Authors Notes: This is a little piece I wrote quite a few months ago...Probably around July? Not quite sure, really. It hasn't been beta'd, I haven't heard from my beta Wishing on the Moon in a while. However, she should have some credit for this as she gave me pointers that helped me fix some of this story. This story has nothing to do with any of my other stories, it's a one off
The Last Page
Gil Grissom knew it was coming. He'd been expecting – and dreading – it all day. The whole thing was inevitable, and he felt the unease building with every passing moment. He wasn't sure when during the day it'd happen, he just knew it was coming.
Gil Grissom knew it was coming. He'd been expecting – and dreading – it all day. The whole thing was inevitable, and he felt the unease building with every passing moment. He wasn't sure when during the day it'd happen, he just knew it was coming.
There's no way a man can have a fiftieth birthday in this place without someone springing a surprise party on him, Grissom thought miserably. Everyone else gets a party. They're bound to try and spring one on me.
The problem was Grissom didn't want a party. He'd never wanted a party, he didn't even want his birthday acknowledged, because, as far as he was concerned it was just another day. He'd spent most of the day desperately trying to ignore the fact, and unable to much to his dissatisfaction.
He'd passed the break room several times that day, noting the blinds lining the large windows were all shut, obstructing the view of inside. It had been that way from the moment he'd entered work twenty minutes before the start of shift. It had been the first suspicious sign.
He rolled his eyes just thinking about it. No one ever shuts those blinds unless they need privacy. And who'd need privacy on a coffee break?
Yes, the blinds were closed for privacy alright. He suspected that was where it would all happen. Grissom made a mental note to avoid going in there, and any time he had to pass, he deliberately passed as quickly and quietly as he could just in case anyone inside should be looking for him.
Too much paperwork was keeping him out of the field today, which he felt was too damn unfortunate for him and fortunate for the others if they should wish to carry out their evil plan.
But Grissom was glad of the sanctuary his office provided him from them. As was unusual for him, he closed his door, shut the blinds and sat behind his desk trying to lose himself in paperwork. He was hoping the closed door might influence his colleagues into thinking he wasn't there – that they might just walk away without even bothering to knock.
He found he had no such luck, for there were three sharp knocks at his door three hours into the shift, and he signed, realizing there really was no escape. Something in his gut told him that what he'd been dreading all day was about to happen.
"Yeah," Grissom said loudly, he pretended to be distracted by reading a report as the door opened, and Greg Sanders stepped in.
"Hey, Griss, you seen anyone around?"
"Hmm?" Grissom asked, never lifting his eyes up to see the younger man.
Greg shrugged, "it's like a ghost town around here."
I'd kind of noticed, Grissom thought. He hadn't run into any of his colleagues since the start of shift. He hadn't even seen any of his own team since handing out assignments.
"I've got this new coffee. I'm feeling generous today, I was gonna share it. But no one is around."
Grissom raised his head at the mention of coffee, then looked down into his plastic white cup of lukewarm stuff from the coffee machine out near reception. The stuff tasted incredibly foul, and that taste lingered on the taste buds hours later. "Where are Sara and Warrick?" Grissom asked.
"Still out in the field. I was sent back with evidence for Trace and DNA," Greg explained, he leaned casually against the doorframe, arms folded.
Grissom perked up, "Well, uh, y'know, I also drink coffee…" he reminded. He dropped his eyes down briefly into the cup of black sludge from the coffee machine, and then back up to Greg.
"You want some?" Greg asked cheerily. "It's brewing right now."
Grissom stood, "right now, anything is better than the stuff from the machine in reception."
"Gross. Why are you drinking that stuff?" Greg queried, and he led the way to the break room with Grissom in tow.
Grissom didn't have an answer for him, how could he explain he knew about what the team were planning to do?
Greg was the first to enter the break room – for some reason, the lights had been turned off, which seemed to only confirm Grissom's suspicions more. "Hey, who put the lights out?" Greg uttered.
Just turn and walk away, Grissom thought at himself. The light being off was not a good sign. Who knew what lay ahead in the darkness? Grissom felt he had a pretty good idea.
Yet, instead of walking away, Grissom reached out and flicked the lights on, bracing himself to find…
The break room was intact, and void of people, save Greg's and his own presence. The smell of expensive coffee hung in the air, fresh and inviting, but alas no cake, no party favors, and no colleagues intent on celebrating.
"You'll love this stuff. Gives a real kick," Greg made his way over to the percolator, "Ah, it isn't ready yet."
"Oh," was all Grissom could say, he stood there at the door looking around the break room trying to shake off the feeling of confusion. He could have bet his life on it that there'd be a party. They always threw a party when someone had an important birthday come up.
You didn't want a party anyway, and there isn't one, so what does it matter?
"Something wrong?" Greg asked, glancing over his shoulder at Grissom.
Grissom shook his head, "Nope. Not at all." Except I feel like an idiot.
"Listen, uh, I'll bring you a cup of this when it's done," Greg offered.
"Thanks," Grissom sighed. He left the break room but stood in the hallway for a few minutes still trying to recompose himself.
