DISCLAIMER:I don't own them, I never will. Proper rights go to
Bruckheimer, CBS and every one.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
On the Surface
By Amy Jo
"Sidle." I answer the persistently ringing phone.
"Ms. Sidle? There's a young woman down her at the visitor's desk who says you know her. I can't let her through unless you come down to verify and get her a visitor's badge." The voice on the other end says. In all my time here, I've never been able to remember the names of anyone who works the front desk.
"Well who is she?" Okay, so that came out a little rude, but I've got thirty minutes until the end of my shift and at least two hours of work to get done. Not to mention the fact that I have never once had anyone show up at the Vegas CSI lab for a personal visit.
I hear the receptionist, or whoever she is, ask my visitor who her name. There is a muffled answer and the voice on the other end of the phone comes back sounding even more confused, "Miss Sidle? She says to tell you 'Move your ass Sara, it's Rain.'"
Rayn? "Excuse me," I nearly stutter in disbelief, "Did you say Rayn?"
"Yes Ma'am. Can I expect you down here?"
Shit. What the hell is she doing here? I haven't seen her since before college. Shit. How the hell did she find me?
"Ma'am?" I realize that I haven't responded. Damn it, I cannot deal with this now. Fuck.
I let out an exaggerated sigh, mostly because it makes me feel better. Deep breaths. "Umm. Yeah. Tell her to find a seat, it'll be at least twenty minutes before I can make it down. Start the paperwork on a seven day escorted pass and I'll get there as soon as I can."
I slam the handpiece back into the receiver. I can't believe she's here. Fuck. If there was ever a bad time for her to show up it's now. Damn it. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. I tell myself to calm down, try some sort of Zen breathing technique or something, but it's not working. The only thing I can seem to do is curse and pace. My office suddenly becomes too small and claustrophobic and I resume my pacing in the hallway.
My head is lowered and I'm busy observing my shoes as they hit the floor with every step when I hear a voice through all the noise in my head. Only two things about the voice make me realize that it's not just part of my string of flavorful curses. One is that it's not cursing and the second is that it's masculine. I stop my relentless pacing and watch as another pair of feet step up to mine.
Grissom. It might just be a little weird that I can recognize him just by his shoes. "Sara?"
I am determined not to look him in the face. "Yeah?" I say to his perfectly shined shoes.
"Everything okay Sara?" Great. Grissom sounds really concerned. And I know that when I don't look at him, he'll be even more worried.
"Uh. Fine. Everything's fine." I am completely and utterly lying to him with every fiber of my being. I'm about as far from fine as one could be. I hope that since he can't see my face, maybe he will believe me and he'll just walk away.
"Okay. I know you're not telling me something, but maybe you will later. By the way, there's someone at the front desk who's doing the same thing you are. Cute blonde, staring at her feet, pacing like mad. Maybe you know her?"
I stand stock still as I watch his shoes walk away. Fuck. He knows. I'm not sure of everything he knows, but he knows I know Rayn. Argh. Damn it. Why did she have to show up here? My pacing resumes its frantic pace as I contemplate all of the ways out of this building that don't include the front door.
A brief glance at my watch tells me it's been twenty minutes. I know if I don't get to the front desk soon my phone will ring again. Then my cell phone, then my pager. Some days I hate being so connected. With slow steps, I head towards the front desk.
Grissom was right. She is cute. Of course, I knew that, but actually seeing her is different. She is different. My heart breaks again at the sight of her. She once had long blonde hair that hung straight between her shoulder blades and halfway down her back. Her hair is now short and spiky, much like I see on some of the co-eds on UNLV campus.
She is indeed pacing back and forth across the front entrance hall. I'm sure if I look close enough I will find a well worn pattern in the carpet where her footsteps have been dragging. Her cap is held in her hands and she is nervously twisting the bill in her hands. A quick glance over her uniform and I call out to her.
"Sergeant Kastelic." I try my best to keep my voice calm. "Front and center." This is my lame attempt at a joke. At least I get rewarded with a smile. When she hears my voice, her eyes turn to me and instantly light up, a smile spreads across her face as she snaps her feet together and stands straight. She almost looks like she would have saluted me. Almost.
