45 – Just Called to Say

It might have taken nearly a month for them to find the time, but Sara and Catherine finally get that bite to eat.

Not that a bite to eat is ever just a bite to eat…

Takes place between episodes 10×04 “Coup de Grace” and 10×05 “Blood Sport,” and prior to the story “Pig Tales,” circa October 2009.

*******

Sara was reaching the end of yet another a double when Catherine popped her head into the layout room to ask, “You about finished here?”

Fearing that her boss might be about to start in on just how much she had been working ever since she’d gotten back from Paris, Sara peered up and said, “Yeah.”

But Catherine it seemed had something else in mind.

“Then how about that bite to eat?” she queried. “If I can avoid running into Ecklie, I just might manage to get out of here before hell freezes over.”

Sara chuckled; then took a quick mental inventory of what she still had left to do. “Meet you in fifteen?”

“Frank’s?” Catherine suggested.

Sara nodded. She was far too drained to try to deal with anywhere else right now. And as the diner was frequented mostly by off-duty cops and investigators, Frank’s was a good place to go after nearly 18 straight hours of work, particularly when you knew you looked it.

You certainly didn’t go for the food.

But they had always eaten there just the same. Sara had long lost count of how many meals she’d shared there over the years. It was just one of those inexplicable traditions.

And their pancakes weren’t half bad.

“Want me to order your usual?” Catherine asked.

“Yeah.”

*******

It was closer to thirty minutes later when Sara showed up. Unfortunately, she hadn’t succeeded in escaping the lab without running into the undersheriff.

But she did arrive just in time for the server to place a steaming hot plate of pancakes in front of her.

“Well, it only took a month,” Catherine sighed before she dug into her own turkey club with little ceremony.

For they never had managed to find the time for that bite to eat Catherine had originally proposed the night of Sara’s first shift back. Of course things like shoot outs in the lab, missing bodies, dead cops, Sara’s own brief return to Paris for a week and the perils of having a teenage daughter tended to make such seemingly simple things complicated, if not impossible. But they both supposed it was better late than never.

Soon the two of them were comfortably ensconced in their corner booth complaining about the food (like that ever changed) and enjoying the conversation and the company. It was something they hadn’t done in a very long time and very seldom had with just each other.

But time and circumstances had long ago managed to wear away the last of the old animosities that had existed between them, and having made their peace with each other, the two women had become friends.

Not that either of them expected to be swapping secrets. Having never really managed to ever get anything out of Grissom regarding his and Sara’s relationship, naturally, Catherine may have been curious, but she never actually thought she would ever get answers out of Sara either. For while Sara’s infrequent correspondence with Catherine and the team while she and Grissom had been in Costa Rica and then Paris had been chatty and detailed, it hadn’t exactly been revelatory.

Therefore she wasn’t the least surprised when their conversation focused more on the innocuous rather than the intimate.

Catherine marveled over how Sara had managed to go all those months in the rainforest without so many of the things most people simply took for granted. Sara readily admitted that while you got used to it after a while, she had missed such modern conveniences as electricity at the flip of a switch, bathtubs (not to mention actual hot and cold running water), washing machines, but particularly dryers (as there was just something about freshly laundered clothes – and while they could get things clean by hand in camp, with all the humidity, nothing ever completely dried) and of course air conditioning.

It was, however, hard to explain how it had been worth it to be without those things when in exchange you didn’t have to worry about being roused in the middle of the night by the phone.

Nor did Sara possess the words to convey what it had been like living in a world where there actually was the time to enjoy and appreciate the way that the stars slowly winked and blinked into existence, time to learn what the various noises of the night meant and time, too, to be able to pause and track the flutter of wings until they disappeared into the green. For that is what the forest had really blessed her with – time.

But mostly it had been Grissom that had made it as memorable as it had been and Sara was pretty sure Catherine really wasn’t interested in hearing about that (this assumption of course proving to be wholly inaccurate).

