The brunette looked up from the newspaper she was reading. "Yeah?"
Greg took a sip from his coffee and set it down. He leaned forward, and propped his elbows onto the table. He tilted his head to one side. "You know, people have all different kinds of fears. Like achluophobia—fear of darkness. And samhainophobia—fear of Halloween."
"You looked those up in the dictionary, didn't you?" she smirked.
"Guilty. So, Sara... what's your phobia?"
It was this question that had been bothering him for days. But he hadn't quite gotten the chance to ask her until now when they were both on break. He'd been wondering, and he needed to know.
A smile tugged on the corner of Sara's mouth. "Why do you want to know?"
"What's the matter?" he challenged. "Got something to hide?"
Greg's face turned into a pout. He thought for a moment, then suddenly, as if somebody turned on the light bulb above his head, he got an idea.
"How about we make this a little more interesting?" Greg suggested. He laced his fingers together, as if he was a businessman, making a very important proposal. But businessman or not, this was still important to him.
She grinned and lean forward as well. She was definitely curious. "Interesting how?"
"You give me three chances to guess what you're afraid of. If I get it right, then you, Miss Sidle, will have to go out on a date with me."
Sara's smile faded away instantly. "A date?"
She frowned. She did not like dates. And she most definitely did not like dates with guys from work. Hank was already a bad enough experience. They went out on a date, and look where that got her. She thought their relationship was serious and even—dare she admit it?—special... but it turned out he was seeing somebody else behind her back. Even got engaged.
And then there was that whole Grissom thing. She took a chance one day and asked him out to dinner. He declined with the simplest answer, "no." And then she finds out that he goes out with Sophia Curtis? Miss "Look At Me, The Only Thing Talent I Have Is Taking My Dress Off Under A Jumpsuit"? That stung. That really stung.
So no, she did not—most definitely did not—like dates.
But she was interested in the other side of the bet, she must admit. So she thought it would be best to just agree. Besides, it was only Greg Sanders. He was like a puppy. A companion. A friend. He couldn't do much damage.
"All right," she said. "But what kind of date?"
Greg thought about that. What kind of date would he want to go out on with Sara Sidle? "Movie," he said. "Then dinner. Then we'll drive to your apartment and engage in a brief, but pleasant, kiss goodnight." Before Sara could open her mouth to protest, he added, "A kiss good night is mandatory. What kind of date would it be if there wasn't one?"
"Okay, fine," Sara sighed. "But you'd better keep your tongue to yourself."
Greg raised his eyebrows and gave her a look that said "I make no promises."
"So now for my side of the deal," she said. "What are you willing to do to find out?"
"Anything you want me to do."
"Even strip down to your underwear and dance on top of this table for the entire lab to see?"
"... Anything but that."
"Anything but that?"
"Anything but that," Greg emphasized.
"All right, then," Sara said. "Then if you're wrong, you have to get on top of this table, for the entire lab to see, and strip to the music."
"But that's the exact same thing!" Greg complained.
"Nope," she shook her head. "They're different."
He groaned. "I don't know which one's worse."
"Take your pick."
"Okay, I think I'll go with..." he hesitated before making his decision. "I'll choose the second one. I've never been much of a dancer."
"Are you sure?" Sara laughed, exposing her incredibly cute, gap-toothed smile. "Ecklie could fire you."
"It's a risk I'm willing to take," he said. Anyway, he was confident that it didn't have to come down to that. "So!" he rubbed his hands together. "Looks like it's time for me to start guessing! Are you ready?"
"Ready as I'll ever be," she replied.
A couple of weeks ago, they had a case together. It was a decomp. Even worse was that it was a hot, summer day, and the body had been in a small, enclosed space for God-knows-how-long. At least a couple of months, David the Coroner informed them.
The moment the smell hit his nose, he lurched to the side and threw up his lunch of chicken quesadillas from Friday's. How to describe the smell of decomp... No matter how many of these cases he got, he could never get used to that... horrible stench.
But it didn't bother Sara.
Then just a few days ago, they were assigned on another case together. A murder at the Tangiers, and the scene was brutal. The victim had been stabbed repeatedly, and staggering around, dripping blood everywhere, and finally collapsing on the bed. When he saw it, he had to stop for a second, trying to process how it was possible for someone to do something like that to another human being.
But Sara got to work right now. Even liquidy human goop and mutilated human bodies didn't break her.
She was like a... super woman. No fears! No worries!
Greg beat his brains out, trying to figure this one out. Then he remembered something Warrick had told him a few years ago.
"I know!" he said, slamming his palms down onto the table. "Saliva. Warrick said you had a thing for saliva. It's saliva, isn't it?"
"Good try, but no, that's not it. Saliva makes me nauseous, but I'm not afraid of it."
Greg sighed. Well, this was probably all for the better anyway. Because how else would they be able to make out if she was afraid of a little spit-swapping? Two more guesses to go... this one shouldn't be that hard.
He thought for a moment, and then snapped his fingers. "I got it. This one has to be it. You're afraid of commitment, aren't you? That's why you won't go out with me and why you've never been in an actual serious relationship before. It makes so much sense!"
