A/N: I'm sorry for the delay, but here's the final chapter! I know it's a long one, but I hope it's worth the time you all spend reading it. I realize I'm repeating myself, but I have to thank some folks one more time: to all of you who have been reading this fic and have left reviews, you have no idea how much it means to me every time I see your kind and supportive words. And I'm especially grateful to those of you out there who have reviewed multiple times. I truly, truly appreciate it! And, of course, to my wonderful and amazing beta, Grissom: once again, this fic wouldn't exist without your help, comments, and ideas. You've brought so many smiles to my face. Thanks, Gris! And now, onto chapter 5! Enjoy!
Chapter 5: Found
Sara floated weightlessly in the darkness. She was enjoying the feeling, until she suddenly realized that she was asleep. Forcing her heavy-lidded eyes to open, she shook herself completely awake.
The first thing she noticed was that the digging sounds had become much louder and more constant. The mine seemed to vibrate and shake each time someone on the outside made another dent in the rocky wall of the cave.
Sara felt Grissom lying heavily against her, seemingly unaware of the ongoing rescue attempt. "You hear that, Gris?" she asked him, her voice cracking unexpectedly. "They're getting closer." She couldn't believe how raspy she sounded. She coughed once, and then reached for the bottle of water in her kit. After taking a swallow, she settled back, looking straight ahead, toward the front of the mine shaft
She thought she saw something, and squinted, trying to make it out. It looked like a faint stream of light coming through a small opening where the entrance to the mine had been. Sara sat up straighter and rubbed her eyes before staring again toward the fuzzy blur of brightness. She could tell now that there was definitely something there. Twisting slightly and reaching for the flashlight, she felt Grissom's full weight leaning against her shoulder and side. He's really out of it, she thought absently, focusing on finding out what she was seeing.
Turning on the light and aiming it in the direction of the former mine entrance, Sara could clearly see a small opening in the wall of rock and dirt. She saw some sort of tool come through the aperture as the rescuer tried to pry loose more rocks. She was very happy to discover that progress had been made, and that whoever was outside was almost through.
Sara moved her light around, searching for the source of the rest of the banging. She noticed that several spots on the cave walls were reverberating in time to each jolt from outside. Light showers of dust and pebbles were also being knocked loose by the vibrations, and Sara felt the debris falling on her head and shoulders. She shook and brushed it off the best she could, then set the flashlight on the ground with the beam toward the front of the mine. She hoped whoever was digging would see it and realize where they were.
Nick and Brass continued to work on the front of the mine, painstakingly removing each stone and chunk of wood. "Damn!" Nick swore. "This isn't working! Every time I pry a rock out, three more fall back in its place."
"I think we're all having the same problem, Nicky," Brass replied, winded. "We just have to keep at it." He attacked the next stone in his path after taking a moment to wipe the sweat from his brow with his handkerchief.
Finally, about a half-hour later, Nick had made some progress. He had carved out a nearly circular opening at about eye level. It was large enough for him to look through, and he leaned in, hoping to catch a glimpse of something promising. He saw the glow of a flashlight near the back wall of the passage. As his eyes adjusted to the gloom inside, Nick could make out two figures next to the light. "I think I see them, Brass," he announced excitedly to his digging partner. Then he cupped his hands around the hole and yelled loudly, "Grissom! Sara! Can you hear me?" When he got no immediate response, he tried again, "Grissom! Sara!"
Sara's head snapped up as she heard her name being called. She hadn't been fully asleep, but she had been drifting off again. She listened to be sure she wasn't imagining the voice, until she heard their names shouted one more time. Smiling in recognition, she yelled back, "We're in here, Nick!"
"It's me! We're back against the wall!" She lifted the flashlight and waved the beam around to make their location more visible.
"I see your light!" Nick confirmed. "Are you two all right?"
"I'm fine, but Grissom's hurt! We need to get him out of here!"
"We're working on it, Sara!" Nick assured her. "It shouldn't be too much longer! Try to hang in there!"
"Okay!" she shouted back. Then she added, "It's great to hear your voice, Nick!"
"Yours, too!" He turned to Brass. "We've got to get in there, Jim. If Grissom's hurt badly…" He left the rest unspoken, but Brass understood.
"I know, Nick," the captain agreed solemnly. "Let's pick up the pace then, shall we?"
Nick nodded and redoubled his efforts, taking his hammer and chisel to another chunk of stone.
Jim stopped two firefighters as they walked behind him. "Can we get some help over here, fellas?" he asked.