I return her smile and this seems to put her at ease. I see the tension in her shoulders relax just a little before I turn to the receptionist. "Is Ms. Kastelic's pass ready?"
"Yes ma'am." God I really hate being called ma'am. I'm really not old enough for that. The young lady behind the desk reaches for a pen and pushes a piece of paper in front of me. "I need your signature here," she motions with the pen, "and here. After that, it's a quick picture for the extended pass and she'll be all set. I explained that she can't go anywhere in the building without a proper escort."
I'm not entirely sure what a proper escort is, but since I'm sure there won't be a time when she will need to be in the building without me, I just sign the indicated spots and watch as the receptionist leads my ex-girlfriend over to a specific chair and snaps a quick picture of her. The receptionist moves back behind the desk and I move closer to Rayn.
We're both nervous, but we reach for each other anyway. She holds me tight and I notice that in her boots she is the same height as me. I hear her whisper "I missed you." Her voice is soft and laced with emotion. There is a familiar softness in her voice that I haven't heard since high school and I suddenly realize just how much I missed her.
I don't know who moves but I am aware of the soft feel of her lips against mine and nothing else. Some things never change. Her kiss is the same as it was all those years ago. Persistent and hungry with the same unique flavor that I will always recognize as her. I am not sure how long we are in this position, but I slowly become aware of someone politely clearing their throat. More than once.
Rayn moves her head to my shoulder and I open eyes I don't remember closing. A quick glance down the hall reveals Warrick staring at us slack-jawed and I'm pretty sure that the figure that hurriedly disappeared around the corner was Catherine. Fuck fuck fuck. There goes any chance I ever had of keeping my personal life far away from the office. Fuck.
Rayn feels me stiffen and quickly moves away. I plead to her with my eyes and she nods understanding. I turn and grab the visitor's ID from the receptionist. Apparently it was her trying to get our attention, because her hand is still covering her mouth as if she were coughing. But there is a sly smile hidden behind her hand that gives her away. Visitor's badge in hand, I glance at Rayn and we both walk out the door.
My life at work just got a lot more complicated, as if it weren't bad enough already.
I know that Rayn probably wants to go to my place so we can have this talk in private, but I'm not sure I trust myself there. Instead I drive us to a café where I can get some strong coffee and breakfast. I get the feeling that we will be talking for a good portion of the day today.
I try the Zen breathing thing again, but it doesn't make me any calmer. And I'm driving so I can't pace. Instead I grip the steering wheel much too tightly. Rayn can tell that I'm both nervous and pissed, and so she sits quietly and mostly stares out the window as the hotels on the strip pass us by.
The café I choose is near my place, and I chose it more for that convenience than anything else. Once the car is stopped and I cut the engine, Rayn finally speaks. "Let's go inside, grab some grub, and you can tell me all about how I've just managed to seriously fuck up your life."
Rayn said it with a smile and a hint of humor in her voice, but I know she's serious. She always had been good at reading my moods. I know the vibe I'm giving off now must a combination of a lot of bad things. Anger, nervousness, frustration and many more.
We sit and order breakfast and coffee. I sit back and take a good look at Rayn. The last time I saw her was well over ten years ago, the day before high school graduation. We started dating freshman year and she was going to move to Boston with me while I attended Harvard. The last time I saw her was the day before graduation. I didn't find out until after the ceremony that she had enlisted in the Army and shipped out to basic training that morning. She didn't even say goodbye.
Now she's here, right in front of me. I feel compelled to be angry with her, to start a fight, to let her know just how bad she hurt me. But I'm so damn happy to see her. It sounds pathetic, but I never really got over my love for her. She was my first love.
"So, want to tell me how I fucked things up for you?" Rayn asks with characteristic attitude.
"Want to tell me why you left without telling me goodbye?" I snap back. I guess I'm more than a little bitter about that still.
"Ouch." Rayn looks at me as she presses her hand to her heart and gives me a pained look. "I guess that's fair. You first."
"Short answer? I'm not out to anyone at work." Rayn looks at me surprised. All those years ago, I never hid who I was. But things are different now than they were then. I've been hurt too much to want it to happen again. "But I guess I am now."
"Who saw us?"