How could I have been wrong about that? Am I slipping? I always chide everyone for jumping to conclusions without properly examining the evidence and that's exactly what I did. I jumped to conclusions. Not only am I an idiot, but a hypocritical idiot.
With a sigh, he made his way back towards the office, despite his reluctance to have a party, he couldn't help but feel the slight disappointment that he'd been wrong. Trying to put it into the back of his mind as he'd been planning on doing anyway, he opened the door to his office, confused to find the lights were out.
He reached out to the wall and hit the light switch, the lights flickered on and he felt a little astonishment to see his colleagues gathered around his desk and a birthday cake.
"Surprise!" they all hollered in unison. Grissom felt a tap on his back and turned to see Greg holding a coffee cup out to him, the cup was pristine white with the design of a black tarantula on it. There was a ridiculous red ribbon tied around the handle. Greg grinned.
"Happy Birthday," Catherine grinned, she was standing at the end of the table, with the birthday cake out in front of her. The cake was more like something for a child's Halloween party than an adult's birthday party. Personal touches included a rather badly made fake tarantula standing in one corner of a web that had been carefully iced in dark chocolate. In the centre of the cake, a rather ominous looking '50' was iced in big bold letters – perhaps bolder than he'd have liked.
Seeing the cake there, the whole thing seemed rather depressing just as he'd known it would be. He was sure his face was now a lovely shade of fire truck red, and he began to feel ever so slightly dismayed. Wasn't often you could catch Gil Grissom off guard, but they'd done it.
"That was sneaky. You used Greg to lure me out of my office," Grissom frowned at Catherine, taking the cup from Greg and taking a quick sip.
"How else were we supposed to get you out of here so we could surprise you?" Catherine asked, she struck a match and began to light the candles. "It was way too obvious you'd figure out if we tried to throw a surprise party in the break room…"
He found himself rather glad that the whole affair only consisted of the people he worked closely with, and not – as he'd been fearing all day – the entire crime lab.
Doc Robbins looked more than merry wearing a bright pink glittering party hat with tassels that it seemed almost absurd. David Phillips wearing a tiny gold cowboy hat. Nick Stokes and Warrick Brown were smirking but thankfully weren't wearing any silly hats or holding party favors – Grissom was sure he might have lost all respect for them both if they had.
Greg Sanders had an excited look on his young face at the prospect of cake and non-alcoholic champagne. David Hodges seemed less than enthusiastic, but merely tolerant of the whole ordeal.
Brass had a smug expression on his face almost as if he'd been waiting all his life for the moment they would all surprise Gil Grissom. At his side, Sofia Curtis was standing smiling, arms folded casually over her stomach. Beside Sofia was Sara Sidle, a slight smile on her face, her eyes twinkling in a way he hadn't seen for a while.
Please don't sing happy birthday, he pleaded with them all in thought and wished they would suddenly gain temporary psychic abilities so they might hear his silent plea. Somehow, he just couldn't voice it, or the discomfort their singing would cause him.
But despite his mental plea, their voices rose and united in tune, Warrick and Sara surprisingly in key and dramatic, a few of the others, scarily out of tune completely. Grissom felt that perhaps the whole effect sounded as bad as someone kicking the hell out of bag of lamenting cats.
He rolled his eyes just a little and suppressed an embarrassed smile, he wondered if anyone could hear the tragedy from the hall.
That would make Ecklie's day, wouldn't it? To see me embarrassed at my own birthday party, Grissom thought as he tolerated the serenade.
When they'd finished the song, he wanted to audibly thank God that the rendition had been so short.
"You have to make a wish," Catherine warned, lighting the last of the candles on the cake, there were so many Grissom was sure the frosting would melt, or the whole building would go up in smoke any moment.
"Do I have to?" Grissom asked raising an eyebrow. He felt humiliated that Catherine was treating him like an eight-year-old boy rather than a fifty-year-old man.
"That's the whole fun of birthdays," Greg said, grinning broadly from ear to ear.
Catherine moved away from the cake to give Grissom access to the cake. She too looked incredibly smug and triumphant.
Just like a wild cat, Grissom mused, cornered her pray and now going to make sure it suffers before putting it out of it's misery.
Grissom gave her a wry smile, and put down his coffee. Keeping a safe distance from the cake, he blew out the many candles, trying not to cough from the smoke, and waving his arm across the air above the cake to dissipate the smoke more quickly before it could reach the smoke detector.
"Don't worry, I took care of it," Warrick held his hand up towards the ceiling pointing out the smoke detector had been completely covered with a latex glove. It looked quite ridiculous hanging there, as if someone's hand had come right through the ceiling.
"What'd you wish for?" Greg asked.
"That'd be telling," Grissom forced a smile, and threw Sara a quick glance that went unnoticed as she disappeared off to find a knife from the break room – something someone had forgot to bring.
Grissom glanced at his watch worriedly, "Okay, guys, we have to get back to work before Ecklie sees this whole thing – heads will roll if he sees this," he warned. Actually, he was more concerned Ecklie would want to join in and make him feel the humiliation even more.
Everyone seemed a little disappointed to hear Grissom wanting to wrap up the party so soon, an incoherent mumble passed the lips of Nick and Greg.
