Disclaimer: I have no actual right to these characters. I'm just borrowing them for a little while. All I get out of this is warm fuzzies from good reviews.
A/N: Sorry it took so long for me to finish this. Thanks to Joan, who's gentle reminders pushed me to complete this and who's helped me to stay spoiler free. "Poisson D'Avril" refers to the French version of April Fool's Day.
Grissom and Catherine returned from their crime scene each juggling several containers of evidence. He'd allowed Catherine to ramble about how excited Lindsay was for their upcoming vacation on the ride back, but as they rounded the corner past reception he switched back to work.
"After we drop this off I want you to head down to the autopsy. I'll meet you down there after I check in with everyone else."
Catherine gave him an odd look, but didn't say anything. As they headed for trace a body came hurtling down the corridor. They instinctively stepped farther apart to give the on comer more room, but not quite far enough. Hodges clipped Catherine's elbow, sending evidence flying and himself spinning into the wall. Grissom was the first to recover.
"Hodges?" He gave the normally composed tech a raised-eyebrow stare, wondering if the man had finally cracked. After all, he and Sara had recently caught the tech coloring in his grey hair with a black marker.
Hodges dropped his head back against the wall and tried to speak. His words came out haltingly, some lost in choked breaths. "Warrick…his ring…misinformed…Stop…signal."
Grissom watched in confusion as the other man pushed off the wall and took off again. Brushing off the odd encounter, he started towards the lab, planning out the rest of shift to allow himself to finish on time. When he realized that Catherine wasn't beside him he turned to look for her. She was standing motionless amidst a scattering of evidence. "Catherine?"
She didn't respond and he took a step back towards her. Before he reached her she gave a quick shake of her head and bent to gather her evidence. Grissom couldn't quite hear what hear what she was mumbling to himself, but he thought he made out the words: stupid, Warrick, and married. Wanting to give her as much privacy as possible he stepped back and addressed her again. "You all right?"
"What? Yeah, I'm fine. I'll have a nice bruise, but I'm good. It's a good thing you had the breakable stuff." She gestured to the glass vase in Grissom's collection of evidence.
He smiled at that and waited to make sure she could gather everything before heading towards trace and almost ran into Sara.
"Whoops! Sorry Griss." Sara danced nimbly around him. "Do you need a hand Catherine?"
Sara squatted down and reached out to grab the last evidence bag. She followed Grissom and Catherine back into the lab she'd just vacated. They placed their evidence down on the table and Grissom began checking the labels to see what had to be taken elsewhere. Catherine dropped a hand down on top of Sara's as she reached for an evidence bag. Sara startled and tensed.
"Congratulations. I'm glad you two have been able to work this out. I take it the guys don't know yet."
"I've seen Warrick, but not Nick or Greg," Sara replied.
"They're probably showering off their decomp. I won't tell them."
"Thanks! I'd like to surprise them, though I think Greg might be psychic; apparently he told everyone we were engaged as an April Fool's joke." Sara rolled her eyes at the idea.
"That boy's going to get himself in trouble with his big mouth one of these days," grumped Grissom.
"Well, I know you guys have work to do." Sara nodded to the pile of evidence that had just been dumped on the table. "I have some guys to track down."
"Hey, how's the case?" Grissom called as she headed for the door.
"April Fool's Day prank gone wrong, rather like Greg's," Sara quipped as she left the lab.
There was no one in the break room, but Sara found Nick alone in the locker room shrugging into a shirt. He looked over as the door shut behind her. "Hey Sara."
"Hi Nicky. I hear you and Greg got stuck with a decomp."
"Yeah, male db in a closed dumpster. Apparently there was a miscommunication with the waste collection company and somebody complained because the trash hadn't been collected in over a week and it was starting to smell. Actually, Greg got the worst of it. He got to go dumpster diving." Nick grinned as he finished buttoning his shirt.
"So he's…" Sara frowned, disappointed that her prey did not seem to be present.
"I sent him home so he could get a better shower." Nick looked her over more closely, noticing her tensed posture and the fact that she had her hands clasped behind her back. "Though maybe he'll be thanking me for more than that later," he teased. "Anything you want to tell me?"
