She never wore perfume. She knew better than that, scent could be an important sense at a crime scene. But there were smells he associated with her. The artificial syrupy tang of Diet Coke, the clean green smell of cucumber from the hand lotion she smoothed on when her hands got chapped and dry from the latex gloves, the warm animal smell of her skin—uniquely Sara and something he thought he could almost trail like a bloodhound sometimes—and this smell: concrete and ozone and motor oil. Call it Eau De Garage, but when he smelled it Sara was born in his mind's eye like a Bottecelli Venus. Except this Venus was wearing heavy blue coveralls, her hair twisted into a messy knot at the nape of her neck, and she had a smudge of grease on one cheek.
Also, he doubted Bottecelli's fair and diffident maiden would grunt quite as sexily as she wrenched a heavy chrome bumper loose. The sound of Sara at work sometimes was distracting; the sighs when she was weary but not yet ready to give up and call it a night, the angry little hisses of breath when evidence baffled, the songs she sang softly to herself when she was in the zone, and, of course, the grunts. The sound of feminine effort in action. He has come to terms with the fact that one part of his brain will always wonder if she makes those sounds other times—when the actions to which she's applying herself were decidedly more pleasurable than taking apart a Dodge Charger looking for trace evidence.
Gil Grissom still felt the ghost of Catholic guilt move through him when he thought such things. Useless and immature, he knew this, but there it was all the same—the sweetly familiar sin—lust. He lingered a moment in the tiny vestibule leading to the garage and let the heavy doors swing silently closed behind him. He was listening to her work. He closed his eyes and conjured Sara, naked now, no coverall. A few strands of hair had escaped the band holding her hair back and gently brushed her cheek as she moves over him. She still had the smear of oil on her cheek. He could almost taste the petroleum tang of it mixed with her sweat...
He pursed his mouth in a wry grin when he realized he was eavesdropping. Another sin, he supposed. It's interesting how damnably persistent religion was; you could reject it and revile it and still it lingered. Instead of telltale ring around the collar it left its telltale ring around your soul. His mildly titillating thoughts, normal when one considered how often men thought about sex on average—never mind what some of the creatures he's encountered in this job get off on—acquire the luster of the forbidden when viewed through the lens of Catholicism. Maybe that's why he didn't fight it so hard anymore; it has made his innocent desires erotic and illicit.
Regretfully he pushes the fantasy from him, not so far that he couldn't reach for it again later. Grissom needlessly reshuffled the photographs he was bearing. They were already in order, but fiddling with them gave him a minute longer to collect his thoughts before rounding the corner to approach her.
"Let me guess. Falafel for lunch again—extra garlic?"
A trick of the acoustics in the garage made it seem as if Greg was standing right next to him. A slight frown creased Grissom's brow. That's right—Greg had been assisting Sara with evidence collection on this case. Usually, even on late shift, the garage echoed with machine noises as CSI techs labored over modern America's second favorite crime scene, the car. But there had been a slow period for vehicular crime lately, one of those oddball statistical anomalies that cropped up now and then. Like the week they'd gotten three deaths due to mauling; two dog attacks, a Rottweiler and a pit bull, pretty standard. The exotic dancer who had used a panther in her act until that last fateful striptease had been the standout case that week, he recalled. Unusual came with the territory in this job but the end result of this atypically slack period was that the car Sara was working was the only one currently in the garage for processing. And Greg was with her; he'd forgotten she wasn't alone as he'd been expecting.
"What?" Sara's voice was slightly less clear. Grissom heard the sharp whine of a drill, two quick pulses of noise resonating in the garage, then Sara's voice again. "Help me with this." A moment later the resonant clang of old school Detroit iron hitting concrete. Grissom pictured Sara and Greg taking the car apart as effectively as surgeons.
"Your breath, Sara, to put it kindly, reeks worse than Godzilla's." Greg again.
"Garlic is good for you." she quipped.
"Not if you're trapped underneath a car in close proximity to someone who obviously enjoyed a whole bunch of it."