Paris was easier, required far less explanation and elicited far more fascination. Except Sara’s practical experience with Haute Couture was limited to a single afternoon when she hadn’t been able to convince Clare, her twenty-something French tutor, that clothes shopping was one Parisien pastime she possessed no interest in whatsoever. So they’d taken Sara’s still shaky français for a test drive along the various boutiques along the Rue St. Denis. That lone experience had been enough – more than enough in her opinion. Although ultimately, the look of rapt appreciation on her husband’s face when she’d come down the stairs wearing the dress they’d picked out had more than made up for it.

She didn’t tell Catherine that part either.

Besides, there were plenty of other things to talk about and before long, their plates were cleared and yet they still sat there sipping at cups of tea and chatting.

Frank’s was always good for that.

It was strange, Sara mused, how that in a city that professed to have no memory, this place of all places would be so rich with them.

Rich with the celebrations and commiserations, all those countless meals they’d shared, stories swapped, jokes told and spirited debates held (that had led to the occasional disagreement).

And even Sara had to allow that perhaps tradition wasn’t such a bad a thing, for there was something to be said for certain traditions.

Even Grissom, who seldom fell prey to the sway of sentiment, always spoke with such fondness of the place, particularly about that last meal he and the rest of the team had shared here right before Warrick was killed. They’d been together then (all but Sara) having breakfast as friends – as family.

One last precious moment of normalcy.

He had told her as much once; that that was the last moment of contentment he’d had for a long time. But the laughter and joy and peace of those minutes would forever be linked and turned bittersweet by what happened after.

Thoughts of that after brought something to Sara’s mind that she’d long wanted to know, but couldn’t ask Grissom.

It wasn’t like they had never talked about it, her and Grissom and what it had been like for him after she’d left and he’d stayed, during all those months they’d been more apart than they ever had. Except Sara was fairly certain that there had been far more to it than what he’d been willing to admit. For she knew that there had been more than just the sleepless afternoons and nightmares. Knew there was more to the weariness that had hung about his eyes than simple fatigue. That it wasn’t just overwork in how he’d gotten so thin while she’d been away.

Not that he’d lied to her — or deliberately kept things from her. It wasn’t that. But Gil Grissom did have the tendency to judiciously edit past events, particularly if he believed the whole truth to be hurtful.

Catherine on the other hand —

Sara knew, too, that if she could get a more complete version out of anyone, it would be Catherine who could be trusted to be frank and honest – even brutally so, because that was what you got with Catherine – frank and honest, and then some.

As if the dregs there might possess the answers to what she most wanted to ask, or at least hint as to how she could even begin, Sara stared down at the remains of her mostly empty mug, bobbing the already over-used tea bag into the now nearly tepid water, more to have something to do with her hands than anything.

From the sudden somber silence, Catherine sensed that there was something troubling Sara, but knowing her as long as she had, she understood that there was no point in rushing her. Sara would get it all out in her own time.

And she did — eventually.

Although “How… how bad was it, really after –” was all she’d been able to really say.

She may have been taken aback by the question, but Catherine instantly grasped what Sara meant, even if she didn’t answer at once. Instead, she appeared to be weighing her words carefully, very carefully.

“At first,” she began, “all of us were just so shook up after Warrick was…”

Killed, seemed to get caught in Catherine’s throat and Sara nodded in apprehension. She would not soon forget how particularly hard it had been on Grissom, but Warrick’s sudden murder had been hard on all of them, horribly hard.

“But there was still the work,” Catherine continued after a while. “And I suppose things eventually started to go back to normal. Well, as normal as normal ever gets around here,” she shrugged with a sad sort of smile. “Except for Grissom.

“He just seemed to be getting worse. The distraction. Preoccupation. Maybe he just didn’t have the energy to attempt to hide it anymore.

“He wouldn’t talk to me. He wouldn’t talk to anyone. Hell, even Hodges tried.

“It wasn’t Warrick. Not just Warrick. Or the job.”