"Yes, sir," one of them answered. "We were just heading to the truck to get some more pry bars. Then we'll join you in this area."
"Thanks, guys," Jim replied.
Once the firefighters returned, they went to work with Brass and Nick, steadily increasing the size of the opening into the mine.
Inside, Sara was smiling to herself at the latest turn of events. She could hear Nick and the others working at the front of the mine, and she watched as the hole slowly grew larger. But then, Sara's face fell as it suddenly dawned on her that all the noise and shouting hadn't roused Grissom at all. If he hadn't been woken up, he should at least have stirred from all the disturbances. She could feel him breathing against her, his chest moving in and out, but she knew something must be wrong.
Her anxiety growing, she grabbed his shoulder and jostled him. "Grissom? Grissom, wake up." Nothing happened, so she sat up straight, took a hold of both his shoulders and shook him harder. "Grissom! You need to wake up!"
She paused in shaking him, and his head lolled forward; he remained completely unresponsive.
Her heartbeat and breathing quickening, Sara shifted Grissom, lowering him carefully to the ground, making sure she placed his head down gently. But then, all her tenderness evaporated, and she shook him as violently as she dared, yelling his name. "Grissom! Come on, Grissom!" She grabbed both sides of his shirt for a better handhold, and continued to shake him. It made no difference—he didn't wake up.
Standing near the opening, Nick heard Sara repeatedly screaming Grissom's name. "Sara?" he called to her. "Sara, what's going on?"
She didn't answer, and Nick yelled her name one more time. He was tempted to tear through the rest of the rock with his bare hands to get to his friends, but he reined in that impulse and just waited.
Sara didn't know what to do next. She remembered what she knew about concussions, and how serious it could be if the person couldn't be awakened. A voice in her head kept commanding her, Wake him! You've got to get him to wake up! Now! Powerless to ignore the silent imperative, she quickly became overwhelmed by panic. Blinded by fear and desperation, she wasn't consciously aware of what she was doing as she began tugging mercilessly on Grissom's injured arm. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she hoped the pain would rouse him. Unsuccessful, Sara tried another pain stimulus, one that she only vaguely recalled seeing on some medical show: she dug her knuckles into his sternum, dragging them harshly up and down, trying to get a response from him.
She went back to shaking him, pulling on his arms and moving his head from side to side, screaming his name, trying everything she could think of to wake him up. She raised her right hand, open-palmed, preparing to let it fly toward his face. Suddenly realizing what she was about to do, she held her arm frozen in midair, her whole body trembling. Oh, God, I was going to slap him, she told herself shakily, barely believing it. The imagined sound of her palm meeting his cheek made her feel sick, and she regained some level of control over her thoughts and actions. She slowly lowered her hand, still not fully comprehending what she had been doing to him, but finding herself unable to hurt him any more.
She kneeled there for a moment, her chest heaving, feeling light-headed as her breath continued to come hard and fast. "I'm sorry, Grissom," she managed amid labored exhalations. Flopping back into a sitting position, Sara put her head between her knees, trying to slow her breathing and fight off the dizziness.
Finally raising her eyes, she looked at Grissom's unmoving form. The worry and guilt weighed down on her, making her feel hopeless despite the impending rescue. Still desperately needing a sign from him, she pleaded quietly, "Grissom, don't do this to me. Please…"
Then a concerned voice cut through the melancholy hanging heavily around her. Nick had heard the eerie quiet from inside, and called to her again through the cave opening, "What's going on, Sara? What's wrong?"
She had to take a moment for the words to register, and then gather enough air into her lungs so her answer would carry all the way to the front of the mine. "It's Grissom! I can't wake him up, Nicky! He was fine before, we were talking, but then he fell asleep! I think he's got a concussion! He's in bad shape, and we've got to get him out of here now!"
"I hear you, Sara! We're coming!"
"Do you need me to get up there and dig?" she asked shakily. "I could help from the inside!"
"No, it's okay!" Nick assured her, hearing the quiver in her voice. "You stay with Gris! We'll get some more help out here!"
"Hurry, Nick. Please," she said, much more softly, but the CSI outside heard her clearly.
"We'll be right there, Sara! I promise!" He stepped back from the ragged hole in the mine and glanced quickly at all the other huffing figures digging away. "We need some more help over here, guys!" he shouted. Immediately, three men, including Warrick, ran over to join Nick, Brass, and the others working at the front of the mine.
