Trust

By Burked

Disclaimers:  Alas! I don't own CSI or its characters.  CBS holds the copyright, and apparently isn't trusting enough to share. 

A/N:  All the usual props to Mossley for being the uber-beta.  This story's been on my website for a few months, but I couldn't post to ff.net for a while while I was languishing on suspension.    

* * * * *

"Just thought I'd let you know," Sara said casually, but with a tenseness to her voice that made Warrick look up from his work.  "Eckley's starting trouble again, saying you're gambling on CSI time.  Grissom wants me to investigate it."

"So this time you came to me first," Warrick said, a slight smile playing at his lips. 

"Not exactly.  This time, I'm not going to do it.  I'm just telling you so you can nip this in the bud."

"How do you suggest I do that?" Warrick asked.

"Go to Grissom.  Ask him what the accusations are, and explain yourself.  It's always worked in the past.  Do it now and save time."

"Sara, it doesn't sound much like you're on my side here," Warrick replied, his eyes squinting in concern.

"Sorry, Warrick.  I just get tired of wasting my time when Grissom already has his mind made up.  I'm just a rubber stamp to get Eckley off his back.  Doesn't really matter what I say.  No offense, but I could have videotape and two hundred eye-witnesses that you gambled ten straight hours on the clock, and he would ignore it if you denied it."

"You think I'd gamble on CSI time?"

"You've done it in the past."

"You think I'd do it now?  After everything that's happened?"

"I don't know.  I'd like to think not.  But I recognize it's an addiction.  People aren't always able to merely walk away from the things that have that kind of hold on them."

Warrick looked at her contemplatively.  "Have you ever had an addiction, Sara?"

"No.  Not really.  Maybe to study or to work, if you want to call it that."

"If you're around it, can you resist it ... or does it consume your thoughts?"

"Warrick, I see what you're saying.  We all have our crosses to bear.  But fortunately for me, being addicted to work isn't a problem I'd likely get fired for.  It's not going to ruin my life."

"Who's talking about work?  Hmph!" Warrick huffed out.

"Don't go there," she warned.

Warrick held up both hands in surrender, knowing his point was made.  "Hey, Sara," he called out as she turned to leave.  "I want you to do the investigation.  I trust you."

"Thanks for the vote of confidence, but that's not the point," she said, shaking her head 'no'.

"I'm not worried.  I haven't done anything wrong."

"Like I said, wouldn't matter if you did," she shrugged.

"It would matter to me.  And I know it would matter to you ... and Nick and Catherine."

"They'd never know the results.  Just like the last two times."

"I'll make a deal with you," Warrick offered.  "If you'll do the investigation, you can present your findings at assignments, with everyone present.  No secrets."

"I doubt Grissom would go for that," Sara huffed out.

"He would if he really trusted me," Warrick said lowly.

* * * * *

Sara returned to Grissom's office, finding him still ensconced at his desk.  He was looking at a file, but not really reading it, his eyes glazed in a faraway stare.

"Grissom?" Sara hailed from the doorway.

"Yes?" he answered, snapping back from his thoughts.

"You asked me to investigate Warrick ..." she began.

"Yes, and as I recall you told me to do the anatomically impossible," he interrupted.

She smiled slightly, fighting to keep the grin from breaking through.  It had been strangely liberating when she said that to him.  She had lost her temper when he asked her to look yet again into Warrick's gambling, spewed a wholly unprofessional epithet, and walked away.

"That visual still amuses you, I see," Grissom said.

"You have to admit that it's an amusing visual," she shrugged.

"It might be amusing, but it's definitely insubordinate," he warned.

"I'm not here to argue, Grissom.  I'm here to tell you that I've decided to do it," she said, holding her hand out to stop him from speaking until she was done.

"You have?  What made you change your mind?  You seemed pretty adamant about it."

"Warrick wants me to do it," she answered honestly.

Grissom cocked his head and allowed his eyes to narrow into a squint.  "You've discussed this with Warrick?"

"Yes, I have."

"I don't think that was a good idea."

"Why not?  Every other time he's had some excuse that negated hours or days of work.  I figured it would be better to go directly to him.  Save us all some time.  I suggested that he come give you his excuse now, so that you could sweep it under the rug that much faster.  Of course, I didn't use those exact words."

"I would hope not," Grissom said icily.

"I don't know what influence he has over you, but it works every time.  Not just with the gambling, but with everything.  When he screws up, people die or end up in the hospital.  But he's still your favorite."

"And Warrick wants you to do the investigation?" Grissom asked incredulously.

"Yes.  And he wants me to present my findings in front of everybody, at assignments."

"I don't think that would be advisable, from a legal standpoint."

"He'd waive his rights."

"I'd have to check with HR about that."

"Don't you trust him?" Sara asked pointedly.  "You think that he'd offer this, then screw you over if it doesn't turn out like he hopes it will?"

"Of course not!"

"Then what's the problem?  If he's innocent, he wants everyone to know.  If he's guilty, you won't be able to cover it up.  It's the bargain he made."

"I'll think about it," Grissom conceded.

"Well, here's the deal:  either I do the investigation and the results are made public to our team, or you know that someone from another shift will be assigned to do it, and the results will be public to the whole lab ... unofficially, of course.  It's your call."

"Sara, what's your reason for doing this?  To prove you were right all along?"

"What's your reason for covering up for him all the time?" Sara rejoined.

"As I told you when you investigated Warrick before, you're only seeing part of the picture.  You're gathering and analyzing evidence out of context."

"You never bothered to put it into context for me," Sara shot back.  "You took his explanation as gospel.  He later told me he went to collect a debt, not gamble.  But how do we know that's true?"

"I know him, I believe him, and I trust him," Grissom stated firmly.

"He left a first-day trainee alone to get killed while he gambled.  That's what I know."

"Sounds like you've already made up your mind about this," Grissom challenged her.

Sara stood upright, pushing herself off the doorframe.  She barged forward and slammed her hands down angrily on Grissom's desk.  Standing up, she fought to compose herself, then sat down woodenly. 

"Do you think I'm a good CSI?" Sara asked.

"Of course.  You're one of the best," Grissom answered.

"Have you ever known or suspected that I tampered with evidence or the analysis of evidence on any case?"

"Never," Grissom said firmly.

"Then why don't you trust me?" she asked pointedly.

Grissom couldn't answer the question.  He hadn't really intended to imply that he didn't trust her.  And yet ...

"You need to think about this, Grissom.  You blindly trust someone who has a history of doing what he's accused of.  You don't trust me to do this investigation fairly, even though I've never had my integrity questioned before.  What am I missing here?"

"Fine.  I agree to your terms," he said dismissively.

"An answer would have been nice," she said, standing to leave.

