A/N: Hey everyone, this is a new idea I'm trying out, so let me know what you think! I'm always open to critiques and suggestions, so let me hear from you, and thank you for reading.
Disclaimer: Jorja Fox is my lover. You can split the rest amongst yourselves.
The Soft Skeleton
I wish you were a song to play.
The sun set the sky on fire.
Sinking like a stone, it hurled its brilliant magenta-orange flames across the desert horizon; the original definition of going out in a blaze of glory. Squinting at this fiery display, Sara reached an arm across Grissom, still keeping an eye on the road as she fished out her sunglasses from the glove compartment and put them on.
Grissom watched her silhouette, wind teasing her hair across her face, one freckled arm resting on the window ledge. Neither of them said a word as they drove along the endless highway, letting the hum of the tires and the wind whistling past their windows speak for them. Keeping one hand on the small package he held in his lap, the reason that they were currently driving thousands of miles away from Las Vegas together, he put the other on her thigh and squeezed her gently.
She didn't take her eyes off the road, but he watched as a soft smile played across her lips. They still had miles to go before they would sleep, miles and miles.
And that was okay.
She got the call at two in the afternoon, in the middle of a dead sleep.
She didn't even wake up until the third or fourth ring, opening bleary eyes and reaching towards the night table to grab her trilling cell phone. The only problem was, the night table wasn't there, her arm swiping lamely at empty air. Sara lifted her head in confusion and realized that she'd fallen asleep right where she'd landed when she got home from her double shift: face down on the couch. The phone continued to ring as she pushed herself up off the couch, swiping her hair out of her eyes. "Alright, alright," she groaned irritably, fishing it out from between the cushions and glancing at the call display.
She knit her eyebrows in confusion and flipped her phone open, "Sidle."
"Sara? It's me, I need you."
She looked at the ceiling momentarily, sighing and allowing herself a brief 'what if' moment. What if he meant that the way I wished he did?
"You there?" he asked, sounding concerned.
"Yes, I'm here," she said, closing her eyes and smiling to herself. "Where do you need me?"
"I'm at the Siren's Inn, room 219. How soon can you be here?"
"You do know I only got home from work four hours ago?"
His voice softened, "I know, I'm sorry, but there's no one else. This case was presented to me two minutes before shift ended so it's still technically nightshift's jurisdiction, I can't just stick it on days."
She let her head fall back on the couch with a sigh, "I'll be right there."
"Thank you," he replied quickly, hanging up without so much as a goodbye. She snapped her phone shut, annoyed at the fact that he had basically just assumed she would have nothing better to do, that there was nothing else she'd rather do than drop everything and come running. Muttering to herself grouchily she hoisted herself up and went to go change, flipping the TV. on as she walked past. The news was on, the chipper voices of the reporters filtering into the bedroom where she was undressing.
"And now it's time for the weather report with our meteorologist Tom Lawrence, Tom what have you got for us?"
"Well Linda it's looking like another beautiful day in Las Vegas with highs of 37 and not a cloud in the sky."
The warm afternoon sun filtering in through her curtains, she stripped quickly, fishing around in her drawers for something to wear. Normally she only had two criteria for work clothing 1) it had to be clean 2) it had to be something she wouldn't mind getting blood or some other bodily fluid on. But today, for whatever reason, (and she would not allow herself to think that reason was Grissom), she just wanted to look…nice. After standing in front of her dresser for two straight minutes, the golden sunlight dancing playfully on her bare skin, she finally gave up on the idea and threw on a black, stretchy shirt and her favorite jeans. If she couldn't look nice in what she felt most comfortable in, then she didn't want to.
She walked into the living room and grabbed her car keys off the table as the reporter finished his broadcast, grinning ridiculously from ear to ear. "It's weather like this that makes you happy to be alive, don't you agree?" She scowled at the screen and shut it off, heading for the door.
"Oh, shove it, Tom."
Sara entered the motel room fifteen minutes later, ducking past the yellow tape and nodding to the officers on-scene. The room was stuffy and hot, not built for so many people. The smell of copper hung thickly in the stifling air, always a bad sign. Brass was standing next to the large, wall-length living room window, a view of the seedy E Street visible behind him as he scribbled in his notepad, interviewing a very distraught looking cleaning woman. The maid twisted her apron in her hands and spoke quickly, in a frantic, high-pitched tone, the cheerful sunlight looking out of place on the gloomy expression she wore. Sara passed them and headed for the bedroom, knowing exactly where to find it.
She had worked enough hotel cases to know the exact standard layout for every major hotel and motel in the county, living area as you walk in, bedroom and en-suite bathroom off to the left.
