Las Vegas, Nevada. It was a place I would hate to raise Joss. It was a place I sometimes hated to live in myself. It was a place for lying, cheating, and stealing. I knew all of that because I lied to myself thinking Catherine and I could make the situation work. I cheated myself by taking the easy road and throwing a new people on Joss before she really even knew me and above all, Catherine had stolen my heart.
As I headed in to work for the first time in two weeks, my stomach tied itself in knots and I wanted to throw up. I didn't want to face Catherine, especially not after the way things ended between us. I couldn't stand to see her at the lab, knowing I couldn't touch her, love her.
I had Joss next to me as I walked down the hall toward the break room. I needed somewhere to keep her while I worked and I couldn't hire a babysitter let alone find anyone I trusted. So I continued toward the meeting ground for grave shift CSI's like me with Joss at my side. I walked in to see that even Grissom was already in the room. I was late on my first night back and not just late, but later than Grissom late. Not a good start.
"Sara," Grissom said as he watched me step up to the table. "What..."
He trailed off when he saw Joss staring down at the floor.
"What is this," he started again. "Do you think this is a daycare?"
"I don't know anyone that can watch her in Vegas," I admitted.
I looked over at Catherine to see she wanted to avoid eye contact with me. I didn't know what hurt more, her and I locking eyes with nothing but pain in them or her not looking at me at all.
"Well, you can't leave her here while you're out in the field. Tonight's a busy night," he informed me while Catherine and the guys kept their mouths shut.
"I'm sure you've got plenty of paperwork I can help with," I said, even though I hated paperwork.
He paused as he considered it.
"Okay. As long as you don't leave the lab and Ecklie doesn't find out she's here...I guess that would be okay."
He looked at me as if he could see inside me, the struggle and inner turmoil. He knew me as though for years I've worn my heart on my sleeve. All that time we'd spent together in San Francisco seemed to do me some good when it came to Gil Grissom. He understood me in ways I never thought he could sometimes, like he understood me now. He understood I didn't have anyone, not a single soul, that I could count on in Vegas except for the team, which, in my case, didn't help when it came to Joss.
"Catherine, you and Warrick take the four nineteen at the MGM," Grissom started to hand out assignments. "Nick, Greg, you're with me on the four nineteen off Fremont Street."
Everyone stood up and made their way to the door behind me. They guys all looked at me on their way out, sympathy on their face even though they didn't know the entire story. I wondered if Catherine had confided in any of them. When that thought crossed my mind, Catherine brushed past me without a single glance.
I wanted to cry, needed to actually, but with Joss around I couldn't waver. I needed to push her. I needed to keep her from being a brat the rest of her life. I needed to parent her and not baby her. Of course, that didn't mean I'd get the fairytale ending with Catherine, but I at least needed to set Joss straight.
"Okay," I said to her as I turned toward the door. "We're going to my boss' office and I don't want to touch anything. He's got a lot of stuff in there and if you break anything, there's going to be chaos."
"Okay, but what can I do? Can I help?"
"That would be great, but there's nothing you can do that can help with my job. I brought some puzzles, coloring books, and a few novels to keep you entertained."
I took the bag with all of the things I brought for her off my shoulder and handed it to her.
"Do you think you can behave for me tonight?"
"Do I have to do this every night?"
"I don't know yet, but you have to do this for tonight so make it easier on me."
"Fine," she sighed and crossed her arms over her chest.
I walked her to Grissom's bug-filled office and saw the large stack of paperwork that would easily fall over if someone breathed too hard on it. Leave it to me to find the perfect time to get stuck with Grissom's backed up paperwork. I really wanted to kill myself at that point.
For two hours, I pushed through a quarter of the paperwork, but before I could start on the next file of papers, Joss started to beg for food.
"Can we eat now? I'm hungry," she whined.
"Yes, just stay here and I'll get us something," I said as I rubbed my eyes and headed out to the hall.
I went straight to the fridge in the break room for my eggplant sandwich, hummus, and the two fruit cups. I grabbed my Pita chips from one of the cupboards above the coffee machine and headed back to the office. I heard a crash come from inside as I closed in on the room and heard Joss immediately following the sound of glass breaking against the floor.
"Oops," she said.
"Joss," I raised my voice as I ran into the room.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to. There was something behind the tank and I wanted to see it. It was just a wire, but-"
"Oh, my god. Stevie!"
I saw the tarantula scurry toward the darkest corner of the lab and away from the glass shards. I quickly dropped my food on the counter by the door and rushed after the mangy spider.
As much as I didn't like crawling critters, I knew Stevie was important to Grissom so I had to grab him before he could disappear. Of course, I didn't doubt he'd gone missing before the way Grissom always lets him out of his enclosure, but I wasn't going to be the reason Stevie vanished for months on end this time.