* * * * *

Sara sat for the third straight hour in front of the video playback deck in the A/V lab.  She had watched the tape, rewound it, and watched it again several times.  The date and time stamp went from 12:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. Wednesday.  For two of those hours, Warrick Brown could be seen sitting at a blackjack table. 

He played five hands at a time, gathering a small crowd of spectators as he consistently won at least three of the five.  At the end of two hours, he gathered a large handful of $1,000 chips and left, not to reappear.

The quality of the video was decent, but it was an overhead shot from a slight angle.  While anyone who knew Warrick would recognize him, Sara had decided from the outset to treat this investigation as though it were a criminal investigation rather than an internal one.  She wasn't going to settle for "preponderance of evidence," or even "clear and convincing evidence."  She was shooting for "beyond a reasonable doubt."

Sara printed off Warrick's picture from the biographical sketch on the LVMPD website, which was a larger version of the picture appearing on his ID badge.  For an institutional photograph, she considered it a fair likeness.

Sara had been in the casino while investigating a suspicious death a few months ago, but she wasn't familiar with the gambling areas, and had to wander around to find the table shown in the videotape. 

She was pleased to see the same dealer that she had watched stand there for all six hours on the video, minus a few short breaks.  She stood next to the dealer for a few minutes, until a game in progress had finished.

"Do you recognize this man?" Sara asked, holding up the picture and her badge, one in each hand.

"Sure.  He's been in here a few times the past couple of days.  Done well for himself."

"Was he here this last Wednesday?"

"Let's see.  Day before yesterday.  Yeah, I think so.  I don't keep up with all the customers.  But they don't all play five hands at once, for a hundred dollars a pop."

Sara scribbled the dealer's name in her notes.  "Do you know if he played any of the other tables?"

"I don't know.  I just pay attention to my own table."

"Okay.  Thanks," Sara said, putting the picture and notebook back in her purse.  She wandered aimlessly around the casino, trying to understand its lure.  She saw beaming faces scooping up winnings, and defeated faces watching the house eat away their life savings.

Sara looked around the room, her senses assaulted by the lights and sounds, a veritable cacophony of sensory input that was almost painful to her.  Turning as she scanned, she realized that it was making her dizzy, so she stood still and closed her eyes, though she was unable to shut out the sounds.

For her own sense of sanity, she felt that she had to get out of there as quickly as possible.  It was an assault not only to her five physical senses, but to her psyche as well.  She felt it was a disturbing place, where an occasional dream and a plethora of nightmares manifested every second of every day, nonstop. 

She wasn't sure it was an exaggeration to call it a post-modern Sodom and Gomorrah, luring the unsuspecting into a world they could not possibly understand or control.  She felt a twinge of pain to think of Warrick being drawn back into it.

* * * * *

"What was your assignment on Wednesday morning?" Sara asked, fully aware of the answer.

"You could get that from the logs," Warrick replied.

"I'm asking you," she said pointedly.

"I was working a burglary at a warehouse," he answered.

"Solo?"

"Yes."

"Where were you from 2:14 a.m. to 4:10 a.m.?"

"At the warehouse," he answered in frustration.

"Was anyone else there?"

"No."

"Where were the police?"

"They had left earlier.  The scene was secured.  I went back to check something out."

"What?"

"I got suspicious that there was something else going on there, so I went looking for evidence."

"Something else?" Sara asked, her pen poised on the notepad.

"Why would anyone go through so much trouble to break into a warehouse full of electronics equipment, but only steal a few items?  I thought it was a cover-up for what they were really after."

"Did you find anything?"

"No.  But I still think there's more to it.  I've talked to the owners, and they acted pretty nervous."

"Did anyone, even warehouse personnel, see you there?"

"No.  They only work regular business hours.  There's drive-by security at night, but I never saw them face-to-face."

"Okay, that's all I need right now," Sara said, still jotting notes as she wandered off.

* * * * *

Sitting alone on the hood of her car, a cup of coffee in one hand and a Lucky Strike in the other, Sara replayed the day in her mind, beginning just after assignments.  Grissom hadn't given her a case, saying he needed to talk to her.  The entire team looked at each other nervously, and at Sara sympathetically. 

Once in his office, Sara was wondering if she had done something wrong.  Grissom was acting strangely, as if there were something he wanted to tell her, but couldn't think of how.

"Sara, I need your help on something.  I know you probably won't be comfortable with it ... not now.  But I trust you, and I need you."

Sara's eyes narrowed.  Grissom never seemed aware that his choice of words, however meaningless to him, was painful to her.

"Eckley claims that Warrick is gambling again, on departmental time.  He's graciously provided us with a videotape.  I'd like you to complete the investigation."

Sara felt the ire that had been growing in her belly erupt into flames.  "Why do you want me to do it?  You completely ignored my last two investigations.  You obviously have no confidence in me, or Warrick has some sort of free pass to do as he pleases.  Whatever the issue is, I won't waste one more second of my time on Warrick's gambling habit!"

"If you don't do the investigation, it'll be done by someone on the day shift.  I'd like to avoid that," Grissom said.

"Well, I guess you would!  You couldn't very well ignore the results then, could you?"

"I didn't ignore the results.  I just had more information than you did."

"Then you do the investigation, since you know so damned much!" she shouted, bolting up out of the chair. 

"I can't believe you'd do this to me again, Grissom," Sara said, shaking her head in disbelief.  "It's taken me years to get the trust of the rest of the team.  You want me to throw it all away, just to save yourself some embarrassment.  I'll be a pariah, but you'll still be Warrick's knight in shining armor."

"That's not how it is, Sara," Grissom began uncertainly.

"And the worst part of it is, you'll make me an outcast for nothing.  You won't do anything about it, no one will know the results, and Warrick will get away with it again."

"If you find he gambled, I will do something about it," Grissom promised.

"What?  Stand him in a corner for five minutes?  Make him go to bed without supper?  The only one who'll really be punished out of all of this is me.  When I turn in the report, I might as well turn in my resignation as well."

Grissom looked at her, and in a moment of clarity, realized that she felt betrayed.  "Sara, I'll stand behind whatever you report."

"Go screw yourself, Grissom," she said acidly, exploding out of his office.

Sara smiled briefly at the recurring visual, then slid off the hood of the car. 

* * * * *

"I know what you're going to think," Warrick said, handing over a statement of his bank activity for the past four days.

Sara scanned down the page until her eyes lit on the entry on the debit column for a cash withdrawal of $2,000.  Moving her finger to the left, it was dated last Tuesday. 

"Okay, Warrick, tell me what I think," Sara said, looking up at him.

"You think I took that money out to gamble.  I didn't.  I loaned it to a friend."

"Must be a very good friend," Sara said incredulously.

"She is," he said, nodding.

"Did you get a receipt?  A promissory note?  Any documentation?"