"Warrick and I think Catherine. Coworkers." If I can keep the answers simple maybe everything will be okay. Maybe I won't expose myself to that kind of hurt again.
"Shit Sara. I'm sorry. I didn't know." Rayn truly looks sorry.
"You know what? It's okay. There was no way for you to know." I'll gloss over this problem just like every other. I'll let the anger simmer just below the surface, because I don't like showing my anger in front of her. I know that I won't talk to anyone at work about this unless someone asks, and even then I won't offer any information, I'll just try to be as cryptic as possible. Like always.
Breakfast arrives and we lapse into silence. Neither one of us is really sure what to say to the other. It's been more than ten years since we talked, but there's a lot of history. Things to be talked about and figured out. But we both know that the minute we start talking, we're both going to get emotional and probably angry too.
We finish eating in silence and the waitress refills our coffee. Rayn avoids the question I asked her, and for now that's probably for the better. "So. Vegas, huh? What brought you here?"
"Grissom." A simple answer, and one that I'm sure she won't understand. She furrows her brow at me, as I expected, and I elaborate. "My boss. Gil Grissom. I was working in San
Francisco as a CSI when he called me here to be an 'impartial third party' to an internal investigation of one of his employees. After that, I guess I just stayed. He offered me a job and I had nothing left in San Francisco, so here I am."
"Okay. I guess maybe I should dig a little deeper. You work as a CSI, but you went to Harvard and majored in Physics. Tell me about what happened after high school."
Now I don't understand. I haven't seen Rayn since high school graduation, yet she knows what I majored in in college. I never told her back then, hell even I didn't know back then. Rayn watches as I process the information she has told me. "Forget about that for now Sara, I promise to tell you later. Just fill me in."
"High school. God, Rayn, that was so long ago. Well, you know about Harvard," I watch as Rayn's eyes cloud over at some memory from years ago. Her face looks pained and I can't help but wonder what she's thinking. "You know I was a serious science nerd in high school, and when I got to Harvard I decided to major in Physics. I didn't really have any plan or even a good reason to pick that major. It just sounded challenging.
"I moved to San Francisco after college. I always loved that city and I missed it throughout college, so I moved back. I had a few job offers, but I wasn't sure what job I was going to take. There was a position in the coroner's office when I moved and I saw it as another challenge and I applied. Lots of people questioned why someone with a Harvard degree was working in the coroner's office and with my usual finesse I told them 'because it's fun.'"
I know I wasn't telling her the details that she really wanted to hear about my life. I know she wants to know if I'm seeing someone now, but it will take a lot more than coffee and pancakes to bring that out of me.
"So you worked in the coroner's office? I thought you said you were a CSI in San Francisco when Grissom called."
That's my cue to continue my story. So far I've avoided the mostly personal parts. That won't last long.
"Yeah I worked in the coroner's office for about five years. I attended seminars to keep up with my education. Grissom was a speaker at one." And there slips the first part of anything personal. Rayn is too observant to let it slide.
"Grissom spoke at a seminar? In San Francisco? And at some point after that you switched careers?" Rayn looks very confused. I have to admit, if I were listening to this story, I would be confused too.
"Um. Yeah. See I worked close with the coroner and he was always teaching me things about his job. One of the hardest things to do when you work with dead bodies, scientifically hard that is, is to estimate a time of death. It's very tricky and it's not exact. There are some scientific standards, like body temperature, but even those can be altered by outside elements. Like putting a body in a freezer, or leaving it in a trunk, things like that.
"So Grissom comes to San Francisco and speaks at a seminar on time of death. He's an entomologist and he spoke about linear regression and larvae and things like that." Rayn's brow furrows again in confusion. "He spoke about the relationship between bugs and time of death. He can explain it a lot better than me. Maybe you can ask him sometime.
"Anyway, I had like a million questions for him and I approached him after the seminar. He answered all my questions, and every now and then explained one by way of a story about his work here in Vegas as a CSI. When he talked about the work he does, it all seemed interesting. Next thing I know I'm tossing my name in for the next available CSI position with the San Francisco PD." Skip the personal parts here. "And a few years later, I get a call from Grissom and he wants me to come out here. So I do. And I've never gone back."
