|Title: Pork-U-(and I)-Pine
Author: Summer Reign
Spoilers: Through season 5
Disclaimer: Yada, yada...in conclusion, I don't own them.
Summary: Hmmmm…I can write oddball titles but can't come up with a decent summary. Let's just say, Sara and Grissom experiment with pork. Again.
Word of his 'date' with Sofia spread through the lab like wildfire. He wasn't sure why it surprised him, but it did. Even though he discouraged the rampant transmission of unsubstantiated rumor, when a juicy bit of information entered the picture, it seemed as if half his staff turned into gossipmongers. And among this group was a sub-group of well-meaning individuals who not only collected and discussed the information with as much enthusiasm as they would a new discovery published in the latest edition of The Scientific American, but also felt the need to dispense unwanted, unasked for advice.
Most of the it could be summed up thusly: Go for it, if you must, but think about Sara. Depending on the advice-giver, that last bit could be interpreted in one of two ways: watch out for Sara's Feelings (Brass' contribution), or watch out for Sara--she's packing heat (courtesy of Catherine, who was still touchy about the Hallway Incident and seriously taking Ecklie's propaganda to heart).
And, now, he had to face Sara herself. She was standing in his doorway, as she did almost every morning before she went off shift. But it was pretty obvious she had something on her mind and she wanted to Talk. Decisions, decisions. Should he explain himself immediately (potentially sparing Feelings, even though he didn't know exactly what he should say) or duck under the desk until he could conjure up a little outfit made with a nice Kevlar lining?
Grissom was actually surprised to see her there. It wasn't really her style to argue with him once he did something. She dropped many a bombshell about her feelings toward him, never letting him off the hook in that department. But she never confronted him about his love life with other women (or lack thereof) before. About the only time she ever pushed him was when he turned down her dinner invitation. She tried to change his mind and…well, he was going deaf while she was having a knee jerk reaction to nearly getting blown to bits earlier in the day. That was the end of that.
And it was the end, a very stupid one. Later that self-same evening, when logic returned, he knew he'd continue to go deaf until he took a chance and got the operation that could potentially change his destiny. And, as for Sara, well, if anyone was entitled to have a "grab life by the balls" reaction, it was someone who had made it out of a smoke, fire and glass shower relatively unscathed. Besides, word on the grapevine (not that he actively listened to such things) was she had been following him like a puppy dog, trying to get his attention, before the big boom.
He really screwed up. Even as a boss. But especially as a friend—or whatever they were supposed to be. He should have encouraged her to vent, because she probably needed to. At the very least, he could have simply raised a glass and offered a toast in her honor, as a small gesture of gratitude that she was still among the living. It would have been a nicer gesture than treating her as if she was something with a major case of the cooties.
"Gris?" she said and he realized he had zoned her out during the last few seconds.
"Sorry. Long shift. You were saying?"
"Um. Nothing. I was just going to say I'd see you tonight."
"Oh," he said, sounding rather, well, stupid. "How is your case coming along?"
She smiled a bit. "Greg and I came up with a plan to test Johnson's alibi."
"Ah," he said, wanting to ask more questions but still feeling uneasy. He just didn't buy it. He didn't think her motive for coming into his office was at all work-related. She was just waiting for the right moment to spring the subject of Sofia on him, and he was going to get going while the getting was good. "Well, you can bring me up to speed tonight."
He grabbed his briefcase, squeezed past her in the doorway and was halfway down the hall when he heard her voice.
Uh-oh. Here it comes. But, not in the hall. She wouldn't.
He turned and put on his best all-business face. "Something else you needed to discuss, Sara?"
She looked at him in that way she had; the one that tried to look right through his eyes and into his soul. Damn. He hated that. Especially when he had something to hide.
And she knew that, too.
"No. Never mind. It's…see you later," she said, still standing against the now-closed door to his office.
He turned, letting out his massive sigh of relief almost before he was safely out of her hearing range.
A few minutes later, he stood stock still in the parking lot. There was a delivery truck from his favorite source of swine that, for one reason or another, could not be used for food or much of anything else. And there was Greg, loading up the back of his SUV with parts of a rather primitive looking barbecue spit, while the pig delivery guy was placing one of his specimens in the backseat of the vehicle.
Grissom's curiosity was definitely piqued.
"Greg, what are you doing with that pig? You do know it can't be consumed, don't you?"
