Ties by SLynn

Summary: Kidnapping, competition and change. Lots of change. Takes place approximately three months after the end of 'Appreciation'. Sixth in the ill-named 'Happy Enough' series. Greg/Sara and Nick/OFC

Spoilers: Up to 'Nesting Dolls'

Rating: PG-13

Disclaimer: I'm just borrowing and will return them all when I'm done, virtually untouched.

Notes: Thank you Tripp3235 and RivenSky! I'd be lost without you both.

Chapter 1: A New Year

Greg hurried through the airport, having just retrieved his bags, anxious to get to his car and get home. A week away was a long time, especially now amid so many changes.

Before he'd even reached the elevators in the parking garage his phone came to life with music.

"Greg Sanders," he said as he came to a halt, blocking the residual noise as best he could by covering his free ear.

"Greg," Warrick returned, sounding a bit too happy. "Where're you at?"

"The airport," he answered suspiciously. "Why?"

Warrick said nothing, only laughed.

"No," Greg said, drawing the word out.

"Duty calls, man."

"But I just got home," Greg practically whined.

"Sorry," Warrick said.

"Technically," Greg continued, "I haven't even gotten home yet. I've gotten to the airport."

Greg, no longer content standing still, grabbed up his bags and began moving once more towards the elevators.

"Wasn't your flight supposed to land this morning?" Warrick asked.

"Yes," Greg ranted, "it was. At six this morning. I was bumped. Twice. I haven't even slept yet and I'm still on New York time."

"You volunteered for the conference."

"Yes," Greg agreed, pushing the 'up' button repeatedly as he waited. "I did. And you know why I did. I needed that conference. What I didn't volunteer for was to get stuck in coach for a six hour flight between some sixty-nine year old woman who kept touching me inappropriately and a middle-aged business man whose hygiene was questionable at best. I'm tired, Warrick. I spent last night at the airport and I can't do it right now. I can't."

"Alright," Warrick sighed, "I'll tell Catherine I couldn't get a hold of you."

"Why do I feel a but coming on?"

"But," Warrick added with a small laugh, "you should know that Kev is going to be there."

Greg froze, momentarily dropping the phone from his mouth before muttering a curse.

"Greg?" he could hear Warrick call out.

"I'm still here."

"Well?"

"You know," Greg answered, "I'm starting to think this is just some sort of sick power trip you're on."

Warrick laughed, knowing he wasn't serious.

"Make a guy an assistant and suddenly he's got all the underlings running around, jumping through hoops to get promoted."

"Did it work?"

"Yes," Greg reluctantly agreed, "it worked. Where am I going?"

Half an hour later Greg flashed his credentials to a skeptical looking officer before pulling to stop in the parking lot of the most prestigious elementary school in the Lake Las Vegas area. He knew why he'd gotten the look. Under normal circumstances Greg would have never arrived at a crime scene dressed like he was, but this wasn't normal circumstances.

Popping the trunk, Greg took out his collection kit before opening his suitcase to retrieve some more suitable attire. He'd have to make due with the jeans he'd had on, but the shirt he could fix.

"What are you doing?"

Greg turned around sharply midway through stripping off his old t-shirt.

"Oh good," he said to Sofia, still undressing, "keep a look out for me."

"Greg," she half-laughed, "it's forty degrees out and you're changing in the parking lot."

"I'm not about to go in there wearing a Violent Femme's shirt," Greg answered. "Not now at least. And definitely not here. I don't even want to be here."

Greg was talking and dressing as fast as possible, putting on his least wrinkled low-key button-up owned.

"Should I change the shoes?" he asked her.

Sofia shook her head from side to side in momentarily deliberation.

"No," she decided, "you're business casual enough. Besides, from what I've seen the people that run this place like to have the ranks distinguished."

"Great," Greg muttered under his breath, closing his trunk and gathering up his things as he followed Sofia to the building.

"So I'm confused," he said halfway there, "if you're here, why are we?"

"Did you forget? Shift change got moved back an hour. Instead of four, we leave at three now. No overtime, no exceptions."

Greg sighed as he recalled it; it was one of the many changes he was trying to adjust too.

"You asked for swing shift," Sofia reminded him.

"Not asked so much as lost a bet," Greg said, but with some return of good humor.

Sofia laughed, stopping just outside the main doors.

"One of us had to go," Greg continued.

This was the biggest adjustment so far. The lab had been completely reorganized because of budget cuts and the election of a new sheriff. Catherine and Warrick had both been promoted in the aftermath, Catherine finally getting a supervisory position on swings and Warrick coming along as her assistant. Sofia now completely headed day shift. Only graves had been reasonably left alone. Grissom had taken on a new member and all that remained was for him to pick an assistant supervisor to replace Catherine.

Amid all the reorganization two level two spots opened up, one on swing shift and one on graves. In reality, Greg had a better shot at the level two position on graves since there was no competition, but opted to move instead. He and Sara both figured that eventually Ecklie would force them onto different shifts, so they might as well forestall him.

"Well," she continued in a quieter voice once they headed inside, "I asked you to come to days."

"I know," he sighed, "and thank you, again. I'd just never get used to it. I love the nightlife."

"Yes well," she went on, "nightlife aside, humor me and say it was only because of the level two spot."

"Of course it was," he said with a real smile, "that's the only reason I'm here now, sleep-deprived and starving; earning my brownie points. When did they stop serving meals on flights?"

