Learning to Fly

Gil Grissom, supervisor of the Las Vegas Criminalistics night shift unit, strode down the hall with his face in a file and his mind elsewhere. He was on his way to interrogate Colin Maxwell, a young man accused of killing his elderly neighbor. Maxwell had done odd jobs for Mrs. McKeany, which was why he seemingly had discovered her locked safe box. His fingerprints smeared the surface of the old oak chest the box had been in, and tonight it was time to ask him why they were there. Grissom struggled to maintain a straight line of questioning in his mind's eye. Rarely did his thoughts wander from his work, and tonight was one of those times.

I wanted to ask you.I wanted to make sure, rather, that anything that did, or didn't, happen between us wouldn't be a factor.Sara Sidle's half- asked inquiry still rattled him weeks after she'd shakily stated it. He had distanced himself from her even more since then-as much distance was possible in a unit of five people. Whether he wanted to work with her or not, he knew efforts to concentrate while around her would be futile.

Exactly what had-or had not-happened between himself and his bright young protégée, he did not know. All he knew was what he wanted to happen between them, and, well-that simply could not happen. The key position was left unopened as of yet, and he had another two weeks to evaluate its filling. Nevermind. I'm always.overtalking around you. Lucky Sara; he wished that overtalking was the only affliction that he suffered whilst in her presence.

"Gruesome Grissom, just the man I was looking for." Grissom's head shot up at his nickname-one that she had bestowed upon him-and recoiled instantly. Conrad Ecklie's twisted grin was evidence that the gesture was not lost. The day shift supervisor openly took pride with his lack of welcome with the night shift, especially with Grissom.

"Conrad." Grissom raised his eyebrows expectantly, waiting for Ecklie's excuse for his existence, and for bothering Grissom with it.

"The sheriff and I need to see you immediately," Ecklie said, a smirk plastered on his weasel-like face.

"I would love to discuss new wallpaper for the lab with you and Sheriff Atwater, Conrad, but I am actually working here--"

Ecklie cut him off. "I am aware that you have an interrogation scheduled. CSI Willows is standing in for you. This is urgent." He twirled an about-face and strode purposely to the sheriff's office. Grissom sighed, mumbled something about office politics and wasting time, and shuffled after Ecklie.

Atwater stood the moment Grissom entered his well-lit office, but did not offer his hand. "Afternoon, Grissom," he said briskly. Ecklie's little smirk grew wider at the dropped title of "Doctor" from his nemesis' name. The hairs on the back of Grissom's neck stood straight up. Something was wrong here and it wasn't the lack of wallpaper in the lab. "Have a seat."

Grissom remained standing for a moment, then slowly made his way down to the straight chair, mirroring the sheriff's movements. Ecklie, whose crossed arms only made his smirk more annoying, stood to the sheriff's right. "What can I do for you, Sheriff?" Grissom asked evenly.

Rory Atwater stared hard at his desk. His eyes rose and he said, gruffly, "Heather O'Neal has been murdered."

Grissom felt a heavy lump form in his throat and he tried to swallow it. "Are you sure it was her?"

Atwater watched him closely. "She was found in her place of employment this morning. Cause of death was an injection of spider venom." Atwater leaned closer, as if he were sharing a secret. "Your prints were found at the scene. You own a venomous spider." As he rattled off the evidence, his left eye began to twitch. "And you were off last night, Grissom. What in God's name did you do?"

Grissom's eyebrows drew together and his heart began to pound. "You searched my office?"

Atwater's fist smashed against his desk and he stood. "Your prints were at the scene! You're an entomologist with the only known deadly spider in the area! Of course we got a warrant for your office. and your home."

Grissom stood and slammed both hands against the sheriff's desk. "My home? When did you search my house?" Grissom's face was now red, and his pulse rate was well beyond seventy. With a sideways glance at Ecklie, who cowered next to his filing cabinets, the sheriff slowly backed away from Grissom and took a deep breath.

"We're just about to do that.with your accompaniment. I wanted to give you a chance to explain yourself. I'd like to think anyone employed at this lab would be incapable of murder-even if it was a dominatrix." Atwater made no attempt to conceal his disgust. Grissom's eyes narrowed. He dropped his arms to his sides.

"You have nothing to say about this before we go?" Atwater asked after a few moments, frowning.

"No." Grissom did not elaborate. Atwater simply stared at him.

"Well, let's get going so I can lay this to rest," Grissom finally grated out.

"We're not quite finished yet," Atwater said. He sighed and turned to Ecklie. "I'm going to have to take you off this case. Conrad--" he held up a hand as Ecklie began to protest-"I know you can solve this case, but your past altercations with Grissom are known to everyone. We need an unbiased pair of eyes." Atwater beckoned his hand toward the door, and Grissom didn't even have to look to know whom the sheriff was summoning. He slowly closed his eyes before he had even heard the words.

"Sara Sidle has experience with internal investigations. She's assisted the lab in numerous cases over the years and we are going to utilize her skills with this.situation."

Sara crept into the office, her head bowed. Her gaze strayed over the room, avoiding Grissom. Grissom turned and faced her, and for a moment their eyes met. Hers were unreadable to him for the first time he could ever remember, and he felt like he'd been kicked. She suddenly turned and said, "Ready, Sheriff?"

Atwater made his way around his desk to escort the two CSIs to Grissom's townhouse when Ecklie called out, "Wait!"

Three heads turned to look at him. He fidgeted for a moment, then said jerkily, "Um, sheriff, you have to know, that is, CSI Sidle has feelings for supervisor Grissom. I mean, at the Haviland trial last year, they said she touched him in a romantic gesture. Surely that's biased!"

Atwater looked at the two CSIs, their frowns, their refusal to look at each other. He laughed for the first time that day. "That's ridiculous, Conrad. He's old enough to be her father!"

Sara spun quickly and the office door slammed behind her. Grissom looked at the floor, then at the sheriff, and the two followed her out, Atwater still chuckling.

Atwater drove Grissom to his townhouse while Sara followed in her Denali. Grissom tried not to think about her presence behind them, or about what she must be thinking. He wondered if she had balked at the idea of investigating this case or not. Probably not, knowing her work ethic. He thought back to the last time he'd been at Heather's place and knew no matter what Sara found out, she would probably never trust him again. It was just as well; perhaps this would solve their problem. He wouldn't have to resist his feelings anymore if they were no longer reciprocated.

That led him to his present problem. He closed his eyes and sighed. His ears were still ringing with the sting of Atwater's words. Heather O'Neal has been murdered. Heather was dead. Grissom opened his eyes quickly. He had to separate himself from his feelings right now. He shifted into supervisor mode, his face impassive, his body straight. There would be no time for grief for him. There never was.

He thought about the evidence against him. His fingerprints. Spider venom. His availability and lack of an alibi. While mostly circumstantial, nothing looked good. Now he knew how Nick had felt when he'd been suspected of killing a woman he'd been involved with. Christy Hopkins-another woman with a bad reputation, Grissom thought ruefully. We CSIs sure know how to pick 'em.

They pulled up alongside the curb in front of his townhouse. Sara jerkily parked behind them and the slam of her door was not ten seconds later. So she was angry. Good. That was something, at least. That was better than the zombie state she'd been occupying as of late. She strode up his walk behind them, her evidence case in one hand and camera in the other. Grissom couldn't remember the last time he'd had anything in his home photographed, if ever.

