A/N This is something that has been lingering in my mind for months. I haven't had time to write it all down with starting university but now I've finally got a few days of peace. The timeline on this is a little fuzzy: I'm thinking early season 6 or, possibly even somewhere in between seasons 5 and 6.This is my first time attempting a Grissom-Sara romance (I usually write Snickers) so please be open-minded. Hopefully, I'll be able to fit in some Warrick/Catherine as well. I hope you enjoy it.
I'm South African, so my spelling is a little different here and there – but feel free to hurl mud at any bad grammar.
I'm not entirely sure who the lab director is, exactly, so I'm guessing. If you know, please correct me :). I have also invented the nature reserve so…
Disclaimer: I own nothing and gain no monetary profit whatsoever.
In Reasonable Doubt
Director Carvallo scanned the file quickly before looking back up at the man seated on the other side of his desk.
"I've heard nothing but good things about you, Gil," he commented, casting a quick glance at the Assistant Lab Director, who was seated next to Grissom and frowning expectantly. He cleared his throat and continued, "Your people obviously respect you and it has certainly shown in your Supervisor Reviews." He indicated the file. "Your shift has one of the highest, if not the highest, solve rates in the country. Your unit clearly functions very effectively."
"Thank you, Robert," Grissom nodded humbly.
"That said," Carvallo continued, "You might consider putting a little more effort into admin. These reviews were a submitted week late, if you recall." He raised a questioning eyebrow.
Grissom shrugged. "We were working a triple homicide out at Lake Mead. The evidence was priority at the time."
Carvallo nodded slowly. "Don't let it happen again. You're doing remarkable work for us, Gil and I wouldn't want a little thing like paperwork to spoil it."
Grissom nodded. "Anything else?" He asked. He, Catherine and Nick were working a hot case and he was itching to get to the autopsy. He knew Catherine could cover it, but it had been a while since they'd had a hanging and he was keen to refresh his memory of the associated injuries.
"Acutally, yes," Ecklie announced, sitting forward in his chair. "We do feel that it would be a good idea to keep a tighter rein on you CSIs, especially after the recent incidents with Sidle and Stokes."
"What happened to Nick was unforeseeable," Grissom started.
"But the way Sidle acted was reckless," Ecklie countered, clearly still bitter after his confrontation with the fiery CSI.
Grissom sat forward in his chair, matching Ecklie. "There wasn't a problem with my supervision a few moments ago."
Ecklie scowled, "Just keep an eye on them Grissom. You've gotten by, letting them freely follow hunches, some of which, I concede, came through for us. But sooner or later, things are going to go very wrong if you don't step up as a supervisor and take control."
"Is this a personal opinion, Conrad?" Grissom asked coolly.
Sensing the time to intervene, Director Carvallo leaned forward in his chair and put his arms out on the desk in front of him, fingers interlaced. "It's an observation, Gil. Give it some thought. Just keep a closer eye on your team for the next few weeks. It seems that lab is under a lot of pressure of late and none of us wants to see another CSI buried alive."
He let his words hang in the air, and penetrate the anger of both men. If the two agreed on nothing else, which seemed to be the case, they would at least agree on this. An awkward silence gripped the room for a moment as both men accepted once more the reality of what had happened. Feeling the situation had been suitably diffused, Carvallo rose from his seat and held out his hand to Grissom, who followed suit and shook it.
"Good work Gil. Keep that team of yours going strong," he said with a nod.
Grissom arrived back at the lab with mixed feelings. He felt happy – and a little vindicated – to have been complimented so highly by the Director, but there was a troubling sensation nagging at his pleasure. What had happened to Nick had been haunting everyone on the night shift in one way or another. It had been a harrowing experience and Grissom could not tolerate the thought of it happening to anyone else on his team. We might not be so lucky next time, he thought. Dread flooded his senses as an image of Sara trapped in the glass coffin invaded his mind. Dirty, terrified, broken. Grissom felt a shiver run through him and he shook the image off. He wouldn't let that happen to any of his CSIs. For the first time in years, Grissom felt a spark of protectiveness. He wanted to protect his team from harm, and hell, since Sara's run-in with Ecklie a few weeks earlier, from the Assistant Director as well.
"Any messages?" Grissom asked, stopping at the reception desk.
"Here you go, Dr. Grissom," Judy said, handing him a few slips of paper. She lifted a small glass box onto the desk and pulled her hand away from it quickly, visibly cringing. "A Dr. Crichton dropped this off for you while you were gone. He said he couldn't wait but he left you this note," she added, dropping a white envelope beside the box.
