Disclaimer: I don't own these characters. They are the property of CBS, inc.
A/N: Hi! Hope you are all well. I'm going to try this a little more slowly. Maybe a chapter a week. I hope that works for folks. I am still trying to figure out how to do everything at the same time, and don't know another way to do this on top of school, teaching, and work. Can't yet give up this craziness. Love it too much. And you guys always make my life that much better. Thanks.
He spotted the redhead out of the corner of his eye. She was pretty and dressed in a smooth, tan suit. Ecklie was walking with her; stopping every few seconds to point something out or introduce her to someone. Grissom moved into the hallway, keeping an eye on both of them through the glass walls of the lab. Conrad was focusing on the part of the lab that was farthest away from Grissom's office. Grissom was sure of it. There was no doubt in his mind that Ecklie was now going to do his best to get this girl safely hired before she ever had to interact with Grissom.
Grissom walked quietly into the room directly next to Ecklie. He picked up a folder, and pretended to be studying it intensely. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Ecklie moving warily to the hall, guiding the woman, his hand on the small of her back. As they attempted to walk past the doorway where he was standing, he casually strolled into the hall, his eyes still glued to the folder. Ecklie jumped back when Grissom walked directly into his path. The woman stepped back in surprise. Grissom noticed that her red hair was rich with honey colored highlights. He found it to be a lovely contrast.
"Grissom!" Ecklie said. "Watch where you are going!"
Grissom's eyebrows rose. "Sorry Conrad. I was so engrossed in this case…" In that moment, he noticed that the file he picked up contained the last month's scheduling chart. He closed it abruptly.
"Never mind. If you will excuse us." Ecklie attempted to brush past him.
The woman cocked her head at Grissom. "Aren't you Dr. Gil Grissom, author of Forensic Entomology?"
Grissom smiled at her, taking a moment to pull off his glasses and put them in the breast pocket of his lab coat. "I am. And whom do I have the pleasure of meeting?"
She smiled broadly, green eyes twinkling. "My name is Shannon Harris. And if I could just say what an honor it is to meet you. Of course, I knew you worked here, but I had no idea you were so accessible."
Ecklie let out an audible groan, but Grissom ignored him. He extended a hand and shook her hand warmly. "What brings you to our little lab, Shannon?"
"Well, I'm interviewing for the open CSI position. Mr. Ecklie here was kind enough to offer me a tour."
"Excellent!" said Grissom.
"Speaking of which, we really need to continue—"
"Where did you study?" Grissom ignored Ecklie.
"I have a bachelor's in biology from Columbia and a master's in microbiology from the University of California, San Diego. I also have 80 of my doctoral completed." She stood stiffly as if reciting a practiced monologue.
"And you read my text?"
"Of course! It is the bible for any of us intrigued with insects. The research for my dissertation is on the mung beetle and the maturation variation that happens in dry climates as opposed to wet. I have already cited you extensively in my practical applications section."
"You hear that, Conrad. I'm going to be in a dissertation." Grissom winked at his colleague.
"I'm very busy, Grissom." Ecklie spoke in clipped tones. "I do not have time to socialize with you and Miss Harris."
"Oh, Conrad, I'm sorry. Forgive me." Grissom smiled at the redhead one more time and turned to go. Ecklie began steering her in the opposite direction.
"I would imagine you're almost finished with the interview." Ecklie closed his eyes when he heard Grissom's voice.
Shannon turned her head. "I believe we were. Mr. Ecklie, you said you had an appointment at 2 p.m. and…" she tilted her wrist at her face. "It's two right now."
"And I interrupted you." Grissom showed a concerned face.
"It's okay." Ecklie put a hand up.
"I know. Let me finish this for you, Conrad. I will show Shannon the rest of the lab, and see her out."
"Oh, is that possible?" Her voice rose a notch. "I would be so honored."
"It's not necessary, Grissom." Ecklie spoke through clenched teeth.
"It's okay, Conrad. Go do your meeting. Shannon and I will be just fine." Grissom reached over and patted Ecklie on the shoulder. He then extended an arm to her and ushered her down the hall. Ecklie muttered obscenities under his breath as his interview walked away from him.
Grissom gave her a painstakingly thorough search, and then brought her back to his office. For twenty minutes, he nodded politely while she described her research. He gave her ideas and pointers which she carefully recorded on a legal pad. Then he took a deep breath and began: "Shannon, you are a nice woman and a promising scientist, but you do not want this job."
