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Disclaimer: I do not own these characters.
Summary: It's about time I wrote a "G & S go to a conference" fic, right?
Chapter Five - The Eyebrow of Justice
The overhead lights dim and the in-flight movie comes on about three hours into the flight. I don't know whose bright idea it was to turn it on with a such a short time left until we land, but I have nothing better to do and so I check it out. It looks like it's one of those heartwarming-type stories about a racehorse and his jockey. I can't really tell more than that because you need headphones to listen to it, and I don't have any. Even if I did, getting them would require too much movement.
I watch the movie with no sound for a while, but it's hard to keep your attention on something when it seems like it's just a montage of horses running in circles. Whatever plot there is is lost on me, and so I eventually move my attention away from it.
It's a little after ten o'clock at night, Las Vegas time, and most of the people in seats around Sara and me are sleeping. Those who aren't are generally watching the movie, most with rapt expressions on their faces. I guess it's more entertaining when you can hear the lines.
I don't have a lot of entertainment options at the moment. I don't want to do anything to wake Sara, which pretty much rules out any reading or puzzle-doing; I don't have headphones to listen to the movie or the radio; and there's not even anybody around for me to talk to, should I become that desperate.
I settle for people-watching, which, though lacking some of its luster when it involves sleeping people, is a good way for me to relax and still keep my mind active. One of the first people I spot when I allow my eyes to begin studying the airplane's occupants is Eyebrow Man, seated a few rows behind and to the side of me. He's not sleeping either, nor is he watching the movie. He looks like he's got his entire consciousness devoted to consuming the three mini-bottles of vodka that cover the fold-out tray in front of him. His wife is asleep beside him, her mouth hanging indelicately open. Every now and then he reaches over and squeezes her upper thigh. Maybe it's some sort of possessive gesture, to prove he's allowed to touch her there.
If I tried that on Sara, even if we were in an alternate universe and married, I don't think she'd let me get away with it more than once. She's not the type to allow herself to be possessed, especially not by a man who needs to grope her regularly. I smile at the thought of how she would probably chew out anyone who tried such a thing on her, and though I'm tempted to test my hypothesis by touching her, I decide that it's probably a lot funnier in my head than it would be in reality.
The Amazing Eyebrow knocks back another shot and I move my attention away from him - nothing deep going on in his corner. My gaze lands on another couple across the plane from me. I'm separated from them by the center row of four seats, all occupied, so I have some cover to watch from behind. These people look nothing like the previous two. They're both neatly dressed, the man in chinos and a sweater, the woman in jeans and a blouse. Nobody would be walking around Vegas in such warm clothes, even at this time of year, so I figure they're probably from New York and returning home.
The man's arm is resting behind the woman's shoulders and she's leaning her head back against it with her face turned in toward his shoulder. I can't tell if she's asleep or not, but her companion - her husband? - looks like he is. He has his cheek resting on top of her bent head, and his eyes are closed. A slight smile is on his lips. He looks completely relaxed and happy - like this situation and this woman are completely familiar to him.
His hair is graying, much like mine is, I notice, while the woman's hangs to her mid-back, shiny and dark. I wish fleetingly that they'd both open their eyes and raise their heads so I could see whether they bear more than this small resemblance to Sara and myself. I think it would make me feel better about my situation, though there's no logical reason why that should be. I guess it would reassure me that happiness could happen with me, too. Completely illogical, indeed, but it would still be nice.
The man turns his head slightly so his lips rest in the woman's hair, and I feel like I'm intruding on them by watching this. I turn away, searching for another subject to study - hopefully one somewhere in between the vulgarity of the first couple and the perfection of the second. My eyes meet those of a woman sitting directly across the aisle from me, and it's obvious that she's doing the same thing I am. We both smile a little, acknowledging our nosiness, then look away and return to our searching.
No one else catches my eye, so after a few seconds I look back at the woman and find her looking at me again also. We smile again, this time a little more warmly, and she says, "Not much else to do at the moment, right?" Her voice is politely quiet and I'm glad that I've been seated near someone with manners enough not to wake the woman sleeping on my shoulder.
"Exactly," I reply just as quietly. "But then, watching sleeping people isn't nearly as entertaining as watching wakeful ones."
"True." She nods toward Sara. "I'd shake your hand, but it doesn't look like you have too much range of motion at the moment. My name's Sharon."
"Gil." I nod an awkward hello, then add, "Nice to meet you."
"Likewise. I'm especially glad to be meeting someone like you, rather than like him." She shudders and gestures back toward Eyebrow Man.
"Him?" I ask, nodding toward the man.
"Yeah. They had me seated next to him originally, but he started rubbing against me even before we took off, so I demanded a seat change." She makes an exasperated noise. "Honestly, some people."
"Well, I won't be doing anything like that, to you or anyone else," I promise. "He was trying to do the same thing to my, uh..." I look down at Sara, groping for the right word. "To my friend. While we were waiting in line to board."