"Grissom and I are engaged."
"That's it? I thought it'd at least be up to married or pregnant by now. Greg said he was going to start with engaged."
"Nick!" Sara cut him off firmly.
She stuck her hand into his line of sight.
"What am I supposed to be…Oh! For real? Damn, Greg's going to be unbearable now." Nick sighed.
Sara snorted and put her hands on her hips, waiting. When Nick only continued muttering about Greg, she became impatient. "Is there anything else you'd like to say to me?"
"Huh? Oh, crap, sorry…Congratulations, and if he ever screws up let me know and I'll give him a talking to." Nick reached out and pulled Sara into a big hug.
She rested her chin on his shoulder and hugged her friend tightly. "Thanks Nick. And please, do me a favor…don't go have that conversation with Grissom. He's nervous enough without you all ganging up on him and intimidating him on my behalf."
"Whatever you say Sara." Nick patted her lightly on the back and released her from his hold. "So I guess everyone else knows already, huh?"
"Yep. I think Greg's plan back fired; he's the last one to know he was right." Sara smiled, calmer now than when she had started looking for Greg. "I'll let you get back to work."
The next few hours passed in a monotony of paperwork, waiting for the rest of her test results to come back, and plotting revenge on Greg. When the sky had begun to lighten, Sara'd returned to her crime scene glad of the excuse to get out of the lab. Now the page she'd just received had her dreading her return.
My office – Ecklie
As she climbed into the SUV she reached for her cell phone and pressed one on her speed dial.
"Grissom." He sounded tense but not upset.
"Hey Griss." Sara tried to sound relaxed, but she responded to his tension.
"How's the case going?"
"There were scuff marks and some broken tiles on the neighboring building, as if someone tired to climb up, but no indication that there was anyone else on either roof."
"So it was accidental then?" Grissom asked.
"It appears that way."
"All right, I'll see you when you get back."
"Umm, Griss, I got a page from Ecklie." She was hesitant to ask if he'd gotten one too, worried about what she was being called to task for this time. She couldn't think of anything she'd done recently.
"You're not the only one," he sighed. "I'll see if we can settle it before you get back."
"Thanks, good luck." The sound of his voice and the knowledge that he would back her regardless brought a smile to her face despite her worries. "I'll meet you in Ecklie's office."
Grissom knew it would take Sara at least twenty minutes to get back from her scene and he sincerely hoped this meeting wouldn't take that long. Sighing as he flipped his phone shut, Grissom took a moment to pull off his glasses and rub his nose.
"I'll be back," he muttered to Catherine and shuffled out of the lab, sliding his glasses back into place.
The short walk down the hall to the Assistant Director's office seemed to take longer than usual as a gnawing fear burgeoned in his belly. He wasn't sure why he was so nervous, maybe because it had been a year since Conrad had last made trouble for him and his team and he'd spent it waiting for the other shoe to drop.
The door to Ecklie's office was cracked open and Grissom knocked as he pushed his way in. Ecklie looked up from his paperwork at the sound.
"Ah Gil, thank you for coming so quickly. Please, sit."
Sara hadn't been mentioned yet; Grissom wasn't sure he wanted to drag her name into this unless necessary. "How can I help you Conrad?"
Ecklie sat back in his chair and steepled his fingers. "It's come to my attention that there's a rumor going around the lab that you and Miss Sidle have gotten engaged. Given today's date I'm going to choose to treat this as nothing more than a malicious April Fool's joke…"
"Actually Conrad," Grissom interrupted. He wasn't sure why he was interrupting, except that Conrad was guaranteed to find out the truth sooner or later since they had shared their news with the rest of the lab. "While this may have started as nothing more than a prank, the information is in fact correct."
When there was no response from the Assistant Director, Grissom continued, "Sara and I got engaged last night."
Grissom wanted to laugh at the confusion obvious on the other man's face as Ecklie struggled to form a more coherent response.