He led the way up to his door, and when he reached to unlock it, he found that his hand was shaking. So much for no emotion, he mused, turning the lock. He vowed to maintain his composure as he pushed the door open, straightening his fingers out twice.

Atwater flicked on the lights, and Sara immediately began her search. He could only stand back and observe as his sacred privacy was trampled on by the sheriff and his prized student. Grissom did have to hand it to her; she was being a lot cooler than he would have been if the roles had been reversed. He knew she would at least be fair, contrary to what Ecklie thought. She was his best student to this day, and he knew no matter what she was feeling, she would still follow the truth of the evidence.

He watched her intently as she made her way around the glass cases of insects, some alive, some not. He knew she had an aversion for his bugs, no matter what she claimed, but Sara Sidle was tough as nails and would not let that get in the way. Almost immediately she found his small spider collection. Atwater predictably went straight for Grissom's desk, but Grissom was too focused on his apt pupil to notice.

"This looks like a match to the spider at the office." Sara's voice sounded lifeless. She mechanically took a few shots of the spider. He watched as she pulled out an insect jar out of her field kit and proceeded to collect Milton, his poisonous spider. She started to place the jar inside his habitat carefully, then stopped, looking for a way to lure him in.

"You can use some of his food. It's over there, on that shelf," Grissom offered, gesturing to his bug food pantry.

She looked at him, and the trust she held for him that was once so palpable was gone. He'd never seen her face so drawn. The misery in the pit of his stomach, the bile he strove hard to hold at the back of his throat, grew heavier as he returned her stare as best as he could. She gave him a hint of a nod-a jerk of her chin-and reached for the spider food.

He'd directed her to the canned protein instead of the live food Milton preferred, but he knew she was having a hard time as it was. She pinched a bit out-the silence in the room was so loud he could hear the crisp crunch of it between her latexed fingers-and placed it into the bottom of the jar. Milton immediately crawled towards his meal and Sara capped the jar efficiently.

Atwater came to see her finding, bending his head and wrinkling his nose at the offensive creature. He turned to Grissom, his tone accusatory. "You had access to the venom both inside and outside of the lab."

Grissom merely looked back at him. No confirmation was needed; the evidence did not lie.

Sara turned to Grissom, unsure of how to proceed. "I don't know how long he will survive in the jar before I get him back to the lab."

Grissom felt a strange urge to laugh. In any other circumstance, she would have asked him straight out. This, however, was anything but normal circumstances; they were indeed not working a case together.

"He should be okay for a while. Long enough for you to complete your search."

Sara stiffened at his last word, turning to do just that.

Atwater held a notebook in his hands. Grissom's face hardened.

"Wow, Gil. I knew you were well read but I didn't know you could write."

Atwater flipped through the pages absently, reading a few lines aloud for Grissom to cringe over. " 'Tresses framing such milky perfection/ like chestnuts smoothed into a river of silk/ they taunt me, taunt me, taunt me: touch me.' "

He looked up into Grissom's hard eyes. "Sounds a little obsessive to me." He flipped through more pages and whistled. " 'Infinity alone awaits our merge/ And as we fly into the orange abyss/ I will claim you as my own.' Damn, you had it bad. What happened, did she not return your feelings? Not dirty enough for her? That it?"

Grissom stared stonily at the sheriff, feeling, not for the first time in his life, the urge to physically hurt someone. He looked over Atwater's shoulder to see Sara's eyes on him, looking wet. Her brows drew together and she stated, "I'm going to check in the other rooms." She toted her kit with her to Grissom's bedroom.

Atwater watched Sara with sympathy. "She must feel weird investigating her boss's personal life. Especially while he was involved with a younger woman," he added absently. He looked at Grissom expectantly. "So? Did she break it off?"

Grissom frowned, then remembered the identity of the subject in question. "No. I did, quite long ago."

Atwater flipped through his notes. "It seems to be the consensus of your coworkers that you began a. relationship with the victim during an investigation in which she was a suspect."

Grissom shifted. "She wasn't a suspect at the time."

The sheriff continued to peruse his notes. "Eyewitness reports seeing you outside her residence during the investigation several times, as well as twice thereafter."

Grissom's eyes narrowed. Who the hell is watching me? "I was naturally at her residence during the investigation. I had to collect evidence there. Afterwards." his voice trailed off. His mind immediately went to the last of his visits.

I don't see anything wrong with it, Gil. How could something this natural be wrong?

"I have visited her on occasion."

"So you admit that you had a romantic relationship with Heather O'Neal?" Atwater paused over his notes.

"Yes."

Atwater shook his head and began scribbling once again. "How long did the relationship last?"

Grissom frowned. "We have been friends since the investigation at her place of employment."

The sheriff rolled his eyes. "I mean how long have you been screwing her, Gil?"

Grissom scowled at the man. He opened his mouth but was interrupted.

"I found something, Sheriff," Sara called from Grissom's bedroom.

The two men separated their angry glares for a moment and looked into her direction. She walked into the living area slowly, holding up a syringe.

Atwater eyed Grissom and growled, "Coincidence again?"

Grissom did not answer. He simply watched Sara as she bagged the syringe and said, "We'll need to get this back to the lab with that spider."

Atwater held up the notebook. "This, too." He turned to Grissom. "I'd still like to believe that you had nothing to do with this, Grissom, but these leads aren't looking promising for you. I'm going to talk with Cavallo, but I'm pretty sure it's safe to say that you should stay away from the lab for a few days. We'll call you in as soon as we've gotten some definitive answers."

Grissom began to protest, and Atwater snapped, "CSI Willows will run your unit. I really think you should be grateful at the lengths we're going to protect you here, Grissom." He turned to leave. "Sidle, anything else you need to collect?"

Sara glanced at the offending notebook the sheriff was still holding. Her eyes shifted and locked with Grissom's, and the void in them shattered him. "I'm finished here," she stated firmly. She reached for her kit as the sheriff walked out to his car.

"Sara," Grissom started, not knowing what to say-never knowing what to say.

She regarded him despondently, disappointment evident in her movements. She did not wait; she was through with waiting. "Goodbye, Grissom."

He cursed himself for not being the man he should have been. All he could do was watch her slip out of the door. She left him alone, driving to the lab to analyze the materials she'd collected from his home. There was never opportunity for her to investigate anything else there.

Dammit. Sara was careful to maintain her composure in front of Atwater. God I am so stupid. She swerved violently and cursed again, barely missing a tongue-lolling retriever pup. She shook her head and watched the car in front of her for a few moments. Satisfied that Atwater had not seen her near collision with the canine, she thought about him again.

What the hell was I thinking? I was following the evidence-his evidence, his own damn evidence that he left in plain view. What was I, just some kind of diversion, a human crossword puzzle for his down time? Was that the clue I was supposed to keep-his little speech on what a diversion is? And what was that notebook all about? Suddenly Grissom decides that he's Shakespeare? Her throat went dry when she thought of that stupid little notebook-a simple wire-bound seventy-pager, the kind he used to take notes at crime scenes sometimes.

