Author's Note: This little piece picks up immediately where "You've Got Male" ends. It is my own little...supposition on who Sara called at the end of the episode. Please be forewarned... there is some angst. This is not a how-they-got-together piece, but more like a one-more-reason-why-Sara-is-sad piece. Come on! You know this stuff happened. It's why we were all miserable for years, or in my case, the three weeks it took me to speed-watch from season one to season six. DVDs are awesome.
Disclaimer: Who do I want more, Grissom or Sara? I can't decide, and I don't have enough money for both. CBS, et al still owns them.
"Hey. It's Sara. I was thinking…you want to go out? Somewhere?"
Grissom stared at his off-white cupboard doors, the slim black phone clutched tightly in his hand. "Excuse me?"
He could hear the tremor in her voice as she repeated. "Do you want to go out somewhere? Get a drink? See a film? Anything, anywhere—I don't care."
"Sara, what's going on?" He rested his back against the wall, gazing out over the room and letting his brain focus on the situation at hand. It was about 5 p.m. The team had gone home after finishing a double shift. Sara should be exhausted, ready to grab some sleep before coming back in to work in six hours. Knowing Sara, the fact that she was still awake was not necessarily surprising. The fact that she wanted to go out was a little unusual. That she was calling him…
She let out a soft sigh. "I don't want to end up like her."
He immediately understood what she was saying, but decided to allow her to share the entirety of her thoughts. "Like who?"
"Like that girl in our case. Donna. God, Grissom, we had all the same catalogs. We ordered Chinese food from the same restaurant. She shut herself off from the world, and now she's dead. I don't want to end up like that."
"I don't think you have to worry about that. You have a job outside your home. You have friends."
Her laugh was faintly bitter. "I have friends? Then why am I calling you to hang out on a Friday night?"
Grissom hesitated. It was unusual for Sara to be calling him at home, but somehow her implying that he was a last resort—or not her friend—sent a pang through him that he had not expected. He let his tone drift into the matter-of-fact and brusque. "I don't know, Sara. Why are you?"
"I don't know," she admitted. She sounded a little sad. "I should probably go. I'll see you at work."
"Sara?" Something in him would not let her go so easily. "Did you have anything specific in mind, at all?"
"A drink," she admitted. "There's this little bar down the road from my apartment. It's quiet and clean, which is more than can be said for most entertainment establishments in this town. But you don't drink."
"I don't drink often," he corrected gently. "But I would be willing to make an exception, if you need to talk. Where is this place?"
"Just come to my apartment. We can walk over."
Grissom rubbed a hand over his chin. "Sara, I don't know where you live."
A pause, as if she were holding her breath. "Right. Well, I live at 1847 Fuller Road. Apartment 12. There's an exit off the I-15."
"All right." He did not want to get off the phone; as soon as he hung up, he would be committed to this venture and would need to actually leave his apartment, drive to hers, and go out with her for a drink. "I can be there shortly."
"You don't have to do this, Grissom." Sara's voice clearly revealed that she did not believe he wanted to spend time with her.
"I know that," he said, gently chiding. "I'll be there soon."
After they had hung up, forgoing the goodbyes, he walked slowly down the hall to his bedroom and stared a little forlornly into his closet. What should he wear to have a drink with a coworker in a bar he had never seen? What was the protocol for such things? Too casual, and she might think he didn't care. Too dressed up, and she would think it was a date. With a sigh, he tugged a black button-down and black slacks from their hangars. Couldn't really go wrong with black.
He changed clothes quickly and glanced in the small mirror above his dresser. No need to shave; his five-o-clock shadow had barely broken the surface. Cologne would give the same date impression he wanted to avoid, especially since he never wore it to work. He was not even sure he owned any anymore. He ran a hand through his hair and sighed again. This was ridiculous. He just needed to get into the car and drive to her apartment. Sara would not care what he looked like or how he smelled. She was lonely and insecure and just wanted to sit and have a drink with someone. Picking up his keys and wallet from the bed and shoving them into his pockets, he moved down the hall and out of the apartment, slamming the door behind him.
Sara slipped the soft worn blue jeans up over her thighs and hips, buttoning them and smoothing the hem of her shirt over the waistband. She picked up a pair of strappy black heels, studied them, and rejected them. Heels would make her taller than Grissom. She picked up a pair of black flats and slid her feet into them. Her black shirt was plain soft cotton with a v-neck and cap sleeves, and only a simple silver chain with a pendant of Celtic knot work broke up the monotony of color. She avoided earrings, did not bother to curl her hair. Anything too fancy would make Grissom think that she was angling for a date, and she just wanted to be out of her apartment, doing something, with someone. It was just a coincidence that she had dialed Grissom first, that he had answered, that he had agreed to see her.