"No.  It was a friendly loan.  She can pay it back when she's able," he answered, not giving any more detail than Sara specifically asked for.

"Let me get this straight.  You gave a friend $2,000 cash.  So there's no check made out to her for proof.  You didn't get any signed documentation from her that you loaned it."

"That's right.  She's a friend of mine.  I trust her," he said simply.

"Tomorrow morning, let's go talk to this very, very good friend," Sara suggested.

"Can't.  She's not in town anymore," he said heavily.

"She run out on you?" Sara asked facetiously.

"No, she ran out on her good-for-nothing boyfriend.  He was beating her.  I loaned her the money to run away."

"Where'd she go?"

"I don't know yet.  She said she'd call when she gets settled in somewhere."

"So much for explaining the bank activity," Sara mumbled, shoving the statement into her file. 

Returning to her notes, she asked, "What were you wearing Wednesday?"

"Jeans and a black t-shirt," Warrick answered.  "Don't you remember?  It was just two days ago."

"I'm not the fashion maven around here.  You could wear the same thing every day, and I probably wouldn't notice.  And if I did notice, I wouldn't think anything about it," Sara admitted.

"You could ask Catherine.  She might remember," Warrick suggested.

Handing Warrick two large plastic evidence bags, she told him, "Bag the clothes and bring them in to me."

"Come with me now and we'll pick them up," he offered.

"We don't have to prove chain of custody on an internal investigation," Sara told him.

"I'd rather you collect the evidence," he answered solemnly.  "I don't want any questions in your mind."

"Fair enough.  Let's go."  Sara was surprised that Warrick wasn't resisting her as he had the first time she investigated him.  The second time, she didn't talk to him until after she had already given the videotape to Grissom.

* * * * *

Sara was busy typing her notes in on her workstation when Grissom appeared at the door. 

"Hey," he said quietly, a little sadly.

"Hey," she returned, not looking up until she finished typing the entry.

"So, what have you got so far?" Grissom asked, moving into the room to take a seat next to her.

"I'd rather not say until I've gathered all the evidence and had a chance to analyze it," she answered.

"I'm not asking you for a preliminary opinion, Sara.  I'm asking what evidence you have so far.  I understand that it may not be complete, or that you may not have put it into context yet," he said a little too stridently.  The stress of the situation was weighing on him.  Not only because Warrick was the object of investigation again, but because he knew that this was yet another brick in the wall between Sara and himself. 

"Is this an official request?" Sara asked, still unwilling to share.

"Yes, if that's what it takes," Grissom said in frustration.

"Duly noted," Sara said, actually writing it down in her notes.  To Grissom's surprise, she handed him the notebook and a pen.  "Initial it."

"That's a little officious, isn't it?" he asked, snatching them from Sara's hands and scribbling his initials next to the request.

"I don't want Warrick to think that I voluntarily leaked any information concerning his investigation prior to its conclusion.  You're the supervisor.  If you formally request a preliminary report, I have no choice but to give it."

"All right.  I'll repeat my question officially.  What evidence have you collected to date?"

"I have the videotape from the casino, of course," she said.  "And I showed his picture to the dealer, who verified that he's the one on the tape.  I have a large cash withdrawal from his bank the day before.  He was working solo, with no witnesses as to his whereabouts during the time frame on the tape.  I have the clothes he wore that day, but haven't processed them, so they are moot at this point."

"Do they match the clothes from the video?"

"I can only see that the person on the video is wearing a dark t-shirt.  I can't tell what color, and I can't see his pants.  These are Warrick's clothes from Wednesday," she said, handing over a bag containing a black t-shirt.

Grissom fell quiet, and Sara could see him visibly slump in his chair.  He looked up at her with a pained questioning look, as if to ask her if it were all really true. 

"I'm sorry, Grissom," she said, sympathetically.  She reached out a hand and set it gently on his shoulder, trying to comfort him, though she knew it wouldn't help.

"Thank you," he whispered hoarsely, turning and moving quickly out of the room.  Sara sighed.  She got no pleasure from hurting either one of them.

* * * * *

Nick and Catherine sat quietly in the break room when Sara came in for her fifth cup of coffee. 

"How's the witch hunt going?" Catherine asked acidly.

"And what witch hunt would you be referring to?" Sara answered back with equal venom.

"I guess they're just going to keep having you hound Warrick until you drive him away," Catherine said, the muscle beside her eye twitching in anger.

"Not that it's any of your business, Catherine, but it was Warrick who requested that I conduct the investigation," Sara said, fixing her with a stony glare.  "And if you are so sure that he's innocent, why are you being such a bitch about me investigating him?  And besides, it's never come to anything before."

Nick shifted his eyes nervously between the two females, wondering if a catfight was far off.

"Yeah, right.  He requested you," Catherine snorted, unwilling to respond to Sara's last question.

"Ask him yourself," Sara said.

"He's not around.  Seems he's been suspended," Catherine said bitterly.

Sara stared at her, mouth agape.  "What did you say?"

"You heard me."

"Who suspended him?" Sara asked, in complete confusion.

"Grissom.  Who else?" Catherine answered.

Sara threw her coffee in the sink and slammed down the cup.  She bolted out of the room without another word. 

* * * * *

"What the hell did you do?" Sara fairly shrieked as she blew into Grissom's office like an ill wind.

Grissom took off his glasses and rubbed his face.  Taking a deep breath, he answered, "I suspended Warrick, pending the outcome of your investigation."

"Why?" she demanded loudly.

"The evidence suggests that there's probable cause for suspecting that he did indeed gamble on CSI time.  Considering it's not his first offense, I suspended him."

"Great.  Just freaking great," Sara said, shaking her head back and forth.  "Now you have the entire team thinking I'm railroading him.  You forced me to show you what I had.  And you used that to suspend him without even discussing it with me."

"I don't have to discuss it with you, Sara.  It's an administrative matter.  It's not germane to your investigation," he said somewhat haughtily.

"You could have at least warned me that that's what you were going to do.  Instead, you acted in a vacuum, as usual, leaving other people to suffer for it."

"That wasn't my intent," Grissom said contritely.

"You've always protected him before.  Why did you suspend him this time, when the investigation isn't even complete?" Sara pressed.

"Because you and Warrick forced my hand," he answered with more heat in his voice.  "You're the ones who decided that this would all be public.  If you find he's guilty, there would be hell to pay if I had let him stay on duty."

"He's innocent until proven guilty, Grissom," Sara reminded him.

"You accuse me of covering for him, but now you don't like it when I don't.  You can't have it both ways, Sara."

"Why not?  You do it all the time," she said, huffing.

The two sat quietly for another few seconds, but a silent argument passed between them, their eyes doing all the talking.