Her eyes narrowed. He had been thinking about her while processing scenes? Oh my god. A series of explicatives shot from her mouth as she thought of him at scenes-scenes where he had made her primary, where he had observed her for the key position, where he was supposed to be evaluating her skills. His mind had been on her the entire time.

"I'm going to be sick," she mumbled to herself, reaching for her Aquafina. The lab came into view and she was thankful for its comfort-her trusty lab, who never cheated on her or led her on-her only real friend.

She hadn't wanted to do this in the first place. She had refused at first, citing professional concerns as her means for turning the case down. Atwater had insisted, however, maintaining that she was the only CSI in the department with an unbiased pair of eyes. He may have been trying to compliment her, but she took it as honestly as she could. She was still an outsider, after four years on the team, and even the fledgling sheriff knew it.

Despite what any of them thought, she knew she still had a personal bias with this case. No matter what she found, no matter how much she distrusted Grissom, her heart's insistence of his innocence was not something she could deny easily. Up until she had gone to his apartment, she had still believed in his innocence with fervor. Even with the evidence presented there, she still heard the back of her mind reiterating He didn't do this.

However, she had to admit that this was not the same Grissom that she once knew. This was the Grissom who endangered the lives of his coworkers by keeping secrets from them, who slept with suspects, who indulged in lusty distractions at crime scenes. Still, she sincerely doubted his guilt.

If there was one thing Sara Sidle was good at, it was her job. She knew she had to make herself work this case without being partial to her boss, and she thought she could do it. If she kept her distance and followed the evidence without emotion-as Grissom himself had insisted on doing every day- she would get the job done, chalk one up for her own strength, and make sure this was solved right.

She strode into DNA and presented Greg Sanders with the spider. "Hey, got something for you."

The lab tech eyed her with interest. "Anything for you. But I deal with humans, Sara. Why don't you ask Grissom? I bet he'd wuv to play with this wittle guy." He made cootchie-coo gestures at the spider.

Sara frowned. "Uh, he's out tonight." She leaned over to look at the spider and shuddered. "Can you help me do the extraction? I'm not very experienced when it comes to bugs."

Greg threw his arm over his head dramatically. "Of course, my dearest." He glanced at her and reached for the specimen jar. He held it up to look at it closely. "Hmm, this could get messy. Why don't I go ahead and do it, and I'll page you when the results are in?"

She sighed with gratitude. "Thanks, Greg." She turned to leave, then looked back. "I need to have this venom compared with the venom in the O'Neal case." She paused. "I need it compared with the venom we found in the spider at the lab, too."

Greg stared at her. "Grissom's spider?" he asked incredulously. "You don't think-"

"Just following some leads, Greggo," Sara said, smiling flatly at him. "Thanks."

She left before he had time to ask more questions. While he was always a pleasant distraction-and his offer to extract the spider venom was the most chivalrous she'd had in quite a while-she was just too drained right now to offer anything other than curt professionalism. Maybe when this was over, she'd buy him some nice coffee.

Coffee. That sounded good. She went into the break room, knowing there would be some there. She knew the sheriff had dropped off Grissom's little literary treasure book himself to be analyzed-probably so he could snicker over more of the contents inside. She poured herself a cup of the almost- stagnant brew, wincing but still throwing a good portion back after loading it with sugar.

She stared idly into the cup, as if hoping some of the grinds floating in it would provide her with some answers. God Sara, I have so many unanswered whys. She smiled bitterly at the irony. Me too, Griss. Me too.

She didn't hear the footsteps behind her but was not surprised to her Catherine Willows' voice at her back. "He didn't do it, you know."

Sara rolled her eyes before turning to face the older woman. "Catherine, I'm just doing my job. You know as well as I do the evidence will prove what happened."

Catherine advanced toward her. Her face was pale and there was no energy in her step.

Sara's eyes widened. "You look awful."

Catherine shrugged. "So do you. You know, you could've passed this up. Let IA handle it."

Sara shook her head. "Maybe, but I didn't. I'm going through with this. I can handle it. At least while I'm on it, he won't be arrested unless the evidence proves him guilty. Internal Affairs would have already taken him in, and he would never have been able to work here again."

Catherine seemed surprised. "So you still care."

Sara raised an eyebrow. "What is that supposed to mean, exactly?"

Catherine offered a grim smile. "Just what it implies, hon. I know you feel like you're being jerked around. Hell, we all know how you feel. You never fail to voice your complaints."

Sara growled. "I don't think-"

Catherine held up a hand. "Everything he's done lately. He's the supervisor, Sara. He has to keep personal and professional feelings separate."

Sara crossed her arms over her chest. "I know that, Catherine. But he hasn't."

Catherine nodded. "Right."

Sara tilted her head, dumbstruck. Did Catherine know about Grissom's notebook?

Catherine turned to leave. "Think about it," was all she said.

Sara shook her head. She didn't want to think about it, but she knew she'd have to. She decided to go check on just that.

Rambar was looking through the notebook as Sara walked in. "Finished?" she asked.

"Most of it. As far as evidence goes, you'll have to see if anything correlates," he replied. "Lots of metaphors, imagery, nothing concrete." He turned to her. "However, the writing does imply a deep infatuation."

He pointed out the lines in the handwriting, adding, "Your guy is right- handed, and all of these are probably about the same person. I would say they're inconsistent because one page wants something and the next pushes the same thing away." He turned to a page. "For example, this line reads 'Minds coalesce, wholly imbedded, each to each/ wrapped within you, complete, neverending', while just two pages later there's this: 'Forbidden fruit breaks me/ A taste I shall never savor/ No matter how ripe, tempting/ Fruit spoils with age."

Sara swallowed.

"The thing is," Rambar went on, "the writing never changes, so it's probably safe to rule out multiple personalities. It seems that he's very ambivalent about your vic. Must have known her for a long time. This kind of obsession would probably take a while to develop."

"We're not sure about the suspect yet," Sara replied unsteadily. She certainly wasn't sure about anything.

"Huh. Well, good luck," Rambar replied. "Oh, you know something else?"

Sara waited expectantly.

"His handwriting is a lot like Grissom's! In fact, if I didn't know any better."

She smiled thinly, taking the journal from his outstretched hand. "Thanks again."

He nodded absently, moving on to another analysis.

Sara shook her head. Grissom had only known Lady Heather for a couple of years that she knew of. Was it possible that he had known her longer? Sure, Eckley had gone over the crime scene in detail, but he might have missed something. It wouldn't be the first time. She bit her lip, knowing what was next.

It was time to investigate Lady Heather's place.

Grissom kicked off his loafers and sighed, flopping himself across his sofa unceremoniously. Swallowing back two slender pills, he lay his head down on the armrest and rubbed his temples. How did it ever come to this? A simple release of frustration escalates into incrimination. What on Earth had ever possessed me to act like a stupid schoolboy? He had known better; certainly he was old enough to know better. He shook his head sadly at his own misjudgment. He sat, quietly contemplating the situation, and did not realize he was crying until a salty streak touched his hand.

Wiping it away, he bitterly thought that he should be able to grieve over a friend's death. Being made of stone shouldn't be a stipulation for the job. However, he knew someone was possibly watching him, and he knew he had to keep his head if he wanted to clear this case out. Gil Grissom needed no one to remind him that he was not allowed emotion.

