in disbelief.
"I can't believe he did this!" Catherine yelled.
Greg slipped closer to the room, wondering what the discussion was about, and hoping that Catherine wasn't discussing Sara again. "Who's supposed to run night shift?" she continued, her hands flailing about as she began pacing the room.
"And Sara's on leave. That leaves only two CSIs," Nick remarked.
"Which means we'll be pulling lots of doubles," Warrick groaned, leaning back into the chair.
"Sara's on leave?" Greg asked, causing all of them to look over at him.
"Inside and close the door," Catherine hissed.
He quickly complied and looked questioningly at the three. "What's going on? Why is Sara on leave?"
"Ecklie gave Sara three days paid leave," Nick informed the younger man.
"That's good," Greg replied, unsure what the problem was. "It'll probably allow for the rumor mill to run its course."
Warrick nodded. "Any rumors about Sara and her past or Dr. Doyle will be pushed aside once the lab gets a hold of the latest," Catherine groaned and slid into her chair. "I cannot believe him!"
Greg looked at Nick. "Grissom gave Ecklie his letter of resignation," the Texan said.
Astonishment was the only thing the former lab tech was able to show. "What?"
"I'm going to kill him!" Catherine exclaimed.
"He really gave his resignation?" Greg asked.
Warrick nodded before replying, "I never thought I'd see the day Grissom didn't work here."
"Is Ecklie gloating?" Greg asked.
"No," Nick said. "He's currently being reamed out by the sheriff who wants this mattered resolved."
"Where is Grissom?" Greg asked, not quite believing all that he had been told.
"Your guess is as good as any," Catherine said, slamming a folder irritably onto the table. "Wherever he is he better be having fun, because when he gets back, I am going to kill him."
She wasn't a girl anymore.
Grissom blinked and focused his attention on the woman in front of him, watching her listen intently to the tour guide rambling on about the vineyard. He was unsure why that thought had grabbed hold of his mind, but there were so many truths wrapped up in the simple sentence.
She wasn't a girl anymore. She had changed, the once exuberant, playful attitude that he had first encountered had given way to a more serious, somber one. He wondered what had been the catalyst for this change, fearing that he knew the cause of it all too well, hating himself for tarnishing some of her natural light.
Sara turned to look at him, a full blown smile on her face, and tugged him towards where the rest of the group was, informing him of the wine making process as they walked. He smiled back at her, marveling in the way bits of the girl he had met years ago would seep from her. She was different away from work, the tension he usually saw surrounding her was minimal; instead she was smiling more than he had seen her do in the last few years.
He watched her mouth open and close, hearing the words come from it, but not comprehending any of the information. A faint smell of vanilla mocha reached his nostrils. He vaguely remembered Sara applying lip gloss to her lips as they exited her car and began to wonder if the delectable smell was coming from her lips, imagining what it would be like to taste them.
Her mouth had stopped moving; instead it was settled into a frown. His eyes moved to look at her eyes, wondering why she was frowning. A mischievous sparkle shone throw her chocolate eyes and her frown turned into a playful grin as she shook her head at him.
"You haven't heard a word I've said, have you?" she asked, folding her arms in front of her, her head cocking to the side questioningly.
He wracked his brain, trying to remember anything she might have been talking about and coming up empty. Her body shook with silent laughter before she turned away and started walking down the path. She stopped a few feet away and turned to look at him. "Are you coming?"
Grissom nodded and took a few long steps to catch up to her. "Just enjoying the view," he murmured as they began walking.
Sara stopped and groaned, punching him lightly in the arm. "That was horrible, Grissom," she said, shaking her head. "Horrible and cheesy and lame. I'd expect to hear Greg or Nick saying something like that, but, ugh…"
"I'm sorry," he replied, guiding her towards the vineyard's restaurant. "Would it have been better if I had quoted Shakespeare or Bourdillon?"
She let out another groan as they followed the waiter towards a table. Taking her seat she couldn't help but smile at Grissom's relaxed behavior. Her cell phone sprang to life, interrupting the calm atmosphere surrounding them. "Sorry," she said, and removed her phone from her purse.
He shook his head, turning his attention to the menu in front of him as she answered the call. The phone moved a few centimeters from her ears and she cringed as Catherine's voice came over the line.
"What is going on?" the swing shift supervisor demanded.
"What do you mean?" Sara asked, flipping open her menu.
"Sara Sidle, do not even try to be evasive with me," Catherine growled. "I'm just about to go back to work after pulling a double, working with Sofia, and my daughter decided this morning to rant and rave about wanting to get a tattoo. I am not in the mood."
"Sorry, Catherine, but what do you want to know?" Sara asked, forcing herself not to laugh.
"Did he really resign?"
"Yeah," she replied, perusing the menu.
"He's gone insane, hasn't he?" Catherine asked and released a slow sigh.
"He's always been crazy," Sara quipped, ignoring the glare Grissom shot her.
"The waiter is coming over, what do you want?" he asked, looking pointedly at her phone.