"I see. Well, in that case…"
"There is no department policy specifically forbidding relationships between…"
"Yes, and do know why that is Gil?" Ecklie cut Grissom off. Grissom could only shake his head 'no'. It had been that way every time he'd checked the employee handbook, though as he thought about it Grissom realized that the first time he'd bothered looking was when a new edition had been given out several months after Sara's arrival in Vegas. Something of his thought pattern must have shown in his face, because Ecklie continued in a slightly bitter tone, "That's right. The Director heard the rumors about you and Miss Sidle. When you offered her a permanent position he took his concerns to the Sheriff. It was decided that keeping you was more important than protecting the lab from the specter of impropriety. Nobody expected you to hold out this long and the fact that you have hasn't saved the lab's reputation from anything. I suppose congratulations are in order; after all you two deserve to have lives outside this lab as much as everyone else does."
This time Grissom couldn't quite contain the chuckle that rose in him at the absurdity of Conrad Ecklie telling him he deserved to have a life, an awkwardly familiar phrase when it came to him and Sara. Then something else that Conrad had said caught his attention. "What do you mean the lab's reputation has been called into question?"
"Well, not so much the lab's but Miss Sidle's." Ecklie's tone was condescending, as if he couldn't believe he was having this conversation.
"What are you talking about Conrad? I assume you're referring to something other than the stunt you pulled last year," Grissom practically growled, his earlier sense of amusement having suddenly vanished.
"Haven't you ever read over the court transcripts for the Haviland trial, taken a look at the dirt that Gerard gave to Wescott so she could destroy your case?" The disbelief was plain in Ecklie's voice.
"No," Grissom grimaced at the recollection of that week. He probably should have known from Catherine's reactions and the way that his time on the stand had gone that the rest of his team had been put through the same crap. At the time he'd been too busy worrying over his hearing loss and his own poor performance in court to counsel his team.
"Marjorie Wescott brought up Sidle's tendency to have relationships with her coworkers on the stand."
A soft voice came from the door to Ecklie's office, "She accused me of manipulating the evidence to please you and of influencing Hank to do the same." Both men's attention jerked to her as Sara stepped into the office and hovered beside Grissom. "Why are we talking about this?"
"I was just informing Gil of the history behind our department's policy on office relationships."
"Right." Grissom could tell that Sara's voice contained traces of sarcasm barely suppressed, but Ecklie didn't seem to notice. One of Sara's hands dropped to grab Grissom's shoulder. "You had me paged?"
"Yes. I just wanted to remind you not to let anything that happens, or doesn't happen, between you two affect your work. At this point, I'm not separating you, but I will if this becomes an issue. Understood?"
Sara's hand tightened convulsively on his shoulder, and Grissom knew that she wasn't going to be able to answer Ecklie politely. He answered for both of them. "Thank you for your consideration. Is there anything else?"
"No, you can go."
Nodding to Ecklie, Grissom rose and gestured Sara out of the room in front of him before she said anything impulsive. She started talking as soon the office door closed behind them. "How the heck did he find out? No one on the team would've said anything." Understanding dawned; it hadn't been their team. She sighed, "Greg's April Fool's Day prank."
"Most likely." He was almost certain this had been a result of Greg's antics, but he didn't want Sara hurting her friend. "Have you finished up your case?"
"I'm still waiting on the final results from a few tests, but it's pretty clear that this was an accidental death."
"Good, while you're waiting you can give Catherine a hand with our case. I have some things that I need to take care of." Grissom couldn't quite meet her eyes.
"Griss…" He glanced sideways at her. "You don't have to…It doesn't matter any more."
"It does to me. It'll be all right Sara. Just promise me you won't kill Greg before I get to talk to him." He tried to lighten both of their moods. Her faint grin told him he'd partially succeed.
"All right Griss. I'm coming to get you in an hour though." Sara followed him into his office.
He turned in surprise when she grabbed his arm to stop him from rounding his desk. Her other hand rose to his cheek and she leaned in to kiss him lightly on the cheek, their first kiss at work. Without another word she sauntered out of his office to find Catherine. Grissom sat down at his desk and fired up his computer. He pulled up the transcript of the Haviland trial and began reading.
His face tightened with anger as he read about what his CSIs had been through. He forced himself to remember back to the frustrations of that week.
"You deserve to have a life."