I bent down and stuck my hand out in time to keep Stevie away from the corner and played goalie for a while as I attempted to get Stevie to climb onto my hand. He didn't seem to want to go anywhere but the corner so I gently scooped him up and walked him to the break room. I grabbed a container from the cupboard and eased little Stevie into it.
I fast walked back into Grissom's office with Stevie in medium sized container, the lid in my other hand so I could poke breathing holes in it. Once I was back in the office, I grabbed the letter opener Grissom kept in the top left drawer of his desk. I punched the letter opener into the lid four times and made the holes big enough to allow plenty of oxygen in, but not big enough for Stevie to get his legs caught if he tried to poke through the lid.
I snapped the lid on the container and looked inside to monitor little Stevie. He seemed content, but kind of spooked so I put him back on the shelf he belonged on.
"What did I say about touching things," I asked Joss in my frustration before I went back to the break room a third time and grabbed the crickets I knew Grissom kept in the fridge. I brought the container of crickets back to Stevie and set them next to him. I picked up a few handfuls of grass and sticks that belonged in Stevie's enclosure to put in the container with him and in one fluid movement I'd replaced his environment, crickets and all.
Joss started to pout and took a seat at Grissom's desk.
"That's my boss' pet, Joss. You could have hurt him...or worse! And now I'm going to have to pay for a new enclosure. Are you happy now?"
"Don't scream at me."
"I hate it here! I want to be at TK's," she yelled as she stormed out of the office.
"Joss," I called after her.
She started to run and before I knew it, she had disappeared from sight. I headed to the end of the hallway and looked down the next hallway I saw her run down, but I couldn't see her.
"Crap," I muttered as I searched for her. "Joss."
I tried not to be too loud in case Ecklie was in the building, but if I didn't find her soon, it wouldn't matter.
"Mia," I said when I saw the DNA tech at her desk.
"Hey, Sara," she smiled. "What can I do for you?"
"Did you see a little girl run by here?"
"Uh, yeah. I thought I was losing my mind. What? Wait, are you saying she's yours?"
"Not biologically, but she is my responsibility."
"Oh, well, I saw her take off that way," she pointed down the hall in the same direction I'd been headed. "I bet she's going to make a loop around the lab whether she wants to or not."
Mia smiled and looked back down at her work.
"Thanks. Oh, um...she's gonna hate it if you say yes, but...I'm stuck here in the lab until I can find a sitter for her. I don't know anyone here except for the people that work here and I can't afford a sitter in the first place, so...do you think you can watch her a few nights a week?"
"Um...sure. I'll have to hide her from Ecklie, though, right?"
"Yeah," I slowly said as I hoped Joss hadn't already run into him tonight. "Uh, I'll bring her by next shift."
"Okay. I hope you find her."
I fast-walked down the hallway and looked high and low for Joss, but couldn't find her. I circled back around and headed to Grissom's office. When I got back, Grissom was looking down at Joss as she fidgeted in his chair.
"I believe this is yours," he said.
"I'm sorry about the enclosure. I'll pay for a new one."
"Just make sure she doesn't run off again."
"It's on my to-do list. Oh, and tomorrow night Mia said she'd watch her."
"DNA tech Mia?"
He questioned my decision for a moment as he cocked his eyebrow at my statement. I subtly squirmed under his gaze.
"Okay. You'll work with Catherine and Warrick then."
"Thanks for helping with the paperwork."
He stepped around the broken glass and looked at Stevie in the container.
"I thought you hated spiders? How'd you get him in there?"
"I grabbed him before he could get to the corner," I pointed to the dark corner to Grissom's left.
He looked at the corner then back at me and smiled.
"I wouldn't have seen him for months if he'd reached it. Thanks."
"I have to file some things into evidence, but I'll be back to help you with some of this paperwork."
"Okay. No rush."
He smiled as he headed out and I smiled back at him until he walked out of the room. I waited for him to turn the corner and when he did, I faced Joss.
"Pull that stunt one more time and see what happens," I angrily pointed at her as a warning.
She folded her arms across her chest again and got out of Grissom's chair. She walked around to the front of the desk and leaned her backside against it.
"I don't like it here."
"Keep up the bad attitude and you won't be here much longer," I mumbled.
I looked down at her to see her confused expression. I sighed and looked at the glass from the enclosure as it still lay on the tile floor.
"Come on. I'm going to get a dust pan to clean this up."
"Why can't I stay here?"
"Because you won't stay here. Now come on."
She rolled her eyes and followed me out of the office. Ever since we got back to Vegas, she had turned into a grade A brat. I didn't know how much longer I could put up with her new attitude, especially after everything I had to, and will have to, sacrifice for her.
