Most of 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; any others are mine, and if you want to play with them, you have to ask me first. 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. A thousand thanks to my generous editor, Nire the Evil!
Spoilers: through "XX"
Grissom's books do exist. So does the poem, though Warrick's assumption about Google is incorrect.
He expected nightmares.
They didn't come, at first. He barely made it through his shower before collapsing onto his bed, ears ringing and body shaking with low blood sugar and absolute exhaustion--physical, mental, emotional. Sleep swallowed him up in oblivion for six hours, then spat him back out to rehydrate himself. He gulped down three glasses of water and staggered back to bed, barely conscious enough to remember Catherine's threats of dire harm should he show up any time before the shift after next.
And the dreams came. Boiling up out of the underside of his mind, they invaded his sleep with gleeful enthusiasm, exacting the payment he'd put off for too long. They weren't all horrifying; some were merely the normal, illogical jumble of images and actions, while others were laden with anxiety and urgency, and he never seemed to be able to accomplish what he needed to do. But the horror came in its turn, soaking his hands with blood, filling his arms with brokenness, leaving him standing over something that had once been beautiful and vibrant. The glassed-in butterflies on his walls came alive again and flitted through his sleep, sending him signals of danger and terror. They landed on her, and became colorful patterns on her skin and hair. Sara was crying, and he couldn't help her. Sara was dying, and his hand on hers could not keep her. Sara was dead, and his fingers gripped the blade.
When he finally made it back to consciousness, poetry was running through his head.
Sara sat in darkness. The sun was up, but she had carefully closed the blinds and ensconced herself in the middle of her bed. She needed to do some serious thinking.
A murder victim who looked enough like her to be a twin...that was unnerving enough. The reactions of her colleagues hadn't helped the feeling, either; Catherine's careful normality was enough to make Sara twitch. But Grissom...
That was completely freaky. She was used to her boss acting peculiar--he'd certainly done it often enough around her. But this weirdness outstripped any previous behavior. She'd only been puzzled, and concerned, though he'd avoided her as much as possible. She hadn't been able to put the pieces together.
She'd wanted to watch--wanted to see if they were able to corner the man they thought responsible for the slaughter of two people. She wasn't expecting the confession to come from the other side of the table. Hours later, she still didn't know what to make of it.
On the one hand, she wanted to shake Grissom for being such a stubborn idiot. On the other, she could understand why he found the risk to be too great to take. Nothing in life was guaranteed, after all. The case was proof enough of that.
But what he'd said, in that frighteningly calm voice, upset all her assumptions. I thought he didn't care, or he didn't know. He knew all along?
The thought made her throat hurt, burned in a space just below her breastbone. She could feel the grief building, but she didn't want to let it out just yet. How did we get here? How did it all go so wrong?
There were no answers. There was only the silent morning.
Warrick walked into the breakroom, half an hour early for shift, to find a sight that had become all too rare in recent months--his boss, actually sitting at the table and eating like a normal human being. Grissom was paging through a thick book, with three more piled next to his sandwich, and frowning down at the print before him. Warrick snagged an apple from the bowl on the counter and pulled out a chair. "Hey, Griss. Whatcha reading?"
The older man looked up over his glasses. "I'm not reading," he said mildly, and turned a page.
Warrick laughed a little. "It sure looks like it."
One corner of Grissom's mouth turned up, and he thumbed through the book to the back, running one finger down the index. "I'm doing research."
Biting into the fruit, Warrick reached out a long arm to pick up one of the other books. His brows went up as he read the title on the spine. "Victorian Prose and Poetics." He tilted his head to look at another, thicker tome. "The Atlantic Book of British and American Poetry? What the heck are you researching? I didn't see anything poetic about that accident we were working on last night."
Grissom shook his head, looking distracted. "It's not for work. I'm trying to remember something."
Warrick swallowed his next bite. "Gil Grissom, doing personal research at work? That's a first."
Grissom shot him a low-grade glare, then shut the book and tossed his glasses on top. "Shift hasn't started yet," he said, sounding not at all irritated. He hesitated, then went on. "I've had a couple of lines of poetry floating around in my head for the past few days, and it's getting annoying. I'm trying to track them down."
"Huh." Warrick leaned back in his chair. "What are they?"
Grissom tilted his head and regarded Warrick with interest. "You read poetry?"
"Not this stuff." Warrick nudged the book nearest him. "But I still remember some of the stuff I had to learn in high school." He looked up, eyes gleaming a bit with challenge. "Try me."