"So you drop San Francisco and everything there to come to Vegas just because Grissom called? Want to tell me about that?"
Shit. There's the personal questions. It's not like I didn't know they were coming, but that still doesn't make it any easier.
"Not really, but you're not going to give up the issue are you?" I know her too well to ever think she's just going to let it slide. She silently shakes her head no. "Okay then. But not here."
I flag the waitress, pay the bill and we leave. I know that I'm being more cryptic than Rayn is used to seeing me, but I can't get into the dynamics of my relationship with Grissom with just coffee. I need a stiffer drink. We are silent again until we reach my apartment.
Once inside, I head straight for the kitchen to pour myself a stiff rum and coke. I offer some to Rayn, which she politely declines. I grab the bottle of rum and some extra cans of coke and head into the living room where I curl up on the couch and leave Rayn to find a comfortable place to sit. She chooses to sit next to me on the couch.
Not knowing exactly where to start, I simply ask her, "What do you really want to know?"
She knows that I won't hold back. I'll answer any question she asks truthfully. Honesty might be a virtue, but it can also be a serious personality flaw. I would like nothing more than to be able to lie to her right now. But it goes against everything I stand for.
"Are you seeing this Grissom?" She asks, clearly concerned. I don't know if she's concerned because Grissom is my boss, or if it's because he's a man.
"No." Honest. Maybe if I can get her to ask simple yes or no questions I won't have to reveal too much. There was a time when she knew everything about me. But that was before she broke my heart and left me wounded.
"Do you want to?"
This question is a little more complex. I think about my answer while taking a hefty drink.
"No." Mostly honest. This is going to get tricky. I know the rum is not going to help, but it sure feels good. Without it I might not be able to talk about this.
"See I don't think I believe you there. You left everything in San Francisco just because he called. A simple no just doesn't get into all of that. There's got to be something there." She's beginning to sound like a shrink.
"You know, you're beginning to sound like my shrink. Why can't it be as simple as 'no'?" Another hefty swig of my drink. It will be gone soon and I'll be on my second drink before we even crack the surface of the complications in my life.
"Because I know you. I know that you don't drop everything for no reason. I want to know the reasons."
Oh hell. There are so many reasons. I temporarily leave her alone in the living room as I head to the kitchen to grab a second glass. She may not think she needs a drink, but she will soon.
"Allright. Reasons why I don't want to date Grissom. Well, for one I asked him out and he turned me down. After that seminar we kept in touch. We were really good friends. I think had he been in San Francisco we might have dated. But he wasn't. So one day he calls and practically begs me to come to Vegas. I knew it was business, I was here to investigate another CSI. But our close friendship continued and then he offered me the job.
"At the time, I took it to mean that he wanted me around. Maybe even personally. We were pretty close. Then he started to drift away and I felt I was losing my chance. So I asked him to dinner. He didn't even pause to think before he turned me down." I down the rest of my drink.
"That's not the only reason is it?"
Damn, she is relentless. Personally, I think rejection is a pretty good reason to finally figure out that I don't want to go out with Grissom. But she's right, it's not the only reason.
"I know you Sara. It may have been years since the last time we saw each other, but I still know you. You look almost guilty right now. That means that the real reason you don't want to date this Grissom person is because there is someone else that you'd rather be with. So who is it?" There's almost a look of hope in her eyes. Like she wants me to say it was her.
I pour another drink. There's a lot more rum in this one than in the last. I take a big swallow and let it out. "Catherine Willows."
Rayn takes one look at my face and pours herself a drink. She's more adventurous than I am for the moment; her drink is 100% rum. "The woman you think saw us kissing earlier?"
"That's the one." A long pull on my drink nearly finishes it off. There is really no way to explain how I feel about Catherine. At least no way to explain it that doesn't make me sound certifiably insane.
"Well, I've got to tell you, I don't really see a problem as far as that goes. I mean you just effortlessly outed yourself to the girl you have the hots for. Saves that conversation from having to happen. Now all you've got to do is plant one on her and your problems are solved." Rayn sits looking at me as she drinks nearly a third of her glass in one swallow.