"And you, I assume, rescued her?" Her voice is warm and I begin to get a little nervous. Is she flirting with me, or is she just being overly friendly because I stand in sharp contrast to The Cretin?
I clear my throat and hope I'm not blushing. "Uh, well actually she pretty much rescued herself. I did try, though."
Her face relaxes into a big smile. "Practice makes perfect. It looks like you impressed her quite adequately," she says, looking again at Sara's current position.
It takes me a moment to figure out what she means, because I certainly haven't gotten the feeling that I've impressed Sara at all, but then I look down at Sara. Ah, Sharon must mean that she's leaning against me because I impressed her. "She's just tired," I say sheepishly. "This is very unusual for her." And for me, I add silently.
"At times like this," she says, amusement lurking in her voice, "you take what you can get."
Was I just insulted? Once again, I'm not sure, so I choose to believe that I wasn't. "I'd rather it be given consciously than unconsciously, but I suppose you're right."
"So..." Sharon's eyes turn speculative. "She's just a friend?"
How do I answer that? "We, uh, work together," I explain haltingly. "And we're friends." Sometimes.
"So are you on a business trip, then? Or taking a vacation together?"
The question startles me. A vacation with Sara? Don't I wish! "Business trip. We're on our way to a conference in New York."
She suddenly looks more interested. "Oh, really? A conference on what?"
"Languages. Er, well, forensic linguistics."
"No kidding! That's where I'm headed too! The NYU one?"
I nod. Oh please, God, don't let her be hitting on me. "Yes. We're from the Vegas Sheriff's department. Well, the crime lab, actually."
"I'm a detective," she says. "In Barstow."
I know that there's probably an appropriate response to that, one that will keep the conversation flowing, but I can't think of it. "Barstow," I repeat nodding.
"Yeah, not too much to say about it, right? Not nearly as fun as Vegas, I imagine."
"Well," I say, "I don't know about 'fun'..."
She shakes her head with a light chuckle. "Don't bother. If we weren't the type of people who find this stuff 'fun,' we wouldn't be doing what we're doing."
She's good, I decide. The type of detective I wouldn't mind working with - the type who wouldn't walk across a good trail of footprints or pick up a knife by grabbing the end with her bare fingers. I nod. "Okay, you're right. I do have fun with it most of the time - but I don't think the general public would be reassured if they knew that."
"Hey." She shrugs elaborately. "Better we have fun with our jobs than hate them. I've been trying to get into the Las Vegas department, but I haven't had any luck so far." She looks at me closely for a moment, then continues. "No offense, but I think it's the whole 'Good Ol' Boys' effect."
"I'm sorry." It seems like an appropriate response. "If you wanted to become a CSI, I might be able to help you, but I'm useless when it comes to police."
Her face takes on what might be an offended look, and I wonder what I said wrong. "I wasn't asking you for help. I was just stating a fact."
I think I insulted her independence. "I didn't mean to, uh..."
"Insinuate that I can't get in on my own merit?"
Oh, wonderful. I've managed to alienate a complete stranger within half an hour of first meeting her. "I'm sorry." I start to shrug helplessly, but succeed only in jolting Sara's head.
Her eyes open and she sits up. "Huh?" She rubs her jaw and looks up at me. "Was I drooling?"
I repress the urge to smile indulgently. "Nope, you were the epitome of sleep etiquette."
"Ok, good. What time is it? How much longer 'til we land?"
I look at my watch. "It's about eleven, home time. We're supposed to land at midnight, Vegas time, and 3AM East Coast time."
"Wow." She looks around the plane, taking in the sleeping passengers. "I slept that long?"
I nod. I feel like I should be trying to continue my conversation with Sharon so she doesn't get such a bad first impression of me. I look over at her. She's staring determinedly ahead, jaw tight. "Sharon?" I say, speaking a little louder than she and I had been.
She looks over at me and I'm struck by the resemblance her look bears to Sara's "angry face." "What?"
Sara looks at me curiously, no doubt suspicious of the fact that I would have made a friend so quickly. I glance at her, then back at the other woman. "I'd like you to meet Sara Sidle. She's with the crime lab also." I know I've already told Sharon that, technically, but it fits into the introduction. "Sara, this is Sharon... uh..." I realize I don't know her last name. "This is Sharon. She's going to the same conference we are. She's a police officer in Barstow."
Both women give me dirty looks and I don't even bother to try to figure out what I did wrong. I'm sure I'll hear about it in a few seconds. "I'm a detective in Barstow," Sharon says. "Not just 'a police officer.' And it's nice to meet you." She doesn't sound like it's particularly nice to be meeting Sara, though she doesn't sound like she dislikes Sara on sight, either.
Sara glares at me for another second, then turns her attention to Sharon. "Yeah. Nice to meet you." Her voice is even more abrupt than Sharon's was. I feel bad female vibes flowing over me and across the aisle.
Neither woman says anything more, though Sara does look at me one more time with some unreadable emotion in her face.
I pray for the plane to land before of these two decides to throttle me.
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