It was moments like this that reminded Grissom why he despised the man who had introduced him to the world of forensics. Philip had oozed charm all over Sara and then gone after her personally when there was no scientific or procedural basis on which she could be faulted. As much as he was hurting at the knowledge that Sara was seeing someone else, he couldn't stop to deal with it, with her, now, there were more pressing matters at hand. Grissom followed Philip Gerard into his office.
"It's nice to see you again Gil."
"What do you want Philip?" Grissom shut the door behind him.
"To do my job." Gerard shrugged and seated himself in Grissom's chair.
"And get your client off at the expense of my CSIs, regardless of the evidence." From where he stood, hovering behind his visitor's chairs, Grissom could feel a headache starting already; there was only one thing that could make this day worse. He should've known better than to think that because now Philip's lips were moving and Grissom couldn't hear anything. Grissom resisted the urge to pull of his glasses and scrub his hands over his face. He was not looking forward the rest of the week. He didn't bother to read Philip's lips, just started speaking when they stopped moving. "You know what, it doesn't matter. Get out of my office."
This time Grissom paid attention, not to the words, but to the placating set of Philip's shoulders and his palms out gestures as Philip rose from behind Grissom's desk. "Do what you have to, but after this trial I don't want to ever see you in my lab again. Goodbye Philip."
Grissom pulled open his office door and gestured for the other man to leave the room. The older man delivered a parting shot over his shoulder as he walked away. Grissom couldn't see Philip's face, but his hearing snapped back just in time to catch the smug comment.
"Your Miss Sidle, she reminds me of Lil."
Grissom struggled not to slam the door shut. He collapsed into one of the uncomfortable visitor's chairs, not yet ready to inhabit the space that Philip had tried to own. He hadn't thought of Lil in years, nor had he ever entertained the idea of comparing Sara to her. True they were both brunette, both ambitious, and driven, or at least Lil had been before Philip, but the resemblance was superficial. Sara's passion and determination were drawn from a much deeper source than Lillian had ever found within herself.
He realized now that he'd been naïve and overly trusting when he started working for with Philip, blinded by the man's knowledge, charm, and reputation. It hadn't taken Grissom long to realize that Philip Gerard was a skilled manipulator, always seeming to be what people wanted him to be. What had taken longer for Grissom to discover was that behind the smooth operator was a shockingly amoral self-preservationist with no qualms about using people for his own ends.
Grissom knew that the gossips had decided years ago that Lillian Edwards, a young lab tech, had been the reason for his falling out with Philip, and in a way it wasn't an entirely incorrect assumption. After all she'd dumped him after a few dates by announcing that she'd slept with Philip the night before, causing the initial crack. Then she'd accidentally gotten pregnant and Philip's casual ending of the affair and his caustic denial of paternity had further opened Grissom's eyes to his true character. But even that hadn't killed the respect he'd felt for his mentor as a scientist. The final break in their relationship, personal and professional, had come from Philip's own actions.
Grissom could still recall the moment clearly. There had been cake in the break room, but someone had suggested that more of a celebration was in order considering the fact that not only was it his birthday, but it was also his final day before moving to Las Vegas to start a new job. So Philip had offered to buy the whole shift a round of drinks at a nearby bar. One round had quickly turned into many and Grissom had ended up driving his drunken supervisor home. Just before getting out of Grissom's car, Philip had turned to him and said, "I'm sure you'll do well in Vegas Gil. Just remember that the evidence never lies."
Grissom almost hadn't caught the mumbled line that followed it.
"Of course that doesn't always mean it's the best answer."
"Huh?" he'd asked, surprised at what he thought he'd heard.
"Sometimes the evidence has to be adjusted. After all, there was no reason for me to pay that harlot child support."
"What did you do Philip?"
"I paid off the tech to falsify the paternity test report," Philip had whispered after looking around in mock concern and bending over towards Grissom.
"I hope you're joking, because otherwise I will tell Lil you said this."
"What do you care Gil? She dumped you, after all." Philip had leaned back and gestured expansively.
"It's the right thing to do."
Philip pushed himself awkwardly from the car. Leaning back in unsteadily as he shut the car door Philip had joked, "I hope Vegas pulls that stick out of your ass Gil."