Fumbling for a black purse in her hall closet, she almost did not hear the soft, hesitant knock on her door. "Coming!" she called, yanking it down from the shelf and quickly transferring the contents of her work bag into it. Dropping it onto the coffee table, she unlocked and opened her door.
"Hi," she said softly, trying not to let her eyes sweep down him too obviously. She had seen Gil Grissom in all black a few dozen times before, but tonight something seemed different. The shirt was a little nicer, the pants a little better fitting. She pushed a strand of hair behind her ear and smiled. "Come on in."
"Uh—" He hesitated on the threshold. "Are you sure?"
Sara raised an eyebrow. "Uh, yeah."
"Okay." He walked in slowly, and she shut the door behind him, giving him a curious look.
"What, you thought I was going to make you wait outside in the hall?" she teased. He turned, an odd expression on his face.
"Are you—not ready yet?"
"No," she said quickly. "I mean, yes, I'm ready. It's just what people do, Grissom. Someone comes over to your home, you invite them in. Offer them a drink, maybe a tour." She paused for a beat. "Do you want something to drink?"
"I thought that was why we were going to this bar."
Sara folded her arms over her chest. "Grissom, what's up with you? You're acting twitchy."
He scowled slightly. "I'm not acting twitchy. This is just…unusual for me."
"Having drinks? Having friends? Going over to other people's homes?"
His scowl deepened. "Being at the home of a coworker alone."
"You've never had Catherine over?"
"That's different," Grissom argued. "She was in my home."
"Oh, for god's sake," Sara sighed. "Fine, we can leave." Reaching for her purse, she muttered under her breath, "I guess I should have left you out in the hall."
"I heard that," Grissom said. His voice sounded a little further away. She looked up to see that he had wandered down the hall and was peering into her bedroom. She crossed to him in a few long strides, color rising in her cheeks. She knew her bed was unmade, and she was pretty sure her clothes—and undergarments—from the workday were strewn across the floor.
"What are you doing?"
He turned. "Looking around. You said something about a tour."
"Uh, yeah. Maybe a guided one. But stop poking around. This isn't a crime scene. It's my bedroom."
He smiled for the first time. "Sorry."
She relented. "It's fine. Let's go."
He followed her out of the apartment and out onto the street, letting her point them in the right direction before falling into step beside her. "So, am I dressed all right for this bar?"
Sara let her eyes trail down him now, pleased with the implied permission to peruse. "Yeah, of course. You look fine."
"Is it loud? Smoky?"
"A little loud," she admitted. "Not smoky. It's just a neighborhood bar, Grissom. Haven't you ever been to one before?"
"Not for a long time," he said shortly, and they finished the short walk in silence.
Grissom followed Sara into Eden's Pub, the small establishment about six blocks from her apartment building that she pointed out. The outside was brick interwoven with ivy, indicating the bar was older than most of the pre-fab houses and apartments buildings surrounding it. A small sign hung from an iron hook extended from the building, green with the name of the bar painted on it in white script that looked handmade. A few steps led up to the heavy wooden door, which Grissom noted was unfinished and had grayed with years of desert sun and wind. Already, the exterior of Sara's neighborhood bar was making him feel more comfortable about this whole night.
Inside, melodic trance music played softly through speakers liberally sprinkled around the room, the throbbing bass driving some of the patrons to dance in one darkened corner. Small tables were littered across the majority of the space, with a long oak bar lining the right side of the room, stools perched in front of it. No more than twenty people were in the pub, and Grissom felt himself relax a little more upon seeing that Eden's was not packed to the brim like so many of the nightclubs and bars of Vegas.
"Hey, Joe," Sara said, only having to raise her voice a little to be heard over the music and voices. "How's it going?"
"Sara Sidle," the heavyset bartender boomed, his scruffy face breaking into a smile. "It's been weeks. I thought you died, and your little science pals were going to be coming in here any time asking me about you."
"No, I'm still around," Sara replied with an answering smile. "Can't get rid of me that easily. How about my usual?"
"And for the gentleman?" Joe cast a look at Grissom that was hard to read. Grissom returned it with similar enigma.
