Disclaimer: The only character in this story who belongs to Michael. But by rights, shouldn't that mean Brass is mine too?
A/N: Huge thanks to csishewolf. I couldn't have finished this without you!
When Sara turned off the water in the shower, she heard her phone ringing. It took three more rings before she was able to wrap a towel around herself and grab the cordlessthat rested next to her bed. Whoever was on the other end certainly was persistent.
"Sara, thank God." The voice was familiar, though the harried tone was not one she heard often.
"I need your help." No greeting, no explanation, and that worried her.
"Is something wrong? What happened?" It was too soon after Nick and the horror that followed his kidnapping. Her mind jumped through a hundred worst-case scenarios. Car crashes, explosions, crime scenes gone wrong...
"Shit. No, I didn't mean anything like that." Brass sighed. "I need a woman."
"That came out wrong."
"I hope so." Sara held the phone between her ear and shoulder as she pulled on a pair of jeans. "Otherwise, our friendship just took a really weird turn."
"Very funny, Sidle. Can you come over here?"
"Why?" She was beyond curious now. Normally when Brass called it was about work. This wasn't.
"Can you wait for an explanation until you get here? It will be easier in person."
"Are you okay?" Brass wasn't the most open person, but he wasn't usually so secretive either. Sara heard a muffled sound in the background and muttered curses coming from Brass.
"I have to go."
"Everything's fine. I just need a hand. Please?"
"Lucky for you, I have the night off. I'll be right there."
Once she hung up Sara pulled on a shirtand left her bedroom. On the way out of her apartment she snagged her keys from the table next to the front door.
She didn't even get a chance to knock on Brass's door. The moment she reached the front stoop it swung open, revealing a frazzled homicide captain. His button-down shirt was only half tucked into his pants, the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. Hair was sticking out from the side of his head in a way that suggested he had run his hand through it a few dozen times. And his feet were bare.
"You look like crap," Sara greeted him as she walked into the house.
"Thanks." Brass closed the door behind her. "Would you like something to drink?"
"I would like to know what precipitated your call a little while ago. What's going on?"
"Well, Sara, it's like this. I..." What ever he had been about to say was interrupted by a sudden loud wailing.
"Brass, is that a..."
"Baby? Yeah." He walked down the hall and entered a room, emerging a minute latter with an infant in his arms. Sara stared at him in open mouth shock.
"Is he yours?" She couldn't get her head around the idea of Brass holding a baby. A gun, yes. A baby? Strange.
"Kind of." He turned the baby around so Sara could see his face. Bright blue eyes and chubby cheeks greeted her. If Sara Sidle was the kind of woman to melt at the sight of babies, she'd be a puddle on the floor right now. As it was, she couldn't help smiling.
"Sara, this is Michael Brass. My grandson." He smiled then, and Sara could see beyond the stress to the pride shinning in his eyes.
"Ellie?" Sara guessed. Brass nodded his confirmation.
"Is she here too?"
"No." Brass's expression darkened, and Sara could tell that she had inadvertently hit a nerve.
"She was here, yesterday. Waiting on my doorstep when I got home from shift, baby in tow. I saw her in April, and she never told me a thing. She would have already been a couple months pregnant." He shrugged, as if to convey that it didn't matter. Sara could tell from the wistful expression that he was hurt.
"So where is she now?"
"You're going to laugh." He walked to the kitchen as he talked, knowing she would follow. A collection of bottles and a can of formula cluttered the counter. Holding the baby in one arm, Brass used his other hand to prepare a bottle.
"I won't. I promise." She watched him, still surprised at this different side of her colleague. He juggled the baby and bottle like a pro.
"She went out for diapers... last night." It was a horrible cliché in a long line of clichés. He was a weathered police officer, a workaholic bachelor whose only relationships were with his coworkers. He had so little time for his wife when he had been married that she had an affair with the mail man. And now, he had fallen for the "I'm just going out for diapers" line.
"That's why I called you. I need to go in to work for a little while. Not a whole shift, just a couple of hours. There are a couple of things that can't be put off, and obviously I wasn't planning on having a baby here. So I was hoping..."