"Yes, oh, Fatherly-One. Although I am flattered that you worry about my digestive well-being."
"Greg, what are you doing with the pig?"
"I'm hauling it out to the parking lot behind the old Hotel Stanley," he said, as if it was a normal part of everyone's daily routine.
"They tore that hotel down years ago."
"Exactly. But the parking lot is still there. And it's pretty much deserted since Sam Braun and that other dude are still in a bidding war over the property. Still, we got permission from the county to smoke the pig there. Thus, saving countless citizens from even the temptation of eating the aromatic but probably nasty pork."
"Yeah, me and Sara."
A little twinge of irritation gnawed at Grissom's stomach. Jealousy? Hell, no. Probably just the beginnings of an ulcer.
"You and Sara are going to sit in a parking lot and roast a pig? May I ask why?"
"Hey, you're the boss man. I guess Sara didn't catch you before you left the office, huh? She was going to tell you all of this. But, I'll be happy to fill-in for her."
Grissom gave him a quick scowl and Greg leaned against the side of the car to tell his tale. "Anyway—Alan Johnson—who we've always considered the chief suspect in his wife's murder has tried to wiggle his way out of it with a Kiss the Cook defense. They were having a Hawaiian party that night. His wife had to work. He claims he roasted the pig, then went off to have a quickie with his girlfriend—which she corroborates—big surprise, and then came home to find his wife dead on the kitchen floor. It's not like he even claimed to have left the spit unattended. No sir-ree. He said it took only six hours to roast a 68 pound pig, giving him time to go off and get off across town, while his wife came home and got herself murdered. But while everyone else took this at face value, we looked at this perfectly roasted pig and his rather crummy spit and surmised, quite brilliantly, I might add, that it would take far longer than six hours to roast—placing him at the scene at the time of the murder. Sara's gonna test it."
"I thought you said you were testing it with her?"
"I can't. I've got the Continuing-Ed seminar and you know I need the credits. Can't get out of it. So, I'll haul and set-up, she'll cook. Or is that barbecue?"
"She'll barbecue? Sara?"
"Hey, it's contaminated, anyway. It's not like she can hurt it anymore."
After helping Greg maneuver the rest of the spit into the back of his SUV, Grissom wished him good luck and went over to his own vehicle.
Why hadn't Sara told him about this?
Or, more to the point, why hadn't she tied him up and forced him to listen while he was zoning out on her and/or running down the halls of the lab in an effort to avoid her?
He wasn't worried about her cooking expertise, but the fact that she was cooking meat. Meat. That had to be difficult for her. There were no chops to hide the pig's identity. This non-food source had a face on him and Sara would have to stare at it as it went round and round over an open fire.
It was time to be a good boss, a good…friend, of sorts…and come to the rescue.
The scene in front of him, as he pulled his car into the parking lot of what used to be the rather rundown Hotel Stanley, was a kind of parallel universe version of the night he and Sara spent with his very own pig carcass.
This time it was broad daylight, and Sara was the one doing the documentation. The spit had already been assembled, the pig was starting to roast and Sara was sitting on a lawn chair, writing notes on a clipboard. A camera was set up for photographic evidence. She looked up in surprise as his SUV kicked up a few stray stones and caught her attention. She watched him park, and didn't take her eyes off him as he got out of the car and approached her.
"Hey," she said, as he approached. "I thought you were going home."
"I met Greg while he was loading the car. He mentioned pig experimentation and my thoughts immediately drifted toward the possibility of bugs," he shook his head in mock sadness. "Alas, I must have misinterpreted the situation."
She gave him a wistful smile. "No bugs. Just finding the chink in the armor of an alleged iron-clad defense." She stood up and pulled open another lawn chair, then gestured to it. "Have a seat."
"Well, Greggo said he may stop by after his class…so, I thought I'd be prepared."
Grissom sat down, remembered something he left on the front seat, then got up and went to the car. Once again, he felt her gaze on him as he picked up the bag and returned to her.
He pulled out two large cups of iced coffee from a Starbuck's bag, handing one to Sara. Her face lit up with a genuine smile. "Thank you. It's so hot out here and I was getting sick of water."
"And you're tired."
She nodded, not even attempting to deny the truth.
"And this assignment must 'pain' you," he said, recalling words she spoke so very long ago.