Sara shifted closer to Grissom, so she could touch him. Her fingers drifted to the top of his forehead, settling where skin met curls. Gentle as a whisper, she drew her fingers along his hairline and down the side of his face; she continued to his chin, where she softly scrubbed a finger through the scruff of his beard.
Dropping her arm, she picked up his left hand in her right. She squeezed imploringly, hoping for a reaction from him—any reaction; she got none. Sighing deeply, she said, "Come on, Gris, you've got to give me something here." She held his limp hand in hers, still feeling horrible about her previous loss of control. "I'm so sorry about what I did before. Please hang on for me. Please." She sat there, intently staring at the rhythmic movement of his chest, making sure she could see the rise of fall of each breath.
Nick stepped back for a moment, catching his breath, feeling satisfied with the progress they had made. The opening was a foot off the ground, roughly circular with a diameter of about eighteen inches—almost large enough for a person to duck through. Just a few more rocks, Nick thought, lifting his shovel again.
Before the dark-haired CSI could even make contact with the wall of rubble again, he heard a loud rumble and felt the ground reverberating beneath his feet. The others working at the front of the mine stopped and looked around.
"What the hell was that?" Nick wondered warily.
They heard a commotion from the right side of the mine, and they all looked in that direction, afraid to dig further without knowing what was going on.
Bob Martin came around the corner, looking slightly alarmed. "One of the guys hit a support beam," he replied breathlessly. "Whole section of the shaft collapsed over there. You've got to get your people out of there now. The chain reaction could bring the rest of that roof down right on their heads."
Nick, Warrick, and Brass shared a grim glance before attacking the wall of rocks again, more determined than ever to break through.
At the first sign of major vibration inside the mine, Sara had thrown herself awkwardly on top of Grissom's prone figure. Her effort to protect him from the falling debris seemed to have worked. Although she was certain that he had gotten hit with something, Sara had taken the brunt of the dirt and rocks coming down from the ceiling. When the initial rumbling stopped, she raised herself off Grissom and shook the rubble from her back. She had gotten a little more banged-up, but didn't seem seriously injured.
After the dust had settled, Sara could see that another section of the mine had collapsed, and she felt instantly anxious. "Nick, what's going on?" she shouted toward the opening at the front of the mine. The hole looked much larger now, and she hoped it had become large enough.
"We're coming, Sara! Just hold on!" he replied.
"Yeah, we'll be right in there, girl!" Warrick added.
"Warrick, is that you?"
"Of course it's me!" he assured her. "You gotta know I wouldn't miss all this fun!"
Despite the chaos and danger around her and Grissom, Sara felt even more confident knowing that another one of her team members was out there, working to rescue them.
Another shock wave undulated through the mine, deeper and longer than the last one. The men struggling to increase the passageway realized it was now or never. Nick and Warrick went at it with their bare hands, wrenching loose the last necessary chunks of stone. "Okay, War, I think that's enough!" Nick cried over the din. "I'm going in!"
"Careful, man, it's a tight squeeze," Warrick told him, giving him an encouraging pat on the shoulder. Then he turned around, yelling, "Medics! We need medics over here!"
The two sets of EMTs who had been standing by moved up, maneuvering their gurneys through the desert sand, getting as close as they could to the mine entrance. They waited there, ready to act quickly.
Nick squeezed in through the not-quite-large-enough opening, feeling the rough edges scrape his back and shoulders. Once inside, he made his way to the rear of the passage, dodging what was falling from above him, and staggering somewhat drunkenly as the ground bucked beneath his feet.
He caught sight of the silhouettes of his fellow CSIs through the thick dust choking the air. Once he reached them, he crouched down, lowering his head and encircling them with his arms, trying to offer them further safety from the harsh objects pouring down from above.
When the worst of the vibration had dissipated, Nick squeezed Sara's arm to get her attention. She looked up at him.
He placed a hand on the side of her face. "Are you okay?" he shouted over the rumbling.
He saw her nod in the dim light, and he mirrored her gesture, letting her know he understood. "Let's get him out of here!" he said, pointing down at Grissom, who still hadn't moved.
Sara nodded again.
Nick moved around near Grissom's head, reached down, and grabbed him under the arms. "Can you get his feet?"
"Yeah!" Sara lifted Grissom's legs. "Watch his right arm, Nick!" she warned. "It's broken!"
"You got it!"
They hefted their unconscious friend toward the newly-created exit. While trying not to trip on anything on the ground, Nick also attempted to minimize the jostling of Grissom's injured limb. It worried him immensely that Grissom felt like such dead weight in his arms. His boss and friend, the man he always wanted to impress, showed no signs of life. Nick knew he was still breathing, but also understood the extent of his injuries. He found himself afraid that all their efforts had been too late, but tried to tell himself that Grissom would be all right.
When they reached the brightly-lit opening, Nick was grateful to see Warrick there, peering in, waiting to help. He handed off Grissom to Warrick, making sure the taller man had a strong hold. "Got him?" Nick asked.
"Got him," Warrick replied, adjusting his arms for a tighter grip. He pulled the injured supervisor carefully through the tight opening, making certain Grissom's head was cradled securely against his abdomen.
As Warrick yanked Grissom's feet clear of the confines of the cave, one of the paramedics moved forward to catch them. Together, Warrick and the medic carried Grissom to one of the waiting stretchers and placed him on top as gently as they could. Then the EMT and his partner sped into action, strapping Grissom in and starting to check his vitals as they shuttled him to one of the ambulances.
Warrick watched Grissom go, suddenly realizing that he was shaking. He looked down at his arms, hardly believing what had just happened. He turned and met the equally worried eyes of Brass. It was obvious that neither of them had expected Grissom's condition to be so perilous. The unconscious man's appearance had shocked them both—there had been so much blood, and Grissom had looked deathly pale. The speed at which the medics had rushed off with him only added to their fears. Brass and Warrick stared off in the direction their friend had been taken, until they heard noises behind them, reminding them that the other injured member of their team was coming out. The two of them turned to see Nick helping Sara through the hole and back to the outside world. Warrick stepped closer to the little group, wanting to assist where he could.
The afternoon sunlight was so blinding that Sara couldn't even open her eyes at first. She had to keep them tightly shut, but the harsh light still burned and tears flowed from beneath her closed lids. Jim took her arm, preventing her from tripping as she emerged, stumbling, from the darkness.
Although the outside temperature was probably over a hundred degrees, the fresh air felt cool and wonderful to Sara after the stale, thick heat of the mine interior. She wanted to greedily gulp in lungfuls of the oxygen-rich air, but immediately began coughing.
Brass held her arm firmly, leaning her up against the side of the mineshaft. "You okay?" he asked with concern.
Sara nodded and tried to talk. "Grissom…" she managed between choking wheezes.
"Yeah, yeah, the paramedics have him," Jim assured her. "They're taking him to the ambulance right now."
"Go with him…" Sara said, before a new fit of hacking hit her.
"I think you'd better stay here," Jim replied soothingly. "You need to be taken care of yourself."
She attempted to open her eyes, squinting at him through the watery sheen. She had no breath left to argue, so she accepted Jim's suggestion.
Catherine came around the corner of the mine, walking rapidly toward her colleagues. The news that the two CSIs had been rescued had spread quickly to the area where Catherine had been working. She had rushed over to see how they were. Reaching Sara's side, Catherine assured herself that the younger woman was all right. Then she asked, "Where's Grissom?"
"He's already in the ambulance," Brass told her, pointing toward the vehicle that was readying to leave, its sirens blaring to life.
"Okay, I'm going to ride with Grissom to the hospital," she informed them as she hurried away to catch the ambulance in time. "I'll see you all there later." Before the others knew it, she was gone, the ambulance sweeping her and Grissom off to Desert Palm.
Brass wanted to move Sara away from the still unstable mine, so he took her arm and started leading her toward the second gurney. She nearly doubled over as another spasm of coughing overwhelmed her. Jim stopped next to her and gently rubbed her back. "Take it easy, Sara. Just try to take slow, deep breaths."
Nick had rushed to Sara's other side after Warrick had helped him climb out of the mine; he took hold of her elbow, offering even more support.
The paramedics had seen Sara's difficulty, and they came over to guide her to the remaining stretcher. They had her sit first, as they gave her a cursory examination; one of them listened to her chest. "All right, ma'am," the second medic told her. "We need you to lie down now, and we'll get you over to the hospital."
Nick and Brass followed the wheeled gurney to the back of the ambulance, then left Sara in the EMTs' care and jogged off toward their own vehicles. Warrick was waiting for them by his Denali; all three men climbed into the cars and the small, concerned caravan rushed off to Desert Palm Hospital.
Sara sat by the side of Grissom's bed, her chin and arm resting on the raised bedrail. She had been treated for a few hours, and then released, but she found herself unable to leave the hospital…and Grissom. The others had left after Sara had been sprung, once the doctors had assured them that both their friends would be fine. They had known Sara would be staying, and had left her to watch over Grissom.