"Presents first, then cake, then we wrap this up," Catherine compromised sternly. "
"I don't want presents. I didn't even want a party…" he confessed. "It's just a birthday, just like any other day of the year," Grissom gave a shrug.
"Fifty years, buddy. This isn't just any other day," Jim pointed out, "everyone deserves a party at fifty. Even if you don't like parties," he pointed out, still smug.
Grissom had a strange feeling Jim might have had a lot to do with getting this small gathering together. Jim and Catherine – what a pair. You tell them no, and they still go and do it anyway, Grissom felt like rolling his eyes again.
"Fine, presents, then we wrap this up. Deal?" Grissom asked, giving in for the moment. The sooner this whole thing was over, the sooner everything could get back to normal. The sooner he could go back to pretending this was just another day.
It had been somewhat amusing, to watch Grissom standing there, feeling incredibly uncomfortable in the unfamiliar territory of a birthday party – his birthday party.
Sara Sidle wanted to feel even a tinge of pity for him. She even wanted to feel guilt that she'd let Catherine arrange the small party when she knew Grissom wouldn't be pleased.
Grissom didn't do well in social situations at the best of times, try as he might to hide it. Standing there glaring at the cake, the crimson blush creeping up his face had been more than obvious. She was sure the whole situation had probably left him feeling somewhat claustrophobic, surrounded by the people he worked closely with, and no doubt humiliated.
Sara had always known Grissom seemed to pride himself on not being known, of having his secrets and his privacy. There were just things the man didn't want anyone knowing about. His birthday had been one of those things, Sara supposed, otherwise she'd have found out from him rather than from Catherine six years earlier.
But…still, even knowing he'd probably be displeased for a while about the whole affair, Sara couldn't help but smile anyway. She found herself fondly remembering the look on his face when they'd all yelled out 'surprise'. He'd looked mixed between miserable and mortified, and yet, Sara felt delight with the way he floundered like a fish out of water.
Shaking her head and laughing inwardly at the events of earlier in the shift, she stood in the locker room outside her open locker door, staring at the mirror she had glued to the inside of the door.
She'd made the effort today to look nice – on his behalf of course. She'd woken an hour early, and spent more time than normal on her brown hair – making it perfectly straight to the point where her layers were even barely detectable anymore. Her eyes were dusted in lavender, and she'd carefully applied eyeliner to make her eyelashes look thicker, her eyes more vibrant.
It almost felt like a waste of time putting in all the extra effort. He never seemed to notice anything, and any time she'd been in his presence during the day, he'd barely even raised his eyes to look at her, let alone take time to examine how attractive she'd tried to make herself for his benefit.
How many women have spent hours in front of a mirror trying to make themselves look attractive for Grissom only to be completely overlooked because he's more interested in their theories on scientific matters? Sara wondered as she quickly applied a little more lip gloss.
She dabbed at the corners of her mouth to make sure the sticky glossy substance hadn't leaked, and stared at herself. Unhappy with how her hair looked, she ran her fingers through it quickly, smoothed it down, and cocked her head, wishing she could see herself through another person's eyes.
Useless. Why are you even trying anymore? Grissom won't notice. He didn't notice seven years ago, and he doesn't notice now. All he cares about is if you're solving cases and never overlooking evidence, she thought at herself angrily.
The white box on the shelf in her locker caught her eye and she sighed. I still have to give him his gift, she reminded herself, she felt the flutter of nerves in her stomach.
The gift was more personal than anything anyone else had given him, which was why she hadn't given it to him when the others had presented him with their small presents. She knew her gift to Grissom would definitely raise some questions, and she didn't need anyone's prying in her love-life – or lack thereof. She was sure Grissom wouldn't appreciate the questions raised either.
She'd put so much thought and consideration into this gift months before there had ever been mention of a small party in the break room. Three months. You've been planning on giving him this for three months, since the moment you saw it, she picked the box up and held it, sighing.
She'd been thinking about it all day, wondering when the perfect time would come to pass it over to him.
But when was the right moment to give him the gift? She supposed there never would be a right time. Their whole relationship seemed to be based on 'wrong times'. Whenever she made too truthful an admission about her feelings towards him, or tried to get him to open up, it was always the wrong time. What should make this moment any different?
What does it matter if I give him this now? It's always going to be the wrong time, no matter what time I choose, anyway.
She drew her breath, and closed the door to her locker, and braced herself emotionally as she began the trek along the hall to Gil Grissom's office.
It seemed that his team, and a few colleagues from the DNA, Trace and Questioned Documents labs had all pitched in to buy him a new case for his field kit. Grissom could tell at once by the quality of the thing that it had not been cheap either. He noted they'd even taken the time and care to fill it with the supplies he needed for out in the field. The only things that were missing were his instruments from his own case, and there was plenty of room in the new case for those – much to Grissom's pleasant surprise.
As distraught he'd been regarding the whole offering of birthday gifts, he had to admit, it had been an incredibly thoughtful present – someone had obviously taken note of the fact his own field kit case had begun to fall apart from overuse and like Sara's case, some parts of it were held together with duct tape. It had probably been Catherine's observation; the woman was sharp, she didn't miss a thing.
