I learned my lesson from the drive out; so on the way back to the lab I keep silent. On the way out, I'd kept up a steady stream of chatter, trying to get some reaction out of her, all to no avail. The woman beside me has scarcely uttered a word since we left the lab a couple of hours ago, on our way to Nowheresville to interview some scumbag suspect. I thought it'd get better during the interrogation, expected Sara to do all the fancy science talking, but like I said, she was quieter than I think I've ever seen her since I've known her, and for Sara, that's pretty quiet.
I guess I've got a pretty good idea why she's in such a mood; let's face it, anybody who's spent any more than five minutes in and around the CSI lab over the last couple of months would know that. There's irony in the fact that, for the first couple of years that she was working here, Sara Sidle was known as the resident labrat. If you were looking for her, either on shift or off, all you had to do was page her; she was bound to be around the lab somewhere, and she'd be at your side in minutes. I don't know how many people I heard expressing the opinion that she needed to get herself a life outside of work, or that she needed a man in her life. Of course, this being a division of the LVPD, it was stated far more crudely than that. Didn't make it any less true though.
You've gotta hand it to the girl though. When she got herself a life, she certainly got herself a life.
Dating the EMT was no big deal; it wouldn't be the first time someone hooked up with someone else in a different division of law enforcement. Take Stokes and Secula for example, although that's probably not the best one to pick. Sara and Hank though, they looked like a different thing, they looked like they could last. At least, that's what the office scuttlebutt said.
What the office scuttlebutt doesn't know is how the wheels came off the wagon. All we really know for sure is that one minute, it was all on with Sara and Hank. Seemed like the next thing we knew, it was all off, and she was dating Warrick Brown.
What the gossipmongers made of that can be easily imagined. Depending on who you believed, she and Warrick had either been seeing each other off and on the whole time she was with Hank, or they had some mad passionate encounter that precipitated her break-up with Hank. Other people swore up and down that she and Warrick only began dating after she was dumped by Hank, that he was her rebound guy; still more people had it that Warrick had been pining after her for months and had finally found the courage to make his move. There are other rumours going around about why she broke up with Hank; but that's a whole 'nother realm, some of which are heading straight for science fiction.
Me, I don't know what the story is, nor do I care. If twenty and more years of police work have taught me anything, it's that the truth is most likely somewhere in the middle, and frankly, it's none of my business.
Besides which, Warrick and Sara, together they make sense, far more sense than I ever would have thought possible. He brings her out of herself, relaxes her while she calms him down, brings him back when it looks as if he's going off the deep end. They've been spending every spare minute together for the last six weeks or thereabouts; there have even been times when you walk into the break room and find the two of them there, not getting up to any funny business but just talking quietly, holding hands. Catherine's been known to get all gooey-eyed when she sees them together, but for myself and the rest of the guys, it's not such an event. Frankly, I think we'd nearly rather catch them in some giant lip-lock, at least that we could make fun of. This is more...intimate somehow, and to make fun of it seems somehow profane.
All this serves to tell me why Sara's in such a bad mood today, because I was the one who walked in on them earlier on when I dragged her out of the lab to go suspect-hunting with me. They were standing on the far side of the break room, talking quietly, though talking's not quite the word. More hissing at one another, and you could've cut the tension in the room with a knife. I knocked on the doorframe, telling them that I was sorry to interrupt, but that I needed Sara, and when she turned to me, I kinda regretted interrupting them. Her face was pale, stressed, not that I blame her. If I had the entire lab gossiping about my sex life, I'd be pale and stressed too. He just looked pissed off, but then again, same point applies. Neither of them is getting it easy right now. She didn't look like she wanted to be off to the middle of nowhere with me, and he didn't look like he wanted to let her go, telling her that they'd finish their talk later on. Her response to that stunned me; I didn't know the girl knew words like that.
I'm so lost in thought as I drive, trying to ignore her mood, not wanting to say or do anything to get a reaction out of her, that when she does speak, I almost don't hear her. "What?" I say, glancing across at her, and what I see has me acting on instinct, not even needing her to repeat herself.
"Stop the car," she says again, hand already on the door handle, seat belt unsnapped, and she's even paler now than she was earlier on in the break room. In fact, she's faintly green around the gills, with beads of sweat on her brow, and my tyres squeal and gravel flies up from the dirt road as I pull the car over. I barely have time to put on the brake before she's got the door open, stumbling out of the car. She takes a couple of steps away, moving towards the back of the car, but she leaves the door open, and seconds later, I hear the unmistakable sound of everything she's eaten in the last few hours making an unexpected reappearance.
Reaching into the glove compartment, I find the bottle of water that I usually carry there. It's slightly warm, but it's going to be better than nothing. I get out of the car slowly, coming around from the front rather than the back, wanting to give her some time to pull herself together, and I take the time to pull a handkerchief from my pocket, checking that it's clean before getting ready to offer it to her.