"You don't understand. I can't do that Rayn." The way I see it, if Rayn is going to drink her rum straight while we talk about this, I might as well do the same. I finish my drink and replace it with straight rum. I'm not sure how to explain everything to Rayn.
When Rayn knew me, I did not hide who or what I was from the world. But I haven't had that kind of confidence since high school. Okay, so I wasn't the most popular person in high school, but at the time it didn't matter. I had Rayn and a few other close friends. I didn't care about anyone else's opinion. But then high school was over, and Rayn was gone.
Harvard was quite an experience. My previous confidence was shattered within weeks by the prejudice of classmates and professors alike. The school may have tried to appear forward-thinking and accepting, but that's decidedly not the way it actually is. It didn't take long for me to learn that best way to get through my time there was to not develop friendships or relationships. And soon it was over and I had graduated. I moved back to California and left Harvard and it's oppressiveness behind. But the move back to California didn't bring back my confidence.
"Why not?" Rayn asks simply.
"Rayn, c'mon. You were in the damn Army. Don't tell me that you just walk right up to someone and kiss them. If that were the case the Army would've kicked your ass out a long time ago." She's so full of shit sometimes it just makes me want to scream. I know damn well that she has never done any such thing.
"But they can't fire you Sara. Think of the damage that a lawsuit would do to the PD."
"Damn it Rayn, you're missing the point. I can't do that. It's not the job, it's me. I can't." Rayn is seriously beginning to frustrate me. I pour myself another drink, silently trying to figure out just how much I've drank today. I decide that however much it is, it's not enough.
"What happened to the Sara I used to know? The girl who just walked up to me one day and kissed me?" Rayn looks at me with probably the most serious look I've ever seen on her face.
"That girl had her heart broken and her confidence destroyed." The words are barely a whisper. "And she grew up." I say this with stronger conviction, because if anything I have grown up a lot since high school.
"Well then the only advice I have is to get your head out of your ass and talk to her. She'd be a fool to turn you down." Rayn smiles an evil little smile at me and I know that she's trying to tell me not to waste any more time.
"Easy for you to say. You're not the one with a maddening crush on a straight coworker. Rayn, I've got to tell you, I'm not sure I can even talk to her. It's not like we're even friends. She barely speaks to me. Plus, there's that whole thing where she's straight. Oh, and even better, she has a daughter." I can't tell if the shocked look on Rayn's face is because I've just told her that Catherine is straight or that Catherine has a daughter.
Rayn sits back and digests everything I've just blurted out. I, however, am working very hard and becoming very inebriated as I pour myself yet another glass of straight rum. I'm not on tonight and I think I've sufficiently screwed up my life enough to deserve this. And I'm only slightly surprised when Rayn starts laughing at the situation I've managed to get myself in. I don't particularly find it amusing, but she seems to think it's utterly hilarious.
Rayn catches her breath from her laughing fit and says, "Let me get this straight. I not only outed you to some of your coworkers this morning, but to your crush. Who happens to be straight. And she has a kid. You know, if you let yourself think about it, that's pretty funny." She starts laughing again.
"Ha ha ha. I don't happen to think it's funny at all." Despite my best efforts, I seem to be laughing right along with her. My laughter dies quickly, while Rayn seems to think this is one of the most hilarious things in her life. "C'mon now. It ain't that funny."
"Oh please Sara. Everything about you is completely different than it used to be. And I can't help it that I find that amusing." Ryan laughs a little more at me before continuing. "You used to be so confident, so sure of yourself. I have no doubt that that person is still somewhere in there, but to hear you talk, at least on a personal level, suddenly you're all shy and reserved. Does anybody you work with know anything remotely personal about your life?"
I contemplate her question for long minutes. The silence is nearly unbearable as I realize just how right she really is. That I have somehow turned into a different person than the girl that Rayn used to know. Part of me blames her for that. Part of me realizes that I can't continue to blame her; that I should really just grow up and get over it. Not wanting to deal with my newfound realizations about myself, I drown my thoughts in rum and quickly change the subject.
Rayn and I talk about anything but ourselves for the next few hours. The conversation is light and friendly. The bottle of rum now sits empty and neglected on the table and Rayn has fallen into a light slumber. I quietly pick up the small mess we have made and head off to my bedroom to catch up on some sleep.
