Title: 36 Candles
Author: Klee Wyck
Spoilers: Season 8
Disclaimer: These characters do not belong to me. So I'm told. Repeatedly. In therapy.
Summary: And then she did run away, after all, but it didn't have anything to do with the forgotten birthday or the lopsided cake or the lines in her forehead or Grissom or the dog.
Or, maybe it did.
She awoke to find him watching her, a gentle, anticipatory smile on his face.
Ahh, she thought. Perfect. What will it be this year? A full body massage? Breakfast in bed? Wild, untamed sex? A trip to the Planetarium?
She smiled back and waited.
"Hello," he said.
"Hello," she said.
She kept smiling. She kept waiting. He nodded, ran a hand through his unruly hair.
"Oh. Good. I was going to ask."
He leaned down, pressed his lips to her bare shoulder. She shivered a little. And waited some more.
"Well. We're gonna be late if you don't get your rear in gear."
She stared at him.
"My what…in what?"
But he was already swinging his legs over the side of the bed, already stretching and rubbing his back and padding towards the bathroom, already turning on the shower and waiting for it to warm.
"You coming?" he called.
She heard him step into the shower, heard him call to her, slightly annoyed this time.
She sat up, shook her head in semi-amusement. Okay, then. She'd play along for now. It was all part of The Plan, she decided and it made her feel better, for the moment.
But The Payoff had better be amazing.
"Morning," she said brightly, walking into the break room.
"Gah," said Catherine, slumped back in her chair.
"Hey," said Warrick, rubbing his eyes.
Nick muttered something unintelligible and Greg just stared at her, unblinking. Sara stood for a moment, waiting.
"Sit down already, will you? You're making me nervous," Catherine said. "I hate it when you hover."
Sara scowled then threw herself into the nearest chair, jamming her feet under the table and shaking her head.
Either these people were amazing actors or…
No. It wasn't possible. They'd known her long enough to remember. It wasn't possible that all of them had…
Then Grissom was there, droning on and on about something or other while she puzzled out the unthinkable.
She looked up.
"You hear me?" He was watching her with a mixture of concern and amusement.
She shook her head and was about to speak when Greg suddenly disappeared from view.
"Ow! Shit!" He law sprawled on the floor, feet in the air while Nick and Warrick laughed uproariously.
"What happened?" asked Catherine, helping him up.
"My chair broke! Look!" Greg held up the broken pieces.
Grissom leaned over to investigate. "There's a screw missing. See? Right there."
"Great. Did one of you mess with my chair?"
"No, but I wish I had, man. That was priceless!" said Nick.
"Screws fall out all the time," said Sara. "The world is an imperfect place."
Everyone looked at her.
"Right," said Greg.
"You are acting downright bizarre today," said Catherine.
Grissom looked at her too, frowning, wondering. He smiled at her.
"We're all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that's all."
Sara stood up abruptly, glaring at them. "Does anyone have anything…else to say? Anything a little more…intelligent?"
They stared back, shook their heads.
"Fine, then. I'm out of here."
She stopped at her locker, checked the magnetic calendar hanging there, just to make sure. She ran her finger over the innocuous black numbers and stopped on the 16.
That's what she thought.
She leaned back against the lockers, feeling petulant and angry and alarmingly close to tears.
"I can't believe this," she shook her head in disgust. "They fucking forgot my birthday."
Ecklie stomped into Grissom's office and glared at him. Grissom ignored him. Ecklie stomped again.
"Why are you still here?"
"I work here," said Grissom. "In fact, I'm working right now."
"Well, according to my information, you're due in court in half an hour."
"No, I'm due in court tomorrow."
"No, you're due in court today."
"Conrad, my court date is the 16th. Tomorrow."
"Gil, today is the 16th."
Grissom's head snapped up.
"Don't mess with me, Conrad. I'm not in the mood. Today is not the 16th."
Ecklie thrust his watch under Grissom's nose, pointing at the numbers. Grissom stared, horrified.
"Oh my God. Sara."
"Sara? What does Sara have to do with it? You have a court date! Now! Go!"
Grissom shook his head, scooped up an armful of files.
"And when you get back, we need to discuss this Sara situation. You are way too forgetful ever since the two of you hooked up—"
"Conrad, shut up." Grissom ran out.
"Grissom! I could write you up for that!"
Ecklie watched him go, smoothed down the front of his shirt.
"Don't mess with the bull, young man. You'll get the horns."
"You have the results of that blood sample yet?" Sara snapped at Hodges. He handed her the report and watched as she read it. He cleared his throat.
"How's it going?" he asked.
She ignored him. He kept staring. She sighed.
"How's what going?"
Hodges shrugged. "You know — things, life, whatnot."