I'm not an expert in these things, but it seems to take her a long time to stop, and when she does, she straightens up for a second, leaning back against the car, gulping down deep breaths of air. I think it looks fairly safe, so I take a couple of steps towards her, shoving closed the open passenger door, pausing when she leans forward again, still breathing deeply, hands on her knees.
I don't say anything, not until she looks over at me, and I'm glad to see some colour in her cheeks. Then again, it could just be embarrassment. "Sorry," she says sheepishly, and I shrug, giving her my best friendly smile.
"No problem," I tell her, unscrewing the cap on the bottle of water, holding it out to her. "Just tell Brown that he's not to take you to any of those cheap restaurants on the Strip anymore."
What I'm sure is supposed to be a grin crosses her lips, and she straightens up, reaching for the water. That proves to be a mistake though, because her face instantly blanches again, and she just about has time to utter the words, "Oh God," and turn away from me before she's once more bent double, vomiting.
I'm not a betting man, and it's a good thing, because after the first time I would have said that there was nothing left there to come up. She proves me wrong though, and by the time she straightens up, I'm getting more than a little worried about her. I don't care what kind of slop Brown fed her, it shouldn't be affecting her like this.
After an age, she straightens up again, leaning back against the car, hands once again on her knees, and she turns to look at me, her cheeks not as red as the last time, but not as pale as they have been either. Wordlessly, she holds her hand out for the bottle, and when I tilt my head in equally silent question, she nods once. "I'm ok Brass," she tells me, and something in her voice makes me believe her. I hand her the bottle and she takes a large gulp of it, her face screwing up as she does so.
"Sorry it's warm," I say, and she shakes her head before turning it to one side and spitting out the water.
"It's fine," she tells me before she takes a couple of small sips, tilting her head up to the sky, closing her eyes. I hold out the handkerchief to her, the material brushing against the bare skin of her arm, and she looks over at me, smiling wanly. "No. Thank you."
I nod, shoving it back into my trouser pocket, leaning back against the car, mimicking her posture. "You know Sidle," I begin. "I'm no doctor...but maybe we oughtta think about getting you checked out." Another smile is my only answer and she raises the bottle to her lips with a shake of her head. Undaunted, I try again. "I mean, I know food poisoning can be nasty, and the way you were-"
She interrupts me, still with the faintest ghost of a smile on her face, as if she knows something that I don't. "It's not food poisoning Brass," she tells me, and I frown, looking curiously at her. She shrugs, that same small smile on her face. "I'm pregnant." I must do a lousy job of keeping the surprise off my face, because she chuckles to herself. "Know that feeling," she comments wryly.
The countryside around us fades, replaced by the interior of the break room at CSI, and instead of seeing her on her own, I see her with Warrick, serious looks on both their faces, an quiet argument in progress if ever I saw one. That in mind, I make an educated guess as to what went down. "And Warrick's not too happy about it?"
Even as I say the words, they don't ring quite right, because I've seen Warrick around kids, most notably Lindsey Willows. It's obvious that he dotes on that little girl, and I can't see him being any less enthusiastic about kids of his own. Of course, if I were seeing a woman who got pregnant so early in the relationship, it'd freak me out too -
- Except for Sara's still got that vague smile on her face, and she gives another shrug as that thought hits me. Cue the sound of a thousand pennies dropping as I realise exactly what the next words out of her mouth are going to be. "He's happy about it," she says quietly, which isn't what I was expecting. That comes next, when she concludes, "Considering it's not his baby."
I take a deep breath, looking straight ahead rather than at her. "You're sure?"
She chuckles. "I've got a physics degree from Harvard Brass," she reminds me, but she's not angry, or being cruel about it, just resigned. "I can count to twenty-eight." She draws in a deep breath, letting it out slowly. "I've done the maths a hundred times. It's Hank's baby, no doubt."
"How's that playing?" I'm not even sure if I should be asking the question, but this is Sara Sidle I'm talking to; if I overstep my bounds, she won't be shy about smacking me down. It doesn't look as if she's going to though, because when I chance a look at her, she's staring straight ahead too, her jaw set firm.
"I told Hank." The name is uttered with more venom than I've ever heard come from Sara before, and I re-evaluate my assessment of their break-up. Whatever happened, the schmuck didn't come out of it well. "He informed me that he didn't want anything to do with the baby. Even offered to sign, and I quote, 'anything you like' to relieve him of responsibility. He also went to the trouble of pointing out to me that since I had a new man in my life, I wouldn't exactly be looking for him to play daddy." Her lips twist up bitterly and she shrugs. "Real prince, huh?"
"And Warrick? How's he taking it?"
She shrugs, this time though, with a smile. "Thrilled," she says. "He wants me to move in with him, wants us to raise it together...wants the whole family thing."
I frown in confusion, because I would have thought that that was no bad thing. "That's good though, right?"
"Is it?" Her voice is flat, emotionless. "You've heard what they're saying about us, the talk, the gossip...what the hell do you think people are going to say about this?"