She had to push her way past four police officers before she managed to get to the bedroom, and as soon as she entered she wished that she hadn't. Every so often she would come across a scene like this, one where you could still feel the chilling presence of the victim's soul in the room, sticking to your skin like damp morning air. The feeling of a human soul is one that is as unmistakable as it is unexplainable; a feeling that wraps around your heart, weaves through your rib cage, flutters in your chest, and rattles your mind.
She shivered and shook her head, willing the feeling to go away, but it only intensified as she walked in further and took in the gruesome scene before her. Arterial spray painted the bland walls with slashes of crimson that trailed eerily down to the floor, the victim herself spread naked across the bed like an offering. The daylight streamed into the dimly-lit room through the blinds, slicing her smooth belly. Sara came closer and noticed the gaping wound that slit across the victim's delicate throat from ear to ear, like a second angry mouth.
Her mass of wild, red curls fell over the edge of the bed, which is where Sara found Grissom, crouching to take a photo of the blood pool that had collected on the floor. "Hey," she said, the greeting coming out of her in a nervous hush.
Grissom looked up from what he was doing and nodded to her. "Thanks for coming Sara, I owe you one."
"Don't think I won't collect," she smirked at him, attempting to shake off the ominous gloom that was engulfing her. "Where do you want me?"
"I'm almost done in here, female stabbing victim, no clothes, no purse, no ID. I need you to interview the hotel manager that was on the scene, he's out in the hall with a uniform."
"I'm on it," she said, turning to leave, grateful to have an excuse to exit the creepy room.
"Get his prints!" Grissom called after her as she made her way back out to the hall. She was tempted to shout back that she didn't need him to tell her how to do her job, but she bit her tongue. It was a new thing she was trying, thinking before speaking. So far she wasn't liking it.
Sara walked out into the hallway and looked around, spotting a well dressed, very attractive man in his mid thirties standing with an officer. "Hello," she called, walking towards them. Her standard greeting flew from her mouth automatically, "My name is Sara Sidle I'm with the crime lab, would you mind answering a few questions?"
The suited man looked at her with an interested expression as she walked towards him. His eyes darted across her body like a car salesman sizing up a Ferrari; noting her long legs, bright eyes and slim figure. "Sure, I'm here to help," he answered. Sara thought he spoke like a game-show host, with a voice that was slick as oil and sweet as honey.
"Good," she said slowly, taken aback not only at how charm seemed to be oozing from his very pores; but at how nervous he was making her. She quickly looked away, setting her kit on the floor and opening it up. As she knelt, Sara felt his eyes watching her every move while she began to get out what she needed, her cheeks burning from the attention. She stood too fast, dropped her printing ink, ducked down to get it, and straightened up in a frazzled huff. The manager looked as though he were fighting the urge to laugh as she swiped a stray curl out of her eyes and asked seriously, cheeks burning, "Would you mind holding out your hands please?"
His smile vanished, replacing itself with an offended expression while his hands remained firmly at his side. "I thought you said all you wanted was to ask a few questions."
A patronizing smile crept across her face as she answered back, "I thought you said you were here to help." He frowned with his arms crossed, and Sara watched as a perfect dimple formed on his brow, sending her stomach into twists. She sighed, "Look Mr.…"
"Tresemer, William Tresemer," he replied.
"Mr. Tresemer, I'm just trying to rule you out as a suspect so I can get on with my investigation, it's nothing personal."
His frown broke into a small smile, showing a glimpse of even, white teeth. "Well, since you asked so politely."
"Thank you," she smiled, taking hold of the proffered hand. His fingernails were very well taken care of, his palms smooth and soft. So unlike Grissom's which were rough and callused from working with so many harsh chemicals in his experiments.
"So can you tell me what happened here?" she asked.
"Well, not really," He answered sheepishly. "I got a call from one of the maids; she said that she had found blood in the living room of one of the suites. I came up to check it out and found that woman dead in the bedroom."
"Did you touch anything?" Sara asked, pressing his pinky against the print card, the ridges rolling across the white paper like lines on a map.
"No, to be honest I was pretty freaked out. I got the Hell out of there as fast as I could."
He continued to keep his eyes on her face as she went to work, the feeling of his gaze starting to make her even more nervous.
"Are you trying to intimidate me or something?" she asked frankly, glancing up and motioning for his other hand. He handed it over with a crooked smile and continued to observe her intently as she finished printing him.
"Is it so wrong to want to look at a beautiful woman?" he asked, closing his fingers a little around hers. She looked up at him, surprised.
"Is everything okay out here?" Grissom's voice cut through the air.
Sara turned to see him standing just behind her with his arms crossed, an un-impressed look on his face. "Yeah, I'm just finishing up here," she answered, hoping he wouldn't see her flushed cheeks. She didn't know why, but Grissom finding her like that had made her feel a slight twang of guilt, as though she were a child being caught with one hand in the cookie jar.