Almost everything in the room where Sara sat was sterile, white, and lifeless. Grissom lay unmoving in his bed—white sheets, white blanket, white hospital-issued gown. His skin was ashen, and even the waterproof plaster on his freshly-cast right arm was a pale shade of ivory. The only splashes of color came from the patches of sandy brown in Grissom's hair and beard.
Sara knew, though, that if his eyes were open, the brilliant blue of his irises would provide all the revitalizing color the pallid hospital room would ever need. Come on, Grissom, open your eyes. Open your eyes, she implored silently.
Nothing happened, and Sara blew out a weary breath and stood up, walking across the cramped room just to stretch her legs a little.
The doctors had said that Grissom would be fine. They just had to keep him twenty-four hours for observation. They had given him some pretty strong meds, but said he should awaken at any moment.
Sara had been waiting for over an hour, and he hadn't shown any signs of awareness yet. She stopped on his other side and stared down at the flexible tubing running into his left wrist. She absently rubbed her own arm in the same spot, where the nurse had pulled out her IV a while ago.
She and Grissom had received the same basic treatment—intravenous fluids to rehydrate them, oxygen, cleansing and bandaging of minor cuts and abrasions. Grissom had been the recipient of the added fun of x-rays, CAT scans, a cast for his broken right radius, and a dozen or so stitches to close the gash in his scalp.
Sara glanced at that wound now, expertly dressed. The bandage is white, too, she noted with a tired sigh. She could see where the ER doctors had shaved a decent-sized section of Grissom's hair to treat the large laceration. It's a shame to lose those curls, Sara thought. But then she couldn't help the broad smile that appeared on her face as she imagined Grissom's reaction to his involuntary 'haircut.' He's gonna be so mad, she said to herself, chuckling.
But then she grew serious as she continued to gaze at him. She carefully ran her fingers down the side of his face. "You are gonna wake up for me, aren't you, Gris?" she asked out loud. Lifting her hand, she exhaled in frustration when she noticed there was still a fair amount of dried blood on his face. "They didn't clean you up very well, did they?" she commented rhetorically.
Looking down at her own arms and hands, she was reminded that she was still pretty dirty, too. She realized that nurses could only do so much with a washcloth and a basin of soapy water. She felt pretty grimy and covered with grit, and really needed a long, hot shower, a fresh set of clothes, and a decent meal. They had tried to feed her earlier, but hospital food was notoriously bad and not at all vegetarian-friendly. Despite the fact that her apartment would provide all the necessary comforts, Sara wasn't ready to leave the hospital yet—not until Grissom woke up and she could see that he was all right.
There was a small sink in the room, and Sara searched for something she could use to clean the blood off Grissom's face. When she spied the jar of cotton balls, she moved into action. She removed a couple of pieces of the fluffy cotton, and saturated them with warm water from the faucet. Squeezing out the excess wetness, she stepped back over to Grissom.
One of her hands carefully held his face steady, while the other went to work on the reddish smears. She rubbed gently at first, but realized she needed to create more friction to scrub off the dried flecks. She ended up getting most of the blood off his skin, but couldn't do much about what was still caked in his hair and beard.
Fairly satisfied, she used a paper towel from the dispenser above the sink to dry the water dripping down his face. As she tossed the towel into the trash, she heard muffled moans from the bed, and turned back around.
She watched Grissom slowly wake up on the bed. He opened his eyes, blinking as he tried to bring his current surroundings into focus. She stood next to him, and her face was the first thing he saw when the haze cleared. He smiled broadly at her, and she smiled back.
"Hey," he croaked, his voice cracking.
"This is nice."
"What's nice, Gris?"
"Waking up next to you again," he replied, his voice fading to a coarse whisper on the last word.
Her smile grew as she wondered whether it was Grissom talking or the drugs. Did he even know what he was saying? "What are those wonderful drugs they're giving you, Gris, and where can I get some?" she teased.
"Huh?" he responded, perplexed.
"Never mind," Sara said, shaking her head, but keeping the grin on her face. Her fingers automatically moved forward, unable to resist diving into his tousled hair. "How do you feel?"
He seemed to consider her question for a long moment before coming back with, "Loopy."
She laughed. "I'll bet. It's those great drugs I was talking about."
"Does anything hurt?" she asked, her concern apparent.
He had to pause for a moment again, to take stock of the current condition of his battered body. "My head's pounding a little," he told her, licking his dry lips. "Everything else is mostly…numb. I don't think I could get up just yet, but I feel okay, I guess."