She smirked at his words, but then swallowed with difficulty. "It's just…I'm the one who suggested it. The smell of meat usually doesn't bother me much. But, seeing it…I just remember going to a farm once when I was a kid—all those animals, running around…" her eyes were focused on the roasting pig's face. Grissom always thought it was a barbaric custom. He could only imagine what Sara felt about it. She stared up at the bright mid-morning sun. Old trick. Look up to avoid tears. The only trouble was, it didn't really work well.
He put his hand on her shoulder, and she pushed the sunglasses from the top of her head down over her eyes.
"Go home, Sara. I'll do it."
She looked at him then. "No, absolutely not. That's not the way I work."
"I know that. You don't have to prove anything to anyone."
"Not even yourself. If you don't fully understand how strong you are by now…"
She gave him a brief, unamused laugh.
"Sara…" He screwed up already. She probably thought he was referring to her recent confession about her childhood. The thought never crossed his mind until he saw her reaction.
Deflect. He needed to deflect her attention away from what she thought he was saying, and focus it on something else, before she actually began to believe that he viewed her any differently now that he knew the truth about her family. She would absolutely hate that and he had enough complications to work through in their relationship without adding this miscommunication to the mix.
Okay. Now was SO not the time to bring this up, but it would definitely turn her thoughts in another direction. "I, um, wanted to talk about my 'date' with Sofia."
Sara snapped her head back to his, and then looked away quickly. In one split second, he made the shocking discovery that the rumor mill wasn't as efficient as he thought it was. She hadn't heard about it before. That much was obvious. She took a sip of her coffee and moistened her lips. She was about to say something, thought better of it, and said nothing.
"Uh, it wasn't really a date. It was…well, it was a business meeting that took place over dinner, really."
She nodded, slowly.
"She wanted to leave the lab and there were issues with Ecklie and I just felt work wasn't the best place to discuss the matter."
She nodded again, taking another long pull from her straw.
"Anyway, I wanted to tell you because things get blown out of proportion due to office gossip, and…"
"And you didn't want me to think that you would actually date a subordinate who is younger than you are. Actually, even a couple of years younger than I am—because that's just not something you do, is it?"
"That's not really a matter of discussion."
"No, I guess it's not," she said, getting up and manually turning the spit, wincing a bit as she took in the pig carcass. She snapped a picture, and Grissom frowned as he saw her run her hand down over her stomach.
"Are you okay?" He asked.
She nodded again.
"It wasn't a date. I went out with her because I knew it would mean nothing to her on a romantic level."
"I see. Kind of like how you recommended Nick for the promotion because it meant nothing to him," she said, and winced at her own words.
"Exactly," he said, realizing a second too late that it was the worst possible answer.
Sara sat down on the chair again and leaned back, her face toward the sun.
"You know," Grissom started. "I never meant to add any tension to your relationship with Nick. You both have a lot in common. As far as your approach to your jobs. And you seem to have a good rapport. I hope the past is the past and you're still friends. In fact, since you are both working different shifts…"
She removed her glasses and looked at him. "Are you trying to set me up with Nick?"
"No...not really," He wasn't trying to do that at all. Actually, quite the opposite. He was ready to admit, at least to himself, that his intentions when he invited Sofia to dinner weren't as pure as he implied. His feelings for Sara, especially lately, were beginning to get in the way again and he needed a little deflection himself. But it all came to a rather abrupt end when Sofia rather cattily suggested, over a rather disappointing plate of prime rib, that Nick and Sara were more than coworkers. The date ended that minute. And now he was just clumsily trying to find out if Sofia had just been spreading gossip, or stating fact.
"Well, don't waste your energy. Nick and I are like brother and sister. Well, a normal brother and sister," she sighed. Good. He could rule out Nick as a potential rival for her affections. Sara suddenly had a spark in her eye and she leaned forward in her seat a bit, "Now, Greg, on the other hand…"
"Greg?" for some reason, Grissom was now the one who felt nauseous.
"Yeah, he's more my 'type,' if you are, as Catherine would put it, encouraging me to 'fish off the company pier.'"
"Well, yeah. He's cute, funny, frighteningly intelligent, even though he does a good job of hiding it, and he kind of takes me out of myself. Not everyone can do that."