A case. that's what she was now. She wasn't a breathing being but a corpse lying on Doc Robbins' slab.

He shuddered at the thought.

"Somebody walk over your grave?"

Grissom jumped and angrily twisted around. "How many times do I have to tell you, that key is for emergencies only!"

Catherine shrugged. "Door wasn't locked, Gil." She looked him over critically. "You look like shit."

"Thank you, Catherine." He mentally noted that she didn't appear much better.

"What are you going to do about this?"

Grissom closed his eyes at that word. It had been plaguing him for quite some time. "Define 'this'."

Catherine rolled her eyes and bobbed her head at him, hand on her hip, as if she were an impatient waitress at a Mom and Pop diner. All she needed was a wad of gum to complete the image.

"This investigation! Heather's murder! What do you think I meant?"

"Sara is handling the investigation. I'm sure she will do fine." Grissom waved his hand dismissively, wishing she would go away.

"How can you say that?" Catherine stomped her foot childishly, changing the image from waitress to toddler. "You know she's got emotions riding in this case-your case! She needs to be taken off of it! What are you doing sitting around on your ass anyway? Gil, you need to be out there-- "

Grissom cut her off. "None of this is my choice, Catherine. Who would you have me do this investigation? You? Warrick? Nick? There is no one in this lab who is less biased than she is." He couldn't even bring himself to say her name.

Catherine sighed. "When it gets out that Sara's in love with you, your entire case will be dismissed, no matter what she finds."

"She's not in love with me," Grissom immediately replied, though his pulse accelerated at the thought. Leave it to Catherine to make such a presumptuous statement.

Catherine shook her head impatiently. "Wake up and smell the bug spray, Gil." She sighed. "You know even if you are cleared, if it ever gets out that she asked you to dinner you'll always have people looking over your shoulder, whispering behind your back about how you got away with murder. Your integrity as a CSI and as a supervisor are both on the line here!"

Grissom glowered at her. "But no one is going to know that, are they, Catherine?" He knew he shouldn't have told her about Sara's surprise advances, but he had been about to go under surgery and it had felt good to get a few things off his chest.

"Catherine?" he repeated when she didn't answer.

"Some people might know," she muttered.

Damn.

"Who?" he demanded. He knew his friend was quite a gossip, but he had thought she would never betray him.

"Warrick knows."

Grissom exhaled the breath he'd been holding in. Warrick Brown, a stoic, steady CSI, should be able to keep a secret.

"And Nicky."

"Catherine!" Grissom's face twisted with fury. Nick Stokes' mouth was only slightly smaller than Catherine's. "Why would you tell them? What business is it of theirs?" This would compromise them both-his own integrity as well as Sara's pride. He stood abruptly and ran a hand through his hair. "I thought I could trust you."

Catherine gaped at him. "You can! I'm your friend, Gil! The guys were just asking why you hate Sara now, and I told them."

"I don't hate her!" Grissom seethed.

"You sure act like it," Catherine retorted.

"It's none of your damn business!"

"Then keep it outside work!"

Grissom glared at her, his chest heaving. "I try, Catherine. I do. I can't help it when she's there, parading around--"

Grissom's cell phone rang. Catherine rolled her eyes. How did he always get out of these conversations?

"Grissom."

His face grew darker as he listened. "Yes sir."

Catherine raised her eyebrows, but he just shook his head.

"Okay, Dr. Cavallo. I'll see you then." He hung up and shook his head.

"Well?" Catherine demanded.

Grissom flung his hands up in the air. "I'm suspended pending further investigation, Catherine. Happy? Going to spread that around the lab?"

Catherine stared at him for a moment, then turned around. "Guess I have a unit to run tonight." She tossed her hair as she strode out, leaving him to stand alone, staring at the sofa as if a solution would materialize in the leather. He had no idea how long he stood there, but when he looked outside, it was dark. There would be no solutions tonight. Cavallo wanted to meet with him tomorrow evening, after Sara finished gathering her evidence.

No. His evidence.

Sara pulled up in front of the dark house, but she couldn't bring herself to get out of the car. She sat and stared at it as the sun sank behind the trees, wondering how she could ever enter that building. She had tried mentally preparing herself beforehand, repeating over and over, She won't be touching him again. She knew the thought was horrible, but maybe it would help her enter the premises. She had never had this much trouble investigating a crime scene before, but then again, she'd never investigated a crime like this before. A crime of passion.

Full of sound and fury, signifying. what, Doc?

She shook her head. "Nothing," she answered quietly. "Signifying nothing."

She popped the SUV door open and swung herself out. You can do this. Grabbing her kit, she strode purposely up the walkway. A dark brick building, insides alit with candles, loomed over her, but she refused to be intimidated.

After all, there was no longer anything intimidating inside.

She shook her head and knocked on the door twice. A young brunette opened the door. Sara was expecting to see someone decked out in some Catwoman costume, but she looked relatively normal. Her T-shirt had an LVU logo on the front, and her hair was up in a messy ponytail. "Can I help you?" she asked.

"Uh, I'm Sara Sidle, from the Las Vegas Crime Lab." She was proud of the steadiness in her voice. "Can I come in and look around?"

The girl frowned. "You already had that idiot come over. He said he was done and I could stay." She played with the fraying hem of her T-shirt. "He scratched one of my mom's favorite sculptures." The dark crescents beneath her eyes and downward drag of her mouth suggested she had aged much in the past few days.

"I'm sorry for your loss," she murmured. "May I please come in? I promise not to break anything. I'm trying to find out who did this to her."

The girl looked up, eyes narrowed. "I know who did this to her. It was that old bug guy who came around." She crossed her arms in front of her. "Every time he left she would get upset. I mean, my mom was never very upset," she quickly added. "She just seemed to get attached to him, and he led her on like a dog on a leash."

Sara frowned. So this was Ecklie's eyewitness. Well, the story was all too familiar. "I'm trying to see if there is any evidence to prove who did this."

The girl nodded. "Thank you," Sara said, and stepped inside.

She was surprised. Tastefully decorated with thick rugs, plush furniture, and ornate art, the place looked more like a gothic museum than the brothel she had expected. While there were no customers being. serviced. due to the building being a crime scene, Sara could still picture men coming in, taking in the surroundings, and coming back to the place. There was a definite lure here. No wonder why he was impressed.

"My mom specifically left instructions in her will that if anything happened, I have to keep this place the way she left it." The girl shrugged. "I'm thinking of opening a tea parlor outside, though. It would be nice."

Sara smiled politely and walked down the hall. Heather's daughter remained in the front entryway, biting a nail and staring into space.

Wow. The fine décor of the dominatrix's lair was breathtaking. One painting alone would cost more than a year's worth of her rent, and Sara did not even want to guess at the cost of the sculptures or rugs. She made her way through the hall, and when she opened the door to a room, she knew she was at the right place.

She swallowed as she saw the hanging setup inside the room, the barren stone walls, and the whip hanging prominently as the room's focal point. Did they.?

Her stomach lurched, and she shook herself hard. No personal thoughts. She decided to head straight for the crime scene itself and look over the other rooms later-if need be. She approached the bedroom of "Lady" Heather O'Neal, mistress of dark dominance and center of her Grissom's infatuation. At a glimpse of the large bed, with its violet mosquito netting and gossamer strands of bedding floating to the floor, she knew she was going to be sick.