Still…it had been embarrassing, having to thank them all for the wonderful and thoughtful gift, but somehow he got through it. He'd been unable to think of his own meaningful words so he'd had to rely on poetic quotes from famous authors to express his gratitude.
There had been the other presents too. The white mug which had a black tarantula design across it and the ribbon tied around the handle that had been from Greg. A box of chocolate covered grasshoppers from Nick – he'd noted the look of disgust on Nick's face when he'd handed the present over and complained about how hard it had been to find a store that supplied them. Jim had given him a bottle of twenty-five year old Whiskey that had come all the way from a Scottish Isle. Grissom reminded himself to share a dram with his old friend at some point at the end of the shift.
With the opening of the presents out of the way, and the cake cut and shared out, Grissom had managed to get them all out of his office. He placed the gifts out of sight, and returned to his paperwork which was in abundance.
He felt a strange guilt wash over him that the presents had been so thoughtful, and even the surprise had been slightly amusing. A strange twinge of emotion built up within him that he had such wonderful colleagues and good friends that he sometimes didn't quite appreciate as well as he should have.
I take a lot for granted, he thought, quietly despising himself for not having the sense to recognize it more.
It was almost four in the morning when he heard a quiet knock at his office door and he announced "come in," distractedly as he was reading a report, chewing thoughtfully on the end of a pen.
Grissom raised his eyes to see Sara Sidle stepping in almost cautiously, as if she'd never been in before. Her hands were behind her back, and she stood in a casual position. Her hair was completely straight, cascading over her shoulders like liquid dark chocolate. Her eyes still had that certain twinkle in them.
"Hi," he momentarily disregarded the report, and placed the pen down on the desk, to give her his full attention. Although he'd seen her earlier, somehow he had tragically overlooked that she looked quite striking today.
She was practically glowing, radiating a confidence that captured him.
"I know you hate birthdays," Sara began.
Great, we're back to the birthday again, Grissom thought miserably.
"I didn't want to give you this in front of the others, because…I know you'd make a big deal," she took her arms from behind her back. She had a plain white box in her hands. She placed it down on his desk in front of him, "Happy Birthday, Grissom," she gave him her best gap-toothed smile.
Grissom looked at her, "Sara, you already chipped in for the case…" he said softly. He felt the discomfort he'd felt earlier around everyone begin to return, but now that it was just Sara with him, it seemed all the more intense.
"I know, but that was a joint effort. This…this is just from me," she pushed the box towards him, "sorry it's not wrapped. I didn't have any gift wrap."
Grissom stared down at the plain box. Somehow there was more mystery in a plain white box than there had been in the brightly wrapped presents from earlier, "you…really didn't have to get me anything," he looked up at her again. He was caught again in the twinkling in her eyes.
"I know, but I wanted to," Sara cocked her head, watching him, "Aren't you going to open it?"
As curious as he was to the contents, he didn't want to open it. He couldn't even explain to himself why. But Sara already looked so happy, and he'd missed that happiness in her for some time.
Part of the satisfaction of buying a person a gift is to see them open it. She's paid for the thing, you owe her the satisfaction of seeing you open it, he told himself sternly.
Grissom tentatively put his hands on the box and slipped the lid off, putting it aside. Whatever was inside was wrapped in several layers of delicate white tissue.
"Be careful," Sara warned softly, she chewed her lip, still slightly smiling.
His curiosity piqued even more now, and he raised an eyebrow at her for a moment before looking back down to gaze into the box as he pulled the layers of tissue aside to reveal a very old looking book, bound in tan leather, with a layer of red leather split in two placed over it, decorated in various glyphs in blues, reds and whites. There was a large gap stitched in thick black thread – which had come loose and damaged over time. The letters 'he' stood out between the gap in bright red letters, almost like someone had written them with a finger dipped in blood.
He knew what it was at once; he'd seen a similar copy in an antique shop once years ago, and if the copy hadn't been more than he could have afforded then, he might have bought it himself. "Sara…" he said in awe, his fingers grazed the edges of the box, he daren't even touch the book with his bare hands, it was older than he was. Hell, it was older than his uncle Herb.
"It's the first US edition of Conan Doyle's 'A Study in Scarlet'," she explained, "printed in eighteen-ninety. Sorry it isn't in better condition…"
He used the cap of his pen to flick the outer binding open, and then the inside cover, he didn't want to even touch the book for fear of damaging it with the oils on his hands. There on the inside pages just as she'd said was the proof of its edition. The book seemed to resonate a sense of history it had carried for over a hundred years. Grissom drew his breath staring lovingly at the copy.
He quickly pulled himself together when he noted he had not said anything in some moments. "This must have cost you—"
"Money isn't an object – besides, I got a great deal. I saw it and knew it belonged with you. It seemed to call out…as corny as it sounds. And I know you love all those old Sherlock Holmes books…" Sara explained almost logically.
"I'm not really worthy of a gift like this," he admitted nervously.
Sara chewed her lip, "you've done a lot for me these last few years, Grissom. You think I'd forget that you refused to fire me two years ago when Ecklie wanted you to? I would have lost my job if it weren't for you," she reminded. "You deserve this, believe me."