His voice was harsh and raspy, the volume barely above a whisper. Sara lifted the pitcher that a nurse had dropped off a few minutes earlier, and filled a plastic cup with water. She made sure to plop in the provided straw, and held the cup near Grissom's chin. "Come on, drink some of this," she instructed. He lifted his head, and she helped support his neck with her free hand as he took the straw between his lips and began greedily slurping the cold liquid.
She had only poured a small amount into the cup, and he finished very quickly, the straw making its characteristic noises as he sucked more air than water. "Easy, easy," she said, gently pulling the cup away from him. "I'll get you some more." This time she filled the cup higher, and Grissom sipped the water more slowly. From her own experience, Sara knew that although the IV did a great job of rehydrating the body, it did nothing to relieve the terrible parched sensations in the mouth and throat.
"Better?" she asked when Grissom had emptied the second cup of water.
He nodded as he lowered his head back to the pillow. "Thanks, Sara." He cleared his throat, his voice sounding much stronger.
"You're welcome. Let me know if you want some more."
"I will." He shifted a bit, trying to find the most comfortable way to lie there.
Sara moved around to the other side of the bed, and sat in the chair, resuming her position from earlier. "Grissom?"
He looked toward her. "Yeah?"
"Do you remember…how you got hurt?" she probed tentatively. His memory loss was the thing worrying Sara the most. Although the doctors had assured her that it was a typical symptom of a concussion, she found Grissom's blankness on the events surrounding the accident to be quite scary. She was sure he was troubled about it, too, and that was why she had approached the subject warily.
She could tell he was trying hard to grasp the tenuous memories, but that he couldn't quite get a mental grip on them. "I don't…I just can't remember, Sara," he said, frustration creeping into his voice. "It's a huge blank."
"It's okay, Grissom," she began, hoping to reassure him. "The doctors said some memory loss is normal. It may take a while, but they said it would most likely all come back."
He looked at her wearily. "I know you've told me what happened—probably multiple times. The events stay in my head for a little while, but then they just seem to…slip away."
"It'll come back, Grissom," she promised, placing a hand on his shoulder.
"I remember going to the mine with you. David took out the body. There was a…noise of some kind. A loud rumble. Then I remember waking up, and you helped me out from under the debris. In between, there's just…nothing."
"Do you remember what happened afterward?" she inquired quietly.
"Yeah, that's all pretty clear," he explained. "At least until I fell asleep that last time. I don't remember anything after that until I woke up here. I don't even know how we got out of the mine."
"Brass and the rest of the team rescued us."
One eyebrow rose skeptically. "By themselves?"
She chuckled. "No, it wasn't just the four of them digging. They had some help, but Nick was the first one to break through."
"Well, I'm glad our guys don't give up too easily."
"Remind me to thank them properly when I get out of here," he said.
Grissom wasn't a man who normally gave such sentiments much thought, but he sounded so sincere that Sara promised herself she would help him keep his word. "I will," she assured him.
"And I should thank you, too," he added unexpectedly.
"Thank me? Why, Grissom?" She was truly puzzled.
"Because you…took care of things. I know I wasn't much help in there. I was pretty out of it."
"You were hurt, Grissom," she said gently. "There really wasn't anything you could have done."
"I realize that," he began. "But you kept me awake and talking for as long as you could. And the whole time you made me feel…protected." His eyes searched out hers, and when blue locked on brown their gazes froze. "Thank you for that, Sara."
"You're welcome. I really tried to keep in control, but I have to admit, I did panic a few times."
"I wasn't aware of it."
"Well, that's because I mostly panicked when you were unconscious or asleep," she admitted sheepishly.
"Yeah," she replied. "The first time was when I saw you buried under the pile of rubble. Then when you didn't remember what had happened. And I really freaked out when I couldn't wake you."
He had continued staring deeply into her eyes, but now his brow knit in confusion.
"It was right before the rescue," she explained. "You were completely out of it; I tried everything but I couldn't get you to wake up." She averted her eyes, unable to stand the scrutiny of his intense gaze any longer. "You scared the hell out of me, Grissom."
"I'm sorry," he offered quietly. He awkwardly reached for her with his left hand. He had to stretch across his body, since Sara sat on his right, and the IV hindered his efforts.