She looked at him.
"Life is not whatnot, and it's none of your business."
She turned and walked out. Hodges smiled.
"You're kind of sexy when you're angry."
She sneaked out early and drove to her favourite restaurant, the one that served vegetarian, well, everything.
"Happy birthday to me," she muttered, sliding into a booth. The waitress appeared, looking bored.
"So … what's your poison?"
Sara glared at her.
"Ok, forget I asked."
The waitress managed to look amused.
"Oh yeah? How much vodka do you drink?"
The waitress winked. "Well, I'll see what I can do for you."
"Have you seen Sara?" Grissom shouted into the morgue, panicked and sweaty.
"I am the eyes and ears of this institution!" Robbins shouted back. "But no, I have not. I heard she's pretty pissed at you, however."
"Shit, shit, shit," he shook his head. "I'm such an idiot."
"Today, maybe, yes. But it can be fixed."
Grissom closed his eyes.
"I need to go home right now."
They found her there, Catherine and Brass and Greg, staring into a half-empty glass of orange juice.
"Grissom's looking for you," Catherine said, sitting down next to her.
"Yippee," said Sara. Catherine grinned.
"Would you stop feeling sorry for yourself? It's bad for your complexion."
"So's getting older."
"We're sorry we forgot," Greg said, tapping her shoulder. Sara shrugged.
"It's okay. Really."
"No, it's not," Brass sighed.
"We suck," Greg said and Catherine nodded.
They ordered breakfast and ate with her. Brass raised a glass.
"Happy birthday, kid."
"Cheers!" said Greg.
"So," said Catherine, leaning in. "Speaking of Grissom. Does he have ... strong lips?"
Brass and Greg exchanged looks. Greg made gagging motions. Sara laughed.
"How can you tell?"
"Well…when he kisses you, do you feel it in your knees?"
Sara closed her eyes, smiled a little.
"I feel it everywhere."
Catherine nodded at Brass. "Strong lips."
"You should really go home. He's feeling pretty bad."
Sara sighed and pushed away from the table. She allowed herself to smile. "I will. Thanks, guys."
Greg watched her walk away, a half-smile on his face.
"You know," he said, "I catch her lookin' at me a lot. It's kinda cool, the way she's always lookin' at me."
Catherine snorted. "She can't believe what she's looking at. And it's not a compliment."
"I'm being serious, ok? She looks at me like she's in love with me. But now she's with Grissom. I mean, I don't get it. It… I hurts /I ."
Brass clapped him on the shoulder. "That's why they call them crushes. If they were easy, they'd call them something else.
He was waiting for her when she got home, nervously clenching and unclenching his hands. He realized he was sweating and swore to himself. He should have taken a shower.
She walked in the door and burst into tears.
He had decorated the main floor with pink and white and yellow streamers and about 300 balloons. He had hung up a large hand-drawn sign that read "Happy Birthday Sara," and had a dozen red roses in a vase on the kitchen table.
He came to her, put his arms around her, hugged her tightly. "I'm so very sorry. Can you forgive me?"
"I was gonna run away," she said, laughing. "Just…take off."
"And do what?" He kissed her forehead, smiled. "Live on the street?"
She paused, swiped at her eyes with the cuff of her sleeve. "I don't have to run away and live in the street. I can run away and I can go to the ocean, I can go to the country, I can go to the mountains. I could go to Israel, Africa, Afghanistan."
"I don't want you to run away … to anywhere." He paused. "Especially Afghanistan."
"Wait…right here," he said and ran into the kitchen. He returned a moment later carrying a large platter. She smiled in amazement.
He'd baked her a cake. It was lumpy and lopsided and covered with pale pink icing. He'd even attempted to write on the top in darker pink piping.
She felt the sudden sting of tears.
"It's pretty," she said.
"You're sweet," he said, laughing.
"Thirty-six," she said sighing. "I can't believe it."
"Just a kid, still," he said, kissing her gently. "And so very beautiful."
She shook her head.
"Some days…I feel so old."
"What does that make me?" he asked.
She kissed him, gripped his hand, hard.
"Wonderful," she said.
"Happy birthday, Sara. Make a wish."
"Well, it already came true."
But, she closed her eyes anyway.
It was the best birthday she'd ever had.
And then she did run away, after all, but it didn't have anything to do with the forgotten birthday or the lopsided cake or the lines in her forehead or Grissom or the dog.
Or, maybe it did.
Hands clenched in her lap.
Face pressed to cool cab glass.
Las Vegas lights, neon and garish, had never looked brighter or made her feel lonelier as she slid further and further and further away.
Lines borrowed unashamedly from John Hughes' Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club, and 16 Candles, the best movies of the 80s and I dare anyone to deny it.