Sara rose slowly, an intention forming in her mind.  Until now, she had been gathering evidence that happened to support the accusation.  As she walked wordlessly out of the office, she was struck by the realization that the only person who was being supportive of her was Warrick – the accused. 

Why would he do that?  He could be doing it to have an excuse.  He could say that I obviously have a vendetta against him.  But he'd be acting differently, like he did the first two times.  Maybe ... just maybe ...

It was nearing the beginning of day shift, and Sara found Eckley in his office, reading the paper and having his morning coffee.

"Good morning, Sara!  To what do I owe this pleasure?" Conrad Eckley said sarcastically, a grin plastered across his face.

"I need for you to contact whoever it is at the casino who's feeding you the tapes of Warrick's gambling.  I need the tape for the same time period, two days before Wednesday and for the two days since."

"What for?"

"To complete my investigation."

"There's enough on the tape you already have to fire Brown now," Eckley said, the smile morphing into a smirk.

"Will you or will you not get me those tapes?" she asked acidly.

"For you, anything," he answered theatrically.

Sara couldn't help but roll her eyes.  She felt nauseated and knew the only cure was to get as far away from Conrad Eckley as possible.

"Page me," she said on her way out of his office.

* * * * *

"More questions?" Dan Reaves, the blackjack dealer, asked.

"Just a couple," Sara answered, smiling sweetly.

"Okay.  I'm going on break in ten.  Can it wait?"

"Sure."  Sara stood back, watching the two people at the table play several more hands of blackjack.  The games were over in very little time, and she was taken aback at how quickly the piles of chips in front of the gamblers disappeared.

"I was winning until she came along," one of the gamblers said to the other, as both rose from their seats to find a luckier table.

Dan smiled at Sara, who wasn't sure how she was supposed to react to the comment. 

"They've always got to blame somebody or something for their bad luck," he said, shrugging.  He signaled the Pit Boss that he was going on break, and led Sara back to a break room that was blissfully peaceful and spartan, compared to the glitz of the casino.

"All I really wanted to ask you is if the guy in this picture, the guy we were talking about before, has been in since last Wednesday."

"Yeah, a few times."

"Has he been in tonight?"

"Yeah, as a matter of fact, he was here not too long before you got here.  He may still be around, for all I know."

"Thanks," Sara said, quickly exiting the break room.  She spent another twenty minutes walking a grid pattern to see if she could find Warrick.  He wasn't there.

* * * * *

Grissom walked by the A/V lab several times, noting that Sara was glued to the monitor, making notes.  Once, Archie was there with her, working the keyboard and nodding as she issued instructions.  She would periodically walk over to the printer, grab the output, nod and shove it in her casefile.

On his last perambulation down that particular corridor, Grissom stuck his head in, seeing that Sara was alone.

"Anything new?" he asked.

"I'll give you my full report tomorrow night at assignments," she answered, not bothering to look at him."

Sighing heavily, Grissom eased through the door and sat next to her in Archie's chair.

"Sara, can you prepare me at all for what you'll be saying?  I should know before the fact, so that I can respond appropriately."

"If you respond inappropriately, no one will be in the least surprised," Sara said sarcastically.

"Sara, I'm sorry.  I don't know what else to say.  But I promise to stand behind you."

"Yeah, I can feel you back there," she huffed.  "You know, the only person in this whole freaking department who's shown any trust in me at all is Warrick.  And he hasn't asked me once about my report."

"I trust you," Grissom said defensively.  "I wouldn't have asked you to do this if I didn't trust you."

"You had to ask me to do it.  You don't trust me.  Not personally and not professionally.  But don't feel bad, 'cause I don't trust you, either," she said honestly.

* * * * *

A half-hour before assignments Sara was attempting to set up the videoplayer in the break room when Warrick walked in. 

"Need some help with that?" he asked, seeing the screen was black, despite her pushing multiple buttons on the remote.

"Yeah, I guess so.  I never use the VCR in here."

Warrick deftly pushed a series of buttons on the remote, and an image of the casino flashed up on the screen.

"Stop it there," Sara said, the screen going black.

"Just push the Play button when you're ready.  It should be all set up," Warrick said, handing her the remote.

"Warrick, I really appreciate you not beating me up over this," Sara said.

"Hey, I asked you to do this.  Don't forget that," Warrick said, reaching across to rest his massive hand on her shoulder.

"I wish the others felt the same way.  I'm back to being treated like the Gestapo around here," Sara said with resignation.

"They'll get over it."

"No offense, but why is everyone rushing to your side, and leaving me hanging out in the breeze?  Why are they so willing to turn on me so quickly?"

"Sara, there's trust and there's trust.  They trust you to do what you think is right, and they admire you for that.  But they don't trust you to do what they think is right, or what's best for them.  They trust your integrity, they just don't trust your friendship.  Which is most important to you?"

"My integrity."

"Then you've got what you want.  They trust that."

"Not Grissom.  He thinks I'm out to crucify you."

"Grissom has his own issues," Warrick said cryptically.

"Coffee?" Sara asked, holding up the fresh pot.

"Yeah, thanks," Warrick said, taking the chair directly across from where Sara had her file.

Nick came in next, sitting beside Warrick, casting an uncomfortable smile at Sara before punching Warrick playfully in the shoulder.  "Missed ya, man."

"Don't get all mushy on me," Warrick said, raising an eyebrow.

The temperature in the room dropped twenty degrees when Catherine entered, pointedly ignoring Sara.  She sat on Warrick's other side, giving him a quick hug.

Grissom noticed the chill in the room as soon as he arrived, but he had expected that and was prepared for it.  He pulled out the chair next to Sara's and sat down, hoping the symbolism was as apparent as the rest of the seating arrangements.

Sara sat down, and immediately opened her file.  She briefly recounted that Eckley had made a charge against Warrick.  She also explained that she had turned down the assignment, but had been convinced by Warrick to complete it.

Catherine looked over at Warrick with questioning eyes.  He nodded, assuring her that Sara was telling the truth.  She briefly glanced sheepishly at Sara, but she didn't return the eye contact. 

"I'm going to give you my conclusion after I've presented the evidence," she said, pointing the remote at the VCR.  The screen came alive with a picture of a blackjack table and a dealer.  "The dealer's name is Dan Reaves," Sara told them. 

An African-American male made his way through the crowd and sat at the table, apparently talking amicably with the dealer. 

"The time is 2:14 a.m., Wednesday morning," Sara said redundantly, since the date and time were stamped clearly on the bottom right of the screen. 

Nick cleared his throat on seeing the image, and Catherine slumped slightly in her chair.  Sara ran the tape at 16x speed from that point.  Nothing unusual was happening, and she only wanted to establish the time frame.  The young man collected his winnings and walked off.

"He left at 4:10 a.m."  As the man stood, she zoomed in as much as possible, to show his head and torso.  The picture was grainy, but they could make out the general features of the gambler and the clothes he was wearing.