I'm not so sure about that, he thought sadly. Regardless of the value of the gift, regardless of why she'd given him it, Grissom realized he had to accept. He'd done enough in the last seven years to hurt her feelings, he didn't want to add to that.
He pulled open a drawer in his desk, and found a pair of white cotton gloves. He pulled them on quickly, picking the book carefully out of the box and turning it over in his hands to see that the word crossing the book in it's completion was 'Rache'.
Rache, a clue to the murder Holmes solves in the book, he mused.
Grissom opened the book, carefully turning the pages. It wasn't in excellent condition, but it didn't seem to matter, it was still completely readable, and still a part of history as far as he was concerned.
He raised his eyes, he couldn't find words to express how this gift made him feel even after several moments of reflection. He was touched, and surprised – he'd expected the party, he'd expected a cake, but he had not expected a gift like this. This was something that said more than anything else he'd ever been given had ever said to him before. He tried not to calculate how much the edition would have cost her – even in it's damaged condition it was more than he deserved – especially after the last seven years of closing himself off to her.
This book wasn't just the gift of an employee to her boss – this was a gift that had serious thought into it. It meant something.
That's why I knew I shouldn't have opened it, he thought sadly. I knew if it was a gift from her, it had to mean something, mean more than just a thank you for something that had happened two years ago.
The knowledge that it did mean something both touched and chilled him in ways he'd been reluctant to let himself feel for some time now.
"Sara…I…" he began and clammed up again, he just couldn't seem to stumble on the right words. He didn't know how to begin to thank her, how to ever repay her for the thought and kindness – and obvious love -she'd put into this gift.
"I have to go…gotta get back to work," Sara said, she seemed to understand he just couldn't find the words, that he was struggling to say thank you. She was surrendering, she was closing the conversation for him so he wouldn't have to say anything. "Happy birthday, Grissom," Sara said for the second time since she'd entered the office. Without another word, she smiled and headed for the door, then she was gone. The doorway empty, and he sat there, staring at the book in front of him.
Hours later, Sara stepped into the locker room at the end of the shift humming to herself absently as she made her way to her locker.
Greg Sanders was sitting on the bench tying his left sneaker, he glanced up and smiled briefly at her. "You're in a good mood. You've been smiling for the last four hours."
"Have I?" Sara asked, she forced the smile off her face, feeling a flush of embarrassment sweep over her. She tried to push it into the back of her mind.
"Grinning like a Cheshire cat," Greg teased.
"Whatever," Sara pursed her lips to keep herself from smiling again.
Greg gave a long low rumbling yawn, and stretched, "Tough shift, huh?"
"The party made it seem a little more tolerable," Sara confessed, she smiled a little again, unable to help herself. The tinge of pleasure she'd received from seeing Grissom's surprise when he'd opened her present in her office had not left her yet.
"Did you see the look on Grissom's face when we yelled 'surprise'?" Greg asked.
Sara laughed softly, "he wasn't surprised. You could tell by the look on his face he knew exactly what we were going to do. All day he'd been edgy – he knew it was coming."
"I know. Man, he was kinda pissed, wasn't he? I thought for a moment he was going to murder the nearest person – and I was thinking I was so glad that it was Hodges standing by the door and not me," Greg laughed too.
Sara opened her locker to retrieve her bag and a brown LVPD A4 envelope fell out, landing between her feet with a soft thump. "What the--?" she blinked, she bent down to pick it up.
"What's that?" Greg asked, "a letter?" his curiosity piqued instantly and he moved closer to inspect.
"I don't know," Sara remarked, giving him a quick glance.
"Maybe you have a secret admirer," he teased.
"I hardly think so," Sara rolled her eyes at him. "Knowing my luck it'd be more like death threats," she remarked with a soft laugh. "Besides, it's an LVPD envelope," she pointed out, "I can't picture someone sending a love note in department stationary."
"Maybe you're being promoted or something," Greg suggested cheerily.
The flap of the envelope wasn't even stuck down. She flipped it up and slipped her hand into the envelope, to pull out the contents. A single sheet of paper.
She noted how old the piece of paper seemed, how it was slightly aged around the edges, and felt frail and delicate between her fingers. It wasn't just a piece of paper, it was the page of a book, and it had been carefully cut out by someone who'd tried to do as little damage as possible. The pristine edge where it had been cut suggested a razor edged instrument.
"I don't believe this…" she whispered.
"Hmmm?" Greg asked, he stood up and looked over her shoulder.
Sara suddenly begun to realise what the page was, and she felt her stomach twist with a strange horror, and all the happiness she'd been feeling suddenly started to quickly change into confusion and hurt. It was the last page of the book she'd given Grissom.
She had to check it twice, but she was positive it was. She'd given the book an inspection before taking it to him, she'd looked at that last page herself. She recognized it, recognized the last paragraph.
"It's…the last page of the book I gave him for his birthday," Sara whispered in astonishment.
"I didn't see you give him a book," Greg responded.
"I forgot to bring it to the party," she quickly lied.
"Maybe it fell out…" suggested Greg, gesturing to the page.
"No…it was in a box, it couldn't have," Sara gazed down at the page in complete fascination, "He…cut it out…"
"Why?" Greg asked.
