Disclaimer: I own CSI. Or is it the CSI DVD's? I can never remember which.
Spoilers: Takes place during season five. Greg passed his proficiency test, but the team hasn't been split up yet. Anything is fair game.
"Griss, can I talk to you for a minute?"
Grissom looked up from his desk to see Sara in her favorite pose, leaning against the door frame of his office. His simple nod was enough for her. She walked farther into the room, and Grissom was surprised when she turned and closed the door behind her before sitting down in one of the chairs facing his desk.
"There's no easy way to say this, so here." Her voice had harsh tone to it, as if she had to force the words out. When he saw the paper in her hands he understood why. He almost didn't reach for it. As if by not accepting it he could refuse the words written on the stark white page. He pushed the thought aside as quickly as it came.
"Why?" He had to know the reason for this. It was like a horrible case of de ja vu. Sara in his office, giving him a signed leave of absence form. Four years ago she had almost left, and now it was happening again.
"I need some time off. A couple of months. Six, maybe." There was a flash of something in her eye. Regret? Pain? He couldn't tell, and it was gone too quickly.
It was only a month ago that her suspension had ended. That week had seemed to last forever. He couldn't fathom how bleak six months would be without Sara around.
"Is there anything I can do to change your mind? Shorter hours? Different assignments? The lab needs you here, Sara..." No, that wasn't quite right. He took a deep breath. "I need you here."
She smiled at that. I need you. Words she had only heard once before, but not said with the same tone. She almost wished she could say yes. Yes, I'll stay. Yes, you can rip up the stupid form and we can go back to the way things were. But it was too late for that now.
"I'm sorry, Griss. I already leased out my apartment. I'm leaving at the end of the week."
"Is it the F.B.I?" He couldn't help it. He knew the words sounded bitter, but he had to know.
"No." She shook her head. "It's not the F.B.I. or any other job. I just need some time off. I'll... I'll be in touch." With that she stood up and left the room. Grissom sat in his chair, unsure of what had just happened, but filled with a dread that there was nothing he could do to change it.
The following week passed in aching slowness and uncommon speed, defying all natural laws of time. Although he had not said anything it was obvious that the others knew about Sara's impending departure, because her final shift ended with presents and a cake covered in blue icing spelling out "Bon Voyage." There were hugs all around, and even Grissom received a quick squeeze. He thought that maybe Sara's eyes lingered on him longer then the others as she left, but it might have been his imagination. One last smile from the other side of the break room glass, and she was gone.
"Did she tell anyone where she was going?" Nick encored of the remaining grave yard CSI's.
"Not a word. Wouldn't give me an address when I asked if I could write to her. Just said to use her same e-mail." Greg answered Nick's question in a voice more subdued then usual. Sara's departure had effected all of them.
Nick, Greg, Catherine and Warrick lingered in the break room, talking about where Sara might be going. "I hope it's somewhere warm."Cath was saying. "She could use a vacation."
"True that." Warrick agreed.
The conversation soon moved on to stories of favorite vacations. Grissom couldn't listen anymore. The others didn't notice as he slipped out of the room and headed down the hall to his office. He could always count on the ever present pile of paperwork on his desk to fill a few hours. If he worked late enough he might be tired when he got home. Too tired to think about Sara. Doubtful, but he could always hope.
It had been three weeks since she had left. Twenty two days, to be exact, not that he was counting. Every morning for the last twenty two days he had gone to sleep thinking of her; where she might be, what she might be doing. During the day he would catch himself thing about her too. He would read a journal article, or see something on the discovery channel, and think "I have to tell Sara about that." And then he would remember. Did I always think about her this much and not realize it? He had e-mailed her twice. Short friendly notes, about Greg's latest pranks, the burglary suspect who flirted with Nick, and the more interesting events happening in the lab. She had replied with even shorter notes. Everything's fine, leave me alone, they seemed to say. Grissom had thought that they were getting along better in the past month, beginning to repair their friendship. Maybe he was wrong.
The sharp ringing of the phone shook him out of his thoughts.
"Grissom. What's the address? I'll meet you there." Within minutes he was out of his townhouse and on his way to a crime scene, glad as always for the job he loved to take his mind off of the his personal life. Or lack there of.
The victim of the stabbing Brass had called him in for was still alive. After processing the scene Grissom sent Greg back to the lab with the evidence while he went to the hospital to interview one Mr. Eric Curson. Walking down the hallway of Desert Palms, Grissom was shocked to see the absolute last person he was expecting as he rounded a corner.
"Sara?" he whispered to himself. He wondered if his eyes were playing tricks on him. She had been in his thoughts so much lately that it should not surprise him if any tall lanky brunette made him think of her when seen from behind. But then she turned around. It was her.
"Sara." His voice was louder this time.
Sara heard her name being called, and out of habit turned to answer the voice. The voiceshe realized too late, was his voice Panic rose up in her. Oh God, no. What was he doing here? She looked around her for a way to escape, but Grissom stood between her and both the stairs and the elevator. She was trapped. Suddenly the door behind her opened. She wasn't sure if she should be relieved or horrified.
"Their ready for you now, Miss Siddle."
Without a word to the man staring at her, Sara turned and walked through the now open doorway.
Grissom stood frozen in the middle of the hospital hallway. The expression in Sara's eyes as they meet his had been fearful. There was no other word for it. A thousand questions floated through his mind. What is Sara doing in Las Vegas? I thought she said she was leaving. Is she back? Why didn't she call? Why is she at the hospital? As he approached the door she had walked through moments earlier his questions only multiplied. The small sign next to the door read 'patients only beyond this point.'