"I showed an enlarged copy of Warrick's official departmental photo to Dan Reaves.  He verified that it was the same person who had been gambling at his table."

"Warrick was assigned a warehouse break-in to work solo on Tuesday.  He was still working it on Wednesday.  He reported to dispatch that he was at the warehouse at 2:00 a.m.  He reported that he was leaving the scene at 4:30 a.m.  There were no witnesses that he was there.  The scene had been secured for the night, and security never saw him there."

"These are the clothes that Warrick claims to have been wearing on Wednesday.  I can't verify that, but maybe one of you can.  Regardless, you can see that it's a pair of jeans and a black t-shirt."

All eyes went back to the video screen.  All that could be seen was the top half of the man, but he was dressed in a dark t-shirt.

"I have here a copy of Warrick's bank statement for two days prior to Wednesday.  It shows a cash withdrawal of $2,000 on Tuesday."

Grissom was becoming more morose by the second, but at the same time was uncommonly proud of Sara.  She had gone above and beyond the evidence necessary, obviously in an attempt to deflect the team's criticism.  She was presenting her evidence confidently, apparently resigned to the reaction she would get.

Catherine and Nick both stared down at the table, unable to meet the eyes of anyone else in the room.  Only Warrick looked at Sara, calmly taking in her report.

"That's enough," Grissom said heavily, holding up his hand.

"I'm not done," Sara shot back.

"There's no use in prolonging the agony of this, Sara," he said, a bit gruffly.

"Let me finish, Grissom," she said stridently.  "Trust me."

Grissom looked at her, a pained expression pinching his face.

"Warrick, do you trust me?" Sara asked pointedly.

"Yes, I do.  Let her finish," Warrick admonished.

"Okay," Grissom quietly conceded.  "Proceed."

Sara looked at each person sitting around the table, her eyes settling back on the only eyes willing to meet hers – Warrick's.

"Warrick Brown was not gambling on CSI time," Sara said definitively.  Warrick's face burst into a smile, mirrored on her own face.  Sara winked at him.

"What?"

"How can you say that?"

"Huh?"

The room was astir with disbelieving voices.  Though none had wanted to believe Warrick was guilty, they couldn't fathom how Sara could have reached her conclusion.

"Sara, I think you need to explain that to us," Grissom said.

"It couldn't have been Warrick, because it was this man," Sara said, pulling a photo she had taken at the casino of a young man who looked strikingly like Warrick from a distance, but did not have his green eyes.  "His name is Ernell Roberts.  He's a tourist who arrived on Monday on a week's vacation.  He normally works the night shift, so he decided to keep the same schedule here, gambling at night and sleeping during the day."

"Mr. Roberts has seen the videotape and has verified that it was him on the tape.  Mr. Reaves, when faced with Mr. Roberts in person, verified that he was the person playing his table."

"In addition, I processed Warrick's t-shirt.  It had the same dust on it that I found at the warehouse.  In addition, Warrick's t-shirt is black.  The gambler's is actually navy blue, as evidenced by this enhancement Archie prepared." Sara pulled another print from her file, showing the hue of the shirt to be blue.

"What about the money?" Nick asked uncomfortably.

"A loan for a friend," Sara said succinctly, not wanting to venture into Warrick's personal affairs.

"I also reviewed tapes of the two days before and after Wednesday.  The same man can be seen on each day, at times when Warrick was with one of us."

Warrick stood and walked around to Sara's chair, squatting down beside her.  He put a friendly hand on her arm. 

"I knew that I could trust you to do this, that you wouldn't stop until you had the whole picture.  I knew I was innocent, but no one would really believe it unless you said it.  Thank you," he said, giving her arm a squeeze.

"You're welcome," she said, concentrating on his expressive eyes rather than the faces arrayed around them.  When he stood, she did as well, looking back at Grissom.  "Could you just call me with my assignment, please?" she asked unsteadily, leaving the room that was thick with tension.

"Oh, she's pissed," Nick nodded, fiddling with the label on his bottle of juice, tearing it off in small strips.

"Wouldn't you be?" Warrick asked gruffly, walking out to try to find Sara.

Nick looked up guiltily, catching Catherine's eyes before he lowered his own again.

"I don't know how we could have avoided it," Catherine said.  "I mean, the choice was to support her or Warrick.  He's learned his lesson, and I'm getting tired of people hounding him for his past."

"She wasn't hounding him," Grissom mumbled, his hands rubbing his temples, his eyes closed.

"What do you call it?" Catherine asked.

"I call it doing what she was asked to do, by Warrick as well as by me, I might add.  I call it doing something unpleasant, that you know nobody's going to like, just because it's the right thing to do."

"She never seems to miss an opportunity to investigate him," Catherine retorted.

"She's the only one who's been asked to do it.  She's the only one willing to make the sacrifices," Grissom said, looking up.  "Would you have done it, had I asked you?"

"No!  And that's the point.  She's only too willing."

"She probably feels she's got nothing to lose," Nick sighed.

"And what's that supposed to mean?" Catherine asked haughtily.

"We're friendly enough to her, most of the time.  But when push came to shove, she was the odd man out.  That's gotta hurt," Nick answered guiltily.

Grissom could hear Sara's words coming back to him, pleading with him to not make her a pariah.  He closed his eyes, feeling the pain that he should have recognized then, realizing that he'd always managed to keep her as an outsider, to some extent.

He considered how alone she must be feeling – how alone she must have felt for a long time now.  He'd prevented her from becoming an integral part of their group on a personal level, but he hadn't given her anything in return for her sacrifice.

"What choice did we have?" Catherine asked again, but not so bitterly as before.

"We could have waited until all the facts were in.  We could have trusted her to be fair and impartial.  It might have been hard, but we should have tried to be supportive of them both.  We owe her that much."

"Well, it's too late now," Catherine sighed, her words cutting through Grissom, though she had no way of knowing that, or knowing why.

"I hope not," Nick said, standing.  "I'm going to find her ... to apologize.  She doesn't have to accept it, but I hope she does.  She's always been very forgiving," he said, his words adding a slight measure of hope to Grissom's mélange of emotions.

* * * * *

Nick found them, tucked into the back corner of the microscopy lab, its darkened interior providing natural cover.  They were each sitting on a lab stool, facing each other.  Warrick was talking softly to her – so softly that Nick couldn't make out what he was saying.

But he could see that Warrick had each of her hands in his, occasionally squeezing them in punctuation to his words.  She was looking down, occasionally nodding her head.

"Hey," Nick said softly from the door.  "Mind if I come in?"

Sara looked up and shrugged.  Warrick got up from his stool and walked by Nick, patting his shoulder as he passed.

"Sara, look, I know you probably don't want to hear this right now, but I'm sorry," Nick said, approaching her.