"Greg?" He takes her out of herself? What the hell did that mean? "Our Greg? The one who walks around with showgirl headpieces and dances around the lab Greg? He's so much younger than you."
She laced her fingers over her stomach. "Four years is not much, Grissom. Besides, I don't have a hang-up over age."
"I don't mean just chronological age. I mean, he's a baby, Sara."
"He's a baby who knows what he wants," she said, giving him a quick glance and then looking forward again.
They spent a few moments in silence. She suddenly seemed peaceful, calm, zen-like. He felt unsettled, sick and troubled. The thought that she was "playing" him did cross his mind. And the alternative was even more painful.
"Of course," Sara continued, her lips forming a tiny smile, "I've never once thought of how soft his lips were. Or if his hair curled around his ears when he first wakes up in the morning. Or if he would ever, just once, make me feel like I was more important than his accumulated baggage."
He almost questioned her about the type of baggage Greg might have and then thought better of it.
It took him a second but he realized they weren't talking about Greg anymore. He should have felt relief. Typically, he only felt…stuck, as to what he should say next, what move he should make.
He got up this time, and turned the pig, snapped pictures and wrote down a few notes on Sara's clipboard.
She sipped her coffee quietly, and leaned her head way back on the lawn chair.
"Do you have sunscreen on?" he asked. Why, why, why couldn't he say something important to her? They were totally alone and she was lying back with her long, lovely neck barely two feet away from him and he was asking her about what number SPF she used.
She gave him a sort of grunt in response.
"So, you are a woman who likes decisiveness?" he asked, wondering if it was some sort of heat exhaustion that kept him harping on the subject instead of wisely letting it die.
"And you are a man who rewards indifference," she stated in response.
He didn't know what else to say. He wanted her to tell him there would never be any one else in her life but him, and offer blanket forgiveness for whatever he was thinking of when he took out Sofia. But, so far, he just kept babbling like a fool. He better keep his mouth shut before he tried 'setting her up with Nicky' again and got her true confessions about Warrick, instead.
"If it's all right with you, I'm going to take a little walk. I feel a bit queasy." He looked at her. She did look a little pale and was turning her head away from what was going on at the spit.
"Sara, go home."
"No. I'll…just let me walk away from this for a few minutes, okay?"
"Of course. Take all the time you need."
It was his turn to watch her every move. She walked straight out of the parking lot and into the flattened piece of land that used to be the old hotel. He remembered the hotel well. It housed a lot of young families passing through town who couldn't afford accommodations on the strip, and old folks who desired company and found it in their massive common rooms. And it had been pink. A pink hotel.
He bet Sara didn't know that. There was the age difference. Right there.
With age, there came a vast collection of minutiae, along with a little bit of wisdom.
For example, with age came the knowledge that indifference was comfortable. No commitment expected; no commitment returned. Deciding on something meant sticking to it. Or at least putting forth the effort. That was exhausting. Sara never really had a settled life. She just didn't understand the choice he had to make.
But she was beautiful. And he wasn't even touching on the physical aspect of the word. From the day he met her, he was entranced by her energy, her fire, her determination. And, just why was she staying around here? He knew she had been crushed by his not recommending her for the promotion. He knew it. And he also knew that the reality of the situation was that Nick talked the good talk but definitely wanted the position as much, if not more, than Sara. Sara wanted it because she thought that was all she could get from Grissom. Professional acknowledgement. And he couldn't even give her that.
And, yet, she stayed. And probably would continue to stay until he did something so reprehensible…
But he wouldn't. He couldn't. Not anymore. Not intentionally.
He got up and tended to the pig. God, it was an awful sight. He never was crazy about whole fish being served at the dinner table either. Anything with eyes that still seemed to stare… He told himself to shut up before he asked Sara for Tofu lessons.
She didn't come back for nearly half an hour. When she did, she was slightly less pale, but extremely sweaty.
"Feel better?" he asked.
"Yeah, I do. Listen, you can go home now. It's been a long shift and I'm fine. Really. I'm also sorry about…some of the things I said. Sometimes, my internal censor takes a nap."
"I'm staying. Why don't you go in the car and relax for an hour or so? Turn on the air conditioner, the radio?" Heaven only knew he wouldn't dare ask her to take a nap. A flicker of interest hit her eyes.
"Are you sure? If I could just cool off for a few moments, I can definitely do the rest of the experiment solo."