Her eyes widened.
He shook his head. "The previous occupant of this position was a tremendous scientist. The work she put into this lab cannot be duplicated. The expectations I have for the next person hired are daunting."
"Well…I certainly intend to work hard. I'm not sure that you understand the type of commitment I am willing to make. In my last position, I averaged 57 hours a week."
"Here the average is 65."
"That's acceptable. I can take that on."
He nodded. "You would be replacing a woman named Sara. I used to call her on her days off and have her come in, sometimes just so I could see her."
Shannon screwed up her face. "You would be doing that to her replacement?"
"I don't know. It's possible."
"I don't understand."
"Sometimes I would give her mixed messages and leave her confused and frustrated."
"Excuse me?" Shannon began to tense in her chair.
"I just want you to know that I am capable of this sort of duplicity." He sighed. "She had personal problems that greatly impacted her work. I largely ignored them until it was almost too late."
"I avoided her for months after I found out she was dating someone."
"Dr. Grissom!" Her face was red and angry. "Why are you telling me this?"
"Confession is good for the soul."
"Not in a job interview, and certainly not on the part of the potential employer."
"We need the help, Shannon. But I just don't think that I'm ready."
She sat and considered his words for a moment. "Any chance you can get her back?"
"I don't know. You see, my last screw-up was my biggest—"
She quickly threw a hand up. "I do not want to know."
He grinned. "If you wanted this position badly, I would try, but I am not sure I would be the kind of boss you deserved."
"You weren't kidding about the 65 hours a week, were you?"
He shook his head.
"Well, maybe it's for the best. My husband and I are trying to get pregnant. I say I could take it on now, but it would become a conflict at some point."
"Just curious. How many applicants have you put through this?
"You are my third."
"Shame on you, Dr. Grissom! We deserve better than to be put in the middle of your little drama."
She got up. "Well, I would like to say that it was a pleasure to meet you, but I am really not sure."
He spoke before she reached the doorway. "Do you need a reader on your dissertation?"
She turned around. "Confession is meaningless without penance, is that it?"
He shook his head. "No, I do actually have interest in your study and how it relates to the desert conditions of south central Nevada."
She thought for a moment. "Okay, give me your card. I'll send you what I have."
He handed one over the desk. She took it and grinned. "What did you do for the other applicants?"
He shrugged. "An introduction to the lab director in San Francisco and an invitation to sit in on my forensics seminar in January."
"All right, Dr. Grissom. You're forgiven." She shook her head and disappeared into the hallway. Within seconds another female filled her space.
"Chased away another one, didn't you, Gil?"
"She's trying to get pregnant."
"In your office?"
He glared at her.
"Well, then you should have left her the hell alone. We need the help. Sara must have been doing the work of two CSI's the way it feels since she's been gone." Catherine came in and plopped herself into the chair across from him.
"I've picked up most of the slack myself."
"Yeah, watching you work yourself to death has been a barrel of monkeys."
"I can hang on a little longer."
"It's been two months. She's had time to think. She's not coming back."
He didn't respond. Instead, he fished his glasses out of his pocket and put them on. He pulled files toward him and opened the first one.
"Grissom!" She waved a hand in front of him. "I'm still here."
He sighed and looked up. "I don't want to talk about this."
"Time to move on. We have a lab to run." She said sharply.
He rubbed his beard and looked away. "Do you talk to her?"
Catherine snorted. "She's not even returning Greg's phone calls. Leave her alone. She probably needs space from all of us."
He closed his eyes and sighed.
"How are the headaches?"
He shrugged and said nothing.
Catherine smirked. "You're done with this conversation, aren't you?"
He ran his tongue along his teeth before he spoke. "I won't interfere with any more interviews."
She nodded. "We need the help, Gil."
"Yeah." He dropped his head back into the open file at his desk. Catherine waited a moment, and then got up. Before she left, she turned. "Take care of yourself. Okay?" He didn't look up so she shook her head and left.
Brass slammed the receiver back on the phone yelling, "Shit!" People outside his office looked up, but the only illumination he offered was a defiant glare. Then he was up and out of his office, striding down the hallway. He rounded the corner into the area of the lab and saw Sofia.