"That's not what's bothering you though." The words come without me having to think about them, and I know I've scored a direct hit when she looks down. "You're Sara Sidle," I continue. "You've never given a damn what people think about you. What you're afraid of is that Warrick's not going to love a kid that's not his own."
She looks up at me slowly, eyes serious. "Could you?" she asks me.
Once again, I don't have to think about the answer. "I did."
Her eyes open wide in shock, and she opens her mouth, but no words come out. I shrug, knowing that I've no choice now but to be as frank with her as she was with me. "I'm not Ellie's natural father," I tell her simply. "My wife...I was working crazy hours, she was left home alone a lot of the time...didn't much like that, so she found someone else. She left me." I can still remember coming home that night, finding the house dark and cold, the note lying on the table. It was three whole days before she got in touch with me, arranged a time to come by the house and finish breaking my heart in person. "I was crazy about her...begged her to come back to me. But she didn't; not until she found out she was pregnant. Seems the guy she was with, and I never knew who he was, was like your Hank. Didn't want a kid as part of the deal. She came back to me, told me everything, that she thought she'd made a mistake. I was so in love with her that I agreed to take her back. We never mentioned it again, and six months later, Ellie was born. She still doesn't know."
I swallow hard, and hear her take in a deep breath. "Brass..." is all she says, and I reach out a hand towards the bottle of water, and she hands it over, wiping the rim off first. Her face is uncertain, and I'm pretty sure I know what she's thinking.
"I know that Ellie and I don't have the best of relationships," I admit after taking a drink, looking away from her. "You know that too." She gives me a weak smile, no doubt remembering working that case with Warrick. "But what you have to know is that's not because of that. I left her and her mother when she was nine years old, moved all the way out here...I was a lousy dad, I'll admit to that." I can still see the anger in Ellie's eyes when she spat on my badge, see something that looked like hurt and regret there the last time I saw her, when she told me that it was too late to get back what we'd lost. Then time flows backwards, and I remember her when she was a little girl, all blonde pigtails and pudgy innocence, how she'd look at me like I hung the moon. How she looked the day that she was born, and during those magical night feedings when it seemed like we were the only two people awake as the rest of the world slept.
"But I'll tell you something," I say, when the lump in my throat subsides. "I love her. Not as if she was mine...she is mine. No matter what's happened between us, no matter what the DNA says, she's my little girl, and there's nothing I wouldn't do for her."
I didn't look at her the whole time that I was speaking, and when I pause, she takes a deep breath. "He's happy now..." she tells me slowly. "Thinks that this is what he wants. He's not thinking about what it's going to be like eight months down the road... when he's looking into the face of a baby that's not his...and obviously not his." I hear another shuddering intake of breath before she sighs, "I don't know if I could handle that."
"I had my doubts," I admit. "The same ones you have about Warrick. But the second Ellie was born, the second I saw her...none of that mattered. Warrick's gonna be the same. I guarantee you." I'm confident in that belief, and I pause to look at her, seeing tears brimming in her eyes. "He might not be the father," I continue, "But there's a world of difference between being a father and being a dad." She tilts her head back to the sky, and I see her throat working furiously as she tries to keep the tears back, but one escapes anyway, tracing a path down her cheek. "You two are going to be fine," I tell her, and she covers her face with her hands, emitting a sound somewhere between a laugh and a sob.
"Would you stop making me cry?" she asks, with what's definitely more of a laugh, and I reach into my pocket, once more pulling out my handkerchief, handing it over to her. This time she takes with, using it to scrub her cheeks.
"Blame it on hormones," I suggest, and she giggles again, turning a brilliant smile on me. "Hey," I shrug. "Isn't that what all pregnant women do?"
"So I hear," she jokes, wiping her eyes and standing up straight, pushing her hair back, looking for all the world like a woman on a mission.
I take the hint for what it is, straightening myself up, resting one hand on the roof of the car, the other going to my hip. "You ready to head back?"
She nods, but doesn't otherwise move. "Thank you," she says after a moment, and I lift my hands with a smile.
"You tell anyone we had this conversation and I'll deny it," I tell her, mock-sternly. "Wouldn't want to be losing my tough guy reputation."
She chuckles, her hand dropping onto my shoulder as she walks to the passenger door. "Your secret's safe with me," she promises.
"Well then," I say, opening the door for her. "You're welcome." She gets into the car with a smile, rolling down the window, and I hover there until she does, resting my hands on the window ledge. "Now, you're sure you're not going to need to stop again? Cause you're gonna have to give me a bit more warning..."
She rolls her eyes. "Would you just get in the car and drive?" she commands, a laugh in her voice, and if I remember anything from twenty-odd years ago, it's that arguing with a pregnant woman really isn't a good idea. That in mind, I come around to the driver's seat and do as I'm told, deciding that when we get back to the lab, the case can take a back seat for a few minutes.
After all, Sara's got to have a little chat with Warrick.
All of a sudden, I feel like calling my daughter.