She had tossed and turned for hours in anticipation of this dinner. She should have been excited, looking forward to this, a dinner with Grissom. She would have been if it were only the two of them, but the guest was not one she wanted to spend any amount of time with.
A lot of what had happened whilst she was in college, she buried, preferring to forget about it. The only really good memory she took with her were those associated with Grissom, and a few other memories she had with friends, research papers and lecturers.
When her old professor saught her out, she was in the locker room, just pulling on her LVPD vest, ready to start shift.
"Sara, so good to catch you."
She faught hard not to visibly shudder. She glimpsed the visitors badge on his shirt, and she couldn't help but think how he was anything further from welcome.
He smirked, leaning against the doorway. "I made those reservations. Tonight, eight pm. Gil informs me you can be quite a worker, but he's promised he will ensure you are there on time, that the case gets covered."
She wasn't taking any of this. She was no longer his student. "I don't know what you're playing at or what you want from me, but I'm not playing your game."
He quirked an eyebrow, as if genuinely confused. "I don't know what you're talking about, Sara. I'm here on business for a few weeks. I'm simply catching up with a few old friends of mine. What's wrong with that?"
Just as Sara was about to retort, Nick walked into the locker room, excusing himself as he passed the tall stranger. He had seen him the other day with Grissom and Sara in Grissom's office. The look on Sara's face concerned him.
"Everything okay here, Sara?"
"Yeah, it's fine, Nick." Her eyes still locked with Ed's, in a battle of will. She would not lose. "Nick, this is Ed Nolan, an old Professor of mine from Berkley, Ed, Nick Stokes, CSI." It was Ed who looked away first, giving Sara a surge of triumph pumping through her blood.
Nick was still unsure, nodding towards him in acknowledgement.
"It's nice to meet you, Nick."
"Yeah, you too." He replied in a steady tone.
"Sara, you and I have a DB calling us, gotta get going."
"I won't keep you any longer, Sara. Remember, eight o'clock tonight. See you then. Pleasure to meet you, Mr. Stokes." He gave a slight bow as he turned and left.
Sara took a deep breath, and turned back to her locker, giving a small smile to Nick.
"Are you sure you're okay, darlin'?" Nick asked, as he walked over to her, his hand on her shoulder wanting to comfort her. In the time she had been here, they had formed a very strong relationship. He considered her to be a sister to him, and she was more than happy to welcome any family figure into her life.
She recoiled from his touch though, the moment his fingers brushed her skin. "Sorry... Sorry Nick, I'm just a little jumpy. I haven't been sleeping, that's all."
"Well, I know just the cure for that. How about later on we go out? You have something organised with that Professor?"
Sara nodded. "Dinner with Grissom and him at eight, he wants a catch up."
"That'll be interesting, dinner with the bossman. How about after, you, Greg and I go out, get a few drinks? I'll even give Sean a call if you want."
She smiled at his attempt to cheer her up, more than happy to have him at this moment. "Sure, that sounds brilliant. I'll text you when the diner is finished, and I'll meet up with you then." She was thankful for the friends she had. "Now, ready for that DB?" An easy smile settled on her face at the thought of being able to lose herself in her work. She knew she loved it for a reason.
"There's that Sidle smile. Let's go, sweetheart."
"I'm driving." She said as she slipped out ahead of him, grinning.
"Of course you are." He chuckled and followed out after her.
Grissom didn't really get dressed up for dinners, wether they were a date or otherwise. He had a casual, comfortable style that he had known for so many years, and he tended to stick to it. The only time he really wore a suit was when he had to go to court. When he really had no other choice but to wear one.
For tonight he donned a simple pair of loosely fitted black trousers, a crisp blue shirt and a black suit jacket over it. He thought it looked pretty well.
He glanced quickly at his watch, ten past seven. He had let Sara leave a little early so she could go and shower, and get changed. He told her to meet him back here for half past seven, and he would drive them to the restaurant.
He was not surprised that she was early, strolling into him almost reluctantly, with a little drag in her feet at quarter past seven.
She seemed to follow the same dress sense as he did tonight, casual, yet he still could not deny how beautiful she looked. A more fitting pair of black jeans hugged her long legs. She had a red top on, snug to her body, not revealing anything, yet showing her body. She was stunning.
It took him a moment to form a coherent string of sentences in his mind, feeling his mouth go a little dry. "Good evening, Sara. You look... Very well." That didn't even begin to cover how she really looked.
She wasn't in the mood for his games tonight of all nights. She just wanted to make it through this dinner and then get out to her friends, the people she knew who cared about her all the time, not just whenever they felt like it.
"Thanks, Grissom. For a bunch of science nerds we scrub up well." She said with an attempt to lighten the mood, and her own nerves. She knew she couldn't really deny it. The blue shirt brought out a twinkle in his eyes, that on any other occasion would have made her melt.
She had her leather jacket slung over her arms, as she watched him, still contemplating the idea of making a run for it. She was pretty sure she could make a pretty convincing attempt at a stomach ache or a sudden migraine. Grissom suffered from migraines, he would understand how she needed to go home.
But she wouldn't do that. She wouldn't give Ed the satisfaction. She was going to get through this dinner, and then go meet her friends, and drink her thoughts into oblivion tonight. She decided she deserved it.
"Sara I... I've wanted to talk to you for a while... I just wanted to... To make sure you're happy. I heard you're seeing someone..." This was harder for him than he thought it would be.
"Grissom, I'm not in a relationship with him. We just hang out. You know, you told me to get a life. Not to chase rabbits. You can't lead me on, then push me away and tell me to get a life, and then you get mad at me for doing exactly what you tell me to do. Whilst you also go out and date other women." She paused for a moment, surprised at the turn this had taken. She hadn't expected it to come to this. Grissom generally wasn't very forward, especially when it came to anything involving their relationship. Or lack thereof.
