TITLE: FINDING LIFE

AUTHOR: Michmak

SUMMARY: Grissom and Sara, after LTSB. Spoilers for LTSB, as well as a few from Season One and Two.

DISCLAIMERS: I wish I owned them. I really do.

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"Goodnight."

"Goodnight, Sara." Grissom looked up from his paperwork, mentally exhorting Sara to step into his office and talk to him. When she turned away from him to continue out the door, he quickly called her back.

"Hey! Nice work on the high school case."

Sara stuck her head back in the door, expression sad and tense as she leaned against his doorframe.

"I'm - uhm - sorry I missed your page. It's just...you tell me to get a life and then I get one- Then you expect me to be there at a moments notice. It's.confusing-"

Grissom looked at her quickly, before looking down at his desk and fiddling with his glasses. She was right, of course - his actions were contradicting his words, and it was confusing - and not only for her. He tried to think of something to say; anything that would alleviate the semi- hurt, semi-questioning tone in her voice, but he could think of nothing. When he looked up again, mere seconds later, she was gone.

* * * * *

Sara sighed tiredly as she climbed into her car, shutting the door and placing her hands on the wheel. She didn't start it however, simply sat there - head thrown back against the head rest, shoulders slumped.

She didn't know why she felt so sad. Grissom had told her to get a life, and she was trying to do that. She was trying to find different outlets for her energies, interests outside of work, people she could relate to outside her co-workers at CSI and Grissom. It was easier said than done.

Sara had always been intense, even as a child. She would find something that interested her and then become so passionate and single-minded about it everything else sort of fell to the wayside. She had never had a lot of friends; had been more than happy to keep her own company and the company of the select few that managed to break into her world.

Grissom was one of those people - the most important, if she were being totally honest with herself. From the first day they had met, there had been something about him that enthralled her. At first, she thought it had been the work he was involved in - and it had been fascinating. But it was more than that - it was him. Grissom. He enthralled her. In Grissom, she recognized certain aspects of herself - his intensity, the way he always seemed alone even in a crowd of people, his intelligence - and she was drawn to him.

So much so that when he called her after five years of limited contact, asking her to come to Las Vegas, she had hopped on the first available flight out. And she had stayed. It wasn't like she was leaving anything behind - and what did that say about her? She had lived and worked in San Francisco for years, and it hadn't phased her at all to leave. She didn't leave behind any friends, and her parents - well, they had given up on trying to figure her out years ago, just as she had reconciled herself to the fact that they would always be strangers, for all that they were her parents.

She had been in Las Vegas now for two years, and she had been relatively happy. She loved her work, she loved being with Grissom in the lab, and after a rocky start had even managed to form relationships with the people she worked with. She considered them all friends - Warrick and Catherine, Nick and Greg. Coming to Las Vegas had been like finding home; finding a place she could belong, and people she could belong to.

For the first time in years, Sara felt like she had friends who actually cared about her. As an only child who had always been socially awkward, having people around her she recognized as friends was a strange and wonderful experience. But always, in the background, floating on the not- quite-peripheral, was Grissom. She was happiest when she was with him; content only with him. Never having experienced feelings like this before, it had taken her a while to recognize them for what they were - she loved Grissom. She supposed she always had. Unfortunately, she didn't know what to do about it, and he appeared to be oblivious anyway.

It had hurt. It still hurt. She thought that perhaps their relationship would change after she had threatened to quit, and he had sent her a plant, but it hadn't - not really. He had told her once he hadn't been interested in beauty until he met her - the sentiment had taken her breath away, left her speechless. They seemed to take a couple of baby-steps forward after that, both tentatively exploring their relationship / non-relationship in a way that had given Sara hope for the future.

And then there was Hank. Just a guy, just a friend. Someone she went to the movies with. Just movies, and nothing else. And Grissom had closed down. Told her she deserved a life outside work. It was the words unspoken that had hurt her the most - "You deserve a life outside work," he had said, "and it's not with me" the silence afterwards had spoken.

What was she to do? She couldn't hand in another leave of absence request. Despite what he thought, she did have a life here, friends she cared about and who cared about her. Never having had that before, she was strangely loath to leave it all behind just because he couldn't love her the way she wanted him to. The way she loved him.

So, she took his advice. She tried to find a life. One without him.