He was waiting for her when she came out. She knew he would be. A part of her was surprised that he hadn't followed her into the room. But then, Grissom had never been one to rush into places, unless it was a crime scene. He was standing in the hallway, in almost exactly the same place he had been when she left him twenty minutes ago. Hands in his pockets, head cocked ever-so-slighty to one side, it was a pose she was all too familiar with. It meant that the next words out of his mouth would be a question. Not that she had to be well versed in Grissomese to know that.
For a moment Sara considered lying. Making up an excuse, a sick friend, a research project. She might be able to pull it off, at least long enough to get away. She even opened her mouth, ready to tell him the first thing that came to her mind. Suddenly, though, she was overwhelmed with nausea. Oh, please. Not now. Last time she had been able to get home before the debilitating sickness took over, leaving her wiped out for the rest of the day. It would be just her luck that today would be different.
"Grissom, I..." She tried to think of something, anything, that would allow her to escape quickly, with some modicum of her dignity still intact. It was too late. Another wave of nausea, and she forgot all about Grissom and what he might be thinking. She ran down the hallway, making to the women's bathroom without any time to spare. Leaning over the toilet, she reluctantly reacquainted herself with this morning's breakfast. For a moment she was reminded of last year, and her brief bout of alchohol-as-coping-mechanism that had lead to similar rushes to that bathroom. What she would give if all that was plaguing her now was a hangover. Well, shit. Her stomach rebelling, Sara leaned over the toilet once more.
It only took Grissom a second to follow Sara down the hallway. Given the speed of her departure, he wasn't really surprised to hear the muffled sounds of retching coming from within the restroom. He gave her five minutes alone, but when the sounds didn't cease he cautiously opened the swinging door and followed her inside. She was crouched in the last stall, pale and trembling but no longer throwing up. He paused at one of the sinks and wet a paper towel before kneeling behind her trembling form.
"Sara?" he questioned gently as he wiped her face with the damp towel. The look she gave him stopped any further questioning. Her eyes were tired and haunted, and in that moment all he wanted to do was pull her to him and whisper promises in her ear. Whatever this was, whatever she was going through, it would all be okay. He wanted to tell her that, but the words would not come. They never did. So instead he squeezed her shoulder gently, stood up and reached for her hand, repeating the words he had given her just months ago. "Come on. I'll take you home."
He was tempted to ask for a wheelchair when they passed the nurses station, but ten years experience with Sara Siddle stubbornness told him that as long as she could walk she would refuse. It was a sign of how sick she felt that she was letting herself lean so heavily on Grissom himself. He was, in fact, supporting almost all of her weight as she shuffled down the hallway. While buckling Sara into his Tahoe, he glanced around the parking lot. He was relived to see that Warrick's truck was parked a few spaces over, signaling that he had already arrived at the hospital to take over Grissom's case. Grissom had called him from the hallway outside the radiation room. Once he had seen Sara he had known that he couldn't let her get away without finding the answers to at least some of his questions.
Grissom had driven half way to her apartment when he remembered their conversation in his office and her brief mention of leasing out her place for six months.
Sara rested heavily against the head rest, eyes closed in an effort to block out the sunlight that was aggravating her headache. She opened them warily when she heard her name and turned to look at Grissom.
"Where do you want me to take you?"
He spoke softly, as if already aware of the throbbing pain in her head. She puzzled over his words for a moment. Home. She wanted to go home, and wondered why he would think there was any other place she would rather be right now. And then she also remembered the conversation in his office, and the lie she had given him to make sure he didn't get any ideas about coming to visit her. Not that he would. Five years in Vegas and he had only been to her place once, the first week she had moved in.
"Home," she whispered, hating how weak her voice sounded. "To my apartment," she clarified, voice just a little bit stronger this time.
The look he gave her was full of questions, but he just nodded and turned back to the road. Sara sighed, knowing it was a temporary reprieve. There was no way she was going to escape without giving him answers. Real ones, this time. As Brass would say 'the jig is up.'
She must have fallen asleep in the car, because the next thing she knew she was being carried over the threshold of her apartment and into the dimly lit living room. She marveled at how effortlessly he carried her, even managing to unlock the door without putting her down. Taking a deep breath she was overwhelmed with the pure Grissomness of his smell. The soap he had used in the shower mingled with the clean cotton smell of his shirt. His skin carried just a trace of lemons, and she almost smiled. How often did she come home from work smelling like lemons? Beneath it all there was a scent she couldn't describe or analyze. A smell that was nothing more or less then Grissom himself. She was tempted to use her position and burrow even closer to him, but resisted. In the next moment she was laying down on her couch, and the loss of his closeness left her feeling bereft. Before she could even revel in the fact that Grissom's arms had been around her fatigue overcame her, and she sunk into its oblivion.
Grissom stood at the end of the couch, watching Sara's chest slowly rise and fall with each breath she took. The edge of her shirt had crept up when he laid her down, and he reached to tug it down. His fingers paused bare inches away from her as he froze in sudden awareness. For the first time he took in her appearance, not as a whole but bit by bit, like the scientist he was. Her skin, always pale from working the night shift so many years, was now so white as to be almost translucent. He could see the outline of her bottom rib, and felt sure that if he saw Sara without her shirt on he would be able to count each and everyone of her ribs. For as long as he had known her Sara had been thin, but this was something more. In the back of his mind he thought of images on the television screen, orphans in far away countries. There was a fine sheen of perspiration covering her forehead, dampening the fine hair at her temples. She looked frail, and that was wrong. Sara was strong. She raged against weakness, didn't give into it.
Like a lightening bolt it struck him, an overwhelming sensation of fear. Fear for Sara. Fear for himself. Something was wrong. More then wrong. And the thing that scared him the most was the fact that if it hadn't been for an accidental meeting, he would never have known. Sara was in trouble, and she never said a word to him.
To be continued...