He got this one for sure. Or so he thought, until Sara countered him.
"That's not why!" she complained. "The reason is because... well, I'm still waiting for the right guy to come along."
"Waiting for your Prince Charming?"
"Something like that. Okay, enough about that. This is your last chance."
He went back to thinking. This was a lot more difficult than he expected it to be. There were a lot of things she could be afraid of; he couldn't possibly get it with only one guess left!
He tried to recall any past incidents that Sara might have shown a little fear to. Grissom's bugs? No, she always found them quite interesting. Heights? Nope, didn't seem to bother her. Fluffy bunny rabbits? Now, there's a thought. But somehow, he doubted it.
He decided to give it a shot. "Fluffy bunny rabbits?"
She nearly choked on the orange juice she was drinking. "What?!"
"Is it fluffy bunny rabbits? Am I right? It's fluffy bunny rabbits, right?"
Sara raised an eyebrow at him. "Um. No."
Damn it. That was his last hope, too!
"Looks like you lost," she remarked.
Damn it. Damn it. Damn it. Damn it.
She picked up the stereo that was sitting on the floor and set it down on the table. She turned on the radio, and the song, Hot In Herre, by Nelly started playing.
Greg's eyes widening in horror. "About that bet... we weren't really serious, were we?"
"A man never goes back on his word," she reminded him. "So strip, Sanders."
"Anything but that song!"
"Fine," she said. She changed the station, and Buttons, by The PussyCat Dolls came on.
"That's even worse!"
He sighed and stood up. Why, why, why? But he was so sure that last one was it! And now he was going to get humiliated in front of all his coworkers. This was definitely not one of his best ideas.
But he definitely did not want to be labeled a chicken, either.
He started by kicking off his shoes. Then he took off his socks. He slowly began to unbutton his shirt. People were beginning come out of their labs, wondering where the hip-hop music was coming from. Seeing that Greg Sanders was undressing himself, people started to laugh. Wendy and Mandy exchanged glances and giggled. Hodges and Archie were both howling with laughter. Then along came Warrick and Nick, who entered the break room and sat down on either side of Sara to watch the show.
"Oh, no. Please, don't," Greg pleaded. The last thing he needed were those two to witness this.
"What's going on in here?" Nick asked, a huge grin plastered across his face.
"Greg was just putting on a little act for me," Sara replied and winked.
"Whew! Take it all off, Sanders!" Warrick encouraged him. And just for fun, they pulled out their wallets and started to wave money around. Greg surprised all three of them by snatching the bills out of their hands.
"Might as well get paid for this," he shrugged.
He continued to undress, taking off his T-shirt. And then when he got to his pants, revealing his Snoopy boxers, a few people whistled. This is kind of fun, he thought. He'd probably enjoy it more if it was just for Sara, though. No wonder Catherine used to do this kind of stuff.
"Sanders!" unexpectedly, a familiar voice came from the halls. Greg and the three other CSIs all froze in position. They didn't need to see to know who it was. And it was not good. Not good at all. "Sanders," Ecklie called, walking into the room. Greg was still on top of the table, and suddenly, he felt very, very naked. Oh, right, that's because he was. "What the hell is the meaning of this?" Ecklie demanded.
Greg got down from the table slowly and bent down to pick up his pants. "Just, uh... taking a short break, sir."
"'Taking a break'?" Ecklie repeated, as if the concept was completely unfathomable. "'Taking a break'? You are a CSI, Sanders, not a male stripper. Put your clothes back on!" he then turned to everybody else who were all out in the hallway, watching the show. "What are you all staring at? I'm not paying you to stand around. Get back to work!"
The lab techs all shuffled away. Then Nick and Warrick both walked out as quickly as they could. Ecklie shot Greg the dirtiest look and also walked away, leaving him and Sara alone in the break room once again, completely lost for words.
Then they both burst out laughing.
"No way! I cannot believe Ecklie saw that!"
"Oh, my God! I thought I was going to explode from holding in all that laughter!"
They both sighed and wiped tears of laughter away from their eyes. Sara smirked and said, "Greg, I think you'd better put your clothes back on."
"Oh," Greg said, noticing that he was still naked. "Right."
Sara tried hard not to watch as he buckled up his pants, put his shirt back on, and slipped back into his shoes. He was eyeing her curiously and at the same time, feeling extremely amused. This morning, who could have possibly guessed that today, he would be stripping for Sara Sidle?
He fell back onto his chair and rested his head on the table. "That was unreal."
"Tell me about it," Sara said, still unable to stop chuckling. "But for what it's worth, I think you'd make some very good money in the exotic dancing business."
"Why, thank you! I'm glad that somebody noticed my natural-born gift." They both had another good laugh at that, until Sara stood up and put her newspaper away.
"Break's over. Time to go back to work."
Greg sat up and crossed his arms over his chest. "Are you ever going to tell me what your phoba is?"
She wore a mischievous smile as she walked past him. She bent down and whispered in his ear, "Autophobia."
After she left, Greg continued to sit there for a few moments. Then her words sank in, and he suddenly jumped up, searching for something. He looked under the table, in the cupboards, everywhere he could think of.
"Does anybody here have a dictionary?!"