She made friends outside of work. She went to movies. She even went to Pahrump, for God's sake. A life outside the lab. Yep - that's what she had.

So, why was she so unhappy while she was living it?

He had paged her and she had dropped everything to go to him - driving two hours back to Las Vegas on her day off because he *needed* her.

But not really. He had been upset it took her two hours to respond. When she reminded him he had told her to get a life, he had looked vaguely annoyed.

"Did I?" he responded pissily, before sending her to work a DB solo.

Solo. Alone and lonely. Like the life she was trying to live, without Grissom.

And then tonight, in his office. She had laid herself bare, her voice barely masking her emotions when she tried to tell him how she felt. Did he want her to have a life, or didn't he? She was so confused. But he hadn't responded. Instead he had cleaned his glasses and looked away. She didn't stick around long enough for him to look at her again, because she knew if he did she would break down.

* * * * *

Grissom shuffled out of his office 30 minutes later. His mind was still stuck on the brief conversation with Sara; replaying her abrupt and unexpected departure over and over again, like a film stuck in a permanent loop. The sudden sad dismay he had felt when he looked up and she was gone was still there, growing stronger with each passing second.

He tried to analyze this - tried to step back from the tightening in his chest, the panic he could feel building and ricocheting inside him, but he found he couldn't. He couldn't cut himself off from this sudden flood of emotions. He was drowning, and he didn't know what to do.

And that's when he saw her, still in her car, parked beside his Tahoe. In the pre-dawn murk her face looked ethereal behind the windshield. As Grissom stepped closer, he could easily make out the vague sheen of tear tracks marring her skin. He felt like his heart was breaking.

Running on pure instinct alone, viciously pushing down the voice that told him to ignore her - to just get in his Tahoe and drive away - he reached out and tentatively tapped her window. Sara jumped, opening shattered eyes and looking at him in dismay before opening her door slightly.

"Sara."

"Grissom."

"What are you still doing here?" He winced at the impersonal tone of his voice.

Sara sighed, "I was just asking myself that. What am I still doing here?"

Grissom didn't know what she meant, and he looked at her oddly. Through the crack of her open door, he caught the vague scent of strawberry and lemons, and breathed it in deeply. "Have you been sitting here since you left my office?"

Sara shrugged, "Yeah. Guess I should get going though. See you later." She looked away from him abruptly, mouth tightening imperceptibly, as she tried to shut the door. Grissom reached out and grabbed it.

"Sara, wait."

She looked at him again, eyes wary. Grissom sighed. "You going anywhere special?"

"No. Just home. If that's all you wanted to know, will you let go of my door?"

"Do you want - I mean, I think -" he paused suddenly, momentarily at a loss for words. "I was going to go ride the roller coaster. Want to come with me?"

Sara cocked an eyebrow at him. "Roller coaster," she repeated blankly, "you're going to ride a roller coaster at 5:30 in the morning?"

Grissom smiled slightly, "Best time. No lines, the lights on the strip are still on. If we're lucky, we might even catch the sunrise."

Sara debated this. He had already hurt her enough tonight - enough in two years, to be perfectly honest. If she went with him, wasn't she just opening herself up to more pain? She looked up at him to say no, but his eyes were so focused on her, the blue vaguely pleading. She found herself nodding, instead. "Okay. Shall I drive?"

She smiled, vaguely pleased, when Grissom looked relieved at her answer and walked around her car to the passenger side. She started it as he slid in, buckling himself as she pulled out of the parking lot. She knew where they were going, and the silence between them - while strained, wasn't uncomfortable. She reached forward and flipped on her CD player.

~ All I got is time, Nothing else is mine.

All I want is you and one more tomorrow.

Nothing lasts to long, When I leave it's gone.

So I send my mind ahead and hope to follow.

Yes, I know I have a lifetime coming,

But I've got it all figured out,

Everybody's lonely, Everybody's lonely,

Everybody's lonely, That's what it's all about.

I've had my share of heartaches, misfortune and mistakes.

Occasionally this life has left me battered.

But I can't blame no one else, 'cause what I've done to myself

is the only kind of history that matters.

Yes, I know I have a lifetime coming,

But I've got it all figured out,

Everybody's lonely, Everybody's lonely, Everybody's lonely, That's what it's all about.