She continued to look down, threading her fingers and rubbing her thumbs together. 

"I promise I'll never do it again," he offered, taking Warrick's stool.

"It's okay.  You didn't say or do anything hateful," she said.

"Maybe not, but I didn't do anything to stand up for you when others did," he confessed.

"You mean, Catherine, don't you?" she said pointedly.

"Yeah, I guess so," he shrugged.  "But it's not that I supported her.  It's just ... well, I was trying to be supportive of Warrick."

"I could have used some of that support," Sara breathed out unevenly.

"I know that now, and I'm sorry.  It's just that you always seem so strong-willed, so self-assured.  I guess I didn't realize that you needed any support from me."

"What if I had proved he was guilty, Nick?  Would you still be in here apologizing?" Sara asked pointedly.

"I'd like to think so, but I don't know," he admitted.  "It might take me a little longer to realize what I'd done.  I'd be upset about Warrick."

"Just once, I'd like someone to be upset about me," Sara murmured.

"I am.  I'm upset that I hurt you without even meaning to.  I promise I'll make it up to you," he said, holding out a hand to her.

Sara reluctantly took it, feeling almost instantly better once she had. 

"You forgive me?" Nick asked, tilting his head to look into her eyes, a hopeful smile on his face.

"With dimples like that, how could I resist?" she said teasingly.

Nick stood and held out his arms, asking silently for a hug.  She leaned into him, and he wrapped his arms around her.  As they separated, he moved his hands up to her face and tipped it down to kiss her forehead before releasing her.

A buzz called her away from his smile, and she pulled out her cell phone.  "It's Grissom.  Guess I have an assignment," she said.

"Catch you later, then," Nick said, waving on his way out of the door.

"Sidle."

"Hey," his voice came across gently, not sounding at all as she was accustomed to over her cellular.

"Do you have an assignment for me?" she asked, trying to sound more even-tempered than she felt.

"Yes, come to my office ... please," he added as an afterthought.

"Oh, okay.  I'll be right there," she said, hanging up.  Standing, she straightened her clothes and her hair.  She took a deep breath, closed her eyes and counted slowly to eight as she exhaled.  After repeating that two more times, she felt much calmer.  The last thing she wanted was for Grissom to see how much the past few days had affected her.  She wanted to look as strong as everyone apparently assumed she was.

Walking down the corridor, she wondered briefly if Grissom would apologize, too.  She then laughed at herself for her foolish imaginings.  In all the years she'd known him, he'd never apologized to her.  Once he said "I'm sorry," but it wasn't an apology. 

She could hear it again in her mind, "I'm sorry, but everyone seems to have something to do today.  I need you."  The words alone would have been pleasant, but his tone was too sharp at the beginning.  It was only when he added the "I need you" that she had smiled.

She wished that he needed her more than professionally, but that thought was confined to her fantasies.

She knocked on the doorframe, despite the door being open.  When he told her to come in, she stepped just inside the door, leaning back on the frame, her arms crossed at her chest.

Grissom studied her body language, but wasn't sure if she was more angry or hurt.  Her stance could mean either, and she wasn't allowing her face to display any emotion at all, other than a fixed determination.

Rather than asking her to, he walked around his desk to the door, shutting it.  He leaned against the door, mirroring her.  The silence was thick and charged with emotion.

"Are you okay?" he finally asked, with a gentleness that she had only seen in him a few other times.  He tentatively reached out a hand to grasp her shoulder.

"Sure.  I'm fine," she said, a fake smile drawn on her face.

"No, I mean really okay," he said, his brows furrowed in concern.

"I will be.  Everyone will forget about it, in time.  Things will get back to normal soon," she answered gamely.

He nodded his agreement, and pushed himself upright from the door.  Opening it, he waved her through. 

"What's my assignment?" she asked following him to the now-deserted break room.

"You're with me," he answered, opening the fridge, taking out his lunch to take with him, and a bottle of water he had tucked in the freezer at the start of shift. 

"Okay, what's the case?" she asked.

"Grab your lunch.  We probably won't make it back here in time to eat," he said, nodding towards the refrigerator.

"Ooooo-kaaaay," she drew out, wondering why he was being so evasive.  She reached in distractedly and grabbed her sack, remembering to check for her name on the outside.

She trailed along beside him, her curiosity beginning to battle her other emotions for preeminence in her thoughts.

"Where're we going?" she asked, as soon as they hit the cool air of the desert night.

"You'll see when we get there," he answered enigmatically, starting the truck and pulling out into the nighttime traffic.

Why can't he answer a simple question?  I hate it when he does this.  It's like he doesn't think I'm even worthy to tell the most basic facts to. 

"Are you angry with me?" Grissom asked, tilting his head questioningly.

"I don't know if 'angry' is the right word," she answered honestly.  "I expected as much from Catherine.  Nick and Warrick are best friends, so I wasn't surprised there.  Besides, Nick isn't strong enough to stand up to Catherine, no matter what he thinks.  But you ..." her voice cut out and she shook her head, looking away as her eyes began to sparkle with tears.

"I tried to be supportive," he said defensively, though not convincingly.

"I guess I'm not talking about just this time."

"You mean because I keep putting you in this position, where you're at odds with the others," he said, rather than asked.

"I'm all alone here, Grissom," she said, the hurt carrying through her voice.  "I'm doing the best I can, but it just isn't good enough.  I'll always be on the fringes."

"I thought you were more like me, that you didn't care about being alone.  I never thought for a minute that you were lonely," he said with a sigh.

"I don't need them to entertain me, to occupy my time, so I don't know if you'd really call it lonely," she argued softly.  "It's just that I wish they would accept me, trust me.  But they never will," she heaved, before taking a deep breath to calm herself.

"I think they will.  I think that this situation has given them ... us ... a lot to think about.  It's obvious that Warrick trusts and accepts you.  If he can do it, it shouldn't be that hard for everyone else."

She fixed him with her gaze.  "Will you ever trust me again, Grissom?  I think you used to, but maybe you never did," she said, shaking her head and looking down.

"I've always trusted you," he said beseechingly, his voice pleading with her to believe him.  "I trust you to always do what you believe to be right ... It's just that you and I don't always agree on what's right," he added.

"Want to go to the park to eat?" Grissom asked hopefully, stunning her with the sudden shift in the conversation.

"No, that's okay," she answered. 

"Sara, please?" he asked, pleadingly.

Sara wasn't all that anxious to be sitting in a deserted park with Grissom, eating her lunch in what would inevitably be an uncomfortable silence.  She gave him her best "Do I have to?" look, but he ignored it as he took the next right turn, heading directly for the park.

The rest of the drive was as quiet as Sara imagined the lunch would be, but at the moment she didn't mind:  she used the time to think.