Grissom hesitated, then let out a breath and rubbed his eyes. "I don't remember much, except that I know it's part of a poem. I keep thinking that if I spot something by the right author, I'll remember more." He dropped his hand and closed his eyes. "Something about hands, and blood. And...urgency, I think." He opened his eyes again, and Warrick could see that the memory was troubling him for some reason. "I can remember 'warm and capable', and 'icy silence of the grave' or something like that." Grissom shrugged. "It's not much to go on."
"Not Shakespeare..." Warrick mused, half asking, and Grissom shook his head. "Not 'The Highwayman.' ...It sounds almost like Milton."
"I know." Grissom grimaced. "But I don't think it is. It's short, whatever it is." His frown shifted into an amused look. "You're an Alfred Noyes fan?"
Warrick ignored this. "Not enough to Google, not unless you've got time on your hands. Let me have one of those."
Grissom slid another book over.
One thing he was good at, Grissom thought wryly as he walked into the conference room later to hand out assignments, was concealing any disturbance he felt. The Debbie Marlin case had harrowed his spirit like nothing he could remember, but after enough sleep--finally--and time to process it, he was able to look at Sara, at Catherine, with the same calm gaze that offered no hint of the turmoil he felt for one woman and that the other realized. Catherine looked back, her usual small smile gracing her lips. "How're you doing, Gil?"
"Better, thank you," he replied, acknowledging her concern with conscious effort. A year before he would have given an automatic reply of "Fine" and admitted to nothing, but he was trying to break that pattern.
Sara's gaze, on the other hand, flicked over him and away. She showed no sign of anything--not even impatience, not even curiosity. Something in him winced a little, but he went on, handing out assignments.
"Nick, Warrick, you have a robbery at the Crescent. Take Greg along if he hasn't got a backlog in DNA."
The two men exchanged smirks at the thought of having the newbie to rag on. Grissom passed another slip to Catherine. "You and Sara get a possible murder in Henderson. The wife says her husband's missing, but Brass says the situation's suspect. He'll meet you there."
"What about you?" Catherine asked.
"I get to do paperwork," he answered, sighing. Three days out had let him catch up on sleep, but had half-buried his desk in forms, and he never seemed to get ahead of the deluge. He watched the CSIs file out, and wished that he were going with them.
Sara was never quite sure how to define her relationship with Catherine. The older woman ranged from friendly and sympathetic to impatient and cool, almost as though her moods were defined by something outside herself. Sara knew that their lives and priorities were entirely different, and she herself had always got along better with guys anyway. But Catherine seemed disposed towards cordiality that night, tossing Sara the keys to the SUV as they collected their kits and headed for the parking lot. "You drive tonight."
"What brought that on?" Sara asked with a touch of humor.
Catherine sighed, pushing open the door and holding it so Sara could exit behind her. "Oh, I'm just tired. I've been getting up early to spend more time with Lindsey, and it's kind of taking a toll."
Sara nodded, and led the way to their vehicle. "I hear you."
The drive to Henderson was a quiet one, undercut only by the radio; Sara kept the volume low, and Catherine simply leaned back in her seat and closed her eyes, not moving until they reached their destination. The Torono home was a small one, set in a tidy yard full of flowers. A pretty picture, but all Sara could think of was the water that had to be lavished on the plants to keep them alive in a desert climate. Sometimes Las Vegas seemed to her to be the most artificial of constructs, almost an illusion wished into being by the concentrated desire of thousands of people.
Brass met them outside the house, looking disgustingly awake. Sara could smell the coffee on his breath. "Welcome to the Toronos'," he said, waving a hand in the direction of the building. "Mr. Torono hasn't been seen for three days; his wife finally called the police this afternoon."
"Grissom said you don't like the situation," Catherine said quietly, glancing towards the house. Brass frowned.
"It's just a hunch, but something doesn't feel right," he admitted. "It's all just a little too perfect." He snorted. "Probably just my cynicism, but since you guys are already here..."
"Lead on," Sara said, curious.
Mrs. Torono was small, and as tidy as her yard, and younger than Sara expected, scarcely into her thirties. She tried to offer them coffee as well, but Brass herded her gently out of the house, spinning her some explanation of "standard procedures", so that the CSIs could work without interruption. Catherine and Sara started in the bedroom, with the bed.
"No signs of sexual activity," Catherine muttered, switching off the handlight.
Sara took off her goggles and flipped the light back on. "Look around," she advised. "No dust at all. Everything's incredibly neat, down to the bottles on the dressers. Wanna bet she changes the sheets every day or two?"
"Either that, or she cleaned up before she called it in," Catherine replied with her own touch of cynicism. Sara raised her brows, and ducked into the bathroom to have a look around.
Sara didn't doubt that Brass truly felt something was wrong; he was an experienced investigator. But it wasn't until they reached the kitchen that his hunch began to play out. "Would you look at that," Catherine said softly.