The rest of shift nearly blinded me as I stared for hours at suicide inducing paperwork. The only upside to the night was Grissom splitting the overwhelming stack with me when he had the chance. Together, we managed to power through three fourths of the consuming work and during that time, Joss thankfully kept quiet.
When Joss and I got back to my apartment, I grabbed the extra set of sheets I kept in my closet and laid them out on the couch.
"You're going to sleep in my room until I find a bigger place, okay?"
She nodded and headed into my room.
"Good night," she said after she turned around to shut the door.
"Good night," I said as she closed the door.
The next day marked the first day I pulled "mom duty" in more comfortable environment, one in which I actually lived in. I made breakfast, looked for a nearby public school for Joss, and skimmed through the classified's for a two bedroom apartment in my price range.
I wrote down a list of schools and dragged Joss along with me to the car. I listened to the principals from two of the five schools on my list and didn't want to make any decisions until I learned what each school had to offer. So when I reached the main doors of the third school, I felt completely optimistic.
"Hi," I smiled at the receptionist. "Who can I talk to about her attending school here?"
"That would be the principal. She's in a meeting, but if you take a seat over there," she pointed at a row of seats against the wall. "She'll be with you within the next ten minutes."
"Okay. Thank you."
I turned Joss toward the chairs across the hall and we both sat down in a matter of seconds. I took a deep breath and released it in a sigh as I tried to wait patiently. Then, in a minute's time, I saw a little blonde girl walk past the receptionist with a hall pass.
When I saw her face, I realized why the name of the school sounded so familiar. I'd heard Catherine mention it on several occasions in the locker room.
"Lindsey," I called.
She turned around and frowned when she saw me.
"Hey," I got up and headed over to her. "I think I need to apologize to you."
"Why? You weren't mean to me."
I crouched down to be eye level with her.
"I know, but... Look, Joss...she's...going through a rough time right now. It's not an excuse, nothing could excuse the way she treated you, but I wanted to make sure you were okay."
"Is that why you're here?"
"No. No, I'm trying to get Joss into school."
"Does she have to go here?"
"She doesn't have to, but it's an option."
"I don't want to go to school with her. I don't care if she's not going to be in the same class as me. I don't want to see her."
"I can understand that...but...what if I got her to apologize?"
"Then she'd have to say sorry to my mom, too."
I smiled out of hope.
"I'm working on that."
"You know, I usually don't like it when my mom gets into a new relationship...because she always pays more attention to who she's dating instead of me. With you...she wasn't like that. ...I can't believe you two broke up because of us kids."
I smiled again, this time out of laughter.
"You're the most important thing to your mom. Don't ever forget that. And I really need to focus on Joss so...if you two can't stand to be around each other...then your mom and I need to separate you. The only way we could is if we split up ourselves. It's nobody's fault, Lindsey."
"Then why do I feel like I'm the one that's hurting my mom."
I furrowed my brow.
"What do you mean?"
"She'll kill me if she finds out I told you, but...she cried every night last week."
I sighed in sorrow.
"I'm sorry this all fell on you, Linds."
She stared down at her feet and fidgeted under my gaze.
"Is someone here to see me," a woman said as she turned away from the receptionist's window.
"Uh, yes. That would be me," I said as I stood up.
The woman smiled.
"Hi, I'm Ms. Harris, the principal."
"Hi," I smiled back.
"If you'll join me in my office we can discuss enrollment," she said as she pointed to the open office across from the receptionist.
I looked back at Lindsey and crouched down again.
"You should get to class."
Joss stood up and took a few baby steps toward me.
"I'm glad I ran into," I smiled at Lindsey. "And I promise, one of these days I'm going to fix things between the four of us, okay?"
"Okay," I smiled and hugged her.
"Talk to my mom. She might be avoiding you right now, but that's only because she thinks it'll hurt less."
We let go of each other.
"Talk to her. Force a conversation if you have to, but don't let her walk all over you. She needs you to get aggressive."
I smiled at the fact Lindsey, a ten year girl, was giving me advice on how to handle a particularly sticky situation with her mom. It was the icing on the cake for the day and I was even happier I saw Lindsey at all.
I watched her turn and walk away before I faced Ms. Harris and Joss. Ms. Harris smiled at me and Joss seemed sadder than she had at TK's funeral.
The three of us walked into Ms. Harris' office and she closed the door. I knew things still needed to be patched up with Lindsey and Joss, and maybe that's why I felt the way I did, but I really wanted things to work out with this school. I didn't want Joss to go anywhere else but here. It felt right. It felt like if I sent her to school here, she'd grow to love Lindsey and not hurt her. She'd learn that I can't be attached to her hip throughout life. She'd learn how to make TK proud.
Yes, I definitely wanted Joss to go to school here.
Thanks for reading. I hope I didn't make too many mistakes. Don't forget to write a review before you click around again. :)