"No way, Brass. Don't even say it." Sara eyed the baby and took a small step backwards.
"Come on, Sara. I don't have anyone else to call, and you do have the night off. You said so yourself." He didn't have a clue what he would do if she said no. It wasn't like he had an abundance of friends, and the ones that he did have he wouldn't trust with his grandson even if he was still in the room. Trying to entice her, he raised Michael up so that their cheek rested together and opened his own eyes wide. "Please?"
"What about Catherine? She knows all about babies. Had one of her own and everything." If Brass really was desperate, Sara knew she would never say no to him. He had become a good friend in the past few years, taking the time to talk to her about non work-related topics. Lecturing her when he thought she needed it. She had to be sure he had exhausted all other options, though before she signed herself up for this endeavor.
"Cath's at work tonight, and they are too swamped for her to take any time off." She had been his first call after Ellie had disappeared. "And don't even ask about any of the boys. No way am I leaving a baby with Greg, Nick or Warrick. None of them would have a clue what to do, except try to use him to pick up girls. Gil would be just as clueless."
Sara wanted to protest, but everything he said was true. Even if one of the guys had the night off, they wouldn't be her first choice of baby-sitters. She flashed on a mental picture of Grissom holding the baby, feeding a bottle as Brass was now. It was comical, but at the same time made her insides all tingly. Looked like she was out of options.
"Just for a couple of hours," she agreed reluctantly.
"You're a lifesaver." With whirlwind speed Brass lead her through the house, showing her the toys in the living room, the makeshift changing table in the guest room, portable crib in his own bedroom, and end the tour in the kitchen where he taught her how to prepare a bottle. Passing her the baby, he waited to make sure she had a good hold before disappearing into his bedroom. Ten minutes later, and he was the Brass she was more accustomed to. His hair was brushed, his brown suit wrinkle free, and his shirt buttoned.
"I have my cell if you have any questions. Don't be afraid to call about anything." She didn't have a chance to respond before he quickly kissed Michael's head and ran out of the house.
"Well, I guess it's just you and me, kid. What in the world was your grandpa thinking? I am not a kid person. No offense, I just never had a reason to interact with kids before." Michael didn't seem to mind her inexperience. He simply stared at her, waving small fists in the air.
"So, Brass as a grandpa. Hard to imagine." Sara knew that baby didn't understand a word she was saying, but she wasn't sure what else to do with a baby so she kept up a one-sided conversation. "He's a good guy, you know. One of those men you know you can count on in a pinch, even if you're the one in the wrong. He'll make sure you're taken care of, even if your mom doesn't come back."
Michael started fussing then. Sara looked at the half empty bottle sitting on the table, and decided to give it a try. Grabbing it on the way to the living room, she settled on the couch with the baby in her lap. The moment she put the rubber nipple in his mouth he calmed and began sucking greedily. Maybe I can do this.
Thirty minute later, she was again in doubt. Whatever nurturing gene that women were supposed to have was a myth, or it had skipped over her. Michael had been content as long as there was formula in the bottle, but as soon as it was empty he had started crying. Sara had tried making a second bottle, but he didn't want it. She felt his diaper, but it was dry. She changed it anyway. His crying only increased, its tone now resembling that of a police car's siren. In desperation she stared pacing the room, patting Michael's back the way she had seen people do in movies. Suddenly he emitted a loud burp, and the cry stopped. Wonderful, except for the fact that he spewed out a smelly white substance at the same time.
"Great." Sara carried the now happy baby into the bathroom where she attempted to clean up the stain with a wet washcloth. While she managed to get rid of most the spit up, the smell lingered. It was making her ill. Smiling, to suppress her gag reflex, Sara abandoned the washcloth and decided her only option was to 'borrow' one of Brass's shirts.
"You are so going to owe me, Brass," she muttered as she laid Michael in the crib. Opening Brass's closet, feeling slightly guilty at the privacy invasion, Sara grabbed the first shirt the came in contact with. Removing her own shirt she slipped the new one over her head. Not until it was already on did she look down at it. 'Police officers do it with loaded weapons' was emblazoned across her chest. She shook her head, and contemplated changing it, but decided against it. No one else was going to see her.