Sara shook her head, "I…don't know…" she sat down on the bench slowly, turning the page over carefully in her hands. "It's the last page…" she frowned.
Greg gave a slight ironic laugh, "they always say the most important part of every book is the last page…"
She looked up at him.
"Knowing Grissom, that means something. A cryptic little message…" Greg mused. "But…he loves books. I didn't think I'd see the day he'd rip a page out of a book…"
"This wasn't just any book, Greg – it's a first edition Sherlock Holmes…" she said, her voice high, full of emotion that somehow, Greg didn't seem to notice. She immediately winced, having blurted it out. She reasoned it was probably shock that had made her admit the truth about the book despite her intentions not to.
Greg just stared at her, she could practically see the thoughts crossing his mind already.
"Don't look at me like that," she frowned, she shifted and looked down at the page instead so she wouldn't have to see the questions in his eyes.
"You bought Grissom an antique book?" Greg raised an eyebrow, his brown eyes were on her. He looked completely dumbfounded, and somewhat distressed, although he seemed to be doing his best to hide it.
"I got a great deal," Sara grumbled.
"So…what does that mean?"
"It doesn't mean anything."
"You bought him an expensive…antique book…" Greg made a face, "all I got for my birthday was a miniature bottle of Peach Schnapps and a Snickers bar," he pouted.
"I owe Grissom a lot," Sara quickly replied, "I nearly got fired a few years ago, remember? The fight with Catherine, Ecklie was all up in arms," she sighed, "Grissom took responsibility and refused to fire me…I figured…I'd do something nice for him in return."
"Oh…" Greg said, still looking a little hurt.
"It was a king sized Snickers," Sara put in.
"Oh yeah, that makes me feel much better," Greg looked away. "So…what does the ripped out page mean, then?"
"I don't know," Sara spent several moments deep in thought. "What do you think it means?" she asked of him, hoping somehow miraculously he'd have the answers she didn't.
Greg pondered too, "With Grissom, you just never know. Could mean nothing, could mean everything," he shrugged. He paused for a moment, hovering awkward. He seemed to have something on his mind but if he did, he couldn't seem to express it.
Shaking his head at himself and giving a little laugh that was mixed between bitter and ironic, he pulled a rucksack from his locker.
Sara watched him, it was clear he was hurt. She wanted to pretend he was feeling a little indignant about her having spent more on Grissom's birthday than his previous birthday, but she knew that wasn't the case. It wasn't that Greg was upset that Grissom was worthy of the more expensive gift, it was that he was worthy of the thought she'd put into the gift.
"I…uh, I'll…See you later," Greg pulled a rucksack from his locker and slung it over his shoulder, his expression briefly crestfallen, but he forced a smile for her benefit, and then left the locker room, leaving her on her own.
Could mean nothing, could mean everything, she heard Greg's words repeated in her head. And then it came to her.
Could mean nothing. That's what Grissom is trying to say. The book means nothing to him – I mean nothing to him.
Grissom leaned back in his chair quietly, the radio was on, tuned into his favourite classical station, and he had a glass of Bowmore Whiskey in his hand.
Jim Brass sat quiet in the chair in front of the desk, he looked distant for a moment, as if he were reflecting. "Fifty, huh?" he finally said, he sipped from his own glass of whiskey, staring down into the amber liquid fondly.
"It would seem so."
"It's all downhill from there, you know, pal."
"So I hear," Grissom gave a wry smirk, "c'mon, Jim. Be honest, when was it ever uphill?"
"Good point. It's all downhill from the moment you hit forty, never mind, fifty," Jim mused. "I suppose you could, uh, always try to convince yourself that life begins at fifty," he suggested.
Grissom chuckled and scratched his bearded chin absently, "life begins the moment the sperm hits the egg, anything else is just a matter of opinion."
"What age do you feel in there, but?" Jim patted his chest where his heart was, then sipped his drink again.
Grissom glanced at his old friend, "you first."
"Ah, thirty-five, forty maybe," Jim smirked, "Now you."
"Depends on the day. Some days I can come to work and feel like I'm twenty-five again. Others, I feel about seventy," Grissom chuckled.
"Do you remember the days when we used to think guys our age were old timers?" Jim asked, "who ever thought we'd make it into old age?"
"Ah," Grissom raised an eyebrow and quoted, "to me, old age is always fifteen years older than I am," he winked.
A quiet knock at the doorframe made them both turn to see Sara Sidle standing framed in the open doorway.
"Hey, thought you'd have gone home by now," Jim said cheerfully.
"No, not yet," Sara gave a wan smile and Grissom could see at once she was unhappy with something. Instinct told him it was something he'd done, and it took only one more instant to realize what.
In her left hand she was holding the missing page from 'A Study in Scarlet'. Bingo, he thought dolefully.
"Goin' out, Sara?" Jim asked, he was examining her face, her hair, and grinning ever so slightly. Grissom suddenly understood now he wasn't the only one who'd noticed how attractive Sara looked that day.
"No. Going straight home, actually. Why?" Sara asked, looking slightly confused.
"Looks like you're all dolled up to go somewhere, is all," Jim shrugged.
Sara smiled again, a little more sincere this time, "Grissom, can, uh, I have a word with you about something?"