The splash pattern on the floor fluoresced brilliantly in the darkness. "Could have been a kitchen accident," Sara reminded her, pro forma. "Maybe somebody cut themselves. There's not enough trace for fatal blood loss."
"But you know as well as I do that blood loss isn't the only way to die," Catherine returned, eyes gleaming with the hunt.
Sara grinned. "Does the warrant cover her car?"
Buried in paperwork, Grissom was only dimly aware when his CSIs returned to the lab. The boys came back first, and Nick stuck his head in, saying that hotel security had found their thief, who had confessed on the spot, and could they please have something else to do? Grissom shoved two assignment slips at him, scarcely looking up, and Nick sighed at the sight of two more trick rolls, and withdrew. Later, the sound of feminine laughter reached Grissom's ears, and he raised his head long enough to see Catherine and Sara walk by his office, laden with evidence. He took a moment to text-message Catherine, primary on that case, to tell her he'd take her report later and to go ahead and begin processing.
When he finally emerged from his office in search of coffee and updates, Catherine informed him of their findings--nonprobative but certainly enough to keep an investigation going--and that Sara had left to pick them up some lunch.
"Are you okay?" she asked, giving him a sharp look. "Have you eaten?"
"My lunch is waiting for me in my office, Mom," he replied, filling his mug.
"Good." She grinned at him. "You look a lot better than you did a few weeks ago, Griss. I'd hate to see you run yourself down again."
"I have no intention of doing so," he assured her. "But if I don't get back to the paperwork, I'll be here late."
Catherine rolled her eyes. "You'll be here late anyway," she pointed out. Grissom gave her a small grin and headed back towards his office, already lost in thought.
"Hey, Gil." A hand touched his elbow, and Grissom turned to see Brass pacing him along the corridor. "Got a minute?"
Grissom regarded him over his glasses and waved Brass into his office. The captain shut the door behind them and collapsed into a chair, blowing out his breath.
Grissom rounded his desk and sat down. "What is it, Jim?"
The older man hesitated, bit his lip, and then fixed his bright stare on Grissom. "You been paying attention to Sara lately?"
Grissom blinked, words frozen in his mouth, remembering that Dr. Lurie and his attorney had not been the only audience to his peculiar admission. Brass frowned and waved his hand dismissively.
"I'm not talking about the Marlin case," he said brusquely. "I'm talking about now. Sara, now."
Grissom took off his glasses and set them slowly onto his desk. "Yes. I have."
Brass shot him a skeptical look. "Really? What's she like?"
"Quiet," Grissom returned promptly. "No enthusiasm. It's almost like she's depressed."
"Yeah." Brass rubbed his palms over his face, the lines there deepened briefly by worry. Some small part of Grissom was touched, not for the first time, by the cop's gruff affection for the CSIs he worked with so often. "Gil, I'm talking to you because you're Sara's supervisor, and because you used to be her friend. Not for any other reason." He sighed. "I think it's more than just a passing thing. I think there's something wrong."
Grissom hid his wince at the past tense. "Wrong. As in?"
Brass shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe it is depression. I was...I was talking to her not too long ago, and--I can't tell you what we talked about, but I think she needs looking after."
"You mean professional help?" Grissom frowned. The idea of trying to convince--or order--Sara to see a counselor was one he didn't want to contemplate. The idea that things were that serious was worse.
"No, not yet." Brass leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees and letting his clasped hands dangle between. "But she needs to talk to somebody."
Grissom raised a brow at him. "So? You said she was talking with you."
Brass snorted. "Somebody not me. Catherine, maybe, or Nick. She's close to Nicky, and Catherine's a woman, maybe she'd understand better. I'm just a detective."
Grissom refrained from asking Brass just what he was supposed to do. As supervisor, he bore a certain responsibility for the health of his CSIs, both physical and mental. "So you think I should ask Nick or Catherine to talk to her."
Brass' eyes narrowed, a gently cynical look. "I'm not telling you how to do your job, Gil. Just...do something."
It wasn't the first time Grissom had been advised to do "something". But this time, he reminded himself, it had nothing to do with him. "Okay," he said finally. "I'll look into it."
"I can see why Doodles drank." Sara's own words echoed in her mind as she closed her apartment door behind her and scanned her small living area. Her place wasn't much more cheerful than the deceased clown's home.
She dropped her bag near the door and considered food briefly, then decided she was too tired. Maybe I'm tired enough to sleep. Eating would only give her more energy, and that wasn't what she wanted right now.
Alcohol would help, but there was no way she was going near the stuff now, even if she wasn't on call. A crutch is the last thing I need. She didn't drink often, but she had to admit that Brass had scared her a little--though she'd never admit it to him. She was stressed and unhappy, and she knew it--there was no sense in tempting fate.
Grumbling, she got ready for bed. She was tired enough that sleep found her quickly, but it was only two hours later that she woke, gasping.
When she came into work, Sara could almost feel the bad temper rolling off her in waves. She was tired beyond belief. Her first stop was the DNA lab, and Greg took one look at her expression and skipped the flirtation.
"Your car samples were positive for blood," he reported, almost formally, and handed her a printout. "It matches the samples from the house--definitely male. But CODIS gave me nothing."
Sara scanned the printout and sighed. "Okay, Greg. Thanks."
"What's up with this case, anyway? This is the husband who disappeared, right?"
"Yeah." She grimaced. "The wife reported him missing after three days, but Catherine and I found traces of blood in her kitchen and car. The trouble is, that's all we have to go on."
"Ouch." Greg looked as though he wanted to pat her shoulder sympathetically, but didn't quite dare.
"Yeah. Brass has some of his people looking into it. But unless we get something more, it's a dead end."
"You don't look very happy about it."
Sara looked up at the young scientist. "Brass thinks there's something funky about the whole situation, and so do I. But without something probative--"
"Dead end," Greg finished for her. One of his machines beeped. "Oh, 'scuse me."
She left him to it.
Halfway through the shift, her pager buzzed at her while she was poring over fragments in the Trace lab. The text message summoned her to Grissom's office. She found the door open, and knocked on the frame.
"Shut the door, please, Sara," Grissom said, looking up over his glasses at her. She did as he asked, apprehension stirring in her middle, and sat in the chair facing his desk.
"Is it evaluation time again already?" she asked, carefully casual.
Grissom shut the folder he'd been perusing and set his elbows on his desk, watching her. "No." He pushed his pen further away from his arm. "Brass came to see me earlier."
Sara sat up straight. "Did they find Mr. Torono?"
"No. This was personal." His tone was the one he used when he was in supervisor mode. One eyebrow went up as Sara made the connection, and he held up a hand. "Before you get angry, he said his conversation with you was in confidence."
Sara glared at him, trying to cover the surge of alarm. Whatever Brass' ideas about her choice in breakfast beverages, she knew that she'd laid herself open for a serious reprimand. But apparently the detective hadn't betrayed her. Relax. He's just concerned.
"He's worried about you." Grissom echoed her thought. "So am I, for that matter. You haven't been yourself lately."
She smothered the ironic smile that wanted to emerge, and the acidic comment she wanted to make. It hurt to hear those words from him, when she knew nothing would come of them. "It's nothing."
He gave her a skeptical look, and she frowned. "Really, Grissom. I'm fine. I'm just tired."
"If you'd work less overtime, you wouldn't be so tired," he pointed out.
What else am I supposed to do with my time? she wondered sourly. Go home and wait for the nightmares?
"Sara..." Grissom sighed.
"Don't," she snapped, before he could go on. "Don't tell me I deserve a life again." She ignored his surprise at her outburst. "I got a life, Grissom, and you know what? It cost me your friendship and my self-respect."
She stood up, riding a wave of anger and adrenaline. "At least if I work I'm getting something accomplished. Which I'm going to go do now." She modified her tone to one of polite insolence. "If you need me, I'll be in Trace."
She strode out the door, turning her back on his startled expression and hoping to be gone before he said anything. In that, at least, her hopes were granted.
The quiet of the empty Trace lab helped her calm down. There was really no point in losing her temper, even at Grissom, and the flare of anger faded, leaving a dull emptiness in its place. Grissom and Brass were both too observant for Sara's taste. Why now? Why does he have to pay attention now? Yes, she was depressed; not badly, but she was. And she knew why, too.
She'd spent so much emotional energy on Grissom, whether he noticed or not. First delighting in what seemed to be a mutual attraction, then trying to deal with his apparent numbness. And eventually, his outright rejection. She'd quit trying after that, but still some part of her hoped that someday he might open his eyes, and change his mind, until it seemed to her that he felt nothing at all.
And then she'd stood behind glass and listened while he'd cradled her heart in his hand and then dropped it to shatter on the floor. She hurt for him as much as she did for herself, a man trapped by his own inhibitions, looking out at freedom with tired, wistful eyes. But learning that he did care about her and yet still turned away killed whatever shred of hope she'd hoarded.
It'll pass. It always does. The pain would fade in time, things would get back to normal. She'd go on working, because that was all she wanted to do. And maybe...someday...she'd be able to look at someone else and love them instead.