"Alright," he answered quietly. "Well when you're done I need your help in the bathroom."
"Okay, I'll be right there," she answered quickly, turning back to Tresemer and cringing slightly. She heard Grissom walk away and Tresemer watched her as she smiled softly to herself, hoping she hadn't just imagined Grissom's jealous tone. She printed the last of the manager's fingers, working diligently and efficiently, as always, and sealed the card in an envelope, tucking it back in her kit. "Thank you for your time Mr. Tresemer," she said, standing. He watched with amused curiosity as she reached into her vest pocket and pulled out a business card. "Here's my number at the lab. If you think of anything else, I'd appreciate it if you could give me a call."
"Of course," he said, taking the card and glancing at it before tucking it inside his jacket. "Is that your…personal number?"
She smiled and turned on her heel, "Have a nice day Mr. Tresemer."
"Please, call me Will!" he called after her.
She rolled her eyes, still smiling, and walked back into the suite. "Hey," she said to Grissom, watching him as he bagged a small piece of evidence on the bathroom floor. He didn't look up. After waiting a moment, as if to show that he didn't feel the need to acknowledge her right away, he said frostily, "You seemed to be getting along with the manager quite nicely."
Her face fell and she scowled down at him, "What are you talking about?"
He continued to look anywhere but at her, replying, "It's just that he seemed to be smiling at you an awful lot."
"It's called being friendly. You know, personable? You should try it sometime."
His eyes finally met hers, and when they did they were burning with something she couldn't quite put her finger on. "All I'm saying is, he seemed to be taking quite a bit of interest in you."
She put her hands on her hips, "Is that a problem for you?"
He closed his kit and stood, "No. Forget I said anything."
She continued to look at him, not disappointed, not angry. She was used to this kind of behavior from him, and it was that more than anything that bothered her.
He left the room with a quiet request to print the sink, leaving her standing alone with her thoughts.
Sara set her kit down and frowned at herself in the mirror, her pale skin and irritated face looking back at her with an expression that read, "Why do you still put up with it?" She glared at her reflection for bringing up such a sore topic and gripped the sides of the sink, taking a deep breath in and holding it, her eyes closed. Sighing softly, Sara let her breath out and bent down, getting out her print powder and duster. She stood quickly, glancing at the mirror just in time to see the image of a paper-white face and bright, green eyes staring back at her.
She screamed and wheeled around, her eyes darting to the area behind her where the person, a young woman, had been standing, but found no one. Panicked, she took a lurching step backward, tripping over her kit and landing hard on her back. A white-hot streak of pain surged up her spine, nestling itself achingly at the base of her skull, while her head smacked against the ground as she landed, jaws clacking together sharply. Sara opened her eyes moments later to the spinning image of Grissom's concerned face. He reached down and put an arm behind her for support, sitting her up. "Sara, are you okay?!" he asked in bewilderment, his eyes searching her face. "What happened?"
She stared at him for a moment, dazed, and then tried to explain. "There was a…" she pointed to the mirror, "I saw a…that is I think I saw…" she sighed. "Never mind. I must be imagining things."
His arm still around her he put his other hand under her chin, looking into her eyes for signs of a concussion. Without seeming to realize, he grazed his thumb gently across her cheek, clucking his tongue softly. "Are you sure you're okay? Maybe you should go home and get some sleep after all." She shook her head, wishing he could keep his arm around her like that for a little longer.
"I'm fine, I promise." She looked at him and he noticed, not for the first time, the golden flecks in her brown eyes. He marveled at the way they caught the light that poured in from the grimy window, shining like phantom treasure. They sat that way together on the cheap, filthy motel bathmat, the smell of pine cleaner and complimentary soap thick in the air, until Brass walked in a few moments later.
He cleared his throat and turned so his back was to them, as though to give them privacy. "Grissom, we need you in the hall for a second."
"I'll be right there, Jim, Sara just took a bit of a spill. Can we get her an ice pack?"
"I'm on it," replied the detective, walking away without looking back.
Grissom looked back to Sara, "Are you sure you're alright? I can call Catherine."
"I thought you said I was the only person who was available," she asked suspiciously, her eyes narrowing, a playful light flickering in them.
"Officer Reid?" he called, ignoring her. The burly officer stepped forward. "Would you mind staying with Ms. Sidle while she finishes processing the room? She took a hit to the head, and I need you to call me if she looks dizzy or disoriented." The officer nodded, Grissom standing and reaching down to help Sara up. "Call me if you need anything," he said, giving her shoulder a squeeze and exiting the bathroom.
The officer stepped forward and stood like a sentinel in the doorway, watching Sara intently. "Great," she muttered to herself, bending down to retrieve her print powder from where it had fallen. It was thoughtful of Grissom but she wasn't sure she wanted a spectator. She felt crazy enough as it was. She stood again and glanced nervously at the mirror; nothing except her own face, full of an expectant dread, looked back at her. She stared a moment longer, making sure that nothing would appear, feeling more and more stupid for having been so frightened in the first place.