"Greg!" he barked. She raised an eyebrow, but pointed in the direction of DNA. Brass moved on with no further acknowledgement. He spotted Greg talking with Hodges.
Greg and Hodges looked over.
"I need Sara's cell phone number."
Hodges raised his brows, and Brass resisted the temptation to squeeze the man's throat.
"Ah…don't you have it?" Greg was fumbling around in his lab coat.
"Cell phone number, Saunders!"
Greg cocked his spiky head. "Okay, slow down. What is going on?"
Brass glared at him. "Nothing."
"You cruise in here like Genghis Khan and I'm supposed to give you her number when she already doesn't want to talk with anybody. And I'm getting the sense that you plan to make it worse."
Brass let out a deep breath. "I need to talk to her, Greg. It's important."
"Tell me about it."
He gestured with his head. "Not in front of Sparkles, the king of all information that's none of his damn business."
Hodges dropped into his best 'wounded' stance, and stared at him with his mouth open. Ignoring him, Brass grabbed Greg by the arm and pulled him into the hall. "Listen, it's just me and you, but I still don't want to give details. Let's just say that Sara ignored procedure during a bust, and I got a call from a lieutenant I know, and I want to call Sara and talk to her about the incident."
Greg grimaced. "It must have been bad."
Brass sighed. "It wasn't good. But it can be fixed, and I know her and he doesn't, and so I'm going to talk to her."
"That's all you are going to tell me?"
"Yeah, and you don't talk to anybody. Not your lab buddies, nobody; especially not your boss. Hear me?"
Greg let out a low whistle. "She's okay though?"
"Yeah, Greggo, she's fine. Just needs to get a little finger wagging her direction is all."
"Give me the damn number!"
Greg fished his cell out of his pocket and found a number. Brass punched it into his phone, and walked off without a backwards glance.
He went out the back door into the bright sun, and hit talk. Twirling around, he waited for her machine as he knew that she would be screening. "Hello Sara. This is your old friend, Jim Brass. We need to talk, girl. I know you don't feel like talking to anyone right now, but you need to talk to me. I got a call from an old buddy in the department up there in Frisco. Says they don't know what to do with the maverick we sent them. Wonders if I allowed this kind of behavior down here. Says the captain up there is going to have heart failure if you continue to prance around crime scenes like you're SWAT or something. So I need to hear from you. And if I don't, I'm going to have to come up there and talk to you, and then everybody here at the lab is going to have to know what's going on. So call me. Hear me, young lady. Okay. Bye."
Brass cursed under his breath and jammed his phone back into his pocket.
Grissom walked into his home before noon. It meant he had a good ten hours before he needed to return to the lab. Most people would find it refreshing to have this time to unwind, but Grissom just wanted to sleep and work. Unfortunately, sleep had become a very complicated activity for him. He had always avoided sleep aids, but recently had asked Doc Robins to write him a prescription for Trazadone. In order to feel somewhat in control, he refused to take more than half a tab at a time.
Grissom scrambled some eggs, sliced a tomato, poured a glass of orange juice, and brought his plate to the coffee table in front of his TV. Morning TV on the Discovery channel was invariably disappointing, and so he chose the documentary channel and a frustrating documentary about being a dope addict living on the streets. He closed his eyes and wished someone would get interested in documenting the normalcy of life rather than people gripped in grisly struggles beyond their control.
He brought his mind back to a time three months ago when life felt vastly different than it did now. It was a chance event that changed something in his life and gave him hope.
He thought back to that morning when he found Lindsay seated in a chair outside Catherine's office. She had a deeply sullen look, and he was apprehensive about what his greeting her might produce as he had done his best to never interact with teen-age females. He found them to be hormonally challenged emotional tornadoes who had no sort of working relationship with logic.
But she was Lindsay and he had known her since she was 3 years old. So he smiled at her and said, "Hey Lindsay, how are you doing?"
She looked up at him with narrowed eyes. "Life sucks."
His eyes widened, but he didn't say anything. Unsure of whether he should leave her to her misery or to offer her some sort of advice, he stood awkwardly in the hallway near Catherine's office.
"Uncle Gil, how old do I have to be to get emancipated in this state?"
He shifted from foot to foot. "Ah…you want to live on your own?"
I know what I'm doing plus Mom is driving me insane."
"Ah, Lindsay, you're only 13."