"Is it really that close between you and McNair?" Sofia asked skeptically.

"Apparently," Greg answered with a tinge of annoyance; not at Sofia for asking the question, but at the situation. He knew Catherine couldn't appear to be playing favorites, but he also knew that he was at least ten times better at his job than McNair was.

"You've got more experience then he does," Sofia shot back loyally.

"Technically, no. We both took level one spots about the same time, but because of the cancer treatments he's logged more actual field time."

Sofia grimaced. She'd never worked with McNair personally, but she knew him well by reputation. That reputation being that he was an ass.

"Warrick and Catherine are inside," Sofia said, indicating the large oak door labeled 'PRINCIPAL' they'd come to a stop in front of. "Did they fill you in yet?"

"Kidnapping, right?"

"Looks like it," Sofia answered, all business.

Before she could say anything more the door before them opened and Catherine, Warrick and a man Greg assumed must be the principal exited towards them. To his annoyance, they weren't the only ones. Kevin was with them too.

Catherine gave Greg a warm, but brief smile before assuring the principal, Mr. Constantine, that they'd do everything they could.

"You all set?" Sofia asked Catherine.

"Yes," she answered, "thank you. Ecklie told me the entire lab will be working this, so I'll call you to set up a meeting between me, you and Grissom."

"Sounds good," Sofia returned before saying goodbye.

Mr. Constantine left as well, opting to show her out.

"Warrick," Catherine began, "why don't you and Greg check out Allison's classroom, check her things. We don't have much to go on, but…"

"Where do you want me?" Kevin asked.

"You and I are going to retrace her route," Catherine said. "Day shift has already done a sweep, but another look might turn something up."

Catherine, wasting no time, headed straight for the door with Kevin fast on her heels.

"See you guys," Kevin smirked before the door shut behind him.

"I cannot deal with him now," Greg said through gritted teeth.

"Why does he bug you so much?" Warrick asked, with a faint smile of his own as they headed out the opposite door towards the main part of the school.

"I don't know," Greg admitted. "He's just so… Alright, I'm the first to admit I used to be cocky and maybe a little bit arrogant…"

"Used to be?" Warrick questioned.

"But this guy," Greg continued on as if there had been no interruption, "he's those things and he doesn't have a reason to be."

"You are too much," Warrick laughed as they found their way to the correct room.

"I'm serious."

"I know," Warrick said, "and yeah, he's a pain. But Cath really is trying to work this out for you. She knows you're the better investigator, alright? You need to down play the rivalry thing. Don't act like it's a contest, because between the two of you it isn't. Okay?"

"Is that like one of those Zen things?" Greg asked, as Warrick led them to the correct desk. "If I think like a level two, I'll be a level two?"

"When you said you hadn't gotten any sleep," Warrick questioned, "you really meant that, didn't you?"

"Why would I make that up?"

"Oh man," Warrick said rubbing his face, "if I'd… Just try and rein it in some, okay?"

"Am I tipping the scale?"

"A little bit."

"I can't help it," Greg said flatly, "I'm punchy."

"I know and its fine," Warrick reassured him, "but this case is very high profile. If anyone comes in…"

"I'll let you talk," Greg finished for him.

Warrick nodded, as he filed through the contents.

"What exactly happened?" Greg asked. "I know that the little girl was kidnapped, but…"

"You know who Paulette Whittington is, right?"

"Yeah," Greg answered. "She's the city council treasurer. Why?"

"It was her daughter, Allison. She's eight, gets picked up and dropped off here everyday by the chauffer. This afternoon the limo pulled up but it wasn't the usual driver."

"So there were witnesses."

"A few of her classmates," Warrick returned. "Charlie's talking to them in the guidance counselor's office. Said she started to get in the car, must have noticed something was off, tried to get out but was pulled back inside."

"So that's at least two perps," Greg concluded. "One to drive and one to subdue."

Warrick nodded.

"Wait," Greg said suddenly, "what are we doing looking in here for? If she was taken…"

"We've got to do something," Warrick interrupted, shaking his head. "Got nothing else to go on until we get a ransom note."

"Do her parents know?"

Again Warrick nodded.

"Cops are all over their place," Warrick added, "hoping for a call or something."

"So we're all working this?" Greg asked, heading to the back of the room where the coats and backpacks were generally kept.

"Sounds like it," Warrick said.

Warrick stopped what he was doing and turned back towards Greg with a much more serious air.

"Are you going to be okay with that?"

"Why wouldn't I be?"

Warrick just gave him a stern look.

"As long as we don't have to talk to each other, we'll be fine."

"How are you going to investigate a case and not talk?" Warrick shot back.

"I don't know," Greg shrugged with his back turned as he combed through sparse belongings left behind by the young girl.

"Hasn't this gone on long enough?" Warrick asked, heading to the back of the room to join him. "Can't you just let it go?"

"No," Greg said defensively.

"I'm not saying you're wrong…"

"Warrick," Greg cut in sharply and very seriously, "I have never asked you to take sides. Or Sara. Or Amy. Or anyone else for that matter. This is all between Nick and me. So really, drop it."

"Alright," Warrick said, throwing his hands up in defeat. "I'm just sorry you two can't work this out. You two were close."

"What can I say," Greg replied, turning his back once again, "things change."