He's up to his usual tricks.  It's been a while, so I thought he was all done with the nice act, but I guess not.  I guess he's over me calling his bluff with the dinner invitation.  He may be ready to start the cycle all over again, but I'm not falling for it this time.  No way. 

Grissom looked over at her briefly.  She saw it in the skewed reflection in the window of the Tahoe, and she turned to face him, her face as impassive and unreadable as his typically was.  Still, he smiled before turning back.

"Thanks for having lunch with me," he said.

"Sure.  Why not?  It's not like it's a date or anything," she said, turning back to peer out of her window.

"It's whatever you want it to be," Grissom said quietly – so quietly that Sara dropped her head, like one listening for the slightest noise.  She could hear him swallow.  With her head still dipped, she rolled her head around to look at him, her brows furrowed.

Don't let him suck you in, Sara!  He's always throwing out these little one-liners to keep you dangling.  Call him on it this time! 

"What do you mean by that?" she asked.

"Nothing," he answered automatically.  Sighing, he corrected himself:  "I mean, nothing except what I said.  It can be whatever you want it to be.  If you want it to be two co-workers having their lunch together, that's fine.  But, if you want ..." he trailed off, shrugging.

"If I want what?" Sara asked, not content to let him render her speechless as he often did.

Grissom breathed out heavily, wondering why Sara was making him spell everything out tonight.  He pulled into the parking space and turned off the SUV, then turned to her.  "If you want it to be like a date, then it could be that, too," he said, more solemnly than would be expected.

Sara couldn't help but roll her eyes and shake her head as she turned towards the door. 

He's upping the ante this time.  Guess he figured I wouldn't fall for it anymore. 

"This isn't exactly what I had in mind when I asked you out," she said, opening the door, getting out, and closing it before he could reply.

Grissom sat for a moment, unsure of himself.  He wondered if he had waited too long, if she was no longer interested. 

It would just about be my luck.  I finally work up the nerve to even consider thinking of her in overtly romantic terms, and she's moved on. 

Sighing heavily, he opened the door and followed her to the park bench, where she was already digging in her paper bag for her sandwich.

"What did you have in mind?" he asked as he sat down.

"Dinner, like I said.  Either some place out of the city or at my house.  Either one," she answered a little too mechanically, as if she were trying to make sure he knew it didn't matter to her anymore.

"Lunch in a park can't be a date?" he asked, unwrapping his own sandwich.

"Damn!  I forgot to bring a drink," Sara said, looking around as though one would materialize.

"You can have some of my water," Grissom offered, holding out the bottle.

"I don't happen to have a cup on me," she said shortly.

"I don't mind your cooties, if you don't mind mine," he teased, smiling.

Sara hesitantly reached for the bottle, holding it in front of her for a few moments before she suddenly brought it to her lips and took a swig of the cool liquid, washing down the dry crumbs of her sandwich.

"Thank you," she said, handing the water back. 

Grissom immediately took a drink, watching her the whole time, hoping she might read as much into it as he intended.

How far is he going to take it this time? 

"You didn't answer my question," Grissom said between bites of his sandwich.

"Which question?"

"Can't lunch in a park be a date?"

"It could be, but it isn't," she said, looking away.

Grissom argued to himself that it didn't matter what she called it, he was still there with her.  "A rose by any other name ...," came to mind, but it was still disappointing to him that she was being so distant and resistant to his belated overtures.

He wasn't sure he wanted to know the answer, but he felt compelled to ask, "Sara, are you not interested anymore?  In our dating, I mean."  He couldn't look at her as he was waiting for her answer, if she did answer him.

"I don't trust you anymore, Grissom.  I've been through too much of this.  You flirt, then when I fall for it, I suddenly become invisible.  Well, I'm not falling for it.  You can't jerk me around anymore.  I'm onto your game," she said, more honestly than she had ever spoken to him.

Grissom sat in silence, crestfallen, trying desperately to think of words that would somehow make her forget the past. 

"Sara, if there was one thing I could do to convince you that I'm not going to do that, one thing that could make you trust me, what would it be?" he asked nervously, fearing what she might demand.

"Tell me something personal about yourself.  Who were you before you were you?" she entreated, surprising him.  "If you'll trust me, I'll trust you."

He found the thought of revealing himself to her much more frightening and the outcome much less predictable than a kiss would have been

"I think I've always been me.  It's not like something all that traumatic happened to make me how I am."

"You make it sound like you're awful.  You're not.  Just different."

"Yeah.  Different.  Well, I've always been different."

"Always?" she asked.

"As long as I can remember," he shrugged.

"Start at the beginning, as far back as you can remember, and tell me everything.  I want to know how it is you became who you are," she said, so earnestly that it melted his fears.

The way she looked at him made him hope she might accept it, all of it, as just part of him, without judgment.  He had never felt that from anyone else.  He had never trusted anyone else that much.

"This could take a while," he breathed out.  "But I'll tell you anything you want to know," he promised. 

Grissom took a drink of his water, his face gathered in thought, obviously reminiscing. 

"Tell me everything," she coaxed softly.

"I don't remember much before I was about five, I guess.  I only remember that because that's the year my father left us," he began, taking Sara by surprise right off the bat.

The time passed slowly, the monologue being broken only for short breaks to take an occasional drink.

Sara was mesmerized.  She endured an emotional roller coaster, feeling the pain of his father's abandonment, the isolation of a silent home, the love he felt from and for his mother, the loneliness of his years in school, the pride at his being made the youngest coroner in Los Angeles at only twenty-two, the passion for forensics instilled by his mentor, the desperation when he realized he was falling in love with a much younger woman, the fear when he realized he was losing his hearing, the devastation when he heard about that woman's relationship with a younger man, the pain of disillusionment when his mentor turned on him, the guilt when he slept with another woman, the concern when Sara was injured, his torment when she asked him out to dinner, and the panic when he realized that she wasn't going to wait forever.

At that point, he shrugged.  "That's about it," he said, as though it might have bored her.

She hadn't spoken during his monologue, not wanting to hazard derailing him.  She was still speechless, merely looking at him.  In all the years she had known him, she had never heard him say more than a few sentences in a row, and those composed of precious few words.  He had just talked literally for almost two hours, only stopping a few times for a drink of water or to collect himself.

If he had only shared the high points of his life up until she had met him, she still would have been astounded.  But she was completely flummoxed that he had included his feelings for her in his monologue, though he often had to look away from her piercing gaze when he did so.

Grissom was exhausted.  It was possibly the most difficult thing he had ever done.  So many times he had wanted to gloss over something, like his flirtations with Teri Miller or his night with Heather, but knew he couldn't.  He had to tell her everything, including how he felt about her.  He was anxious, feeling unbelievably exposed, as though he were standing naked on the Strip.  But he also felt unburdened.  There was nothing left to hide from her, nothing left to fear that she would find out. 