She ran for the master bathroom and emptied the contents of her stomach into the pristine toilet. So dizzy. She gave a little moan as she retched a second time. I can't do this. There is no way in hell that I can do this.

Sara unsteadily turned to the sink to rinse her mouth out, glimpsing at a creature she barely knew in the mirror. Dull eyes met her own, and the reflection was so pale and lifeless that she wasn't sure if it was alive or not. She ran some cool water and dabbed it upon her face. She noticed that the bathroom appeared to have been used recently, the toothbrush on the sink forming a small but distinct puddle beneath its bristles.

Instinct switched her into investigator mode. Why would the daughter be using her mother's bathroom? Maybe it was someone else's toothbrush.

She thought about the prints they'd found-Grissom's prints-and pictured him in a fuzzy blue bathrobe, standing before this sink, brushing his teeth as she stood behind him.

Sara swayed for a moment and fell to the toilet, fearing she would become sick again. She placed her palms against the cool tiles on both sides of the commode, and she felt her finger prick something sharp. She stood by the sink and brought her finger up to the light, searching for the culprit of her pain. A small piece of a needle, obviously broken, protruded from her index finger like a bee stinger. She reached around for her evidence case. Looking up into the mirror, she met a second reflection staring back at her. She jumped in surprise.

"Are you okay?" Heather's daughter asked her. Sara had not even heard her come into the room.

"Fine," she managed, smiling one of her new, fake-Sara smiles. She made as if to wipe her hands on her jeans. "Just a little woozy. Pulling a double shift and all." She almost laughed at the idea of getting "woozy" over a measly double.

"Oh," the girl murmured. "You must be working hard on this." She turned to walk out.

"Miss, uh," Sara started, not knowing how to address the girl.

"I'm Zoë," the brunette said softly.

"Zoë, can I ask you a question?" The girl nodded.

"Do you ever use your mom's bathroom?"

Zoë shrugged. "Sure, but not since, well, not for a while." She shook her head morosely. "I haven't used it since I've been home for break."

That had to be for at least two weeks. "So this toothbrush isn't yours?"

She shook her head. "Mine's downstairs in my bathroom. I have a room separate from all of this." She looked at the green object. "I don't think that's my mom's, either. I think hers is blue-a blue Oral B." She offered a faint laugh. "My mom was really particular about her teeth."

Sara shivered. Another familiar feeling. "Do you know who this one belongs to?"

Zoë shook her head, then narrowed her eyes. "Probably that old bug guy. He was over here enough."

Sara swallowed hard. "I'm going to take it back to my lab to see whose it is, okay?"

Zoë nodded, and turned to leave again. "Just let me know if you need anything," she said quietly before exiting.

Sara watched the girl leave, feeling a sympathetic pang for her. She quickly deposited the needle bit into a small paper envelope. Donning a pair of gloves, she bagged the toothbrush, hearing the back of her head whisper, "I hope it's not his."

She looked around the bathroom to see if there was anything else Ecklie had evidently missed. Nothing appeared out of place. She went back to the spot where she had found the needle and decided to dust the bottom of the commode and the tiles surrounding it for prints. Unlikely as it seemed, she had to work with what she had. A few partials came up around the commode, but there was a solid print on the very tile the needle bit had been on.

Pleased in a bittersweet sort of way, she dusted around the rest of the tiles and discovered an entire palm print not a foot away.

Collecting the bathroom evidence, she decided to go through Heather's bedroom, where her body had been discovered. Although Ecklie had searched it before, she had already found two things he had missed.

Thankfully, she found nothing lewd in the room and surprisingly, no notes from an admirer. That doesn't mean he didn't write them about her. She may not have known, or he could have read them to her over breakfast, or in bed. Her lips trembled and she forced herself to finish the room. She refused to let this get to her again. I have to finish this. The faster I do, the faster I can leave it behind.

She finished the bedroom and went out to the balcony where, still draped in fine linens, a breakfast table sat. That was where the teacups with Grissom's prints had been found. His prints will never be found on my cups. Sara quickly made her way around the balcony, finding nothing Eckley had not already documented. She packed up her tools in record speed and fled the house that had such power to drain her.

As she tucked her kit into the back of her car, her phone rang.

"Sidle."

She broke into an almost-grin. "Yes, Greg, it's lovely to hear you too. Now what do you want?"

Her eyes widened as he spoke. "Okay. Thanks a lot, Greg."

She hung up her phone, his words still in her ears: "That spider venom in your vic? It's synthetic."

Grissom tapped nervously on his knee as he sat outside Dr. Cavallo's office. He was on time, and it was irritating that he had to wait when the matter of discussion was this serious.

Nick Stokes was walking towards the exit when he saw Grissom. A big grin lit up the Texan's face. Grissom returned the smile in a more subdued form.

"Hey, boss! Catherine said you took some personal time. We've missed ya! Where ya been?" Nick thumped Grissom on the shoulder.

Grissom briefly wondered who the "we" Nick was referring to consisted of. "Just taking care of some personal business, Nick. I'll see you later."

Nick knew better than to press his evasive supervisor. "Sure, see ya, Griss." He gave a fleeting smile and waved as he turned down the hall.

"Ah, Grissom, come on in," Cavallo replied smoothly as he briskly swung his office door open. Grissom was surprised to see Sara sitting inside, her back stiff against her chair.

"Have a seat," Cavallo said.

Grissom suspiciously looked at Cavallo's amiable expression, then towards Sara's vacant one, and sat down.

"You may be cleared of all charges if you can explain the simple matter of two things: why were your prints on the victim's china cups, and this." Cavallo waved his hand over the notebook Atwater had brought in from Grissom's townhouse.

Grissom tilted his head. Is my hearing failing again? "I'm sorry, sir, but I don't understand."

"Sidle, why don't you break it down for us," Cavallo said.

Sara stared ahead of her as she reported her findings, her voice sharp and quick. "The venom in the vic is synthetic. The syringe collected at Dr. Grissom's house has no venom; it was clean and in tact. Traces of the venom were found, however, on one of the syringes at the scene, but there were two sets of prints on it: one unknown and the other the vic's. Neither were yours."

Grissom's ears rung as she indicated, for the first time, that she knew he was in the room. He turned to her and saw her looking at him. She quickly looked up at Cavallo, who was nodding expectantly.

"The DNA on the toothbrush at the scene was male, but not a match to Dr. Grissom, either. There were no prints indicating any altercation with the victim, either; the prints found around a needle bit collected at the scene were not a match to Dr. Grissom's. The needles and supplies collected at the scene by Conrad Ecklie were the vic's own supplies. She had diabetes. The only ones Dr. Grissom left were on china, indicating nothing but a possible meal with the victim. The needle make was also thicker than the one we collected from Dr. Grissom. Someone else was in that house, and I'm waiting for results from AFIS as we speak."

Through with her stony report, Sara continued to sit rigidly, awaiting her dismissal. Grissom drew his brows together tighter each time she referred to him, wishing things could be different.

"So how about it, Grissom? Tell us who these, ah, little poems," he pronounced it po eems, "are about and we can possibly rule out motive. Give us a reasonable explanation for why your prints were at the scene. Then, after we find out the identity of the prints at the scene, we can dismiss the rest as nothing but circumstantial piddly squat."

Grissom thought for a moment and said, "The victim was my friend. I had visited her around seven that evening for tea and conversation. I left around nine, but I don't know anyone who can vouch for that. As for.that." Grissom glanced at Sara.

You know even if you are cleared, if it ever gets out that she asked you to dinner you'll always have people looking over your shoulder, whispering behind your back about how you got away with murder. Your integrity as a CSI and as a supervisor are both on the line here! Funny how Catherine had been quick to point out Sara's role in incriminating him, when he himself had the power to reverse the roles.

"I can tell you that it honestly was not the victim." He looked down at his hands.

Cavallo pursed his lips together. Sara's head twisted slowly to look at him. Their eyes met, hers full of shock. She must have read something in his as well, because she looked away, cheeks flushing.

"Now, Grissom, if you can just tell us who it is you're involved with, we can give the lady a call, verify a relationship, or find some way to show that you were. brooding over someone else." Cavallo waited patiently.

Grissom sighed. Either way, he would still have his integrity questioned. He might as well protect one of them. "I can't tell you, Dr. Cavallo. I value her privacy too much."

Sara's chair squeaked as she fidgeted, and Cavallo threw his hands in the air.

"I don't believe you, Gil! Here is your chance to be in the clear! We're trying so hard to help you, but--" The director shook his head. "You're going to have to remain suspended until your motive and whereabouts are negated." He waved them both from his office, sighing heavily.

"Dr. Cavallo," Sara protested.

"No, Sidle. Get back to working on those prints." Cavallo's irritation was evident in his voice.

They stepped out into the hall, Grissom shutting the door quietly behind them.

She followed him outside to his car, her boot heels clicking on the concrete.

"Why won't you say who that book is about? You need to prove you had no motive!" Sara was actually angry with him.

He looked at her quizzically. "Sara, what happened to following the evidence? You don't crunch it--"

"To fit a theory," she finished. "I know, Grissom, but that's the only thing they have left on you besides your prints, and they were on teacups, not a murder weapon. You can help me dismiss you as a suspect!" The look she gave him was pleading and murderous at the same time.

"Sara." Grissom motioned between them, as he had so long ago. "I know what I'm doing about this."

Her eyes went ablaze with anger. "About what, Grissom?" she demanded.

"I would rather be a suspect in a crime I did not commit than put both of our jobs on the line," he said quietly. She stared at him, dumbstruck, and he almost laughed at the thought of Sara Sidle at a loss for words.

"You, I mean, what?" she babbled incoherently, still staring at him.

He raised his eyebrows. "You're so technical I can hardly keep up."

She gaped at him, wondering how he could joke at a time like this. "What are you talking about?"

"Us."

He spoke it so quietly that she wasn't sure she'd heard. The solemn expression on his face revealed that he was, in fact, serious.

She shook her head and gave a rueful laugh. "You know, Grissom, I'm really tired of being strewn along like this. And it looks like I wasn't even the only one."

He looked at her, puzzled, and she continued. "You can't just feign interest one day and expect me to forget almost a year of you treating me like the team stepchild!"

He pursed his lips. Feign interest? "Maybe we should talk about this."

They stared at each other for a few moments, and Sara's pager went off.

"Jaqui," she replied, referring to the fingerprinting analysis specialist.

"Why don't you come over after shift so we can discuss this?" Grissom suggested. "An interrogation of your suspect."

She shook her head, giving the same sharp laugh. "Grissom, I think time for discussions has past."

By the time you figure it out, it really could be too late. He wondered if he had even figured it out yet. "I will answer all of your questions," he promised. He forced himself to give her a steady gaze-to not retreat. Please, Sara. Let me explain.

Sara pondered this, but still shook her head. I'm not going to let you hurt me again.

"Don't decide right now," he said hastily. "Just, if you want your answers, come over after shift." He gave her a final look-please-and slid into his car.

She bit her lip as she watched him drive away, her chest feeling achy and light at the same time. She had six hours to decide what to do. Remembering Jaqui's message, she headed over to the print lab.

"No match through AFIS yet, but your partial and your hand print, along with the prints on the toothbrush and the needles, are all a match." Jacqui offered her a shrug, as if to say, That's all, folks.

"Thanks," Sara said. It was a start, and it was a step further from Grissom. She decided to go to the layout room with her evidence and talk it out.

So, we've got a vic dead from poison. The poison was on her own instruments, implying that whoever killed her knew she had them. Time of death, one A.M. We've got a male suspect who's prints and toothbrush were found at the scene, and we've got another suspect who admits to visiting her. Sara bit her lip, thinking of that table with the fine linens. Why wouldn't Grissom disclose who the notebook was about? If he was okay with admitting he was at the scene, why not admit it all? Unless.

Sara shook her head. She didn't really know the victim. Usually, that was one of her first priorities, but under the circumstances, she hadn't even tried. Maybe it was time to visit the coroner.

"Hello, Sara," Doc Robbins greeted her amicably, finishing a report he was working on.

"Hey, Doc," she replied, smiling at the older man. "I was wondering if you still had Heather O'Neal's body. I've been assigned to take over Ecklie's case."

The chief coroner regarded her with surprise. "Not exactly unbiased, are you?"

Sara gaped at him.

He smiled. "Just because we deal with the dead doesn't mean we're oblivious to the living."

He gestured to the adjacent room. "David's cleaning the body for release as we speak."

"Thanks," she said unsteadily, moving to the next room.

"Sara?" She turned to Robbins' voice.

"She was just a friend. Maybe not at first, but for over a year now, nothing more."

She narrowed her eyes, wondering how he knew. Then she just nodded her head and went in to see David, the assistant coroner.

His face lit up when he saw her, as it usually did. Along with Greg, he was a member of the unofficial Sara Sidle fan club. "Sara."

"Hey, David. Mind if I take a look over the vic while you work?"

"Of course." He looked pleased just to be in the same room with her.

She leaned over to get a look at the woman who had captured the heart of the man who had her own. The victim, she corrected herself. The woman was pretty, with more curves than Sara herself had. Stop comparing yourself to her. She's dead, for God's sake. Her face was pretty, and it looked as if she hadn't been involved in any physical altercations. Her dark hair framed her face, and. Wait.

Sara remembered the words Grissom had written about her: like chestnuts smoothed into a river of silk. This woman's hair was too dark to be compared with chestnuts. Maybe Grissom's just a bad poet? She shook her head. He's read enough to know how to compare something as simple as color. Maybe that notebook isn't about her.

"Thanks a lot, David," Sara said quickly, stopping to give him a little smile in appreciation, undoubtedly making the poor boy's day. She left quickly, needing to go over that notebook. Maybe there were other clues in it as to who the subject was. If she could rule that out of the evidence, she could rule out a suspect.

You still don't know the victim. She pushed the thought aside.

She could prove Grissom's innocence. And that he wasn't in love with her. The victorious grin she wore was short lived; after all, he was obviously in love with someone. She needed to figure out with whom, and she needed to find out where he was at one A.M. the night Heather was killed.

She trudged back to the layout room and sat across from that evil little notebook. Taking in a deep breath, she reached for it and began reading.