"One second, Catherine," she said and moved her hand to cover the phone. "It's your fault for leaving your phone in the car. You knew everyone would try to contact you."
She looked back at the menu and then back up at him. "I'll have the portabella mushroom dish," she informed him.
"White wine?" he asked.
She nodded and moved the phone back to her ear. "Sorry," she said. "How is everyone?"
"Tired," the other woman said. "And trying to stay out of Ecklie's warpath."
"Oh?" Sara asked. "I thought he'd be gloating?"
"The sheriff wasn't very keen on Gil's sudden resignation and let Ecklie know that," Catherine responded.
The waiter was at the table and Sara watched Grissom order for the two of them. "Where are the two of you?" Catherine probed.
"Out," Sara replied evasively. She didn't want any of them coming out to Pahrump and spoiling the mood. "I have to go Catherine. Good luck with shift."
She quickly hung up the call and turned her phone off before looking at Grissom. "Catherine thinks you've gone insane," she informed him as she placed her phone back in her purse.
"What else is new," he mused.
"The sheriff isn't happy," Sara continued. "So now Ecklie isn't happy and is apparently making everyone's life a nightmare."
"Hmmm," he replied.
"You can not honestly tell me that you don't care?" she asked, startled by his indifference.
Grissom let out a sigh. "I care, Sara," he replied. "However, I have more important things to dwell on at the moment."
She looked down, her forehead scrunching in concentration as she tried to determine what that was. "I have a lot of unanswered questions that I'd like to try and find the answer to," he continued.
"Like what?" she questioned.
She looked back at him, taken back by the passion and desire in his eyes. "I suppose you will just need to wait and see," he said, smiling as the waiter returned with their wine.
Sara swallowed, not quite able to dispose of the shiver that was making its way up her spine.
She tasted chicken and white wine, that was all she could comprehend, all her senses would allow her to make sense of. She felt her back hit the door, her hands grappling at his shirt as his tongue dueled with hers, one of his hands caressing the skin below her bra as his other struggled with getting the card key into the slot. The door opened and they stumbled backwards the door closing behind them as they entered.
He dropped her purse, the car keys and his phone on a chair as they moved through the room. The back of her knees made contact with the bed and she landed unceremoniously onto the burgundy covers. His mouth left hers and she groaned as it traveled down her neck, a low hiss of pleasure erupting from her as he hit a particularly sensitive spot.
It was too soon. Sara knew that. She knew he knew that. There was so much the two of them needed to discuss, to make clear, but years of pent up frustration wasn't going to allow their sensible sides to win at the moment. Somehow, he had divested her of her shirt and his fingers were working hard to do the same to her bra.
As his mouth moved lower down her body, she gasped and somewhere far away she could swear that she could hear ringing. Blinking, she focused on the sound and realized that it was Grissom's cell phone. "Phone," she murmured.
"I'm busy," he informed her and continued his ministrations, causing her to moan.
The ringing eventually stopped and his fingers moved to the button of her pants, quickly unbuttoning and unzippering them. As he removed her pants the ringing started again, this time accompanied by her phone as well. He groaned and looked up at her before moving away and grabbing his phone and her purse from the chair.
"Grissom," he barked as he answered, ready to enact a long verbal assault on whoever had called.
"Sorry to interrupt your playtime, Gil," Brass said amusement in his voice before he turned serious. "They're sentencing Doyle in two hours."
"Thanks, Jim," Grissom said and hung up the phone.
"It's about Doyle, isn't it?" Sara asked, removing her phone and checking the call log.
"There sentencing him in two hours," he replied. "We should be able to make it back in an hour."
She nodded, a blush creeping onto her as she realized her state of dress. "Could you, uh, get me that?" she asked, pointing to the bra that lay just beyond him.
Grissom picked up the silky fabric and groaned. "I really do hate that man," he murmured as he handed it to her.
Startling both herself and him, Sara brought her mouth crashing down on his, causing him to moan as her almost naked body rubbed against his. She broke free, leaving them both panting. "We will finish this later," she informed him with a smile, before gathering her clothes, and beginning the process of putting them back on.
"Detest, abhor, despise, loath him," Grissom whispered to himself.
Unlike at the time of his arraignment, the courtroom was packed. Sara and Grissom slipped in through the back, trying to wade through the frenzy of reporters and onlookers who flocked to high profile cases. Greg did a small wave to them from the bench behind the prosecutor's table and the two made their way over.
"Hey, Sara, Grissom," the younger man said in greeting before looking nervously at the two of them.
"He really did, Greg," Sara said, answering her friend's unspoken question.
"I can't believe it," he sighed, shaking his head.
"Hi guys," Nick greeted from behind them, causing the three to shift down the bench to give more room.
They watched as Nick, Warrick and Catherine squeezed onto the bench. Catherine leaned across the two men and smiled sweetly at Grissom. "We are going to talk after this," she hissed at him before turning her attention to the front of the courtroom.