He was desperate for her to say something, anything.  Just something to let him know he hadn't made the biggest mistake of his life.  That he hadn't driven her further away with his candor, especially about his minor dalliances since she had come to Vegas.

"I was born in Tamales Bay, north of San Francisco, in 1971.  The first thing I remember is my father reading 'The Gingham Dog and Calico Cat' to me at bedtime one night.  He was probably really high, because he started giggling right in the middle of the poem.  I must have been about three or four," she began, returning the gift of trust. 

He felt such relief that he feared that he might show his emotions on his face, but he fought them, not wanting her to stop sharing every important moment of her life with him, and him alone.

He didn't interrupt her, but listened raptly as she described her childhood near the Bay Area, being raised by less-than-responsible Flower Children, her awkwardness in school because of her height and her intelligence, her pride at winning an academic scholarship to Harvard, her apprehension about leaving graduate school to pursue criminalistics after attending a seminar taught by Grissom, her joy at being invited to work with him in Las Vegas, her excitement when he began to flirt with her, her confusion when he pushed her away, becoming breathless when he said "Since I met you," her desperate search for another life when she started dating Hank, her feelings of foolishness when they broke up, her resolve to start living her life after the explosion, her nervousness about asking Grissom out to dinner, and the devastation of his refusal.

When she had finished, they sat in silence, nothing more to say.  After a few moments, Grissom looked down as he whispered contritely, "I had no idea.  I'm sorry."

"Sun's coming up," Sara noted absently, still trying to absorb the events of the past few hours.

"Shift's over," Grissom said, looking at his watch.

"We could go back to the lab," Sara said, gathering their trash into a single bag.

"Or we could go to your apartment or my house to finish this," he said.

"I'm finished.  Nothing else to tell.  Did you have more to talk about?" she asked.

"No," he answered, his voice low, but strong.  He was turned a bit on the bench, facing her, his bent arm hanging over the top rail.  He straightening it out slowly until his hand came to rest on her shoulder, and his fingers began to softly play with her hair.

This is heading for trouble!  Somebody better slow this down, and quickly, before it gets out of hand.  If he avoids me for a couple of months just for asking him out, imagine how far he'll push me away if we kiss.  It might be months or years 'til he talks to me again!

"Can I trust you, Grissom?" Sara asked in a hoarse whisper, her voice failing her.

"Yes," he answered, moving a bit closer so that his hand could move from her shoulder to her neck, buried in her hair.

"I'm not even sure why I trusted you with my past, but I've got to know whether I can trust you with my future, or even my present," she said, doubts flitting across her face.

"You can trust me," he said lowly, pulling gently at her neck and leaning in, stopping just a few inches from her face to gauge whether she was willing for him to take it further.

Sara breathed out and closed her eyes, leaning towards him slightly, thinking she was prepared for the meeting of their lips.  She was wrong.

It seemed strange that a kiss with so little movement could be so shocking.  Neither could move.  For a moment neither could breathe.  They merely sat with their lips barely touching.  Sara was the first to pull back so that they could regain some equilibrium. 

As soon as she was able to form coherent thoughts, she realized that he didn't pull back from the kiss – she did.  Not because she didn't want to kiss him, but because it was overwhelming.  But still, he didn't pull back.  She wondered if he did that purposefully, as a sign to her.

She raised her eyes to him, questioning him wordlessly.  She saw the apprehension, but she saw something else – something that held her there, only inches from him.

She thought he would kiss her again, but he held where he was, his eyes making love to her face.  The epiphany hit her that he was waiting on her, but she was hesitant, afraid it would break the spell.  The way he was looking at her was the most sensuous experience she had ever had, and she wished it would never end.  For the first time in her life, she felt adored.

But the Gaussian forces that pulled them together were too strong for her to resist, and he could feel the tension in her neck where she was fighting the losing battle, her lips moving towards his a millimeter at a time.  He unconsciously licked his lips lightly in anticipation, forcing himself to not hasten the meeting.

When they were so close that he couldn't focus his eyes on her anymore, he gave up and helped close the gap, albeit just as slowly as she was moving.  This time they were more prepared for the moment that magnetism converted to electricity.

Both battled the urge to plunge headlong into erotic bliss.  Though they only touched at the lips, with his hand still on her neck, and her hand on his chest, she was becoming what she knew to be dangerously aroused.  She was grateful that her arousal wasn't as evident as Grissom's – only the flush of her skin giving any sign.

"We better stop," she gasped, pulling back from him slightly.  "It's getting light and this isn't the time or place for this, right out in public."

"Come home with me," he said.

"No.  No.  This is all moving too fast," she said, shaking her head.

"I've got a lot of distance to make up," he said, pulling at her gently.

She resisted and finally forced herself to scoot back from him on the bench.

"Doesn't have to be all in one day, does it?" she said, smiling uncertainly at him.

"No," he breathed out, smiling though his voice carried the physical frustration he was feeling.

"I've got to have a little time to process all of this.  And, to be honest, I want to know what the consequences will be for what we've already done, before we do any more.  Does make any sense?"

"You still don't trust me," he sighed.  "I don't blame you."

"I trust you more than I've ever trusted anybody.  But I trust you to be you.  If you're going to regret it, I'd rather find out now, after just a kiss, than later.

"That hardly qualified as 'just a kiss'," Grissom chuckled, unconsciously running his finger along his lips.

"Exactly my point," she laughed.  "If 'just a kiss' was like that, can you imagine what ... uh ... more ... would be like?"

"Well, to be honest, I imagine it all the time.  But I may have to modify it quite a bit now."

"You're not making this any easier," she said, "... resisting temptation, I mean."  She took a deep breath and let it out suddenly. 

"'The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it'," Grissom said, raising an eyebrow suggestively.

"Oscar Wilde," Sara said, happy that for once she could identify one of his quotations.  "'I can resist everything but temptation'," she replied, completing the quote.

"I think it enlightening that you would recognize that particular quote," Grissom teased her.

"Maybe it speaks to me," she offered, returning his smile.

"Maybe you should listen to it," he replied.

"Maybe I did, or we wouldn't have kissed," she countered.

"Maybe it has more to say to you," he said, pulling gently at her again, willing her to kiss him.

"Grissom, stop!" she said, the volume to her voice low, but forceful nonetheless.  The sudden role-reversal confounded her, and she needed time to think.  She knew another kiss would weaken her resolve all the more.

"Okay.  I'm not trying to rush you.  Well, maybe I am," he admitted sheepishly.  "But I'm not going to push you anymore.  I'll leave it to you to let me know what you want and when.  You make the first move."

"Back where we started," she murmured, but not angrily.

"But different this time," he assured her.  "This time, you can have what you want," he said, raising a finger to gently touch her lips.