"Great. Thank you Judy," Grissom smiled. He removed the box, lifting it to his face to peer inside.
"Hello Marvin," he said to the spider lurking on one of the small stones within. The creature was about 1,2cm long, with a dark brown violin-shaped marking on its cephalothorax. "Welcome to Vegas."
Moving down the passage to his office, Grissom spotted Nick in the layout room. Catherine wasn't there and he checked his watch. Robbins had paged them about the autopsy 20 minutes ago so she was probably there now. He'd most likely missed most of it already, so he made a mental note to head over later to have a look at the body. Grissom turned towards the break room. Sara and Greg had been there when he'd left for his meeting with the directors and he doubted they would have moved since. Since completing his proficiency, Greg had been taking some time to find his feet and Nick's kidnapping had thrown him completely. Where he'd previously been confident, he now seemed unsure and often turned to the others for advice instead of following his own (perfectly correct) conclusions. Being his mentor, Sara had thrown herself into getting him back to being a confident CSI: she'd done a stellar job so far, Grissom noted, and the two clearly worked well together. Lately, however, he had noticed her fading. She was so determined that Greg got the best guidance possible to succeed on his first cases, that she'd ended up overexerting herself; doing her own work and overseeing most of Greg's. He had no doubt that she was tiring; not even Sara was invulnerable. In the past, he would have left her, knowing that she'd stop when things got too much for her, but now, with Ecklie's words weighing heavily on his mind, he decided to check on how she was doing. He'd given her and Greg the case of a 13-year old who appeared to have fallen from the tenth floor of a hotel room. He'd had no choice at the time, even though he suspected it would trouble Sara, because they'd been tapped out.
She and Greg were seated at the table, where they'd been before, a perfect example of lunchtime at CSI. Greg was sipping cola through a long orange straw from a can in his left hand and drawing an enlarged crime scene schematic with his right. Sara had the crime scene photos laid out in front of her and was munching on a cold slice of pizza while scribbling notes on a desk pad. Grissom's eyes floated over her jeans and black tank top, which left her shoulders exposed and, for a moment, his focus shifted solely to her slender form. She was lean – almost too much so – and fine featured, with long, slim fingers and a number of curves that a man could easily get lost in. Despite her height and strong personality, there was a well-hidden weakness in Sara that constantly intrigued Grissom. She demanded respect and justice, but, it was in her eyes that Grissom often saw the deepest pain and disappointment. She was an enigma, and that only attracted him more.
For years, he'd denied himself the possibility of unravelling the puzzle that was Sara Sidle. He'd feared that, if he started, he'd never be able to stop. He'd hurt her in the process, though how deeply he could not tell. She concealed most of her emotions at the lab, and let them loose, to Grissom's amazement, only when they related to cases. It was through Sara's total absorption into her work that Grissom had been able to discover how she had changed since moving from San Francisco. The friendly, quick-witted California girl seemed to withdraw into herself more and more over the years and the once mischievous sparkle in her eyes had evolved into something far more profound. Devoted, genial, intense, incisive. Hurt. That was how he described Sara.
After the lab explosion, she'd needed his support –he'd panicked and refused. For months after that, it'd seemed as if they lived in two different worlds. Talking, but not really saying anything to each other. Just when he thought that he'd hurt her beyond all consolation with his rejections over the years, she'd asked him to breakfast. And he'd said yes. That had been two months ago, the night of Nick's kidnapping, and since then, they'd begun sharing meals more frequently.
"How's the case going?" Grissom asked casually as he entered the room. He put the spider's box down on the desk next to Sara, who kept her head down and continued writing.
"Not too bad," she said, pausing and frowning at the photo in front of her. She looked up and a half-smile dug a dimple in the side of her mouth, "Something's missing here."
He peered over her shoulder at the photos. "Did you look for inconsistencies in the paint scrapes on this railing?" he asked, pointing to the photo. Sara was quiet for a moment, aware only of the proximity of their faces and his warm chest against her back. She blinked a few times to divert the feelings and sighed.
"Yeah," she said, nodding. "We found ten long scratches here," she ran her finger along the picture to point them out, "and guessed they're from ten fingers. Someone hanging on. But," she placed a printed sheet on top, "Trace confirmed that the paint chips we found under Cassie William's fingernails are not a match the paint on the railing.
"Hmmm," Grissom continued scanning the pages. "Has the hotel done any repainting lately?"