For the Gil Grissom Catherine had so long known had always had his walls, always been slightly separate from everyone else. There would be moments when those barriers would slip, when his carefully constructed façade would fail him and fall. But that autumn right before he’d left, there hadn’t just been walls, there’d been heavily fortified barricades built from silence and pain. Grissom hadn’t even been the ghost of himself then. It was almost as if the heart and soul of him had gone and only his body remained behind. And there had been nothing she could do about it — for weeks and months.

Catherine finally settled on saying, “Honestly, Sara, he was lost without you.”

And from where she sat, Catherine could see those words were wounding enough.

The uneasy stretch of silence that followed probably only seemed to last a lot longer than it did. It was only seconds really before Catherine gave Sara a soft reassuring smile.

Even though she had no idea what had passed between Grissom and Sara over the years, what had brought them together and what pushed them apart, she knew two things for certain. One, that Sara had never intentionally meant to hurt him in that way, and two, that she was and is the best thing to ever happen to her erstwhile boss and colleague, and most of all friend.

She didn’t hesitate to tell Sara this second thing now.

And then said, “But once he decided to go, I’ve never seen anyone so certain of anything.”

Sara seemed to brighten slightly at this, or at least met Catherine’s gaze again.

“He told me you weren’t surprised when he told you he was going,” she said softly.

“I wasn’t,” Catherine readily admitted.

Just as she had told Grissom, she knew, had known, before he did. Had ever since she’d first glimpsed the two of them alone together after Grissom’s unwitting confession in front of the team.

Hearing that Sara was now awake, she, Nick, Warrick and Greg had stopped by to see her at Desert Palms once their shift was done. Warrick and Nick had been busy trying to charm the sour faced nurses into turning a temporary blind eye when it came to the unit’s two visitors at a time rule, when Catherine had just been about to knock on the partially open door to announce their presence.

Until she saw them.

They were sitting together. Grissom perched on the edge of the bed, Sara propped up with pillows and them talking with that quiet comfortable ease of long-held intimacies. Just talking as if they were the only two people in all the world. And for them, they likely were, even there amid the hustle and bustle of the ICU.

With all the din of the ward, Catherine couldn’t quite make out what they were saying. She didn’t need to. Not to see that Grissom’s words back in the lab had not been spoken from out of longing and wanting and yet never having, but from possessing and treasuring that possession accordingly.

Then Sara had reached up with her good hand (encumbered even as it was by the tightly taped IV), her face concerned and tender.  His eyes, which momentarily closed at the caress of her thumb along his cheek, were warm when he opened them again, his expression not one Catherine could quite name nor recall ever seeing Grissom wear before.

But in that moment, the love between them was blindingly obvious.

Even if it was all absolutely innocent, it was intimate all the same. Even more intimate in some ways than if she had caught the two of them kissing or locked in a passionate embrace.

And private as it was, the others didn’t need to see it. She’d been glad that Greg had been distracted by Nick and Warrick’s antics and seen nothing. So she could mutter something to guys about how with Sara just having woken up that perhaps they should give them a couple more minutes alone before they all barged in. While the others may have looked momentarily perplexed, they’d readily acquiesced.

Catherine had never forgotten the incident.

Not because it had been so unexpected, or not just. Like the rest of the team (sans Greg as it turned out), she’d been flummoxed when Grissom had spoken of Natalie taking away the only person he’d ever loved. He probably hadn’t even realized he’d even been speaking aloud, let alone what he was saying then.

Afterwards, you could have heard a pin drop. It had been that still.

Surprised, hell yes, she’d been surprised to find out that Grissom hadn’t really been some lonely workaholic for all the time she’d known him. That it had more than likely been quite some time since he’d had been. And from the way Sara had been gazing at him, it was plain the feelings were mutual. Even if Catherine and the rest hadn’t even had the slightest clue.

Even now she still had plenty of questions, not the least of which were how and why and when – the what and who had been plainly evident. Grissom’s amused, yet tight lipped attitude about it the few times she’d managed to bring up the topic of him and Sara had only served to deepen her curiosity.