"I'll have a Scotch. Single. Straight."
Joe nodded, and within moments a single shot of Scotch and a glass of white wine were resting in front of them. Grissom reached for his wallet, but Joe held up a hand. "On your tab, Sara?"
"Sure. Thanks, Joe." Sara picked up her glass and headed over to one of the tables in a dimly lit corner. Grissom paused before picking up his glass and following.
"You have a tab?" he asked, slipping into the seat beside her.
Sara took a sip of her wine. "Yeah. This is the only place I ever go alone. It's not that often—maybe once every week or two—but often enough that Joe recognizes me. I usually have more than one glass, so he just starts a tab. With you here, it makes even more sense."
"Your usual is wine?" He sipped his Scotch, letting the burn linger on his tongue before sliding down his throat in a slow, searing path. Sara tilted her head before replying.
"Something wrong with wine?"
"No, not at all," Grissom said quickly, taking another swallow. "Just wondering."
They drank their drinks slowly, silently. Sara traced a fingernail over the table while Grissom indulged his curiosity and studied the bar in greater detail. At last, he broke the silence. "Is Eden a person or a reference?"
"A person," Sara replied, her eyes lifting from the surface of the table. "She owned the bar back in the 30s. Joe is actually her grandson."
"Family-owned business. Nice."
"What are we doing, Grissom?" Sara asked abruptly, downing the rest of her wine. "We used to be able to talk."
Grissom set his glass down on the table carefully. "I remember."
"So what gives? If this is too awkward for you, then feel free to leave."
"It's not too awkward, Sara. I'm just not sure what you want me to say."
"I just didn't want to be alone tonight," Sara said slowly. "I didn't want anything specific of you."
"I see." He could not quite keep the slightest edge of hurt from his voice. He was just a convenient escape from an empty apartment.
"Grissom…" Sara let her hand slip over his, and he looked up, startled. Her dark eyes were very solemn. "I miss you."
"I'm right here," he replied quietly, purposefully obtuse.
"I miss talking to you outside of work. When we lived hours apart, we talked all the time. You ask me to come here, and when I do, everything changes."
"I'm your supervisor now, Sara. Things did change."
"So we can't be friends now?"
"We are friends," Grissom said firmly, picking up his glass again. "We're also coworkers, and I'm your boss. We're going to relate more like the latter than the former now. It can't be helped."
Sara squeezed her fingers tighter around his hand. "Are you sure?"
He stood suddenly, pulling his hand free and reaching for her empty glass. "I'll get us another round."
Sara watched him walk back to the bar with a cold hand tightening around her heart. This excursion was trembling dangerously on the brink of falling apart, and she was starting to feel incredibly stupid. She should never have called Grissom or asked him to spend time with her. He was right; everything was different now, here.
He returned after a moment with refreshed drinks, his eyes carefully neutral. She took her wine a little more forcefully than was necessary, but set it down on the table without so much as a sip. In contrast, Grissom took a deep drink of his second shot of Scotch, and Sara felt her temper rise a little. He would not admit to feeling awkward, to regretting agreeing to this little outing, but his death grip on his glass indicated that he was a liar. She let a smug little smile cross her face. Evidence doesn't lie. People do.
"Do you dance?" she asked abruptly, letting her eyes drift over to the smattering of couples entwined in the far part of the room, shadows and dim light creating fascinating patterns on their writhing bodies. Grissom raised an eyebrow and followed her gaze, then winced.
"I can dance," he said slowly, "if by dance, you mean something like a waltz or a simple box step. That sort of thing—not even a little bit."
Sara nodded, unsurprised, but could not resist teasing him a little. "I would have thought mindless gyrations would be easier than ballroom dancing."
"Easy is a relative term," Grissom observed. He frowned a little at the dancers. "The movement appears uninhibited, sure, but there's absolutely no rhyme or reason to it, as far as I can tell. The chaos is a little confusing."
Sara laughed and allowed herself a small sip of her wine. "You can always simplify it, make it less chaotic."
Grissom shook his head. "I'll pass."
"Can you tango? Swing dance?"
Grissom scowled, taking another burning gulp of his Scotch. "Tango, no. Swing dance—I have, but I'm not particularly good. My mother made me take some lessons in high school to keep me from embarrassing myself at my senior prom. Didn't work very well."
Sara could not repress a giggle. "You went to prom?"
"Once upon a time, the entomologist was a real boy," Grissom said testily, which only made her laugh harder. He leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest. "Glad you find the idea amusing."
