Title: Sweet-n-Low

Author: Michmak

Summary:  Hank / Sara / Grissom – bizarre love triangle.  What are they thinking?

Spoilers: Dribs and drabs here and there – very vague.  It won't wreck season three for you.


She was using him.  He knew it.  And God help him, he was letting her.  He tried to bury his resentment in her flesh, relishing in the hot slide of his body in hers even as he cursed himself for being so weak.  For needing her.  For needing this – even when he knew he was second best.

He hated her; and he loved her. Two fucking odd emotions to have about the same person – diametrically opposed and yet similar.  Opposite sides of the same fucking coin.  He was just a poor substitute – like comparing artificial sweetener to sugar.

He was Sweet-n-Low.

He hated her.

He loved her.


* * * * *

It was always the same, and she had convinced herself it was enough.  She deserved to have a life, even if it wasn't quite the life she wanted.  She deserved to feel desirable, like a woman – even if the person who desired her wasn't really the person she desired.

She could fool her body, but she couldn't fool her heart. 

It's not like she didn't really care for him – she did.  He was sweet, he was gentle – understanding of her eccentricities.  He made her smile.  It wasn't his fault that he wasn't Grissom.  It wasn't his fault she didn't love him.

She wished she did.  It would be so much easier.

She knew she was using him.  So she tried harder; she tried to make herself love him.  She called him 'baby'.  She laughed when he told jokes; and sometimes, when she woke up in his arms, she convinced herself she was happy, and that this was what she wanted.

She was an adult after all.  She knew life wasn't always fair.  She saw it everyday, in the dead faces of the victims they processed.  You didn't always get what you wanted, and you survived anyway.  You went on with life; tried to make the most out of what you had. 

And if it wasn't what you always imagined; you hid your disappointment and told yourself your life wasn't a Disney movie; and if it was, he would be Prince Charming to your enchanted Princess – not some man 15 years your senior who barely recognized your existence anymore and preferred bugs to people.

You'd tell yourself that, but you wouldn't be fooled.

* * * * *

When had life become so sterile?  It hadn't always been that way, had it?  He remembered the first time he had met her, after a seminar on the application of entomological timelines to the forensic sciences.  That had only been – what? – 8 years ago or so.  She had been the only one who had asked him any intelligent questions.

Afterwards she had approached him; expression intent as she told him how fascinating she had found his seminar, and they had talked until the next seminar began and they had been kicked out by the professor giving it.

The discussion had turned from bugs to criminalistics; her quick understanding lending itself to the undeniable feeling that he had finally met his equal.  She was brilliant; she was intense; he loved the gap between her teeth and the liquid honey of her voice as she told him how fascinating forensics was.  He imagined she was telling him he was fascinating.

They had spent the night together at some coffee place she knew of, drinking the best South America had to offer as the talk turned from bugs and bodies to more personal things.

In the week he had been in San Diego, they had become fast friends, and if his interest in her wasn't quite proper – after all, he was older than she was – he convinced himself it didn't matter.  He was her mentor; she was his student.  And that was it. 

He was not attracted to her.  At least, that's what he told himself time and again when he found himself wondering what she would do if her ever kissed her, the way her eyes sometimes seemed to ask him to.

When it was time for him to return to Las Vegas, he had given her his email address and told her to keep in touch, and convinced himself that he wouldn't miss her.

He had, of course.  It had only taken him five years of sporadic correspondence for him to finally admit it.

When he had called her to Las Vegas, he hadn't really known what to expect.  Would she still be fascinating?  Would she still be beautiful?

Yes and yes.  He offered her a job when what he really wanted to do was offer her his heart.  But he couldn't, of course.  The things that had kept him from her eight years ago hadn't changed – she was still too young for him, he was now her mentor as well as her boss, and she could hurt him.

He thought just having her near would be enough.  If he saw her everyday, maybe – just maybe – he could be content.  He soon realized though that the closer she was, the more he wanted. The coltish girl he had admired had turned into a beautiful, competent woman.  A desirable woman.  A woman he was afraid to love.

Of course, he did nothing about it.  What could he do?  He liked his life the way it was – clean, uncluttered – esoteric.  So she made him want something more – he'd get over it.  He always had in the past.  Love was fleeting and ephemeral.  Look at his parents – look at Catherine and Eddie – look at the people he dealt with every day. 

If she had sometimes made him think that perhaps – just perhaps – there was such a thing as 'happily ever after', he would quickly quash that notion with his own cynicism.

And hadn't she proven him right, in the end?  Always before, she had ignored his subtle efforts *tests, his heart admonished* to push her away.  Each time she did so, he moved one step closer to believing that the love he sometimes thought he saw in her eyes was real.  Yet, just when he was beginning to think that loving her might be worth the risk, she had left him.  He had challenged her by telling her to get a life, and she had done so – without him. 

He should be happy.  He should be relieved.  But he wasn't.  He hurt.  Just looking at her made him ache.  So he tried to stop looking.  He tried to stop caring.  Life went on, and it was the same life as before.  Nothing had changed – and yet, everything had. The promise of Sara – of what could have been, if he had been a man who dared to take risks – haunted him.  He had broken something, and he didn't know how to fix it.

She was happy.  With Hank. 

She was happy without him. 

And he had only himself to blame.

* * * * *

She had to tell him the truth.  He deserved that.  She couldn't see him anymore.  She was so tired of pretending, of trying to force feelings to grow where there weren't any.  She was tired of telling herself that she should settle for what she could get; that he was a good man who loved her.  That she would eventually love him back.

But it wasn't true. 

She cared for him, but she didn't love him.

She knew she never would.

* * * * *

Lying in the dark, listening to her breath, he realized he couldn't do this anymore.  He didn't want to be a substitute to the man she really wanted – he deserved more. 

He knew she cared for him, perhaps even loved him a little – but it wasn't enough.  He had his pride, and he knew that if he stayed with her, loving her the way he did and knowing she didn't love him back the way he wanted her to…it would kill him.

He didn't want to compete with Grissom anymore, especially when he knew he would never win.

Running a hand down the warm skin of her back, he felt his gut tighten.  Loving her was agony.  Rolling to his side, he wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her sleeping form back into the cradle of his body.

She murmured in her sleep, and it wasn't for him.

He felt the hot ache of loss fill him, even as he buried his face in her neck and breathed in her scent. "I love you Sara," he whispered, even though he knew it was time to say goodbye.


Author's Note: Angsty and emotional – just the way I like 'em.  This is my take on the why Sara might be with Hank – her rational behind it, and Grissom's take on the situation.  I actually feel sorta badly for Hank – but I'm sure that will change – soon.