"So! Age is just a number." She glared at him with arms crossed defiantly.
Grissom waded in carefully. "Um, I don't think that you can live on your own at 13. In fact, I am pretty certain it's illegal."
"That is so stupid!"
He wondered if he needed to assure her that he had nothing to do with any legislation that crippled the rights of adolescents. He chose to sidestep that issue. "Honey, what's wrong? Is there anything I can do to help?"
"Mom is making me do this stupid paper!"
His brow furled. He couldn't quite get a handle on the injustice of the situation. "Outside of school?" he ventured.
"No! She wants me to do this idiot paper for life sciences even though I told her that I could probably pass the class without doing it."
"So your mom just wants you to do your schoolwork, correct?"
She rolled her eyes. "God! I knew you would be on her side."
Grissom saw no other choice but to take the seat next to her. "I'm sorry, Lindsay. I would have to agree with your mother on this."
"I am not going to be some science nerd like you and Mom. I don't have to be like her."
He nodded. "This is true. In fact, I think I remember that I wanted to be anything except what my father was. Although, I suspect that this was because he was never around for me."
"So I shouldn't have to do this stupid paper. I can do my own thing."
He pursed his lips. "Okay, Linds, tell me. What's your thing?"
"I'm going to be a hostess at the Sands. I got a friend who says that I already look 16. In a couple of years, I will pass for 18, and they can hire me."
"Wow!" He let out a deep breath. "Don't even know where to start."
"Mom says that I am going to be well educated if it kills her. Says I am smart enough. I don't get what that has to do with anything. There is no way looking at dead bodies is as fun as dancing or hostessing. Gerard says I have a body that just won't quit."
He looked at her sternly. "Who is Gerard?"
"Lives in the neighborhood. He's a bartender at the Sands."
Grissom rubbed his beard and mumbled to himself. "I could arrange to have his legs broken. Let me talk to Brass. He knows people."
"What! Gerard is my friend. He understands me." She stared daggers into him.
"He's too old for you. And he shouldn't be saying things to you…about your body. I don't like him, and you shouldn't even be hanging around with him." It came out more sharply than he intended.
"You can't tell me who my friends are, Uncle Gil."
For a moment, they both sat there, angry, arms folded tightly across their chests. Sara walked by and spied the odd spectacle. "Hi guys. What's going on?"
Lindsay threw her a look of pure venom. "Are you going to gang up on me too?"
"I don't know. Are you arguing the NRA side of a gun control debate? That would be one of the only sure ways I can think of where I would gang up on you."
"Uncle Gil thinks he can tell me who to hang out with." She threw him a look. Grissom felt like he was very much in over his head.
"Really? I bet you told him he couldn't tell you who to pick for friends."
"She has an adult male named Gerard who is commenting on her body and telling her she should work as a hostess at the Sands." Grissom said with some sense of indignation.
"I see." Sara scooted in between Lindsay and Grissom on the bench. "Linds, why are you doing this to your uncle Gil?"
"What do you mean?" Her innocent blue eyes narrowed again.
"He's not hip. Look at him. Shops out of the Land's End catalogue. And he sees too much to think an adult man, your mom doesn't know, should be hanging out with you. You should know better than this." Sara frowned at her.
"Nobody understands me." She said.
"Honey, a grown man is hanging out with a 13 year old girl because….." She put her arms up in the air.
Lindsay shrugged. "I don't know. He's nice. He listens to me."
"Well, that's important, Linds. But the adults who care about you will try to protect you from guys who want to take advantage."
"Lindsay, you are a beautiful girl. There will always be someone out there who will want more than just friendship with you. Do you understand?"
She lowered her head. "I am not beautiful."
Sara elbowed her. "Hey, America's next top model, who are you fooling?"
Lindsay sat quiet for a moment. "How am I ever supposed to know the difference?"
"You don't want to be anybody's fool, right?"
"Okay. Then tell him you have to focus on school right now, and don't have time to hang out."
Lindsay opened her mouth in protest.
"Listen!" Sara told her, a finger pointed at her face. "If he cares, then he will want you to finish your education. It opens doors, Linds. You can always be a hostess, but being educated gives you options in case you don't want to serve people for the rest of your life. Understand?"
"People who care about you care about your future. Why do you think your mom fights with you? And Uncle Gil? Ever seen him interested in fighting about something for no reason?"