But no, she hadn’t been the least bit surprised when Grissom had said he was leaving, momentarily taken aback perhaps, but not surprised. And even though he never gave his reasons, she’d known why and been pleased.

“How is he?” Catherine asked.

“Good.”

“Driving you crazy yet?”

“He has his moments,” Sara had to concede, although the fond smile and that hint of a twinkle in her eyes tended more to disprove her words.

Catherine wasn’t worried. While marriage was always an adjustment – and both Sara and Grissom had been single for so long it was bound to be a bit of a change for the two of them, she had little doubts that they would make it work. Even if they never seemed to do anything the easy way.

But before she could say as much to Sara, Catherine’s phone let out an insistent peal. Taking in the text message, she swore.

“More work?” Sara asked.

“Worse,” Catherine sighed. “Motherhood calls. I promised to take Lindsey to look for a dress, and if I don’t go, more than likely she’ll come back with something that makes what we used to wear to dance in look conservative.”

At this display of parental hypocrisy, Sara couldn’t help but smile.

“Speaking of dresses,” Catherine began as she rose. “I never did get the chance to ask you. Did he like the dress?”

For a little more than four years ago, Sara had out of the blue stopped by Catherine’s office in want of advice on where to buy a dress, of all things. Not that Catherine had known whom the date had been with then.

“The one from Sandra’s?” Sara asked, as she got to her own feet. Then with an appreciative chuckle said, “Yeah, he did.”

“And?”

“And what?” Sara echoed in reply.

“And someday, you’re going to have to tell me the story behind that smile,” Catherine said as they stepped out into the heat of a late October afternoon.

Although Catherine knew from that same grin that she shouldn’t hold her breath. She wasn’t likely to be getting any more about it out of Sara than she had from Grissom, something that didn’t surprise her in the slightest.

She’d managed to unlock her car door and had it halfway open when Sara said, “It was never meant to be secret. Just private.”

Catherine nodded. “I know.”

And she knew, too, that when Sara next said, “And Catherine, thanks,” she wasn’t talking about lunch or the dress advice, but about their talk and Grissom. So she simply smiled and told her she would see her tonight.

Sara watched Catherine drive away before getting into her Prius. But instead of starting up her own car, she found that she’d taken up her phone and dialed almost before she realized what she’d done.

It wasn’t until a sleepily murmured “Hello?” came back from the other end that Sara glanced down at her watch. It was nearly four, which meant it was well passed midnight in Paris.

She cursed slightly under her breath before saying, “Gil, I’m sorry. I – I didn’t realize –”

“It’s okay.”

“I – I didn’t mean to wake you — ”

“Honey, it’s okay,” Grissom insisted.

He didn’t sound irritated, if anything more than him being genuinely happy to hear from her even despite the hour, it was concerned.

“Is everything all right?” he asked.

“Yeah. Yeah,” she continued with an unaccustomed stutter. “I um… I just called… I wanted… I’m… I’m sorry –”

After talking with Catherine, part of her had wanted to say she was sorry, not for giving in to the impulse and desire to speak with him right then, irrespective and without noting the time, but for all the hurt and ache and pain she hadn’t meant to cause him, but had. Sorry, too, that she hadn’t been there for him. That all her best intentions had only made things worse. Sorry about so many things. But there was something in his voice when he’d answered. Something that reminded her that sometimes apologies really were just words and all the I’m sorrys in the world couldn’t undo the past or change what had happened.

And ultimately, she found that wasn’t what she really wanted or needed to tell him right then.

She finally stopped stammering long enough to say, “I love you.”

When Grissom replied, his words were as soft and warm and tender as any caress.

“Sara,” he said. “Never apologize for calling to do that.”

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. mbonthecorner
    Feb 15, 2010 @ 07:55:30

    “They’d taken Sara’s still shaky Francais for a test drive…”

    Oh, those pesky French capitalization rules! In the midst of your very tender story, this sentence gave me a chuckle- in French, language names are not capitalized. When you do capitalize, it actually means “a Frenchman” (of course I know that Sara would never cheat on her man!) @:)Marcia

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: