The characters and situations in this story belong to Alliance Atlantis, CBS, Anthony Zuicker and other entities, and I do not have permission to borrow them. No infringement is intended in any way, and this story is not for profit. Any errors are mine, all mine, no you can't have any.
Feedback is most appreciated, feel free to post; if you want a personal response you can e-mail me.
Spoilers: call it everything, to be safe. I'm still not sure I believe in this 'ship, and they aren't particularly in character, but when a story insists this hard...
The lock clicked, and the door eased open, and a shadow slipped into the dim apartment, almost as silent as the sunlight that tried to pry through the blinds. Long practice at going unnoticed meant that the door shut without sound, and the shadow paced carefully past the kitchen, inhaling the particular scent of this dwelling. It was complex; warmth and a bit of dust, traces of dinner, the faint unmistakable smell of her.
Shadow, ghost, it was the same--but he'd know her anywhere by her scent.
Grissom schooled himself to the patient near-invisibility he'd learned to cultivate as a teenager, so long ago now. Everyone knew Sara didn't sleep much, and he at least knew she suffered from nightmares. He was running a terrible risk.
But not an impossible one. Like any good scientist, he'd made his calculations. He knew that Nick, Warrick, and Sara had gone out for a drink after shift, trying to wind down after a very long night, and he figured that the combination of fatigue and alcohol on top of double shifts would give him a bit of a buffer. Yet somewhere under the estimations and logic a part of his mind was screaming at him that this was ridiculous, crazy, that he was bound to get caught.
He ignored it. He had to do this. It was do this or lose her, and there was really no choice there.
Grissom made his way past her police scanner, her computer, other wired boxes he didn't recognize or care about. A chair, with a shirt tossed over it; a couple of journals, piled carelessly on the floor.
She slept on her back, head turned to the side, one thin arm up on the pillow and her hair caught beneath it. The sheet only reached the middle of her chest; she wore a black cotton camisole that made her skin even paler by contrast. He stood for long moments and listened to her breathe--still grateful that he could hear anything at all, let alone such a soft sound--before moving closer. Now for the true test.
"Sara," he said quietly, speaking just above a whisper, ready to bolt if she stirred. Though if she woke all at once he would be...how would she put it?... so busted.
She didn't move. Even her eyelids were still; apparently no dreams were calling this morning. He said her name again, and still nothing.
Slowly, carefully, he slid to his knees beside the bed. He didn't dare sit on the edge of the mattress; the dip would surely wake her.
With the smoothness of fluency, he raised his hands and began with the sign he'd made up for her name, the one no one had seen but him--the clenched fist of the American Sign Language "S", pressed to his heart. "Sara...I'm sorry. But I have to do this." His lips moved as his hands did, old habit forming the sentences in two different grammars.
He paused a moment, admiring. It was odd to see her face without the active mind running behind it; in sleep, she frowned just the slightest bit, but it was an innocent look, as though she were eight years old again and working on a jigsaw puzzle. She wore no masks, and it tore at him to think how long it had been since she had turned an open face to him.
For an instant he saw her again in the gleaming light of morning, holding her sunglasses in one hand and giving him a wide smile, announcing her presence. He remembered the delight he'd felt at the arrival of someone he trusted utterly, someone he could depend on to help him out of an ugly tangle, someone who thought like he did. And the pride, knowing that he'd had a hand in the honing of her remarkable skills. And then time snapped back into place, leaving him in muted light, all the joy now nearly smothered by regret.
His hand itched to reach out, to at least free her hair from the pressure of her arm, but that would just be stupid. He'd already come much further than the pessimistic side of him had believed was possible; now was not the time to screw up.
"You know," he went on, gestures filling the air in front of him, "you were right. I've figured out what to do about 'this', and it's too late."