That had been the last conversation he'd had with Philip before leaving for Vegas. True to his word he'd written Lillian a letter detailing the conversation and he'd heard through the grapevine at a conference a year later that Philip was now paying child support for his son. Since then they'd bumped into each other at conferences, but they'd barely spoken. Now the man was here, on his territory, to be a thorn in his side and there was nothing he could do about it, except encourage his team to do their best and hope that Philip's arrogance would be his undoing. The next few days were going to try everyone's patience.
Grissom pulled himself out of the past. As rough as that case had been, the team had survived and the others had grown closer. And these days he couldn't even consider their toughest shared experience. Almost loosing Nick had been much worse. But Sara was right; it didn't matter anymore. They'd gotten past it. Now he had to figure out what to do with the issue at hand. Greg had merely been joking around, but something needed to be done. Grissom glanced around his office, and his eyes landed on the fish board, sparking an idea.
He was just finishing up when Sara knocked on his office door.
"Shift's almost over. Have you finished brooding?" she asked from the doorway.
"Yes, you were right. Can you get everyone to the break room?"
"You want to make an announcement?" Sara was confused as she stepped into his office. "They all know already Griss."
"Do I have to train another CSI?" Grissom teased.
"Greg was alive when I left him."
"I've heard that one before. I just want to make it official."
Sara smiled at him and held up her hand to flash the ring. "Because this isn't official looking at all?"
Grissom sighed and rose from behind his desk. "I just want them to hear it from me too."
Just as she had earlier, Sara stepped forward and planted a quick kiss on his cheek. This time he raised his hand to her cheek and stopped her before she pulled away. He leaned back in and planted his lips on hers. He didn't try to deepen the kiss, limiting himself to a light press of mouth on mouth. After a moment he stepped back and smiled at the bemused look on her face.
"Please tell the others I'd like to see them in the break room."
"All right." Sara practically floated out of the office.
Grissom pulled a small strip of tape from the dispenser on his desk and rolled it onto the back of the small paper on his desk. He palmed the object and headed for the break room.
He stood at one end of the table, holding his hand below the table, as his team filtered in. Nick and Warrick came in joking with each other. Catherine was smiling. Sara arrived last with Greg who took the chair farthest from him while she came to stand at his side. Grissom waited until a natural hush fell over the group to speak.
"I know you've all spoken with Sara, but I wanted to tell you in person. Sara has agreed to marry me." He snuck his free arm around her and tugged her more closely against him as he continued, "We've already talked to Ecklie, and at this point he is not breaking up the team, but if this becomes an issue steps will be taken. I do hope that you come to me before anything becomes a problem."
Grissom was pleasantly surprised that Greg was the first to pop up from his seat and come around the table. Grissom released Sara so that Greg could hug her. The younger man stepped back from his fiancée and looked at him nervously.
"Grissom, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to get you guys in trouble. I just thought…actually I wasn't really thinking."
Sara answered for him, "It's okay Greg. Obviously we weren't going to try to hide this."
Greg flicked his eyes to Sara and quickly back to Grissom. He took a half step forward, paused, and then went with his first impulse and hugged Grissom.
Startled, but amused that his plan was working so well, Grissom brought his previously hidden hand up and patted Greg awkwardly on the back. Greg stepped back; his usual smile reappearing on his face. "Congratulations."
Warrick was next, pushing past Greg to offer Grissom his hand. Nick did the same. Catherine took advantage of their friendship to pull him close and hug him like Greg had. Then she stepped back and joined the others huddling around Sara. A feeling of contentment unlike any he'd experienced in recent years stole over him as he took in the smiles and laughter filling the break room. Suddenly an idea struck him.
"Since shift's officially over and you all seem to be caught up on your cases, let's take this somewhere else. Breakfast at the diner -- on me."
Flipping his phone open to call Brass, Grissom walked out of the break room ahead of the rest of the team. Over the ringing of the phone he could just hear Nick talking.
"Greg, why do you have a fish taped to your back?"
As Sara's laughter rang through the hall Grissom could picture the young CSI twisting himself around, trying to pull the flimsy paper off himself.
The End. Thanks for reading.