"But... Are you happy?" He asked, apparently desperate for that answer from her.
She considered it for a moment, and the motives he had behind it. "My feelings for you haven't changed, Grissom. I don't think they will... But yes, right now, thanks to the team, I am happy. They're like a family to me, and they look out for me."
He pondered this for a moment with a quirked eyebrow. That was all that mattered to him. She was happy.
There was a fleeting look across his face that made her heart flutter for a moment as she expected a reply from him, but it never came.
"Should we go?" She offered, giving him an out.
He nodded, standing from his desk, gathering his things and following her out to the Denali. What was he doing?
Little over forty minutes later the three of them were seated at a window table in the newest restaurant that Ed had suggested to them.
They had already placed their orders and while Grissom and Ed engaged in a spirited debate over Grissom's beloved bugs, Sara busied herself in looking at the wine list, and the extra list they supplied with recommended shows and places to visit whilst in Vegas, for after dinner. Anything to try and stay out of the conversation. She was here, she had made the biggest step. And it didn't seem too bad so far. He wouldn't say anything with Grissom here, he just wanted to taunt her. She wouldn't make it easy.
Grissom's hand over hers startled her out of her thoughts as she set the menu down, "Sorry, what?"
He retracted his hand now that he had gotten her attention, and she looked between the two men sitting before her.
"Ed had asked you how you managed to get into Forensics."
"Yeah, Sara. Last time I seen you, I was teaching you through your masters in physics in Berkely, you were working part time in the Cororners Office in San Fransicso, and tagging along to a few extra classes in Biology taught by none other than Gil Grissom here." He leaned forward across the table towards her, and she automatically relaxed backwards into her chair, away from him.
"Well, from working in the coroners office I knew some people from the CSI department. I got talking to one of them and he let me tag along in the lab sometimes when it was quite in the morgue. I love learning new things, as you both know, and I took to being CSI as a duck takes to water. I managed to work my way up to CSI level two in San Fransicso, and soon after that, I went to an entomology seminar presented by Grissom. I knew him already from his time at Berkely, but that just cemented the interest I had in wanting to be a CSI. A year or two later, I get a phone call asking me to come to a job in Vegas, and here I am."
She hadn't noticed how closely either of the two men at the table had been surveying her, and she tried not to shift uncomfortably under their gazes.
"I never thought you'd take the turn into Forensics. I thought you'd tire out of the coroners lab, and continue to pursue academics. I had been looking forward to seeing you complete a PHD."
"Well, you don't know me that well, Ed." She said very firmly, this time leaning her arms on the table.
Just at that moment, breaking the fast forming tension, their food arrived. Sara had ordered asparagus and risotta toasts, Grissom got the chile rellenos and Ed had taken oysters as his starter. It was rich, out of the ordinary for all of them, but it was something different.
Ed seemed determined to continue this conversation. "You must be very proud, Grissom, that you managed to influence such a powerful mind, and have such a profound effect on her life."
"Sara would have found forensics with or without my seminars. She had already begun to delve into it herself. I was just lucky to get such a brilliant, talented mind working on my team."
This was a double whammy for Sara. She couldn't take everything that was coming from both of them. It felt as if they both had hidden agendas tonight.
She smiled politely, glad for the arrival of her food, she didn't have to talk, she could eat rather than reply. And she chewed really slowly.
"You must have had a pretty powerful sway on young Sara here to make her up and leave her whole life in San Fransicso, to come to Vegas to work with you." He paused for a moment, his face relaxed. "So... How long have you two been in a relationship?"
Both of them almost choked on their food, as Ed simply picked up his fork and took a bite, smiling innocently at the two of them.
"I... I don't know what you're talking about Ed." Grissom stammered, his throat still raw from almost choking on his food. "Sara is my subordinate, I'm her supervisor. She came out here as a favor to me."
"The Vegas lab is number one in the country. Any CSI would jump at a chance to work here, I already told you that much."
"Come on guys, we're just friends here. I seen how you two looked at each other while you were in Berkley, Gil. Those smouldering glances, the touches. You can't tell me that all stopped? That Gil let such a beautiful young woman escape from his grasp."
"Ed, nothing is happening between Sara and I. We are simply co-workers. That's it." He said, firmly, trying to get his point across to drop the subject.
Sara stood up suddenly, feeling like she was going to suffocate. She couldn't breathe properly here. "I'm sorry... I have to go." She brushed past them, rushing out, not looking back over her shoulder to them.
"Maybe there's more to it than co-workers for her." Ed pointed out, simply taking another bite, apparently looking a little amused.
Grissom tore his eyes away from the door, looking back to Ed with a near murderous glare. "I'm sorry, I should go after her. I was her ride." Grissom stood, taking his wallet out of his jacket pocket he threw a few bills on the table to cover his and Saras meal, took his jacket and left.
He made it outside just in time to see Sara get into a cab, and disappear down the strip. He groaned, cursing silently, as he walked back to his Denali. This was an even bigger mess than expected. Was it best to talk to her about this, or ignore what had happened? He had a lot to think about tonight.
Sara was still shaking slightly in the cab as she pulled her cell phone from her pocket. She quickly dialled Nick's number and hit the call button. It rang twice before he answered. "Nick, dinner finished early. I'm heading to the pub now. Meet me there. Soon." She needed that drink more than ever now.
A/N: Hope you are all enjoying this so far! The next chapter is going to be pretty dramatic, so give me a review and let me know what you think so far. Thanks to everyone who has read, reviewed and followed so far!