"I hate rules."
Sara pulled her into a tight hug. "Linds, life sucks. Rules suck. Doesn't get any different when you grow up, you know. We're just used to it is all."
Lindsay hugged her back.
"Linds, hear me now. Gerard has to find friends his own age. I won't let him hang out with you. Your mom won't and Uncle Gil won't. In fact, Uncle Gil and Uncle Jim are going to go looking for him to tell him just that. Be mad if you want. But Gerard needs to stop talking smack with girls your age. Understand?"
Sara!" She complained.
"Forget it, girl. Stop running from the things that blow and suck it up like the rest of us. If you were a mom, you wouldn't let your kid hang out with that sleazoid, and you know it."
"He did try to talk me into some things." She admitted in a small voice.
"What!" Grissom roared.
"Hey Uncle Gil, nobody tells me what to do including Gerard." Lindsay sat up straight.
"All right, girl." Sara gave her a high five. "You stay strong. You promise to do that, and the rest of us will put up with the attitude. I promise."
"Let's tell Mom how you rocked."
"She's going to be pissed."
"And proud. She raised you to be a fighter. You're just like your mom." Then Sara shrugged. "She's still going to want you to do your homework, you know."
"She's going to freak about this." Lindsay winced.
"Yeah, well, then she won't be the only one. You know how to freak pretty good. Sitting out here acting like you shouldn't do your schoolwork. You could teach a course in bullshit, my friend."
"Let me talk to her first, okay?"
"Sure. Just know that if you don't tell her, I will."
Lindsay nodded. She got up and looked at Sara. "I should be mad at you."
"Me too. Nobody messes with my Lindsay, and I hate that you might not taking care of yourself."
Lindsay smiled. She looked at her mother's office door, took a deep breath, and walked in.
Sara sat on the bench with Grissom, and watched her disappear into her mother's office.
He lifted his head and looked at her. "I have never been more impressed with anyone in my whole life."
Sara's brows rose and she looked at him funny.
"No, I mean it, Sara. You were brilliant. I didn't know what to say and you came over and fixed it like it was nothing."
"I remember a lot about being a kid. It was a very rough time. Lots of memories."
He bit his lower lip and then looked at her again. "You are going to be a great mother."
She looked at him in surprise. "That's probably the best thing you have ever said to me."
He looked down. "I'm sorry that I don't say things to you more."
She cocked her head at him, looking at him quizzically. Then she reached over and kissed him on the cheek in public, in the lab. He didn't pull away from her. Instead, he drank in every sensation he felt as her lips rested on his cheek. She reluctantly pulled away from him. He reached over and squeezed her hand.
"You're one of a kind, Sara Sidle."
"You going looking for this idiot, right?"
He nodded. "Going over to Jim's office now."
"My hero." She whispered as he got up.
Grissom found himself whispering this to himself in his living room watching the documentary channel. He remembered the big smile she flashed when he turned to look at her after her last comment. She was beautiful all the time, but when she smiled, it stunned him. A feeling in the pit of his stomach tugged at him, but he tried to ignore it. There was a new documentary called Small Town Ecstasy running, and he still couldn't fall asleep. His thoughts stayed on that beginning three months ago, when he let himself see her for what she really was. It was a wonderful moment, one where he felt that he had really began to feel the life he wanted to live. He wished he had just left it as it was.
Sara picked up her phone and dialed Brass' office number. She waited apprehensively until his machine picked up. She let out a sigh. She still knew his schedule well enough to know that he would be home sleeping right now. A beep sounded and she spoke. "Jim, I am so sorry that you got that call. It's a misunderstanding. I do not want you to worry about this. I didn't understand his signals and thought he called an 'all clear' when he hadn't. Just does things differently than you. I will talk to him. Don't worry. Everything is great. I have a place near Chinatown, and I love my day hours. Marc says that there will be a swing shift supervisor position open in the next year. Life is good. Tell everyone I am happy, and I will talk to folks just as soon as I get settled in a little more. Jim, thanks for your concern. Appreciate it. Take care and we'll talk soon."
She hung up and laid back on her couch. It was noon. She hoped he didn't notice that she called from her cell instead of her office. It would raise questions. She wasn't ready to explain why she was at home in the middle of the day instead of working her wonderful new day hours.