"Is it important?" Grissom asked, he tried his best to sound nonchalant and innocent, but his tone, even to himself, seemed to sound incredibly phony and strained.
"Ah, y'know what, I gotta take off," Jim looked at his watch, he picked up his jacket, which he'd slung over the back of the chair he'd been sitting on, and he stood, pulling it on. "Sara…don't let him drink too much of that," he smirked, gesturing to the bottle of Bowmore whisky sitting on the desk.
"I won't," Sara promised, nodding with a slight smile.
Jim bid them both his casual farewell and left, leaving the door wide open behind himself.
When their colleague had left the room, the smile from Sara faded. She stood there, looking awkward and unsettled, still holding the page. There was a sadness in her eyes, they'd lost the twinkle Grissom had been admiring all through the shift.
"Close the door, please," Grissom commanded. If Sara was about to bring up anything unpleasant, he was sure he didn't need the whole lab overhearing it.
Sara closed the door hesitantly, and then moved over towards the desk.
"Have a seat," he offered her the place Jim had been parked only a moment earlier.
"I'd rather stand," Sara admitted.
If she wants to stand, that means she doesn't intend on staying long, Grissom thought, feeling the tightening of nerves in his stomach.
"It's about this…" Sara placed the page down on his desk slowly. There was a slight tremble in her voice.
Grissom didn't dare take his eyes off her, even to look down at the page, "uh huh?" he asked, and waited for her explanation anxiously.
"If you didn't like the book, you should have just said instead of destroying it."
"I didn't destroy it," he gestured to his left, the box was on a shelf, the lid firmly on, "it's still there in the box."
"I just…I don't get this…" she motioned towards the paper, she took a deep breath, "that book…a lot of thought went into it…" she tried to explain, "y'know what…it doesn't matter," she shook her head, "you just don't get it," she turned and headed towards the door.
What is she talking about? Doesn't she understand what I was trying to say? I don't get this. She can take the most innocent of my words and twist them into something meaningful, but when I practically give her something full of meaning, she…loses the meaning completely, he thought in complete bewilderment.
"Maybe you're the one who doesn't get it," Grissom spoke up finally, just before she'd reached out for the handle.
Sara stood motionless there for a moment, then turned slightly to glance over him at her shoulder, "excuse me?" she sounded rather indignant.
Grissom got up from behind the desk, "come back here," he said with a sigh.
Sara folded her arms insecurely over herself, turned and walked back to him, meeting him in front of the desk, she looked away from him.
"I'll admit…I did damage the book," he finally confessed.
"Uh huh," she remarked coldly.
"Sara…I…" he winced, the words were leaving him again. In his mind he floundered desperately trying to find two words to string together to explain why he'd ripped the page out and slipped it into her locker.
Sara's eyes met his briefly, she raised an eyebrow. Her expression spoke volumes. It said 'I'm waiting for my explanation'. Truth was, he wasn't sure he could explain it now that she was here, looking at him in that way.
I didn't think this thing through, did I? he realized, feeling incredibly dense. She was supposed to get what I was trying to say when she found the missing page. I didn't at any point, think she might misunderstand!
"The most important part of a book is the last page," Grissom finally managed after a moment of contemplation.
"So?" Sara retorted, still angry with him, still hurt he'd damaged the gift she'd given him with such love.
"That's…why…I put it in your locker," Grissom tried to explain, "I wanted you to have it…" he could feel the left corner of his mouth twitching, as it tended to do when he was uncomfortable in a situation. A tic he'd spent his lifetime living with that he'd never completely managed to shake off. Usually he was thankful it didn't bother him much now that he was so much older, but this morning he was dismayed it had chosen to present itself right at that moment.
Sara had noticed it almost instantly, he caught her looking – no, staring - right at the corner of his mouth where he felt it.
How long have I been doing it? All through this conversation? Was Jim here when it started? He wondered.
Her eyes were still on him, watching it. He felt suddenly very exposed as if he might be standing naked in the Antarctic. Her gaze was like the burning cold he imagined he'd feel.
"It's a tic, ignore it," he said drawing his breath, "it'll go away."
"Since when do you have a tic?" Sara raised her eyes briefly to his, but her eyes fell back the corner of his mouth, as if she was mesmerized.
Grissom cocked his head to try and make her look him in the eyes, afraid if she kept looking, it would get worse, just the way it used to when he was in high school and anyone would notice. "Since nineteen-sixty-one," he replied, all too quickly. He briefly considered adding that it started shortly after his parents divorced when he was a child, but he held his tongue. "Like I said, it'll go away."
Sara blinked, and met his eyes again, "I still don't know what this is about," she picked up the page from the desk and held it between them, "what would I want with the last page?"
"To hold it, to keep it, I don't know…I just..I wanted you to have it..."
Sara gave an ironic laugh.
Grissom sighed and gestured towards the chair, "sit…please…" he sighed and sat on the edge of his desk folding his arms, feeling rather insecure now himself.
Sara slowly sat down, clutching the page in both hands.
"Like I said, it's the most important part of the book. I felt it was fitting for you to have it."
"Since I gave you it?" Sara asked, still obviously confused.
"It's what, Grissom?" Sara sighed.