Now, maybe you'll come with me, and maybe you will stay,

and maybe you'll just watch awhile then wander.

It seems like all the good things in my life just drift away,

But maybe you will stay this time, I wonder.

Yes, I know I have a lifetime coming,

But I've got it all figured out,

Everybody's lonely, Everybody's lonely,

Everybody's lonely, That's what it's all about.~

"Harry Chapin," Grissom stated, "I didn't know you liked him."

Sara smiled, "What's not to like? He's a great story teller. I made this disc a little while ago. His stuff relaxes me after a hard day at work." She indicated the jewel box sliding haphazardly across the dashboard. Grissom grabbed it and looked at the songs, leaning forward and turning down the sound a bit, before turning to look at her again.

"I've always liked this one - Tangled Up Puppet," he smiled.

"And I'm a tangled up puppet, All hanging in your strings -

I'm a butterfly in a spider's web, Fluttering my wings

And the more that I keep dancing, And spinning round in knots

The more I see what I used to be, And the less of you I've got."

Silence in the car after that, as they both contemplated the other. The CD flipped to another song, and Sara found herself singing under her breath,

"Empty closet, empty heart, Empty morning, day won't start,

Well, I got no place to go now, I really do not know how

to like my life, now that you're gone.

Empty mailbox, empty head, Empty promise, empty bed,

I really can't believe in the thought of you just leaving,

But no one's here, You must be gone.

I guess I took you for granted, I thought of us as one,

But now the laugh's on me 'cause your half of me just took off with the sun."

Pulling into the parking lot, she flicked the stereo off mid-song and turned to Grissom, her smile tentative.

"We're here."

* * * * *

"Do you come here often?" Sara questioned, as the coaster operator checked the security harness over their heads.

"Often enough," Grissom responded. "It clears my head." The brackets coming over his shoulders blocked off his view of her face, but he could feel her grin. Suddenly, he felt irretrievably happy. "I've never brought any with me before."

"You mean you normally ride by yourself?" Sara's voice was questioning, and Grissom smiled. Her breath hitched as the coaster started, the sudden creaking noise drowning out Grissom's response.

"What did you just say?" she hollered, as the coaster slowly made the ascent to the peak. Below them, the lights of the strip glittered like jewels.

"Never felt like sharing this part of my life with anyone else."

His response stunned her, sending her thoughts spinning into many different directions. They were at the top of the peak now, suspended for a brief moment before the sudden wild descent. Sara screamed and laughed, the sudden rush of wind in her face mirroring the sudden rush of blood through her system. Two corkscrews and a couple of loops later, their cart slid to a stop.

Sara was laughing as the latches on the harness released, her eyes sparkling and her cheeks flushed with adrenaline. Jumping to her feet, she quickly exited the cart and turned to wait for Grissom.

"Well?" he questioned, his eyes serious as they roamed her expression, "Are you glad you came?" They walked side by side towards the exit, a slow steady gait belying the exhilaration they were both feeling. Sara stopped at the exit and turned towards him.

"Glad I came to ride the roller coaster with you, or to Vegas?" her question was deceptively simple; her eyes wide and open as she gazed at him steadily.

Grissom dug his hands into his pockets and flushed slightly, "Both."

Sara didn't respond. Instead, she slid her hands into her pockets, mimicking his response. Grissom felt as if he was standing on the edge of a precipe when he looked at her, and wondered if he was brave enough to take the plunge. Telling Sara what was in his heart was like riding a roller coaster several stories over the city streets of Vegas - both involved surmounting his fears and taking a leap of faith.

"Both," he repeated again, stepping closer to Sara. "I'm glad you came with me today, and I'm glad you came to Vegas."

"Why?" Sara was staring at him intently, brown eyes warm as chocolate, swimming with hope. Grissom saw love there.

Leaning his face in ever so slowly, he whispered, "Because I needed to find a life," just before he kissed her.

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Author's Note: For all of you waiting for the end to TIN Man and LEARNING TO FLY, it's coming - honest. Just Season Three has me so hepped up, I'm having a hard time concentrating on just one or two stories when my mind is swimming with hundreds. The songs used in this vignette: Everybody's Lonely, Tangled Up Puppet and Empty - all by the late, great Harry Chapin.