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.

This is in response to an improv challenge at the Unbound forums; the first and last lines were given, and the word limit is 1,000.

Spoilers: through Season 4

Sara read her journal, ignoring the pouting figure seated opposite of her. She wasn't about to give up her window seat.

The woman shifted, and sighed loudly. Sara just turned another page. Riding this airline meant that seats were up for grabs, and Sara liked the one she had. The showgirl sitting across from her could hint all she liked.

Finally the plane pushed back from the gate, and the blonde sighed again and fastened her seatbelt with an air of resignation. Sara, who had latched hers as soon as she sat down, frowned at the article she was reading. I hope that's a typo, not a mistake--but either way I'm gonna write them a letter.

She kept reading as the plane taxied towards the runway. Sunset colored the sky outside as the Airbus lumbered on, but Sara ignored the display. If she concentrated on the article, she wouldn't have to think yet about where the plane was going to land.

Unfortunately, the words ran out before the plane reached cruising altitude. Sara flipped hopefully through the journal, but she'd read all the other articles. Sighing in turn, she stuffed the magazine into her bag and leaned back.

Dark thoughts crowded in. Determination and a stubborn will had carried Sara through a number of errors and embarrassments, and the philosophy that one could always rise above mistakes had helped her keep her head high. But this last one....

It was like I couldn't start moving again. Work had ever been her panacea, starting in school. If you have enough to do, you don't have to deal with the other parts of your life, the parts that are empty or shabby or less than satisfactory. Even when Sara's life in Las Vegas had begun to spiral downward, work had filled the time, filled her thoughts. It had sustained her through betrayals, hard cases, and all the painful moments with her supervisor. She'd let it fill her nights and spill over into her days and take all the time she had to spare.

Until she'd made one last mistake.

It was as though slowing her car to a stop for the officer had stopped her as well. The busyness drained away, taking her will with it. Grissom's appearance hadn't been a surprise, but his calmness had been. He'd taken her hand and led her out to his car, and she kept expecting him to start yelling or scolding or lecturing...to give what she deserved for being so stupid.

The seat creaked as he turned to her, and out of the corner of her eye she could see the seatbelt striping his chest.

"We can go to your place or mine, Sara, but I'm not leaving you alone today."

She risked a glance; his expression was gentle, and it made her throat tighten. Yell at me, she wanted to say. Tell me what a fool I am. Don't be kind.

I can't deal with kind.

"Miss?"

Sara blinked. The flight attendant was standing in the aisle with the beverage cart. His smile was professional, with just an edge of personal appreciation, but Sara scarcely noticed. "No thanks." She had a bottle of water in her bag.

The showgirl chose diet soda, and chatted briefly with the attendant, practiced charm on both sides. Sara ignored them, looking out the window. The sunset was gone; the sky around the plane was empty of light, the stars invisible, but the ground was laced with spatters of golden gems. Sara wondered idly if the pilots could tell which town they were flying over by the spiderweb patterns below.

She shook her head, unable to reply. Exhaustion was catching up to her, and she longed for the fragile oblivion of sleep, though she didn't think she'd keep it for long. She didn't want Grissom around; she wanted to be left alone in her humiliation.

"Sara?"

"Your place," she said at last. At least that would keep his presence out of her apartment, and she wouldn't have to remember him there.

When they reached his townhouse, he offered her breakfast, but didn't argue when she refused. She sat down on the couch while he vanished down the hall, and the next thing she remembered was waking up in an unfamiliar bed in a small room cluttered with boxes.

She hadn't had the guts to ask him whether he'd carried her there, or merely guided her.

Sara swallowed as her ears reacted to a change in pressure; the plane was descending. She watched the lights get closer, and rocked with the bump as the plane touched down, and waited out the exit rush. The showgirl was one of the first down the aisle.

She paced up the gangway, already thinking ahead to catching a cab and making a few phone calls. Yet somehow it wasn't a surprise when she looked up and saw Grissom standing at the gate. His eyes crinkled as he smiled, and she pursed her lips but couldn't keep her own smile from answering his.

They fell into step. "Did you have a good time?" he asked.

Sara shrugged. "It was okay." An enforced vacation was still an enforced vacation, even if she had needed the break.

"Did...you get my card?" Uncertainty laced his voice.

She'd opened it at the beach for some obscure reason known only to her subconscious. The kanji on the front of the card meant "courage", and how had he known that courage was what she needed most of all?

The handwriting inside was familiar; the words were not.

It has finally dawned on me that maybe you need a friend as much as I do. Can we start over?

Sara looked over at Grissom. She considered all the nuances of the question, one she'd been obsessing over ever since the card had arrived. And she answered it, on all its levels.

"Yes."

He smiled, looking relieved, and an unfamiliar hope uncurled inside her. That was easier than Sara thought it would be.

End.