Grissom couldn't respond, he looked down at the floor, mouthing words and unable to really speak what he wanted to bluntly admit.
They remained silent for a moment, staring at each other, neither really knowing what to say to each other anymore.
Sara stood slowly, "forget it. I'm going to pretend like this never happened," she held the page tight in her fist, crumpling the paper just a little, "because God knows, tomorrow I know you will," she made her way towards the door again, this time getting as far as taking the handle and opening it.
Don't let her leave the office without saying something else, don't let her think you're going to forget this. Don't let her think you don't care.
"Sara…it's…you." Grissom at last found his voice.
Sara stared at him as if she'd never seen him before in her life, she didn't seem to understand and he just couldn't find a way to eloquently express what he was trying to tell her.
"Look…pretend it's a piece of evidence, Sara. Just…pretend like it's the one vital clue you've been…looking for," his voice was soft.
Sara sighed. She gave an air of defeat, and without saying anything else, she left, closing the door behind herself with a low thud.
Grissom rolled his eyes at himself, very badly handled, Grissom. You'd make this so much easier on Sara and yourself if you could just say things simply rather than having to complicate everything.
He stared at the floor, deciding to himself that maybe it was time to admit he was nothing but a complicated – and rather old – fool.
Sara was so angry by the time she reached her car she was shaking. She opened the door and then abruptly slammed it closed, deciding not to get into the car when she was still feeling this furious.
There's enough rage on the road out there as it is, she thought. She gazed down at her hand, still holding the page tightly.
She was angry with the book, she was angry with herself and she was definitely angry at Grissom.
Damn it, she thought. Why is he so infuriating. And what the hell was he talking about. Look at it like it's a clue…a piece of evidence I've been looking for. What's that supposed to mean? If he has something to say he should just say it. Greg was probably right. He probably was trying to say that the book meant nothing to him. This is just another one of those stupid games he seems to relish playing with me.
She crumpled the page up as she forced herself not to get teary eyed and overemotional about a stupid piece of old paper. She threw it down to the ground, pursing her lips tight together to keep from screaming in frustration with the whole situation.
"Hey, littering is an offence you know," she heard the voice of Sofia Curtis.
Sofia breezed by her, her golden hair flowing behind her as she moved with an elegant grace.
"Sorry," Sara mumbled, not remotely sorry in the least. Admittedly, she should have known better, but right now, she just couldn't give a damn about littering the streets, and she didn't give a damn for the lecture she was probably sure to receive from Sofia.
Sofia bent down and picked up the crumpled up page, "old paper," she commented, "very good quality, expensive…very aged," she carefully un-crumpled it, and read the last few passages. "Ah, Sherlock Holmes," she smirked, "A Study in Scarlet, right?" she asked.
"Yeah, whatever," Sara sighed, she couldn't even find it in herself to tolerate Sofia right now.
"Where's the rest of it?" Sofia asked.
Sara gave a shrug, "Who knows," she muttered, shaking her head, she opened the door to her car, and was ready to climb in. She wanted to escape this place and never think about that damn book or it's last page again.
"It's not yours?" Sofia asked.
"Yeah, it is," Sara replied, feeling very weary now, and just wanting to get away from Sofia, and work. After crying herself to sleep, she was sure everything would seem normal again by the start of the next shift.
"Why would you throw away the missing piece?"
Sara stared at her colleague, "hmm?"
"Last page of the book. Missing piece. It's the most important part of the book."
Everyone keeps saying that, Sara thought.
Sofia handed her the now rather pathetic looking page, "without the last page, the rest of the book is pretty pointless, really," Sofia's blue eyes twinkled, "it's incomplete."
Sara stared down at the page, frowning, "yeah…I guess it is…" she trailed off, Sofia's words starting to sink in. Incomplete.
Sara felt as if she'd had an epiphany That one word was everything at that moment. Everything that hadn't made sense suddenly started to come together
She raised her head to see Sofia climbing into her car which had been parked next to her own. Sofia gave a little smile in her direction before backing out of the parking space and driving off. Sara watched Sofia's car disappear down the street, the sun glinting on the rear window.
Sara chewed her lip, gazing down at the page, the page was so crumpled now Sara absurdly wondered if it was even beyond repair.
He said pretend it's evidence. Pretend it's the one vital clue you've been looking for.
Standing there, the sun spilling onto her, she suddenly realized just what he'd meant, and what he was trying to say, but somehow couldn't.
Sara, it's…you, she heard his voice in her head so clearly as she replayed the scene back in her mind. She hadn't understood what he'd been trying to imply, but now, it came to her.
The page was significant of her, that was what he'd meant. And if she was the missing page…that meant…
Oh my god…He's the book, she couldn't help but let out a tiny gasp, her heart felt like it might stop dead in her chest. She laughed at herself nervously, her fingers trembling as they held the page.
What he'd been trying to say suddenly seemed so clear.
He was incomplete…
And I'm the missing page.
I hope you liked this story - if you liked it, please review.
Sorry some of it might seem a bit out of character, especially where Jim Brass is concerned, I'd never actually written anything with him in it before, I struggled with that part, I hope I didn't mess him up too much for all you Brass fans out there.