She sobered, but a grin still pulled at the corners of her mouth. "I'm sure you were adorable in your tux."
"Adorable? I'm not so sure."
"Well, the way the suits you wear to court work for you, I can only imagine what black tie would do." Sara bit her lip and flushed, wanting to sink through the floor. Had she really just said that?
Grissom cleared his throat, and she waited for the reprimand or the awkward farewell that was sure to come. But he merely lifted blue eyes brushed with amusement to hers and said, "So you think my court suits make me look adorable?"
"Hmm," he said only, and lifted his Scotch to his lips.
"They make you look handsome," she said hastily, and caught the curve of his lips upward behind the rim of his glass. "Damn it, that Scotch is getting to you."
"Apparently the wine has loosened your lips as well," he said. Sara flushed again. Was he actually teasing her?
"Far be it from me to pay you a compliment," she growled, and stood. He followed her up with his eyes, a look of confusion crossing his face.
"Well, I'm sure someone will dance with me," she tossed out. She pointed to a young blonde boy reminiscent of Greg Sanders, all surfer punk and no substance. The clearly college-aged man was gulping a beer eagerly and eyeing a youthful redheaded girl dressed in a skintight black dress that barely covered her ass and breasts. "Maybe if I offer to help him make Little Orphan Annie jealous, he'll be up for a little bump and grind."
Grissom choked on his drink. "A little what? How much time have you been spending around Greg?"
Sara smiled mischievously. "Maybe not enough."
"I think maybe we should leave," Grissom said firmly, tossing some bills onto the table. "That should cover your—tab."
"Oh, come on. I was just kidding," she started, but Grissom took her arm just above the elbow and steered her out of the bar. She tossed a what-can-you-do look at Joe and let him march her out.
"Are you aware of just how little fun you are?" she complained as the hot night air hit their skin. Grissom frowned at her and lifted his arm to signal a cab.
"You wanted to get out of your apartment, get a drink, and talk. Mission accomplished. Now you can head home before you do something you'll regret."
"I was kidding," she snapped. "And why exactly would I regret dancing?"
"Guys like that see dancing as a vertical prelude."
Sara snorted. "You're not my father, Grissom." She pulled her arm free.
"I am trying to be your friend," he said seriously, and she swallowed. "You've been drinking."
"So have you. And Scotch is a little bit stronger than Zinfandel."
"I didn't pick out Greg Sanders' long-lost twin and use the phrase 'bump and grind,'" Grissom argued.
Sara's voice pealed out in laughter at the image that flooded her brain. "Oh, thank god for that," she choked out. Grissom could not hide the smallest of smiles.
"All right," he said finally, when a taxi pulled up and jerked to a stop in front of them. "You head home, and I'll see you tonight."
"Wait," Sara protested, grabbing his wrist. They both looked down at the spot where her slender fingers curled around his skin, and she slowly unwrapped them and dropped her arm to her side. "Look, everything has been a little weird," she said slowly. "I don't really want to leave you with images of alcoholic overindulgence and suggestive dancing."
Grissom looked at her oddly, and she lifted one eyebrow. "What?"
He seemed about to dismiss her question, but then said quietly, "There are probably worse images in the world. I've seen a lot."
She flushed. Every time she thought she had run into a brick wall with him, some small crack appeared before her eyes and gave her the slightest glimpse into what he might be like if he were not so terribly afraid of letting someone in. Playful, flirtatious, even passionate—someone she could really enjoy being with, in every sense of the phrase. Lifting an unsteady hand to her face, she pushed back a stray strand of dark hair, which promptly slipped back down over her cheekbone. As she moved to tuck it behind her ear, his thicker, stronger fingers brushed over hers as he moved it behind her ear instead. She could not take her eyes from his, and wondered if he could tell that her breathing had sped up from that momentary physical contact.
"Will you come home with me?" she asked abruptly, and a startled look crossed his face. He pursed his lips, studying her, and she stammered out, "I mean, I never did give you that tour."
"Sara," he said quietly, and she shut down.
"I get it," she said quickly, raising a hand to stem the flow of his words. "It's fine, Grissom. Thanks for the drink."
He nodded slowly, his lips parted around words he could not say. It was an expression she had grown accustomed to. At last, he sighed, shrugged. "Goodnight, Sara."
She bit her lower lip. "Night."
She let the cab carry her away three blocks before she gave in and cried.