"Ms. Sidle?" the officer's gruff voice broke her concentration, and she realized that she had been staring at the mirror for quite some time. "Are you alright?" he asked professionally.
"Yeah, sorry, just thought I saw a partial print here, but it's nothing," she replied quickly, embarrassed. Reid nodded and stepped back, resuming his position while Sara began printing the sink. She glanced up nervously every few moments to make sure the mirror continued to reflect only that which was really in the room, and although it remained empty she couldn't shake the feeling that she was being watched. She felt the strong gaze of someone's eyes on her back, the hairs on her neck rising. She shook her head, shivering in the room that felt suspiciously colder than when she had entered it. "Get a hold of yourself, Sidle," she said softly.
Sara finished the sink and turned her attention to the bath tub, kneeling on the cold tiles. Starting at the tap, she swept her dusting brush gracefully across the rim of the tub, its long bristles swaying like the skirt of a ballet dancer. The black powder landed gently on the smooth porcelain surface, but revealed nothing. No prints. Sighing, Sara turned to stand, but froze like a deer in the headlights at the sound of something metallic clinking to the ground. Her heart pounding wildly in her ears, not even the presence of the large police officer that stood only a few paces away could comfort her.
Face pale, mouth open apprehensively, the curious criminalist in her won over against the strong urge to bolt from the room at top speed. She held on to the bathtub's lip, hands slipping on the thin layer of black print dust she had created, and leaned across, looking over to the ground on the other side of the claw-foot tub. A small, silver ring lay innocently on the grimy tile; an onyx stone set in it that was so truly black it seemed to suck in any light that dared to hover around it. "Where did you come from?" she spoke aloud, no longer concerned with whether Officer Reid thought she was insane. She picked it up with a gloved hand and observed it in the light, turning it to see if it had any markings or engravings. Finding nothing, the feeling of unease she'd had ever since she set foot in the motel increased, sitting like a stone in her belly. She bagged it and finished printing the bathroom as fast as she could, now more anxious than ever to leave.
Task completed, she threw everything in her kit, snapped it shut and left the room, making a point to look straight ahead as she walked past the mirror. She sidled past Reid just as Grissom was re-entering the hotel room. He had an ice pack in hand which he held to the back of her head gently. "Keep this on for at least ten minutes; it'll help to reduce swelling." She nodded and took hold of the pack, too disturbed at what she had experienced to say anything. "Well we've done all we can here for now," Grissom said, glancing around the room and mentally checking over everything he had done. Most of the officers and hotel employees had left, leaving a trail of evidence markers and paper coffee cups in their wake. "I think it's time to head back to the lab and start processing some of this, don't you?"
"Grissom," Sara replied quietly, leading the way out the eerie hotel room, "I couldn't agree more."
The ride to the lab was quiet, but not uncomfortable.
Grissom was driving Sara's car, reminding her as they walked to the parking lot that it probably wasn't the best idea for her to be driving after she'd taken a hit to the head.
The lights of the strip flew past as Sara leaned her head tiredly on the window. It was early evening and the neon signs strained to show their luminescence through the light of the setting sun, only managing to look garish as the natural golden light put them to shame.
Grissom watched her at every opportunity, the way she listlessly leaned her head on the window, hands limp in her lap, began to concern him. They sat at a red light and he followed her eyes to a spot on the windshield she had been staring at for the past two minutes. "Penny for your thoughts?" he ventured, his words hovering between them, fragile, brittle.
She continued to stare blankly for a moment, making him think perhaps she hadn't heard him at all, when she suddenly spoke in a soft, un-Sara voice, "Grissom do you believe in ghosts?"
The light turned green and he eased on the gas, pulling down the sun visor. "While there has never been any conclusive proof that they exist, there hasn't been any concrete evidence to suggest that they don't either. After all, absence of proof isn't proof of absence."
"You didn't answer my question," she said, looking at him for the first time since they had gotten in the car.
"I would have to say that I, like any good scientist, remain open minded about things that man has yet to understand." His answer seemed to comfort her a little, her face softening. She didn't reply, only nodded respectfully "Sara what's this all about?" he asked gently, "Are you feeling okay?"
She let out a small breath of air; a sharp, mirthless laugh. "You know that feeling you get when you're holding a brimming cup of coffee, and you realize you're going to sneeze? I'm kind of feeling like that."
"Like…you're about to sneeze?" he asked teasingly, glancing at her as he made the turn into the CSI parking lot.
She looked at him seriously, "Like I'm about to get burned."
I hope you liked it and thanks for reading! (revieeeeew!)