Sara thought the gesture was sweet, but she didn't want him to aggravate his injuries, or accidentally pull out his IV. So she quickly reached toward him, stilling his hand against his chest. She gave it a brief squeeze, and flashed him a small smile. "It's all right, Grissom," she told him. "Be careful; you'll hurt yourself." She gently shifted his left arm back to his side. To make up for the loss of comforting physical contact that they both seemed to want, Sara settled her hand on his right arm, just above his cast.
Sara coughed, about to broach a risky subject. She knew Grissom might choose not to answer, and shut down the small opening he had given her into his emotions. "I guess that you probably feel a little…uneasy about the memory loss, don't you, Gris?"
He paused, considering his response. "It is a bit…disconcerting," he admitted. "Especially for someone like me."
"Yeah, someone who…" He halted again while he tried to articulate what he wanted to say. "…prides himself on his mind being sharp, someone whose job requires his mind to be sharp."
"The missing memories will come back, Gris. I'm sure of it. Just give it some time."
He nodded soundlessly, but she could see the uncertainty in his eyes.
There was silence for a few minutes; it was tense, but not entirely uncomfortable. Finally, Grissom broke the quiet. "I do remember you thanking me for something, Sara," he told her.
He sounded honestly curious, but she thought there might be a hint of teasing underneath it; he might remember exactly what she had told him earlier. She studied him, narrowing her eyes, and finally decided he was being truthful.
"Yeah, Grissom," she reminded. "I thanked you for saving my life. When the support beam collapsed over our heads, you pushed me out of the way. You saved me, but there wasn't enough time for you to get clear, too—that's how you got hurt. Do you remember any of this yet?"
"No, I still don't remember," he answered, sounding almost sad. "But I think now I'll be able to recall that you told me."
"That's an improvement at least," she said, smiling at him.
"I guess." He glanced away, choosing to stare at his fingers wiggling out of the front of his cast. "Look, Sara. I might not remember what happened when the mine collapsed, but I know…" He exhaled deeply before continuing, "I know that I'd never let anything hurt you. Not if I could help it."
She felt herself blush, the heat spreading over her cheeks. At the same time, tears came to her eyes, and she was glad Grissom still wasn't looking at her. She squeezed his arm, and then slid her fingers to his shoulder where they remained, resting comfortably.
The awkward silence lasted for a couple of minutes while they both composed themselves. Grissom finally spoke up, trying to break the tension by totally changing the subject, "So…so, uh, do you know when I can get out of here? Did the doctors say anything to you?"
She was able to look at him easily, now that they were talking about more trivial things. "They said you could go home tomorrow."
"Sounds good. I'm not a big fan of hospitals. Bad food, endless poking and prodding, early wake-up calls. I happen to be off tonight anyway." He grinned nervously, still attempting to lighten the mood. "How about you, Sara?" he asked her. "Did they spring you from this place yet?"
"Yeah, they let me go a couple of hours ago. But I…couldn't quite pull myself away until I made sure that a friend of mine was okay."
His expression changed to a genuine smile. "I'm sure he appreciates that. How are you feeling?" he queried.
"Pretty good," she explained. "I'm tired, hungry, and I could seriously use a shower, but, besides that, everything seems fine."
"I'm glad you weren't hurt seriously." His grin took on a mischievous air as he added, "You should probably stay home from work tonight, and maybe take a few days off."
"Well, I'd have to ask my supervisor," she teased. "He can be…difficult."
"Don't you think he'd allow you the time off?"
"I do have a lot of vacation time stored up," she responded. "So I'm sure he'd give me a couple of days off."
"He sounds like a reasonable man," Grissom replied, enjoying the light, joking banter.
"He can be reasonable and even…rather charming when he wants to be."
"So, he's an okay guy then?" His tone wavered uncertainly as he awaited her answer.
She nodded and smiled. "Yeah."
His own smile of relief and satisfaction reflected hers.
She glanced down, somewhat embarrassed, and began fidgeting with the sleeve of Grissom's hospital gown.
After a few minutes, she said, "Hey, Grissom?"
She forced herself to meet his eyes again as she went on, "Do you remember what we were talking about in the mine?"
She watched as his brow furrowed and he appeared to be concentrating on the recollection. He looked confused as he repeated, "What we were talking about?"
Her eyes widened as concern washed over her face. "Yeah, after you won the word game. Don't you remember?"
"Word game?" he wondered.
Oh, no, Sara thought, as the fingers of fear began tickling her mind. "Grissom, what are you saying?" she asked him shakily. "Now you don't remember anything? Just before you said you remembered everything else that had happened in the mine."