"Hey, I'm fine out here. I'm gonna grab my hat, take out a book and get some sun and bask in this bacon-scented air. For the duration of the experiment, by the way. Oh, I forgot, if you're hungry, I brought bagels."
She let out a small whoop and went in his car to get them, then went into her own to listen to music and run the air conditioner for a while.
And there she stayed for a few hours until the cell phone rang and he grabbed it before it could wake her.
"Grissom," he whispered in the phone.
"Gris? Hey, isn't this Sara's phone?"
"Yeah, it is. I pickpocketed it earlier. She's napping in the car. How's the course?"
"It's over and I just wanted to know if I should head on out there."
"Yeah, you should. Unless something monumental happens, I'll give you the night off in exchange."
"All right! Hey, why is she napping?"
"She hasn't said anything but I think she's feeling sick from the roasting pig."
"She ate it?"
Oh yeah, this is the man she thought was spending so much time hiding his intelligence.
"No, Greg. She's a vegetarian. She prefers not to see an animal roasting on a spit."
"Oh, gotcha. Well, I'll be there in 15 minutes, okay? I'm just gonna grab a burger. Want anything?"
"No. Thank you."
Grissom hung up and walked over to the car. He opened the door and slid in next to her. She sat in the driver's seat, with her head back and to the side, facing the passenger seat, her breathing deep and even.
"Sara?" he said, quietly, and lifted his hand to gently stroke the side of her face. He couldn't resist. He'd only touched her a few times in the years he'd known her. Touches that could be explained away, if need be. Not like the one he was engaging in now, sliding his fingers along the rise of her cheekbone, down to her jaw, just to see if the milky complexion with the lovely rose hue was as soft as the peach skin it so closely resembled.
"Hmmm…" She opened her eyes and leaned into his touch, smiling dreamily into his face before realizing she was awake and he was real and she was panicked. "Uh, sorry. My turn to babysit the pork?"
"No, Greg is coming to relieve us."
"How? He has class."
"It's over. He's just going to grab something to eat and head on out."
She pushed the strands of hair away from her face and looked at her watch, then her car clock. "You let me sleep for four hours? Four hours? I don't even sleep that long, in one shot, in a bed."
"Well, maybe you should move into your car, then. Because you slept pretty soundly."
"Why didn't you wake me up?"
"There was no reason to. I was enjoying the sun, and the book and once in a while, I got up to log evidence. By the way, it's been seven and a half hours since your experiment started and I stuck the meat thermometer in, and it's nowhere near ready. So…I think it's already safe to say Johnson was lying. We just have to see this through to the end and document it. But, it's a success."
She looked at him again. In that way. Damn. He was a goner.
"Thanks," she said simply, as she had in a different parking lot, on a different day, with a different pig.
But she was looking at him like he was the most important person in her life and she was grateful for every moment she had with him, both good and bad. And, all the while, he'd felt the same about her. Maybe it was time to let her in on the secret.
"Thank you," he said, pushing aside any and all of the accumulated baggage in his mind and heart. He leaned forward and pressed his lips to hers. A gentle, warm peck and then another with just a little added pressure to let her know he was serious. He moved his lips away from hers and with the loss of suction came a faint, smacking sound. To him, it marked the beginning of commitment. And, more importantly, it made her smile.
"Are they soft enough?" he asked, with a twinkle in his eyes.
She nodded again.
"Good. Now, I think we both need to get home before shift and shower this charcoal smell down the drain. I'm thinking…if you'd like…we could get together a few hours before work and have some…spaghetti or something. No meat."
"I'd like that."
"So would I."
"It's an extremely decisive move," she said, with her own eye-twinkle.
He smiled as he got out of the car.
It was decisive.
Rumor had it, Sara liked that in a man.
Never do major league editing when you're on the edit screen of this site. Just a helpful tip for the day. Someone just lost a lot of stuff because someone couldn't leave her final-final version alone.
The Hotel Stanley was a real (pink) hotel, in Atlantic City, not Vegas. I believe in giving it a shout-out once in a while since it fascinated me when I was a kid. I'm not sure why. Just a feeling, I guess.
The whole story came about through the title. Don't try to figure it out, though. I'm not sure it actually makes all that much sense but my mind sometimes wanders during a less than thrilling day at work and…well, then I go for a ride trying to get the GSR to accommodate my funky titles.