"It's not that bad, I brushed after lunch. Anyway, if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all, or did you miss that day in Kindergarten?" Grissom smiled as she put him in his place. "Hand me that ratchet. No not that one! That one." The rolling scrape of a dolly on the floor as she scooted back underneath the chassis again.
"I'm suddenly having a flashback to that terrible year I was forced to take auto shop in high school."
"I liked shop. I got an A." Subtle pride was in her voice.
"I'll bet you got an A. Nerds always do."
"Oh yeah, what'd you get, hot shot?"
A moment of silence broken only by the cranking sound of
"A C minus."
"Yeah-yeah. I bow to you, Sara Sidle the Car Genius, but lemme ask you this...if you're so good at fixing cars, why don't you fix your own then?"
"I couldn't be bothered—here, take these." Tiny clinks as she hands him something, bolts most likely. "There's no mystery to solve, no clues to find. Besides, I just like taking the cars apart...it's not so much fun putting them back together."
"Tweakers like to do that, too. Take things apart when they're high."
"How do you know what tweakers like to do?"
"A&E. There was a special on methamphetamine. 'America's New Scourge!'"
"It's time well spent..." Greg said in a passable Bill Curtis impression.
Grissom pictured Sara's imperiously outstretched hand demanding the tool.
Now Greg would be handing the tweezers over to her, slapping them into her palm. Grissom had to admit, they were a good team. He leaned against the wall and listened a moment more.
"Here, bag and label this."
"Ooo, a fiber! Nice."
"I do good work."
"You've also got most of the General Lee all over the floor here..."
"General Lee was a 69 Charger; this is a 74 and it's black."
"I stand corrected. I never knew you were such a gearhead. It's kind of a turn on actually."
Grissom found he was frowning again. He made an effort to smooth his brow and cleared his throat to announce his arrival.
"I'm not a gearhead. I just really liked the TV show. I had a crush on Luke."
"Should I be worried?"
They hadn't heard him. Grissom halted; caught by the sense he was intruding on something more significant than just work. It was ridiculous but still, he paused and listened a moment longer.
"Naw. He's too old for me."
"Whereas I'm still young and full of the pimp juice."
"Full of something, that's for sure." Her voice was so happy.
"C'mere. You've got something on your cheek."
The sound of the dolly rolling closer, then giggles...then a silence. Rich and charged, the silence spoke with a significance he was loath to consider. It weighed on Grissom like a ton of bricks. When had all this happened? Why hadn't he realized it was happening?
"Guess my breath wasn't that bad after all." She sounded pleased with herself.
"I didn't uh...notice. But now that you mention it, maybe I ought to check again?"
"We shouldn't. We're at work." She didn't sound very convincing.
Greg sighed. "Yeah, I know...but you started it."
"And we'll finish it later. I promise."
"Holding you to that one, Sidle. Okay?"
"I should hope so."
Foolish. Foolish and old. That was all he felt right now. The shock didn't allow for much else. There may be traces of bitterness and anger, as shameful as that seemed, but the shock lay over all insulating him for the moment—one small mercy, at least. Intellectually he knew he had no right to feel this way. She had warned him that day that she'd move on, that when he did reach for her, there would be nothing for him to grasp. He hadn't realized how keenly he might feel the loss of even the stunted intimacy holding her at arm's length had given him. Grissom rubbed his forehead with a weary hand. He knew he shouldn't expect to feel the rude thrust of cuckold horns there. He just hadn't realized they actually existed; only they pointed inward, towards the heart.
"We should take what we have to Grissom." Sara was speaking. He began backing towards the door. "Do you have any gum?"
"Oh, real nice. The boyfriend gets the stinky breath version of you and the boss gets the socially acceptable version? Is that it?"
"It's a cruel world, babe." Sara laughed, then sobered.
Grissom halted in his retreat, sickly curious now. "C'mon, don't be like that, Greg. I'm with you aren't I?"
"Yeah." The boy's voice was grudging.
