Disclaimer: I'm only borrowing; I'll drop them back off tomorrow.
Spoilers: Through Grave Danger with mentions of plot.
A/N: Thanks to RivenSky and Tripp3235 for helping me review this ficlet. To everyone else, thanks for reading. I promise to finish 'Appreciation' next. Promise!
Notes by SLynn
Greg remembered well the very first note he wrote her.
It was eight months after she'd arrived and he still didn't know her well. Sara had been working nearly non-stop to solve a particularly gruesome murder and was in her own special place. Her zone. Barely eating, hardly speaking and just doing her job the way she always did; extremely well.
Irregardless, Greg had news for her. Not DNA news which was then his specialty, but something just as important. Something he thought might help her with the case.
Now, years later, he couldn't recall what it was exactly he'd thought was so important then. Maybe it was nothing. Maybe he just wanted a chance to talk to her, which was easy enough to believe. Maybe it really did help. He couldn't remember. The point was, once he had the information, he couldn't find her. Anywhere.
Before, when he had nothing to say, she was everywhere. Then, when he had everything to tell, she was gone.
So, he wrote her a note.
Greg wrote Sara a simple note with the information he'd found and stuck it in her locker. He didn't even sign it. By that time he'd been working sixteen hours straight and due back at the lab in another six, there wasn't time.
Three days later, once Sara had her suspect arrested, she thanked him. He was surprised to say the least. Honestly, he'd forgotten all about it by then, but still, she didn't have to thank him. They were all supposed to work together and he didn't do it to be thanked. He did it to be useful.
Greg never did figure out how she knew it was from him, but that wasn't important.
Two weeks later he wrote his second one to her. This one was less formal and far less useful than the first, but a lot more fun.
It was all because his mother had gotten him an inspirational quote of the day calendar. She was always sending him things like that, thinking for some reason he was depressed or lonely. Maybe she had a point. Greg just didn't dwell on that.
After one particularly lousy day, Greg decided that Sara could use some inspiration herself so he wrote down one of the quotes on a fresh sheet of paper and stuck it in her locker.
Again, he couldn't remember what it was he'd written, but it had the desired effect. The next time Sara saw him alone she asked him when he'd become a Buddhist. Greg had laughed it off, said something appropriately silly, and for the first time they'd had a non-work related conversation.
From then on it was just something he did. It was almost a game. Greg would find a quote and write it down for her and in a few days Sara would come laugh with him about it having figured out the author, date and any other relevant information regarding it that she could.
He usually wrote something new every few weeks and it wasn't always quotes. Sometimes he wrote her odd facts or random things he thought would make her smile. And for the most part, it did. It became, over time, something that was uniquely theirs.
This game, because Greg couldn't fool himself into thinking it was anything more, did have some unwritten rules. For one, they never talked about it around or to anyone else. It was just between them, and they both seemed to prefer it that way. Second, Sara never wrote him back. Greg always wrote the notes and Sara always found him to discuss them. Also, they never discussed work. Aside from that first note, nothing written or said was work related in any way. He never specifically addressed them to her either, and never signed them. That was just the way it was.
There were only two occasions when the rules were broken. Once, after the explosion, Sara had written him a welcome back note which he found in his locker on his first day back. There was that and the last note Greg ever wrote to her.
It was the only note, that last one, where he could perfectly recall what he'd written.
A month after the incident with Nick and Greg was still shaken. He knew he was being ridiculous about the whole thing, but couldn't help it. Honestly, it had made going out into the field frightening.
To make matters worse, he was the only one seeming to have this problem. Everyone around him just continued on like nothing had happened. Nick, still on medical leave, even seemed okay. It was unreal and too much to handle.
For awhile Greg thought about seeing the staff psychiatrist, just to talk about it, but that idea was quickly abandoned when he heard a couple of the day shift techs joking about one of their colleagues who had gone.
He didn't want to be joke. And more than that, he didn't want anyone thinking he couldn't handle his job because he could. Greg really thought he could.
But as one month became two, things hadn't gotten any better. Greg wasn't sleeping right anymore and it was starting to affect his work. He was beginning to make mistakes in the field, stupid ones caused by fatigue.
After the third talk Grissom had to have with him regarding his performance, he wrote that last note.
Greg hardly knew what he expected to come of it, but he had to talk to someone. It was the only way he knew of to discuss it at all because he couldn't do it any other way.
It was one line. One sentence, but the only thing he'd had on his mind for months. All it said was: I'm thinking of quitting.
He almost didn't put it in her locker but fate, or Warrick approaching, decided it. It was done and he couldn't take it back. From that point on it was a game of wait and see.
And he waited. And waited. And waited.
Another month went by without Sara once bringing it up. She was seemingly going out of her way to avoid being alone with him. Then he realized he'd crossed the line. Greg had broken the charm and there was no going back to how it was.
Sara wasn't going to talk to him about it. Not now, not ever.
So, with no other outlet, no other way to get past it, he did just what he'd been thinking of doing.
Greg went to Grissom and told him what he wanted, what he needed to do.
Grissom had tried to persuade him to just take a leave of absence. To not make it permanent, but Greg couldn't be talked out of it. He was going to move back to San Francisco, maybe go back to college and get his masters or even his doctorate. Greg was going to do anything but stay in Vegas.
Grissom had nodded and understood and probably guessed Greg's reasons, but said no more. He also kept his word and didn't tell anyone else. Greg just wanted to go quietly without goodbyes.