She was almost instantly lost in a wonderland of longing. Image after image of heartfelt adoration assaulted her as she was led deeper and deeper into the heart of a man she would never have. She tried to learn more about the subject but it was difficult. Some of his writing was very symbolic and hard to follow.

She could only gather that this woman had brown hair-along with the chestnuts, he'd compared it to a fawn's winter coat, an unexplored wood, and chocolate cream, among other things-and was young, slender, and similar to the writer himself. One part stood out in particular: "Symmetrical wings of a single moth/ one since birth/ easily carrying our creature above the dark/ flawless, glassy stained flutter/ that will never touch."

Her eyes filled with salty wetness. Whoever her Grissom had found, she must be perfect.

Sara nervously wiped her palms on her jeans. She had never been to Grissom's house for anything other than work before. This is about work, she reminded herself. But it's about us, too.

She didn't think he'd answer after her timid knock, but he had been waiting.

"Good morning," he said, offering her a smile.

She took it warily. "Good morning, Grissom."

He held the door open for her and she stepped inside. He led her to his kitchen, where he had sliced fruit and bagels awaiting her.

"Coffee's brewing," his voice said lowly in her ear. She jumped and looked at him. He had a strange look on his face, one she couldn't remember having seen before.

"Y-you didn't have to go through any trouble and make breakfast," she stammered, sliding onto one of the barstools.

"No trouble," he replied in that same low, soft voice he'd used in her ear. He poured them each a cup of coffee, adding cream and sugar to hers.

She raised her eyebrows as he handed her the cup. He shrugged. "I notice more than you think I do," he answered her unspoken question, sliding onto the stool next to her. "I am a CSI, after all." He bit into a bagel, raising an eyebrow at her.

She smiled. "Well, as a CSI, I think you should know that I need to know where you were at one A.M. the night of the murder."

He sighed. "Cut right to the chase." He took off his glasses and looked off to the side for a moment, thinking. He took a sip of his coffee, and he finally looked up at her after setting the glasses aside. "I am going to be very honest with you today. What I'm going to tell you will definitely provide reasonable doubt as to my involvement in this case. However, it will also provide a reason for Atwater and Cavallo to take you off this case."

She looked at him, frowning, but when she opened her mouth, he held up a hand. "Hear me out, first, Sara, then you can decide what to do with the information that I give you."

She closed her mouth and simply stared at him.

"I was outside your apartment from nine thirty to two A.M. that night."

Her jaw dropped open, this time in shock. "What?"

He ducked his head, then stared straight into her eyes. "I had gone to visit a friend that night in hopes of advice. I confessed to her how powerless I felt, how far-gone I was, with this woman. She told me that once you give your power away to someone, you are theirs. It's like giving yourself to them. She said, 'I don't see anything wrong with it, Gil. How could something this natural be wrong?'"

He gave a disheartened laugh. "It certainly doesn't feel natural. It feels.like falling. She told me that I was being a fool, and that I needed to take action then and there. So I went to do that."

He took a long swallow of his coffee and sat there, looking at her expectantly. When she said nothing, he frowned and stared into his cup. Sara tilted her head. "So?"

He seemed flustered. "So what?"

"So why were you outside my apartment?"

He raised his eyebrows. "I told you."

"No you didn't, you just said--" Suddenly everything was so clear. "My apartment?"

He stared at her, and now she could place that look. While she had never seen it, she had spent the better part of two hours reading about it.

"Me?" she whispered. "That notebook was about me?"

He simply kept staring at her, with that same longing expression. His eyes were glazed and glued to her face, as if looking away would cause him pain. She was mesmerized as she watched so much movement in his face-a tic of his cheek, a ripple as his jaw tightened-and yet such stillness. The conflict seemed to create a war over his features as they struggled with each other.

A warm glow seemed to enrapture her body and she realized she was blushing. "Grissom?" she whispered.

"Yes," he answered. His faced inched toward hers. "It's always been about you."

She felt herself drawn to him. She couldn't help it; it was as if she'd jumped up into a cold nothingness and the pull of the warm earth beckoned her back home. He closed in on her, ensconcing her into an ethereal blanket of comfort. The wings do touch, she thought dazedly. They touch when their creature is at peace.

The first graze of his lips upon hers made her so dizzy she thought she would fall. She very may well have, as the next second his arms were around her, crushing her against him. Fire danced between them, and she could no longer tell where she ended and he began. She breathed in his essence and realized that it was so familiar, that it was already her own, and had been forever. She could feel his soul tangle with hers, and as one they danced, leaving ribbons of light over every nook of each other.

Abruptly she pulled away, shock in her eyes. He looked at her questioningly, his eyes foggy, breathless.

"Why didn't you do it?" she whispered.

He tilted his head, then realized what she was asking. Still holding her, he said, "I was afraid. I couldn't even get out of the car."

She smiled shyly and leaned into him. "I can't believe it took a murder charge to get you to kiss me."

He pulled back a bit. "Kiss you? Sara, do you realize what I've just done?"

She looked up at him. "What?"

He sighed. "Now both of our careers are on the line. While you know I didn't do this, you can't say a word. You'll be taken off the case for being too involved."

She shrugged. "I can tell Cavallo. I'm not involved."

He balked at her. "Not involved? If that wasn't involved, I don't-"

She grinned. "What exactly do you mean by involved, Dr. Grissom?"

He raised an eyebrow, understanding her message. "Well, you didn't exactly pull away." She continued to stare at him, grinning. He began to panic. "You did say it could be too late."

She ran her finger over his cheek softly. "Do you think it's too late?"

He shook his head. "I hope not," he confessed.

They simply sat and stared at each other for a few moments, reflecting upon the past few moments. Grissom said, "You can't tell them about the notebook. I won't have you put your job on the line like that."

Sara stood. "I have to tell them! Grissom, you're a suspect in a murder case--"

"This is the exact reason I didn't tell you in the first place. I knew you were too headstrong, that you wouldn't care if it jeopardized your career, so I was looking out for you and--"

"Looking out for me? Am I a child to you, Grissom? Is that what happened?"

"Stop." He held her at arm's length. "Sara, listen to me. You are a good CSI. One of the best I've ever worked with. You can find the real killer here without needing to eliminate me. You've been working this backwards." He looked at her, her face pinched in pain. "Everyone thought you could be unemotional with this case, but you couldn't, could you?"

She shook her head. "Not when it was about you."
He sighed. "You never should have been put in this position."

She shrugged. He would never know how hard it was to go to her house, to imagine him there. "What do we do now?"

He appeared to be lost in thought. "Well, I'd like to kiss you again."

She rolled her eyes at him and he smiled. "But concerning this case, it's what do you do now?"

"I'm at a stand still. I still don't know the victim. And the venom was synthetic, so."

"Why don't you know the victim yet?" Grissom was surprised. This was usually Sara's strong point.

She just looked at him. He looked back. "Grissom," she said, exasperated. Didn't he realize who the victim was to her? While she may have been someone to him, it was hard for her to want to have anything to do with this victim.

"It's just like any other case, Sara. Just make it like any other." He did know. Well, that was something. Still, she continued to look forlorn. He noticed and added, "You know who has my heart."

She stopped breathing.

He smiled. "So where do you get synthetic venom?" he prompted.

