Author's Notes: Yet another post 7x23 episode. I'm sorry; I can't help it! They get in my head and they won't go away!! I do want to thank everyone for all the wonderful feedback on the two stories that came before this one, as well as the great feedback I've gotten on my website. I also want to thank PhDelicious for being my beta, and for not reaching through her computer to slap me when I suggested titling it "Doggone Days." Enjoy!!
If Lost, Please Return
by Kristen Elizabeth
A block from home and all the comforts he hoped were still waiting for him there, Grissom saw Sara standing on the sidewalk.
Her hair was pulled back into a messy knot. She had on jeans, but no shoes. It was 90 degrees and the sun was blazing; the pavement had to be like hot coals beneath her feet.
Worry bubbled up in the center of his chest. He slowed the Denali alongside the curb. Sara's back was to the street; she didn't even notice him.
"Sara?" Putting the SUV in park, Grissom jumped out and ran to her. "Honey, what's going on?"
She turned her head upon hearing her name. A few feet away from her, he stopped short. Her eyes were wet and bloodshot, and she didn't seem able to focus on him.
His palms were damp with nervous perspiration. "Sara," he tried again, taking a step towards her. "Are you all right?"
Loose strands of hair covered her face as she shook her head. "He got out. I didn't…close the door all the way. And he just…ran outside."
For a second, Grissom wasn't sure what she was talking about. "The dog?" he finally said. Sara nodded tightly. "Sara. He's done this before."
"At your old place." She brushed a tear off her cheek. "But he hasn't gotten out since we moved here. He doesn't know this neighborhood."
Grissom watched as she began to call the dog's name. After a half dozen times, he reached for her arm. "Honey…"
She shook off his hand. "You could help, you know. He might respond to your voice."
"He's probably getting into someone's garbage and having a great time." Grissom looked up and down the street. "It's the middle of the day. Not too much traffic." He paused, studying her from behind his sunglasses. "He's going to be fine. He'll come home when he's ready."
"What if…what if he can't find his way back?" Clearing her throat, she wrapped her arms around her slender body. "You can go home if you want. But I'm staying out here until I find him."
She began calling the dog's name again, interspersed with an occasional, "Come here, boy!"
Grissom could actually hear her voice becoming hoarser with each word, threatening to give out at any moment. "Sara, please…stop, honey." He reached for her again.
"No!" she yelled, startling him with her vehemence. "I have to find him!" He watched her face crumple. Her knees gave out under her and she sank to the hot curb. "It's my fault." She drew her knees up to her chest. "I lost him."
"Sara!" He winced at the heat of the concrete on his hands as he sat down next to her. "You didn't lose him. He always comes back. You know that."
Tears flowed down her cheeks. "This time could be different. This could be the time…he leaves for good." She shook her head back and forth. "Maybe if I'd paid more attention…been better to him…let him dig in our garbage…he wouldn't have had to run away to someone else's cans!"
He pried her hand away from her knee. "You take such good care of him."
"No, I…I'm always telling him what he can't do, shouldn't do. I come home so tired sometimes that I fall asleep before I can play with him. He doesn't even get any good treats; I eat lettuce for god's sake! I don't blame him for wanting to leave me."
His chest hurt. He wasn't the most observant man in the world, but even he knew that they weren't talking about their missing pet anymore. "That's not what he wants, Sara. Look, when everyone else just saw a hopeless stray, you saw a creature who needed to be loved. You gave him a home…you made him part of your world. You love him." Grissom felt his heart pounding faster, harder. "Sara…he loves you."
She turned her head to look at him. "How do I know that? It's not like he tells me."
"Well, honey…what can I say? He's a dog."
The sparkle in her eye that appeared just then was fleeting and therefore precious. She looked away, like she was hiding her smile from him. A second later, she pulled her hand back and tucked it under her arm.
"Let's get in the car…" Grissom began.
Sara's head whipped back around to him. "I wasn't kidding. I'm not going home until…"
"…and drive around the block," he finished. "We'll find him, Sara."
Her expression spoke of her hesitation, and for the first time he realized just how badly she'd been wounded over the past few days.
Knowing that he'd caused the invisible bruises cut him to the bone.
She let him slip his arm around her shoulders. After a second, Sara leaned into him. He gathered her up and held her tightly. Her head was tucked under his chin and he could feel her warm breath on his neck.
"I'm sorry," he whispered. "I'm so sorry, Sara."
Several long minutes passed as they baked under the Vegas sun. "Did you take care of everything?" Her question was muffled by her hair.
"It's done," Grissom assured her. "I won't see her again."
Sara drew back just enough to look up at him. "That's not what I want. Do you think I'm that kind of girlfriend?"
"No," he quickly corrected himself. "I just thought…" He paused. Before they went any further, he needed her to know one thing. "I didn't sleep with her last night."
Her fingers gripped his sleeve. "What about four years ago?"
Grissom looked up at the sky for a second. "It was over before it even really started."
She flinched against him. "Do you love her, too?"
"I want to help her," he replied. "But that's all."
A moment later, Sara stood up on shaky legs. He followed suit, taking her hands in his. "My feet hurt," she whimpered.
"I can carry you," Grissom offered.
She shot him a look. "I can make it three feet to the…"
The sound of barking interrupted her. They both turned as their dog came running down the street towards them, eager to go home.