Two months after that he was still living with his parents and not sure of what to do.
They were, as they always were, understanding. Neither had pressed him for details when Greg had just shown up one day needing a place to stay. It was clear he didn't want to talk about it. They just let him know in no uncertain terms that he could stay for as long as he needed to and that they'd always be there for him.
Nick had called twice, but both times Greg refused to come to the phone. Catherine had written once and Warrick emailed him regularly, but he couldn't answer them either. He was embarrassed for being weak when it was obvious that everyone else was strong.
Finally, he realized, he couldn't go on living this way and he started to look for a new job. It wasn't hard to do. Stanford had a research lab that was eager to have him, paid well with good, normal hours. Two weeks after he started he got a new apartment a few blocks from work and tried to settle back into life.
In another month it became routine. He got up in the morning and went for a run. After that he showered, got dressed and went to work. Work was easy and boring and he had no real friends to speak of. Once he finished for the day there, he'd go to night class to work on his masters degree. Then it was usually a late dinner and off to bed. It wasn't much, but it was beginning to feel normal.
Until Sara showed up.
It was a Saturday night, nearly three months to the day after he left, when she knocked on his door. He'd thought maybe it was his mother who routinely dropped by just to check on him. Opening the door he almost shut it again in surprise.
"Sara," he managed to get out, "hi."
"Hi," she said, nodded slightly and rocking on her feet.
"What are you doing here?" he asked after a long pause.
"Um," she answered, looking first at her feet and then over her shoulder, "there's a convention in town."
"Oh," Greg said before realizing he was being rude by keeping her standing in the doorway. "Sorry, do you want to come in?"
Sara smiled again at him as he moved back to allow her through the door.
"I'd have cleaned if I knew I was having company," he said lamely, scrambling to pick up the stray books that littered the coffee table.
"I'd have let you know if I knew how to get a hold of you."
Greg said nothing to that just looked down as Sara took a seat on the couch.
"Do you want something to drink?" he asked instead.
"Water would be good."
Greg went to the kitchen and took in a deep breath, trying to calm himself before returning with her drink.
"So," he asked, sitting opposite her in his armchair, "how did you…um…"
"Find you?" she finished. "I called your parents and they gave me the address."
He nodded and should have known.
Sara took a sip of water and set down the glass, taking in Greg's apartment with a quick look around.
Several moments of awkward silence followed, neither knowing what to say.
"Apart from how you're here," Greg finally mustered the courage to begin, "why are you here?"
"Why did you leave?" she asked in return.
"It's a little late to be asking that," Greg said with as much of a smile as he could, trying to make light of it.
"Greg, about that…"
"Don't worry about it Sara," he cut her off. "I'm not… I don't blame you. It was my problem and I shouldn't have…"
"No," she said cutting him off this time. "You asked me for help and I ignored you. You'd of never done that to me."
"To be fair I didn't really ask for help."
"You shouldn't have needed to."
Greg sat quietly and continued to look down, not sure what to say next.
"Anyway," she continued, "everyone asked me to tell you hi. They all miss you. We…I…"
Sara stood up abruptly and began to pace the room.
"Grissom wanted me to tell you that the lab still has a level one spot open if you're interested."
"Sara," he said, standing as well. "I can't do it. I can't. I'm not cut out for the job."
"Yes you are."
"No," he said loudly, shaking his head. "I'm not. I can't block it all out the way the rest of you can. I can't shut it out."
"No one can," she argued. "We just have more experience. You will too in time, but you can't give up."
"It's too hard," he said, sitting down again, defeated.
Sara came and sat down beside him, taking hold of his hand.
"Alone," she said quietly. "It's too hard alone."
Greg didn't meet her eye, he couldn't just yet.
"I should have," Sara began, "I should have been a better teacher. I should have been there when you needed someone to talk to. The job isn't all about finding evidence and analyzing results. It's about dealing with the outcomes too. I never taught you that. I never told you that it's okay to be afraid or angry or upset, and it is. You will be, if you're doing it right."
Greg said nothing; he didn't know what to say.
"And I'm sorry I didn't answer your note," Sara said after a moment. "I knew for some time you were having problems but I thought…I didn't think it was as bad as this. We were all pretty upset about what happened, pretty shaken, but…"
"Sara," Greg interrupted, "it's fine. I know what you mean. I didn't know how bad I was until it was too late."
For a few minutes more, neither of them spoke.
"So, what do you think? Will you let me try again to do this right? Take Grissom up on his offer?"
"I…" Greg began, shaking his head, "I don't think so. I can't go back there, not after this. Not after how I left…and…everyone… I just can't."
"You never cared before what people thought," Sara said with a warm smile.
"That's not true," Greg said, smiling his own smile in his own way. "I care what you think. But it would be too weird. What am I supposed to do, just stroll in there like I strolled out?"
"There's nothing to go back for," he said honestly, sadly.
"Nothing?" she repeated, meeting his eye.
Seeing that look in her eyes, the sincerity in her voice, how could he refuse?
Less than a month later, he was back in Vegas in his new apartment and his old job. No one made a big deal about his return, just quietly welcomed him back in their own way. It was a nice feeling, like coming home.
Greg never did write another note to Sara and drop it off in her locker again. There was no need to. They didn't need the excuse anymore to talk to one another. Sara and Greg routinely spent most of their days off together. Increasing their friendship and gradually becoming more.
No, Greg didn't remember exactly how it began, but he did know how it ended.