As she stared at him, waiting anxiously for his reply, his eyebrows rose, smoothing the creases on his forehead. The corners of his mouth turned up—subtly at first, and then more obviously—until he was grinning at her.
"What?" she asked suspiciously. Then she noticed the mischievous glint in his eyes, and her own narrowed in his direction. "You do remember it, don't you?"
He gave her a little nod.
"Grissom!" she yelled in frustration. She was seized with the sudden urge to hurl something at his head, but nothing effective was in the vicinity. So she settled for smacking his arm, hard. "That's not nice! You scared me!" She hit him again, not realizing that she was abusing his broken limb.
"Ow!" he complained, but Sara could tell he was struggling not to laugh. "Take it easy, I'm an injured man!" It took him a minute to catch his breath as he attempted to choke back the laughter, which was mixed in with noticeable pain from his wounds.
"Grissom, I swear!" she huffed. The man could be so exasperating! "If you ever try anything like that again, I'll break your other arm!" Glaring sharply at him, she tried to hold her harsh expression, but it melted away into a bright grin after a few minutes. She swatted him once more, playfully this time and far away from his injured arm. "Ooh," Sara grunted, venting the last of her frustration.
"I'm sorry," Grissom surrendered, trying to sound serious. He raised his arms up in a gesture of peace.
Sara sat back down in the chair, and arched an eyebrow at him. "So you do remember what we discussed in the mine." It wasn't really a question, but she was obviously waiting for an acknowledgement from him.
"Yes," he answered. "Your childhood version of Encyclopedia Brown, catching your cousin with his hand in the cookie jar, so the speak, and realizing that the boy down the lane pillaged his little brother's chocolate coins."
"Very good, Grissom."
"Well, I am an investigator after all." A small smile snuck back onto his face.
"Yes, you are," she replied. She removed her gaze from his once again, staring instead at the blanket covering his chest, seemingly struggling with what she was going to say. Finally, she exhaled deeply and forced her eyes back to his expectant face. "So, I was wondering if maybe…you would like to…continue that conversation sometime?" She fought the urge to pull her eyes away again, and just looked at him, waiting.
"Do you mean," he began, his voice soft and serious, "like over breakfast?"
She nodded once, but remained silent, afraid that any sound she might make would shatter the delicate magic of the moment.
"I'd love to…have breakfast with you, Sara."
She allowed herself a satisfied grin, feeling like they were taking a step in the right direction at last.
Grissom turned away from her, his brow furrowing. For a second Sara feared he had changed his mind and was going to rescind his offer, but then he raised his fingers to his forehead, massaging gingerly.
"Are you okay?" she asked.
"I think so," he responded; his voice was noticeably weaker. "But I'm afraid those drugs are finally wearing off."
"Do you want me to call the doctor?" she inquired, suddenly concerned about him again.
He shook his head slowly, stopping when he was facing her. "No. I think maybe I just need some rest."
"Good idea," she agreed, noticing how exhausted he looked. With the talking and the fooling around they had done in the last few minutes, she had almost forgotten the extent of his injuries and the need for him to recover. She watched in amusement as he fought unsuccessfully to keep his suddenly heavy-lidded eyes open.
"You, too, Sara," he mumbled, nearly incoherently.
"Me, too, what, Grissom?" she asked softly, leaning forward so her lips were next to his ear.
"You, too, should get some sleep," he murmured. His voice was slurring and he didn't even bother to open his eyes.
"I will, I promise."
He managed to force one eye halfway-open as he added in a fading whisper, "The boss says it's okay to take a few days off, too."
"You got it." Sara knew he was just about asleep, and she sat there for a few minutes, just staring at him and listening as his breathing changed.
He looked so relaxed lying there. And so…sweet, she added silently. It was hard to believe that they had been through such a trying ordeal. Sara's mind flashed back to the mine and everything that had gone on while they were trapped and during the rescue. She was glad the traumatic events were behind them now.
When she was certain that he was deeply asleep, she pushed herself up and started to leave. "We made it out of there, Grissom," she whispered to him. "Now what's next?"
The question was, of course, rhetorical, and her words went unheard by the slumbering entomologist; but Sara hoped recent events would at least start them moving in a positive direction.
Sighing, she couldn't resist reaching out one more time and running her fingertips down the side of his face. Moving her hand higher again, she entwined a finger in his curls, tugging affectionately. Then she rearranged her remaining digits and stroked them gently through his hair. "Sleep well, Grissom. I'll see you later." She finally turned away and walked out of his hospital room, a hopeful grin creeping onto her face.