He closed his eyes briefly, fighting back a rush of grief. He'd learned many lessons in his life, not the least or newest of which was that he wasn't any good at relationships, romantic or otherwise. He considered his friendship with Catherine to be the exception that proved the rule; it was her blatant stubbornness that kept it going. She did most of the work, and fortunately, she didn't seem to mind.
"I hate what I've done. To you, and to the...and to myself." This was not the time to bring up the others, no matter the wrong he'd done them. This was between the two of them.
"It's so hard to work with you now, knowing that we were friends once, and that I killed that friendship. Sara..." He let his fist rest against his breastbone for a moment, feeling the thump of his heartbeat. "I can't go on like this. Which is why I'm here, breaking any number of laws and risking your wrath." Half a smile faded quickly. "I figured...I figured that if I just said it, I might be able to...we could..." His hands faltered and fell. This was harder than he had anticipated.
"I know you don't want to hear it, which is why I'm doing this while you're asleep. But I thought that if I told you how I felt, I might be able to work with you again, maybe a little like we used to. Take some of the pressure off. Silly, I know." He breathed out. "But I'm afraid that if I don't try to mend our--relationship, you'll leave."
Grissom bit the inside of his lip, thinking, trying to draw his feelings out into a form that could be expressed. "It started as just flirting. Just a joke. I never thought it would become more for you. And when you asked me out, I didn't think it was--I didn't think."
He froze in sudden alarm as Sara moved, but all she did was turn onto her side, bringing her other arm over so both hands rested on the pillow. Her eyes didn't open and her breathing didn't change, but it was long minutes before Grissom relaxed enough to go on.
"It hurts, Sara. It really hurts. I know it's too late, I know that I've killed everything you felt for me, but I wish I had seen before how important you are to me." His gestures trailed off as he filled his eyes with her sleeping form, and he came to himself just in time to snatch his fingers back as they neared her bare shoulder.
"I'll always wonder what it would have been like if I had agreed to go to dinner with you. Maybe by now we'd be happy, instead of you being angry and me being miserable." He paused to rub the bridge of his nose, feeling the threat of a headache building behind his eyes. "My mother used to tell me that love comes in its own time. The trouble is, I've always had rotten timing." One corner of his mouth quirked up. "Except maybe for right now."
Grissom sighed, and shrugged. Dropping his hands to his knees, he watched Sara for a little while, savoring the opportunity of seeing her without the tension or animosity. He wondered dully if his crazy impulse was actually going to work, whether the words he'd patterned in the air would be enough of a release for him to be easy with her later.
Will she even notice?
He got to his feet as quietly as possible and retraced his steps, shutting the door behind him and feeling as though he had closed off all his choices but one. The trouble was, he didn't know which choice was left.
If any of his midday visit had made its way into Sara's sleeping brain, she gave no hint of it when he saw her during the next shift. She was cool, professional, bright-eyed with rest for once; it was Grissom who felt uncomfortable. His plan had succeeded in part--something in him had eased with his confession. But it hadn't made the feelings go away, and the pain was as strong as ever. At least now I know what to do about it. Keep them inside, bury them deep. As long as Sara stayed, they would torment him; but as long as she stayed, he was at least feeling. Cases came and went, and Grissom wondered how long it might take to rebuild a friendship that had been so thoroughly destroyed.
A very long time, I'm afraid.
The lock clicked, and the door eased open, and a shadow slipped into the dim apartment, sniffing appreciatively at the artificially cool air. Faint lines of light delineated the windows, but heavy blinds kept out the desert sun. The shadow closed the door carefully and paced forward, noting the signs of recent activity--papers on the table, a coffee mug next to the sink.
Beyond the main living area was unknown territory, but the shadow's stride held confidence.
Grissom felt the weight of sleep lessening, and automatically reached after it, unwilling to wake without the alarm's stridency demanding it. But consciousness was inexorable, and as he rose towards waking, he realized that something was different. The way his body lay on the bed, the tightness of the blanket over his hip...something was unbalancing his mattress....