When she went to go pick Michael up out of the crib, she was surprised to discover that he was asleep. She was a little jealous. Never in her life had she possessed the ability to fall asleep so quickly, unless it was with the help of a six pack. Leaving him where he was, she carried her soiled shirt out to the living room. Perusing the shelves next to the television, Sara pulled out a copy of Laura and loaded it into the DVD player. She and Brass shared a secret love for old noir movies. It was something they had learned by accident when working a crime scene at a video store. Every once in a while, when the mood struck and their schedules meshed, they would get together and take in a show.
Dana Andrews was just about to break down the door to the apartment when Sara heard the crying start from the bedroom. Hitting the power button on the remote, she got up from the couch and took a deep breath, hoping that this time the crying would be easier to quell, and that she wouldn't have to change shirts again. She was in luck. The moment she picked him up he quieted.
She barely had him settled on the floor of the living room, lying on an obnoxiously bright colored baby's blanket when her cell phone rang. Sara looked at the display. Grissom. She opened the phone, and spoke before Grissom had a chance to say anything.
"I can't come in tonight." She swore she could almost hear him raise his eyebrow in question. It was rare for her to refuse a call, even when it meant interrupting her plans.
"I don't need you to work a case. Someone," he said, the word 'dayshift' mumbled under his breath, "has managed to lose half the paperwork from the Carter case. We've managed to redo almost everything, but you are the only one who interviewed the daughter. I just need you to come in and redo your report. Half an hour, and the rest of the night is yours."
Sara looked at the baby happily lying on the floor, his eyes following the movement of the mobile hanging above him, and she bit her lip. The Carter case had been one of those special ones, involving child abuse, and she couldn't risk something like missing paperwork to result in the perpetrator going free. She had made a promise to Brass though. Sighing, she quickly made up her mind.
"I'll be right in."
Knowing her purse wasn't big enough, Sara found a plastic grocery bag that she filled with diapers, wipes, a bottle, and a handful of toys. Fortunately, Brass had left a car seat in the entry way. She carried everything out to her car in one trip, moving as quickly as she could because leaving the baby in the house made her nervous. One more trip into the house, this time to get Michael, and she was ready to go to the lab.
Nick was the first person she saw when she walked into the lab, baby nestled in one arm and plastic bag dangling from the other. He looked from her to the baby to the t-shirt, and decided to go for the easiest shot.
"Loaded weapons?" he grinned. "Well Sara..."
"Shut up, Nicky." Damn! She had forgotten all about her shirt in the chaos of trying to gather everything Michael would need for a trip away from the house. Fortunately she kept a change of clothes in her locker. If she was lucky, no one would be in there in the middle of a shift, and she could change her shirt without any more jokes at her expense.
No such luck. Warrick was sitting on a bench, buttoning up his own shirt when she walked in the room. Being more perceptive and mature than Nick, he refrained from commenting on the shirt.
Sara wasn't sure of how to answer the question. While everyone knew that Brass had a daughter, they obviously didn't know about her son. Sara figured if Brass wanted the news spread, it was his prerogative.
"Baby-sitting for a friend." Completely true and vague at the same time.
"That's tight." Warrick continued to button his shirt, marveling for a moment at the sight before him. Sara Sidle, cradling a baby, was not a sight he ever thought he would see. She looked good. She also looked perplexed, staring at the locker as if she hoped it would open itself.
"Here, let me." With practiced ease he lifted the baby from her grasp and into his own. At Sara's questioning look he shrugged his shoulders. "One of my ex-girlfriends had a baby."
Now that her hands were free, Sara turned the combination on her locker and opened the metal door. It was nice to wear her own clothing again. She folded Brass's shirt and placed it on the shelf so that she could take it home and wash it before returning it to him.
"No problem. What's his name?" he asked as he returned the baby to her.
"He's cute. Well, back to the grind. Catherine's waiting for me in the garage. I got oil all over me, had to change," he explained.