I'm not sure how much time I've been asleep, but it's been far too little. My head pounds in tune with the shrill ringing of my phone. I know who is on the other end and that makes me all the more reluctant to answer the phone.
"No." I don't even bother to say hello. There is approximately one person in the world who knows my home phone number and right now I know the only reason he's calling is because he wants me to work. Other than the fact that I haven't had a day off in at least a week and a half, my head is sending me all the signals of a massive hangover and I really don't want to go to work.
"Sara, you don't even know what I was going to ask." He doesn't realize just how much I really do know what he was going to say.
"Grissom?" I'm trying my best to keep my voice quiet so as not to disturb the tenuous hold I have over my rising nauseousness.
"Yeah?" Like we're sharing some big secret Grissom lowers his voice to. Thank God.
"How many times do you call my home phone instead of my cell?"
"I don't know Sara. Maybe once or twice a month?"
"And how many of those times have you called to ask me to work overtime or to come in on my day off?"
"Umm. All of them I guess." He actually manages to sound surprised. In the years I've been living in Vegas he has never once called me for something not related to work. I begin to really wonder why I thought he was interested in me, or ever would be. I mean, he can't even talk to me.
"Right. So it wouldn't be a huge leap of logic to assume that you want me to work. But I've got to tell you, I'm not coming in tonight. I'm not." I try to put force behind my words, but the quiet tone doesn't even convince me.
"Sara," Grissom practically whined. That's a new one. I've never heard him whine before when I told him I wouldn't come in. Of course, now that I think about, I can't really remember the last time I told him I would come in. "You've got to come in. We've already got three DB's, two suspicious circs, and a few B&E's to cover from dayshift."
"Grissom." My frustration is evident in my voice and I don't even seem to care anymore that raising my voice makes my head pound and my stomach tighten. God, I'm going to be sick. "I can't. I'm sick and cranky and just a bit hungover. You guys can handle it."
I start slowly moving off my bed, trying not to alter the world too much and cause immediate sickness. Then its tiny steps to the bathroom as I hear Grissom continue in my ear.
"Look, I'll put you on the B&E's, they're most likely fairly simple evidence collection. Nothing that should hurt your condition too bad. But Catherine called in some personal time and now I can't reach her. I need help Sara."
I think he figures if he tells me that he needs help, it will somehow inspire me to come in. Instead, all I cared about was that Catherine had called in. Jesus, even when I'm about to hug porcelain I can't help but think of her. I've definitely got it bad.
"What's wrong with Catherine? Is it Lindsey? What's up?" A little more worry creeps into my voice than I wanted Grissom to hear, but at this point I hope he'll blame it on my hangover.
"I don't know, she didn't say. All I know is she called in a few hours ago requesting some PT and we were clear then. But now I need help and I can't reach her, so you're my only chance. Please Sara?"
Feeling the not-so-sudden urge to be sick, I simply mutter into the phone, "Yeah. Whatever. I'll be there." I promptly hang up on Grissom and begin praying to the porcelain gods.
Apparently my abrupt ending to our conversation wasn't good enough for Grissom. I hear the phone ringing again from where I placed it on the floor. I'm tempted not to answer it, but I know that he'll just call one of my other numbers until he manages to find me.
"Grissom I said I'd be there. Give me at least an hour okay?" I think I sound a little cranky because there is only silence on the other end. "Okay?"
"Sara? Are you okay?" As if today weren't really shitty enough, it sounds like there is genuine concern in his voice. Now he decides to care. Christ.
"No Grissom. We already went over this remember? You called me to get me to come to work and I told you I was sick and hungover. Remember that?" Here comes Super-Bitch. I am so not in a good mood and he's not going to able to make it better. For someone so observant, he can really be an idiot.
"Yeah, but you hung up."
"Grissom. I was sick. Next time, I'll remember to throw up while you're still on the phone. I'll be there in an hour. I'm going to hang up now, but don't call back." Frustrated I hang up on him again, taking my vengeance out on the poor phone as I hurl it across the bathroom. For a millisecond I feel better, but then the phone smashes loudly into the wall and the sound vibrates my already sensitive brain.
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