"I called and the owner says the last time they painted the balcony railings was two years ago. And all with the same paint."
Greg looked up from his page, opening his mouth to talk but stopping when his eyes fell on the glass box.
"Er…Gris? Who's in the box?"
"An ambassador from the genus Loxosceles: Brown Recluse spider. A friend sent this little guy to me for my collection," Grissom beamed with pride. He flipped the lid open, tilting the box so Greg could see the spider more clearly. "He's a fiddleback spider, but I think I'll call him Marvin."
Greg shifted his chair away. "Is he poisonous?"
Grissom frowned at his reaction, "Everything is poisonous to something, Greg."
"Hey Grissom!" Catherine announced her entry to the room and headed for the fridge. "How was the review?"
He shrugged back, putting down the box and took a seat beside Sara, "Ecklie was there. Life goes on as normal."
"Good," Catherine said, "'Cause we need to go back out to the reserve."
"The Forberg Reserve?" Sara asked.
"Yeah, you know it?" Catherine asked, leaning back against the counter.
Sara nodded, "What's your case?"
"Male vic was found hanging in a tree. We assumed strangulation or a spinal fracture as COD but I just got back from the prelim," she turned to Grissom, "and he exsanguinated."
Grissom's eyes widened, "He bled out? From where? There was no blood on the body."
"The doc found deep puncture wounds in his toes. Hence, no blood," Catherine said with a shrug.
"Is that even possible?" Sara asked, "There exactly aren't any major veins or arteries in the toes."
"Exactly. So we need to see if he bled out at the scene or elsewhere. He may have just been dumped there," Catherine said.
Outside, a loud clap of thunder sounded. "And fast," Grissom added.
"Nick's on his way to get the car now," Catherine said.
"Good. Did the doc have a TOD?" Grissom asked.
"Not yet, it was only the prelim." Catherine replied.
Grissom told Catherine to arrange for a few uniforms to accompany them, then retreated to his office. He dropped into his chair and his eyes fell on the mountain of paperwork he'd been putting off for the last few days. With a sigh, he reached for the top sheet. It was Sara's report from her last case. All he really had to do was read over it and sign it off, but he took his time scanning her wavy script and wondering what it might reveal about her personality. The image from earlier of her in the glass coffin suddenly popped back into his head and he began to wonder why she was the first one he'd pictured. It could have happened to any one of the team. Why Sara? He knew the answer, but refused to admit it to himself. He signed the report and reached for the next one. It was Warrick's application to attend an out-of-town conference and Grissom took his time scanning it.
"I called PD," Catherine announced, entering his office. "There's a hostage situation just off the strip so they don't have uniforms to spare. Brass is at a scene with Warrick and Sophia's away for the week."
Grissom frowned, then shrugged, "So take Nicky and go anyway."
She raised an eyebrow, "You sure?"
"Catherine, you and I both know how crucial this is to the case. We need that soil and-"
"-the longer it stays out there, the less credible it is in court. I get it," she finished, nodding.
"I'll call Brass and have him meet you out there as soon as he's done," Grissom said.
"Good luck. And Cath?" Grissom glanced at his watch. "No overtime tonight. When shift ends, go home and spend some time with Lindsay."
"Greg?" Sara frowned at the photograph of the hotel in front of her. "How do we know this kid fell from her hotel room?"
Greg frowned, "She had to have fallen from somewhere."
"What about the roof?" Sara handed him the photograph. "Look at it in this shot I took of the whole hotel building. There's nothing up there. No railing, or anything to stop a person from falling."
"And there's definitely a door onto the roof!" Greg added, growing in excitement as he caught Sara's train of thought. "I saw the sign for in when we were in the lift."
"You know-" Sara was interrupted by her beeper going off. She groaned and pulled it from her belt, "Doc Robbins has finished posting the body. Lets go."
She stood and piled up the photos and notes before sliding them into the case file.
"You know, if she did fall from the roof, we could use the surveillance footage from the elevator to check out potential suspects," Greg said as he rose from his seat and folded up his drawing.
Sara picked up her jersey off the chair beside her own and pulled it over her head. "Good thinking, Greg," She smiled proudly, "That might also help us to rule out whether it was a suicide or a murder. I wonder if there's a camera on the roof."
"Indeed, my dear," Greg flashed her a suave smile and they left the room, not noticing the still-open spider box on the table.
A/N It's a slow start BUT stay tuned. There's plenty action in the next chapter. And please leave a review: I'd love to hear your thoughts!