Her eyes widened. "I wasn't even thinking! I was--"

"-trying to prove my innocence," he finished. They both shook their heads at the error. He covered her hand with his. "While you shouldn't have been put in this situation, you can still do this."

She nodded, turning to leave. "I'm going to run with this. See who makes synthetic venom in Vegas."

He nodded back. "Good luck."

She made to leave, then abruptly turned and gave him a hug. "I never thought you did this for a minute," she whispered. He hugged her back gratefully.

She pulled away. "And I never even saw this through your eyes. I'm sorry you lost your friend."

"Me too," he said, and looked down. She felt her heart ache for him, knowing it was hard for him to express any emotion.

"I'm going to find who did this," she told him firmly as she left. "I promise."

"Kallaski Research," Sara told him over the phone. "They develop synthetic animal venom to research for disease treatment."

"Okay, we'll work on it," Captain Jim Brass replied gruffly. "Anything else?"

"Bandari and Letts Chemicals. They make synthetic animal ingredients for perfume and cosmetics."

"I'll page you as soon as I get the warrants."

"Great." Sara hung up the phone. She was on her way back to the victim's house, but this time, it was not to collect physical evidence.

She needed to know the victim.

Zoë O'Neal looked less than pleased to see her, but she let her in without fuss.

"Zoë, I need you to tell me about your mom. I need to know who she hung out with, any enemies, old boyfriends she had, that sort of thing."

Zoë frowned. "I told you, I know who did this. It was that old bug guy."

Sara's lips thinned into a line. "I need to understand your mom in order to prove who did this. I have to rule out all possible suspects in order to find the one who did this."

Zoë nodded. "Okay." She answered the rest of Sara's questions without complaint, giving her a list of family, friends, and contacts, as well as clients. Sara gave her a smile of thanks as she left.

Her phone rang as she was on the way back to the lab. "Sidle."

"Hey, we got your warrants."

She smiled. "Thanks, Brass. I'll meet you at Kallaski Research."

She turned around toward her new destination.

Sara stood outside the two-way glass, watching as Brass circled their new suspect. Curtis Rosman, a lab technician at Kallaski Research, had been one of Lady Heather's constant clients up until spring 2003. They were running his prints against the ones at the scene right now, and Brass was trying to see if they could hold him for anything while they waited.

"So why'd you quit coming round? The leather-and-whip routine get old for you?"

"I got a new girlfriend," Rosmen sniveled. He was a small man, with thick spectacles and a thin hairline-a very stereotypical lab rat. Greg would be dissapointed.

"Oh? A new one? What happened to the old one?" Brass asked.

Greg came running to Sara. "I would've paged you, but I know it's urgent." He handed her the results of the tests and ran back to his lab.

She looked down and grinned. "Thanks!" she called out. He waved back at her while he kept running.

She went into the interrogation room and tossed the results onto the table. "Your DNA and fingerprints were both found at the scene," she simply said.

He shifted uncomfortably. "I used to go there," he whined in his defense.

"In the personal bathroom of the owner? Did you get into her medical equipment, inside her dresser drawers?" Sara stared hard at him.

Rosmen started to shake. "I loved her! She knew I loved her!"

Sara decided to take the sympathetic approach. "And she didn't love you back?"

Rosmen shook his head furiously. "No! I'd leave little things around so she'd know I loved her-gifts, chocolate, sometimes my personal stuff. Girls like it when you bring your stuff to their place-makes them feel like you're committed."

"Like a toothbrush?" Sara asked, still nodding sympathetically.

"Yeah!" He turned to Brass. "See? Girls like that stuff."

Brass nodded sagely, as if the secret was amazing.

"So what happened? Did you ask her if she loved you back?" Sara prodded him gently.

"Yeah, and she said she loved someone else, and I know who it was! It was that damn bug guy, that entomologist-the famous one who works here. I saw him there, I saw the way he looks at her, he doesn't love her, but she thinks he does." Rosmen went off into a deep rambling that didn't make any sense.

"So what did you do?" she asked excitedly, as if she were sharing his rant.

"I wanted it to look like he'd done it! He liked bugs! He has spiders, I'm sure! They'd think he did it!"

"And it was so easy, since you had access at work," Sara added.

"Yeah! I thought, if I can't have her, he can't either! So I'd make him lose everything, since he made me lose her."

Sara shook her head, satisfied but sad. "Instead, you lost your life."

He didn't seem to hear her. He continued to babble about what was his, even as Brass led him away.

"Nice work," he told her.

She smiled. She had someone's name to clear. But first, she needed to speak with the director.

Grissom went to answer the door and was pleasantly surprised to see who stood there. "Hey," he said.

"Hey." Sara walked in. She stood at his doorstep shyly. "Can I come in?"

"Of course." He stepped aside.

"I have something to tell you."

He waited expectantly.

"You'd better sit down for this."

He sighed but did as she asked. She sat next to him on the sofa.

"You're in the clear."

His chest deflated in a gust of relief. "Thank God, Sara. I knew you would do it." He embraced her hard, and she realized he was shaking.

"Grissom?" she looked up at him, seeing the sorrow on his face. She pulled him tighter. "It's okay. Everything is okay."

He trembled against her shoulder, and it began to get wet. "She's really dead, Sara."

She wasn't sure what to do. His friend was dead, a friend whom he had happened to sleep with last year, and she had no idea of how to handle it. She decided to just let him cry it out on her, which he did with appreciation. After a few moments, he pulled back and apologized.

"Don't be sorry," she said. "It's not everyday that Gruesome Grissom lets the floodgates loose."

He gave a laugh. She scooted over on the couch and motioned for him to lie down. He put his head in her lap and looked up at her, one hand entwined with hers.

"Thank you," he whispered.

"Hey, it's the job," she replied. She stroked his hair softly. "I talked to Cavallo about us," she said nonchalantly.

His body turned rigid. "And?"

"And there's nothing he can do about it, as long as it doesn't interfere with work. Then, if it does, he'll have to take disciplinary action."

His smile triggered her own. "But the rules?"

"Grissom, how long has it been since you've reviewed the rules of office dating? Since the eighties? They've changed dramatically since then."

He shook his head. Another reminder of their age difference. "Sara, I am a bit older than you are."

She placed her fingers over his mouth. "Not another word. No more excuses, Gil Grissom. How many hardships do we have to endure before we can be together?"

He nodded, knowing she was right. He regarded her soberly for a moment. "Do you trust me?"

She didn't miss a beat. "With my life."

"For a while there, I didn't think you ever would again."

"Griss." She sighed. "You are a complicated creature. You're like a moth: you can't start a part of your life before you are ready. You have to get out of your cocoon first."

He laughed at that. "So am I out of it?"

"Of course. Would I be sitting here if you weren't?"

"I suppose not." He ran a finger lightly over her wrist. "So, what now?"

"Now, I'm going to finish a quote for you." She smiled at his surprised expression and recited: "Symmetrical wings of a single moth/ one since birth/ easily carrying our creature above the dark/ flawless, glassy stained flutter/ that will never touch/ until the creature grounds to live/ and wholly live/ do wings touch/ tip to tip/ complete."

He beamed at her as she leaned down to kiss him, and he knew she was right.

They could fly, but they would land, too.

Symmetrical wings did touch. The creature just had to be complete first.