"Yeah. I need to find Grissom."
Warrick opened his mouth to make a comment, but decided against it. Instead he nodded at her as he left the room and headed down the hallway, debating whether or not to tell Catherine that Sara was here, on her night off, with a baby.
"Hey Griss." Sara knocked on the door frame of Grissom's office. His back was to her, as he reached into a terrarium to release the tarantula he had been holding.
"Sara, the paperwork I need is on my desk. If you wait..." Grissom turned around, and whatever else he had been about to say was lost when he saw Sara. "What is that?"
His expression was so comical that she had to laugh. It wasn't very often that she got to see Grissom in shock.
"This is what's commonly known as a baby. I'm sure you've seen one before. You might have been one, once." The image of Grissom as a baby was so amusing that she had to laugh again.
"I know what a baby is," Grissom quickly recovered, his face returning to its normal calm expression. "What I should have said is why did you bring a baby to work?"
"First of all, I'm not here for work, I'm here to replace paperwork. Secondly, I brought him because I was baby-sitting when you called, and I couldn't exactly leave him at home alone."
Grissom raised a single eyebrow at her rebuttal, and reached to pick up the paperwork on his desk. Out of the corner of his eye he observed the woman standing in the middle of his office. Just standing in proximity to Sara affected him, it always did. The pulse in his wrists sped up just a little, while his ability to think quickly was hindered. The visceral jolt in his stomach was new, though. After a moment of analysis, he attributed it the previously unseen sight of Sara holding an infant. He had seen her studious, laughing, pleased, angry, serious. Never had he seen this side of her. She looked almost... maternal.
"Uh, Grissom? The papers?" Sara's voice pulled him out of his thoughts.
"Sorry, I was..." secretly wondering what it would be like if the baby in your arms was ours? "...thinking. I have the forms right here."
Before he could give it to her, Sara's cell phone rang. She tried to fish it out of her pocket, but was having trouble holding the baby at the same time. In desperation she looked to Grissom.
"Here, hold him for a minute."
"What?" If the expression on his face earlier had been comical, this one was downright hilarious. You would think she had asked him to hold something covered in blood or gore. Actually, if she handed him something bloody and gory, he probably would have taken it in stride.
"I can't get to my phone." Sara rolled her eyes. "Just pretend he's your tarantula or something."
Grissom timidly accepted the baby, a look of intense concentration on his face. Relieved of her bundle, Sara slipped her phone out of the jean pocket and flipped it open.
"Sidle." She grinned when she heard the voice on the other end.
"Actually, I'm here at the lab. Grissom needed me to fill out a couple of papers. You ready to take over baby duty?" Receiving an affirmative from Brass, Sara agreed that she would stay at the lab until he could meet her there. Ten minutes, he'd said, which Sara took to mean at least half an hour. She was just about to reclaim the baby when Catherine swooped into the office.
"Hey, Warrick said you brought a baby into work. I had to see it to believe it." She stopped in the middle of the room and let out a laugh. Sara tried to scowl at Catherine for her comment, but ended up joining in the laughter instead. Grissom was holding Michael with both arms outstretched, as if he were a bomb he was afraid was going to go off. Sara contemplated taking the baby from him, but decided against it.
"It's a baby, Gil. He's not going to hurt you." Catherine, resident mother, was clearly about to instruct him on how to properly hold an infant. But Sara was closer to him, and beat her to the punch. It was one of those moments she secretly reveled in; an excuse to get close to Grissom without looking obvious about it.
"Like this," Sara instructed, using her newfound knowledge to manipulate Grissom's arms into a more natural position. Stepping back, she nodded her head. Both Grissom and Michael looked more comfortable. "He likes it if you bounce a little."
Grissom took her suggestion. His bounces were more of a jerk; for a man accustomed to manipulating tiny objects like hair and bugs with practiced ease, he wasn't the most graceful when it came to other areas of coordination. Michael didn't seem to mind. Grissom, however, lasted all of thirty seconds before he looked to the two women, silently asking which one was going to take the baby from him. Catherine noticed the look and stepped forward.