He opened foggy eyes and blinked at the bedside table. A voice, warm and familiar, came from the shape that sat on the edge of the bed.
"Y'know, Grissom, you really ought to keep up with popular technology."
His half-asleep mind went into a tailspin. "Sara?" he managed, rolling over a little so he could focus on her. A small part of him was grateful that he didn't sleep in the nude.
"Rise and shine." She was watching him with all the smug patience of a cat at a mousehole. "Turnabout is fair play, after all. Except I'm not playing stalker."
He swore mentally, his brain clearing rapidly as adrenaline pushed out sleep. She knows. How can she know? Unless she really was awake the whole time--
"Here, maybe this will help." She was holding out a glass of orange juice. Grissom pushed himself into a sitting position and accepted the glass, more because he didn't know quite what to do than because he was thirsty. But she cocked a brow at him, and he blinked and took a swallow.
"I suppose you want an explanation," he said, setting the glass on the table. A glance at the clock told him he'd only been asleep a couple of hours.
"Nope," she said easily. "You were surprisingly clear. For you, anyway."
Grissom drummed his fingers on the blanket, wishing he hadn't left his glasses in the dining room. "So...why are you here?" Probably to tell me I'm pathetic, and to mete out justice, and she's going to leave and I'll-- Horrified at the sudden rush of near-incoherent anguish, Grissom blinked rapidly. Sara had him cornered neatly. There was no way to escape to get his emotions under control.
She didn't answer his question. "Do you know," she said conversationally, "that it's exam time right now?"
He squinted at the apparent non sequiteur. "What?"
"It took me two weeks to find a student at the deaf college who had the time to run a translation for me," she went on, and he could see no trace of anger in her.
"Translation," he echoed, now thoroughly confused.
"Of your...monologue," Sara supplied.
His brain was still spinning at the sight of her sitting straight and slender on his bed, one knee drawn up and her ankle tucked under her other leg. He rubbed his forehead. "I don't get it," he confessed frankly.
"Technology, Grissom." She pulled a much-folded piece of paper from her pocket and waved it at him. "You didn't even recognize the Webcam, did you?"
The part of him that managed to keep observing, no matter what, noted that the paper's folds were worn, as though it were much handled. The rest of him was still scrambling to catch up. "What Webcam?"
"The one I set up over my bed." She frowned as his expression changed. "Get real, Griss. It's not that kind of Webcam."
"I didn't think it was," he said with some dignity. It was true; the idea of Sara Sidle displaying herself for Internet voyeurs was so far beyond ridiculous as to be impossible.
"I use it to record my nightmares," she explained, startling him again. "I figure that maybe I can figure out a pattern, and then maybe a way to break it."
His brows went up as he considered the possibility. "Interesting idea."
"Yeah. Well, I caught a lot more than a nightmare the other day."
When he didn't say anything else, she folded her arms. "'Oh'? Is that all you have to say for yourself?"
"You want an apology?" he returned dryly, with a sudden rush of courage.
"No, I want you to listen to me. Really listen, this time."
He grimaced. "All right." At her surprised look, he shrugged. "It seems the least I can do."
She nodded, and all her confidence seemed to vanish as she bent her head and smoothed the paper over her knee. It was a long moment before she spoke.
"You said some beautiful things, Gris," Sara said quietly. "They meant a lot to me, more than you know. But there was one flaw in your reasoning."
She raised her head until her gaze met his, and his heart lurched at the emotions he saw there--mingled fear, anticipation, delight, something he recognized but dared not name. For once, he couldn't bear to look away.
Sara lifted her hands. Her signs were a little stiff, the conscious movements of someone new to the language, but they were very clear. "It's not too late."
The sign for "G" requires the palm to face outward and sideways, making it nearly impossible to hold against the heart. Sara put her hand to her lips instead, smiling her brilliant smile, and Grissom lost himself in it even as his own hands reached out and gathered her to him.