Grissom groaned inwardly, not wanting to endure the woman's wrath. The hand of the woman beside him interlocked with his eased his discomfort, and he gave her a gentle squeeze of support, as the side door opened and Doyle was led inside. His eyes locked on the veterinarian's, no attempt at hiding the pure hatred he had for the man to shine through. Doyle disregarded his look, focusing his attention on Sara, smiling as his eyes took in her form. Her hand gripped his tighter and he stole a look at her, pleased by the steely gaze she settled on the other man.
Time moved quickly. Usually, it went slowly during a sentencing, never sure what punishment would be handed down, constantly worried about how the evidence affected the judge or jury's decision. This time it went by at warp speed and by the time Grissom was able to fully grasp all that had happened, Dr. Doyle was being led away to begin two consecutive life long sentences for the first degree murders of Christine McGraw and Kimberly Witt. He no longer looked like the pompous, disdainful man who had walked into the room. Instead, as he left he looked to be battered and broken, his illusionary strength dissipating around him.
The CSIs filed out of the courtroom, avoiding the blinding media attention that was trying to capture them. Eventually, they were in the back parking lot, standing around and congratulating one another on putting Doyle where he belonged. Grissom smiled at them, images of other times when they had been a team, his team, passing before him.
"So, you'll be telling Ecklie that this resignation business was just a foolish mistake now, Gil?" Catherine asked.
All eyes looked at him and he sighed. "No," he informed them.
"You can't seriously--" she said.
"I stand by my resignation, Catherine," he replied firmly.
"You are a very pigheaded man," she retorted.
"I don't want to work in an environment as boggled down by politics as mine has become," Grissom replied.
"You think you can honestly find a job that isn't muddied by politics?" she asked in disbelief.
"I want to try," he said.
Silence fell among the group, each wrapping their own thoughts around the idea of a lab without Grissom. 'Nothing would ever be the same,' Sara thought melancholically.
"It won't be the same without you," Greg remarked, hands in his pocket, rolling back and forth on the balls of his feet. "The lab needs its bugman."
"I knew this day would eventually come, but…" Nick said, his voice trailing off.
"They're going to realize what a mistake it was giving Ecklie the Assistant Director's position," Warrick remarked, shaking his head.
Catherine merely shook her head in acquiescence. "You are not allowed to become a stranger," she finally said, eyeing him pointedly. "None of this hiding away in your townhouse."
"We could get together once a week," Greg said enthusiastically. "Go to breakfast or ride the rides at New York!"
"Or something…" he continued as all eyes looked at him questioningly.
"It's a good idea, Greg," Sara assured him.
The young man beamed and Grissom struggled to keep from rolling his eyes. "We could start with it now," she continued. "We could all go get a pizza together."
"We have to get back to the lab," Catherine said, motioning to her, Nick and Warrick.
"I actually have a date," Greg informed them.
"A date?" Nick asked.
"Yeah," Greg replied. "You see Nick, when two people like each other--"
"Oh, ha ha ha," Nick drawled.
Simultaneously Nick, Warrick and Catherine's cell phones began ringing. "Duty calls," Warrick said.
"How about Sunday?" Nick asked. "We could all go for breakfast."
"Works for me," Catherine said. "As long as Lindsey can come."
"Of course, Cath," Warrick replied.
"We'll see you guys later," Nick said and nodded towards the others as he started towards the Denali.
"We'll come by your place after night shift is over on Sunday," Catherine said. "Make sure you actually come."
Warrick nodded towards Grissom before he and Catherine followed Nick. Greg looked sheepishly at the two remaining CSIs. "I have to go to," he said.
"Hot date," Sara commented, grinning.
"Yeah," Greg replied. "I'll see you at work in a few days, Sara, and I guess I'll see you on Sunday, Grissom."
"Apparently," Grissom grumbled under his breath.
"Have fun Greg," Sara called to the younger man.
"Do you really want to get pizza?" Grissom asked, looking over at her, intent on finishing what they had started a few hours ago, confident that she did also.
"All I really want right now is a bath," she informed him and began to walk towards her car.
"A bath?" he asked.
"Mhm, you fill a tub with water and some bubble bath," she teased, her eyes twinkling. "I've wanted one for ages."
Grissom looked at her, confusion evident in his face. Perhaps she didn't want to continue what had begun in Pahrump.
"Don't you have a big Jacuzzi bath at your townhouse?" she asked as she unlocked the door to her car.
Grissom blinked, her sentence playing over and over again in his mind a few times before he understood what she was implying. "Why yes I do, Ms. Sidle," he replied with a feral grin.
She moved to open the car door but stopped. "We still have a lot that we're going to need to discuss, Grissom," she told him seriously.
"I know, Sara," he said moving to stand in front of her. "But I meant what I said back in the coffee shop."
"I really do want to discover what to do about this," he said and motioned between them.
He was answered with one of her full blown smiles. "What are we waiting for?" she asked and opened the door.
As she started to drive them towards his townhouse, her smile grew as she realized that for once her happiness wasn't an illusion.