"Greg." Sara was quiet but even at a distance Grissom could hear her intensity. Helplessly he couldn't stop himself from picturing her face in his mind's eye. He knew exactly how she looked; he remembered it from when she'd looked at him like that. "I'm with you—that's it, that's all."
"So nothing. There's nothing there...not anymore."
He knew enough about people and the polite lies they told one another; the social lies that made life bearable and civilized when the ugliness threatened everything. He couldn't tell if she was lying to the boy, soothing his wounded ego. He wasn't sure if he couldn't tell because he suspected some part of him hoped she was lying.
"Well, this got serious all of a sudden, didn't it?" Greg was artificially cheerful.
"Yeah. Very Dr. Phil." Relief was evident in her voice, Greg knew when to back off, it seemed. Instead he seized the opening and started speaking in an affected Southern drawl.
"Well, you don't have to be a duck after a June bug to realize that ain't working for ya."
"That doesn't even make sense." Despite her mockery the happiness was back as well. Grissom could hear the light tap of her boot heels on the concrete as she stood up and started walking towards the exit. He drew back and pushed the door open soundlessly. The last thing he wanted was for her to see him now, but she didn't even look his way.
"No ma'am. I don't rightly expect it does, but sense ain't something a man can just pull out of a gunny sack and wear into town..."
"Knock it off and just give me some gum, you doofus." He could see them as they approached. She was grinning at him, at his antics. Grissom had always thought she was above that sort of behavior. The door swung closed, blocking him from hearing anything else, but the tiny window allowed him to witness one last act as they paused in the vestibule where he had been only moments ago.
Greg unwrapped a stick of gum and offered it to her. With a sexy smile Sara leaned forward, mouth open to receive the small pink sugary stick. Greg realized quickly what she intended and held the gum up to her. Seductively her lips brushed against his fingers as she took it from him. She drew the gum into her mouth and chewed slowly evidently savoring the taste; her tongue ran over her lips seeking the last few traces of sweetness. All the while her eyes never left Greg's own. The blurry plexiglass of the window did little to obscure the promise in them, the heat. She laughed knowingly at Greg's expression, at the slightly stunned smile on his face. She blew a bubble, popped it noisily and broke the spell. Her words were muffled, but even as she spoke them, Grissom's brain was busily translating them for him, reading the meaning off of those lips.
"Later...I'll show you what else I can do with my mouth."
Her finger traced a path down his chest and tapped against a button on his shirt as if sealing the deal.
"You promise?" Grissom couldn't hear the inflection but his mind filled one in for him anyway, anticipation.
"Cross my heart—" She solemnly matched her actions to her words.
Grissom turned before she was finished and retreated quickly down the hallway, heading—where exactly—anywhere but here.
He found himself in Brass' office. The man himself looked up when he entered; concern pulled his face into a worried scowl.
"What's up? You look like you've seen a ghost."
He couldn't bring himself to answer; he just sank into the chair in front of Brass' desk.
"You could say that..."
"Want to talk about it?"
Brass nodded and pulled open the drawer where he kept the bourbon. He dumped the dregs of some cold coffee into a sickly looking plant—not for the first time from the condition of the plant—and poured a healthy shot into the mug and pushed it across the desk towards Grissom. Absently Grissom picked it up, pleased to note his hands weren't trembling, and knocked it back. Brass held up the bottle with an inquiring look but Grissom shook his head, one was enough—for now. The taste of the bourbon, flavored with old coffee, was sour and his stomach felt queasy.
His mind was also in an uproar. Always so quick to make connections, solve puzzles, find clues, it had recreated what he had missed and was playing it over and over again. Sara's lips shaping the rest of the phrase: and hope to die...
That was it, wasn't it?
She'd crossed her heart and hope had died.
He changed his mind and pushed the mug towards Jim once more. Without a word the man poured another shot for him. Unlike a priest, he suspected Brass knew that sometimes confession wasn't always good for the soul.
Grissom silently toasted his friend and drank.
Summary: Grissom is a reluctant witness to a moment of communion between Greg and Sara