"You are such a bachelor, Gil," she commented as she swooped up the baby and cradled him against her chest. "One would think you've never held a baby before."
"I haven't. Not a living one," Grissom stated, a little too calmly. Catherine remembered Grissom standing next to a statue, holding a dead baby, and wished she could take back her words. Instead, she shifted her focus to Sara.
"So who does this bundle belong to?" she asked.
"A friend." Sara repeated, as she had told Warrick.
"He's only what, a month or two old? Most moms I know don't let their kids out of their sight when they're that young."
"His mother isn't what you would call a typical mom." Brass stood in the doorway.
"Jim, you have something you want to tell us?" Catherine looked skeptically at the homicide captain.
"Yeah right," he snorted. "Mind out of the gutter, Catherine. I haven't so much as had drinks with a woman in over a year. Michael is my grandson."
Striding into the office, Jim plucked Michael out of surprised arms.
"I didn't know your daughter had a baby."
"Join the club," Brass returned. "Thanks for the save, Sara. Hope everything was fine."
"It was... an experience." Happily, Sara passed him the makeshift diaper bag. "He ate once, and I changed his diaper, and he had a nap. He did throw up a little, but he seemed fine afterwards. I had to borrow one of your shirts."
"Send me the bill for the dry cleaning. I owe you more than that."
"Don't worry about it."
"Sara, just send it to me, okay?" He was feeling a little guilty about having roped her into baby-sitting, but he had been desperate.
"Okay," she agreed. Brass looked at her for a moment, as if making sure she was telling the truth, and then nodded his head.
"I better get the little man home. He looks tired and I've obviously got some serious planning to do. Can't go through the CSI directory every time I need a baby-sitter." After Brass said thank you one more time, he left the office, followed by Catherine who mentioned that she still had a list of possible baby-sitters in her locker. Sara watched them leave, feeling mostly relieved but a little pensive.
"So, Brass is a grandfather."
"Yeah." Sara turned to Grissom's voice. She had almost forgotten that she was not alone in the room.
"You looked good. I mean, holding him. You looked... natural." He was watching her so intently, only years of practice kept her from looking away or blushing.
"Natural. Yeah right." Sara looked down at her hands, suddenly unsure what to do with them now that she had nothing to hold on to. "I've held a baby about as many times as you have."
"No one would know that by looking at you. And the baby seemed to be content."
"Just because I managed to take care of a baby for a couple hours without permanent damage does not mean that I am good with them, nor does it matter. I don't plan on having any kids of my own."
"Why not?" The question escaped before he had a chance to think about it, and he quickly tried to soften the bluntness. "Children are a natural progression of life."
A dozen replies came to mind; everything from not willing to risk repeating her troubled childhood to the fact that the only man she had ever imagined having children with wouldn't even go to dinner with her.
"I don't see any framed photos of Grissom offspring in your office. Where's your 'natural progression?'"
"Touché." He might have said more, but at that moment his pager went off. "Greg needs me in the ballistics lab."
"I'll leave the paperwork on your desk when I am done." He gave her a vaguely confused look as if he had forgotten why he had called her into work in the first place, before nodding and leaving the room. Sara watched him go, not sure if she was disappointed or relieved
An hour later she was just about to leave the lab when Grissom stopped her.
"Sara, I..." He closed his mouth and breathed in slowly through his nose. Why was it that simple sentences were hard to get out when she was around? "About earlier. I just wanted to let you know... for what it's worth, I think you'd make a good mother." That wasn't what he had intended to say when he stopped her, but she was smiling at him so he must have said something right.
"Uh, thanks." Sara reached for the door, ready to push it open.This whole evening had been surreal, and she was ready to go home and spend the rest of her night off doing something completely normal like make a cup of tea and read a forensic journal.
"It's true. I don't know if it means anything coming from me, but..."
"It does." She looked at him for a moment before turning away. "I'll see you tomorrow night."
Despite the fact that she was turned away, Grissom's only affirmation was a nod of his head. Standing in the lobby watching Sara walk away, he mentally planned the next night's assignments. He was definitely pairing himself with Sara.